Online courses created by Minneapolis-based Sophia have gotten a national nod.

The American Council on Education has endorsed five of the online learning company’s general education courses for credit, Sophia announced Wednesday.

Before, only Capella University awarded credit for courses completed through Sophia. That’s because Sophia is owned by Capella Education Co.

But the council’s recommendation could lead to more colleges accepting Sophia classes for credit, much as they might for military training or AP courses.

Maybe. The council recommendation is just that — a recommendation. Colleges make their own decisions about credit, often on a student-by-student basis. But many look to the council when deciding.

“It’s a huge step,” said Allison Gage, senior vice president at Sophia. “It allows us to address the larger consumer need. So many students want to graduate sooner, on their own terms.”

The five intro courses — in algebra, psychology, biology, sociology and statistics — cost $329 apiece. Each lesson includes video of several instructors, so if a student doesn’t understand one, she can switch. Tests are monitored remotely, via webcam, by ProctorU.

“It’s a step forward for Sophia/Capella to get recognition for this new type of learning,” said Gary Langer, executive director of Minnesota Learning Commons. “And it’s one more chink in the armor of traditional higher education.”

It was big news when the council announced in February that it endorsed a handful of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Sophia officials often point out differences between their courses and free MOOCs. Unlike MOOCs, which run on a set schedule, Sophia’s courses move at any pace the student chooses. MOOCs have also been criticized for their dropout rates. Gage said that its average completion rates is 85 percent.

“We count that as our most important indicator of whether or not our model is working,” she said.


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