The companies/organizations in this category sell courses “for college credit” that have been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE credit is not as transferable as credit earned directly through a college, but can be very transferable when used with the intention of transferring to one of the partner colleges. ACE is a third party credit evaluator that evaluates all types of learning that happens outside of a college. This kind of college credit is guaranteed to transfer into partner colleges (varies by provider) but transfers poorly outside of partnerships.
Unlike the other ACE options on our list, Saylor Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free and open online courses to anyone.
College Credit: $5 per course
Saylor Courses: Some of Saylor’s courses are not worth college credit, so you’ll want to be sure you’re looking at their list of “Saylor Direct Credit” courses on the website.
Account Creation: You will create an account for your teen using the same full name and email address that you’ve created for their Credly account. This assures their passed courses will have the credit recorded quickly and easily. If your teen doesn’t have a Credly account, create one today. They’ll need it in place asap.
How it works: You pay NOTHING to take these courses. The only cost to earn the credit is paying the proctoring service fee ($5) to take your online proctored exam. You can take the courses for personal interest without taking the online exam if you don’t need or want college credit.
PRO TIP: The study guide is gold! Look among the list of course units. The study guide should be one of the last units on the list. This guide, not the practice tests, is considered the best tool for passing Saylor Academy exams.
Textbook passages are accessible through links in the class, so the program is completely free. There is no graded homework, no attendance verification, and no teacher. It is self-directed learning. The quizzes, exams, homework, and midterm exams are all open book. You can take some or all of the units, and you are free to jump around.
There is no paper trail (meaning disclosure to future colleges is not required and future colleges will never see your exam score).
When ready, you have the option to take a proctored final exam via webcam on your home computer. Saylor Academy uses Smarter Proctoring, which only costs $5. You must take and pass the proctored exam to earn college credit.
$5 PRO TIP: Since the final exam only costs $5 (proctor), and you can take it up to 3 times, use your first attempt like a practice test! This is a super smart way to get inside the test and really take a crack at it. If you pass, great, but if not, take a few days to review the important concepts and try again.
Parents can build an entire high school program using Saylor Academy courses. Think of this as the secular alternative to Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool. Parents will award high school credit, without regard to whether or not their teen passed the exam. Since you technically don’t have to complete the class; a teen with prior knowledge could go straight to the final exam. As such, the exam alone determines whether or not you earn college credit in the course.
Courses: Currently, Saylor Academy offers over 30 courses for college credit.
Potential: >40 classes (more than 120 college credits)
I created this guide in 2016. Since then, the catalog has expanded to include more classes and the cost to take the exams has been reduced! While the plan is not 100% accurate today, it is more than accurate enough for you to use as a starting point for your own homeschool plan.
Saylor Academy Courses (2023)
UD = a course evaluated as “upper division” college credit by ACE