From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Thursday, September 6,
A First for Udacity: a U.S. University Will Accept Transfer
Credit for One of Its Courses
By Katherine Mangan
A Colorado university is announcing on Thursday that it will give full
transfer credit to students who complete a free introductory
computer-science course offered by the online-education start-up
The announcement, by Colorado State University-Global Campus, is a
milestone for the Stanford University spinoff.
This is the first time a university in the United States has offered
academic credit for a Udacity course, although several universities in
Austria and Germany already do.
The course, "Introduction to Computer Science: Building a Search
Engine," teaches basic computer-science skills by having students
build a Web search engine similar to Google. Students enrolled in the
free, online course also learn the basics of the programming language
In order to earn the three transfer credits toward their bachelor's
degrees at the Global Campus, students will need a "certificate
of accomplishment" from Udacity showing they passed the course.
Then they have to pass a proctored examination offered by Udacity
through a secure testing center. The exam, administered by the Pearson
VUE testing group, will cost $89.
CS101 is Udacity's first course and includes appearances by the
company's co-founder, Sebastian Thrun.
The course, which is open to beginners, is taught by David Evans, an
associate professor of computer science who is working for Udacity
while on leave from the University of Virginia.
Some 94,000 students worldwide took the course when it first came
online early this year, and 98,000 more signed up for the second
class, which started in April. "We have students from well over
100 countries, from 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds, sharing in the
experience," Mr. Evans said of the class, one of a growing number
of massive open online courses, or MOOC's, that have been attracting
national attention this year.
The Global Campus, which opened in 2008, is completely online and
offers bachelor's and master's degrees, mostly to working adults. It
operates independently from the university's other two campuses and
has a separate regional accreditation.
Students can transfer in if they have accumulated more than 12 college
The university decided to accept the transfer credits after a
committee of four faculty members in information technology reviewed
the Udacity course and its methods of assessing student
"We believe that as a public university, affordability and
accessibility are key," said Becky Takeda-Tinker, president of
the Global Campus.
Mr. Thrun declined to reveal how many other universities might be
considering offering academic credit for Udacity courses, except to
say that talks are in the works and he expects others to follow.
All of the institutions he has talked to have stressed the importance
of a proctored exam "because it overcomes some of the main
concerns about the authenticity of students and the absence of
Having a university in the United States offer transfer credit for a
Udacity course "is an important step, but it's just the start,"
Mr. Evans said. "It's recognizing that students really can learn
well in online courses that are structured in the right way and have
the rigor traditional universities expect."
Most students enrolled in the course do so out of curiosity and are
motivated by learning for its own sake, Mr. Evans said. But many will
appreciate the opportunity to get credit either to transfer to a
college or to help land a job.
Several European universities, including the University of Salzburg,
the University of Freiburg, the Free University of Berlin, and the
Technical University of Munich, have already given credit for an
earlier Udacity course, said Mr. Thrun.
This isn't the first time the Global Campus has accepted transfer
credit from a nontraditional source. It does the same for courses from
StraighterLine, a company that offers online, self-paced introductory
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244