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Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are now available to be studied at a distance, for free or extremely low cost. Famous examples include edX, MIT’s Opencourseware, Coursera, The Saylor Foundation, Open2study and FutureLearn, and are often supported by prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT and Warwick. The problem has been that most of these courses are typically not accredited, so do not have the status and impact of a fully recognised degree.

Now, the Centre for Work Related Studies (CWRS) at the award-winning University of Chester in the United Kingdom has created a unique opportunity for professionals who have generated substantial amounts of learning from these free online courses. These professionals can now potentially have their learning accredited up to 66% of a fully recognised UK degree.

Tom is a manager at an engineering and design company. As part of his negotiated, work based degree, he wanted to study a Saylor Foundation unit in ‘Risk Management’ and apply it to his work. His certificate plus a reflective review of his application led to Tom achieving a third of one year’s worth of study at a quarter of normal fees - whilst still making an impact in his business.Tom, BA Hons Project and Business Management (WBIS)

Be part of an award-winning University with a strong history

The University of Chester is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the UK, and hosts the highly regarded CWRS. CWRS is a leading centre for facilitating and accrediting work based learning for professionals, and has a proven track record in creating high insight and impact learning with learners across the globe. CWRS delivers innovative programmes of negotiated, work based learning and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It's Work Based & Integrative Studies programme (WBIS for short) has been commended and showcased by UK government agencies because of its flexibility. CWRS degrees are unique because they are:

  • negotiated: you choose what you learn, and the title of your degree
  • work-based: you ‘learn through doing’ and real work activity
  • facilitated at a distance: you achieve without the cost and inconvenience of travel.

Degree topic and subject areas

You can get credit for learning arising from the courses that have helped you in your work or life in some way. The topics of the free online courses can typically include business and management, public administration, education, health, psychology and professional development. A degree with CWRS is negotiated, which means you can tailor your degree title around the learning you have achieved, and want to develop. Examples of Bachelor’s degrees you might negotiate, amongst others, could include:

  • BA (Hons) Business and Management (WBIS)
  • BA (Hons) Public Administration (WBIS)
  • BSc (Hons) Information Technology and Project Management (WBIS)
  • …and more, depending on the topics of your learning.

Getting credit for your learning from these courses

There are two ways you can use free online courses to earn recognised academic credit.

Route 1: If you have already studied some 'free online courses' and applied them

This route is for you if you have already studied free online courses and have applied the learning from them to your work or life setting. You register for a degree with us, and then work with a faculty specialist to help you create a portfolio(s) of learning, for up to two thirds of the necessary credit for a Bachelor's degree. The porfolio is a powerful opportunity to reflect on and further develop your learning. We only charge you for that learning that we assess as part of your degree. After this, you negotiate the rest of your degree with your faculty specialist (see below).

Route 2: If you want to accredit the learning from applying additional 'free online courses'

This route is for you if you have not yet undertaken any free online courses, but would like to integrate the learning from them as part of your studies. You register with us straight away, and work with a faculty specialist to negotiate your degree pathway, tailored to your specific needs. Once you have completed the free online courses and have applied the learning from them to your practice, you work with a faculty specialist to help you create a portfolio(s) of learning, for up to two thirds of the necessary credit for a Bachelor's degree (see below). Again, the porfolio encourages you to reflect even deeper on your learning to create new insights into your practice. We only charge you for that learning that we assess as part of your degree.

This is an example of how Tom integrated free online learning courses into his Bachelor’s degree with us:

Tom is in his late 20s. He did not study for a degree when he was younger. Instead, and as many people do, he decided to work and build his experience. He progressed his career for several years and then became a manager for an engineering and design company. He then realised he wanted to achieve more and decided to register for a negotiated, work-based learning degree at the University of Chester. He was impressed with its ability to enable him to integrate both work and study.

As part of his degree Tom was anxious to know more about risk management in a commercial setting. He completed the Saylor Foundation unit ‘Risk Management’ and obtained the certificate to demonstrate he had completed the assessment for the unit.

He presented the certificate as evidence of his attainment alongside a reflective review which demonstrated his understanding of risk – but equally as important – his understanding of the practical applications of risk and risk management in the business he manages. As a result of the portfolio, Tom obtained a third of one year’s worth of study at a rate less than a quarter of normal fees and was able to bring positive change to his workplace.

Putting a learning portfolio together

To obtain academic credit you will put together a portfolio of your learning. We call it an Accreditation of Prior Learning claim. You will have a dedicated faculty speciliast supporting you in putting your portfolio together, but it will typically include:

  • Any certificates you have achieved through successfully engaging in the online courses
  • Reflections on what you have learnt from applying the ideas in practice from the course materials you have studied
  • Any artefacts that you have created as a result of your learning, such as business reports, presentations, websites, project plans, etc.

This highlights the key learning you achieved during your courses and helps you identify which areas you want to focus on in your degree programme.

The structure of your degree

Whether you decide to accredit the learning from the free online courses you have already taken (route 1), or integrate the learning from them as part of your studies (route 2), you will need to discuss this with your dedicated faculty specialist. The sequence of your degree will typically be as shown in the table below. Our degrees are:

  • negotiated, which means you will negotiate key areas of learning with the topics you choose in the modules above (faculty specialists advise you and facilitate your learning)
  • work-based, which means you learn through real activity and reflecting on it, rather than a tutor telling you (you learn new ideas in your field, but then also apply them)
  • facilitated at a distance, which means you can read and reflect on our online learning materials and have discussions with your faculty specialist through email or Skype, but you do this from the comfort of your own home or office.

Step 1

You will typically start with:

  • Self Review & Negotiation of Learning – here, you work with a faculty specialist at a distance to design your tailored degree.
  • Skills & Approaches for Work Based Learning – here, you develop powerful skills in designing work-based projects for academic credit. Again, you will work with a faculty specialist at a distance.

Step 2

Accreditation of prior learning – here, you will create a portfolio (or number of them) for up to 66% of your degree, based on the free online courses and other aspects of learning you have had from working life.

Step 3

Negotiated, work based learning modules – for the rest of your degree, you will design work based projects, or select from a range of modules facilitated at a distance. In each, you will select topics to investigate that are relevant to your current work situation, and aim to target real workplace issues or opportunities. Visit our workshops page to learn more about our current modules.

Step 4

Exit Review & Forward Planning – here, you will review and strengthen the most powerful areas of your learning during your degree, and identify your next personal and professional steps to enhance your prospects even further.

Tuition and accreditation fees

The exact cost depends on the amount of prior learning you have achieved through the online courses, but the fees for accrediting the maximum amount of your learning through portfolio are:

  • UK or EU applicants will be able to save up to 50% the standard EU fees rate – a UK BA/BSc (Hons) for less than UK £8,500
  • Applicants outside of the EU will be able to save up to 60% the standard overseas fees rate – a UK BA/BSc (Hons) for less than UK £13,000

These figures are further reduced if some of the courses that you have studied already attract college or university credit. Visit our fees pages for the latest information.