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Kaplan Higher Education, one of the biggest for-profit college companies in the United States launched the new venture ‘Open College @KU’, offering free online services and personalised mentoring to help people identifying and organising prior experience and skills that could qualify for college credits. The idea spurs from a growing interest in competency-based education, resulting from the emergence of a number of options for free and low-cost courses (such as MOOCs and open educational resources) that students can use in their pursuit of university degrees.
Open College @KU aims at filling in the gap created by the absence of tools to help people, especially adults, to find more economical and efficient pathways to degrees and careers. In fact, beyond offering free online courses, Open College @KU provides also counsellors and advisers who will help students to develop individualised learning plans and who will assess – upon payment of a fee – the initial experiences or competences gained through free e-learning courses, may they be taken at Kaplan University or at any other open education platform.
Open College’s affordability stems from its combined use of prior learning assessments and self-paced programmes. A student entering with no credits will be able to earn a 4 years bachelor degree for about USD 15 000 (EUR 11 900), while students entering with credits already earned through prior experiences might end up paying even less. Although these are quite competitive price for the US market, the main challenge is to attract attention outside of the ‘Kaplan world’. In fact, in 2011 the company already engaged in a prior-learning assessment venture called KNEXT, but the service didn’t result successful as only 2 students outside of Kaplan University acquired it. This time Kaplan also hopes to develop relationships with other institutions, that would pay Kaplan a referral fee for students who enrol there after having their credits evaluated and assessed by Open College @KU.