A “university” that will allow students to study courses from 31 institutions around the world for free online is to launch this week – and is billed as a more attractive option than massive open online courses.
Students who complete an Open Educational Resources University course will be able to pay a fee to have their work assessed for academic credit, which would then be recognised by all the universities participating in the OERu.
In theory, the students could approach any of the partner institutions with evidence of the credits they have amassed and apply for degrees.
Once the university assessors are satisfied that the applicants can demonstrate the learning outcomes associated with its programmes, they would become eligible for graduation.
Wayne Mackintosh, director of the Open Educational Resources Foundation, the New Zealand-based organisation that is coordinating the development of OERu, said he hoped the project would “widen access to education for learners excluded from the formal sector” by making for-credit courses more affordable.
“My faith in education is restored by seeing recognised institutions around the world returning to the core values of education – namely to share knowledge freely,” he said.
He also claimed that the option given to students to gain credit for their work made OERu more attractive than Moocs.
Full details of how much students will have to pay to have their learning assessed for credit have yet to be confirmed, although the University of Southern Queensland has said that the cost to OERu users wishing to gain academic credit for a module on international relations would be A$200 (£120).
OERu will be officially launched by Sir John Daniel, former vice-chancellor of The Open University, at Thompson Rivers University in Canada on 1 November.
“I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public,” Sir John said.
“It’s all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the ‘beef’ of proper recognition, too.”
OERu’s partners include four universities in Australia, four from the US, 10 from New Zealand and one from the UK – the University of South Wales.