A small New Jersey college that has made its name with innovative online learning efforts will soon allow students to earn course credit through no-cost open, web-based classes aligned with the school’s educational standards.

open-free-college-creditOfficials at Thomas Edison State College (TESC), a Trenton-based school with more than 19,000 undergraduate students, announced Feb. 20 that the college would offer an open course option that will let students earn credit if they’ve passed a pre-approved credit-by-exam program.

The free, open option will include 20 college courses from the Saylor Foundation, a nonprofit group that has long advocated for free, technology-based college courses. The foundation has created more than 300 free web-based courses over the past six years.

Michael Williams, dean of the college’s School of Business and Management, said that like many programs at TESC, Saylor’s free online options are designed primary for adult learners returning to school.

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“This is an interesting option for adult learners who prefer to work independently, enjoy credit-by-exam programs and are interested in prior learning assessment,” Williams said.  “This model offers students a more flexible, efficient way of completing their associates degree that has the potential of saving time and tuition dollars.”

College officials acknowledged the ongoing — and sometimes heated — debate about the validity of free online college classes offered for credit. Making a high-quality option available, they said, could be an important addition to that debate.