Imagine you’re nearing the end of your academic program — you’re in the home stretch for degree completion. However, upon review of your degree plan, you realize you’re a few courses short from being able to graduate. Or maybe you’re finishing up your undergraduate degree and are applying for an advanced degree, but you’re held back by a missing prerequisite course. Perhaps you’re one of the many students currently displaced by the coronavirus and are searching for a flexible option to take one or two courses until things are steadier and more certain.
The truth is, it’s not uncommon for students to find themselves short a course or two at different points in their education, and there are options to help fill those gaps. As you consider what’s available, it’s helpful to do some legwork first to make sure you find a good fit for your situation.
What to look for
Pricing: When you take individual courses outside of a degree program, you may not get the benefits of the semester pricing model. Courses may be priced individually. You may also be subject to fees charged by the institution per course to cover things like textbooks and labs.
Prerequisites: Some courses require completion of specific prior learning before enrolling. So, be prepared to provide a copy of your transcripts to satisfy any prerequisite requirements. In most cases, you can download an unofficial copy from your university’s student portal for advising purposes, but you may still need to supply the official version.
Format: Not all online education is the same. Some may have an asynchronous format that does not require you to be in class at a certain day and/or time. You work at your own pace, but will be required to meet expectations and timelines for assignments, as well as perform required interactions during the class. If you elect to take a course with a synchronous format, you will meet with your online class at a specified day and time. Live interactive software will be used to allow the class to communicate and interact. You should select a format that aligns to your learning style and time commitment.
Transferability: Before enrolling in a course outside of your home institution, you should confirm if your home institution will accept the transfer credit and will apply it to your degree program. The transferability of any credit is at the discretion of the receiving institution, not at the discretion of the school offering the single course, so get confirmation from the school where you intend to apply the credit.
You should also make sure the academic unit awarded aligns with your requirement. Credits are awarded differently across colleges and universities. Some may award semester credits, others trimester or quarter credits. Make sure the course you choose will earn enough credits to cover your program’s requirements. If you’re looking for a sequence of prerequisite courses, timing of the courses is typically a crucial factor. Consider a school that is not on a traditional semester schedule. At UOPX, for instance, courses start frequently — generally every 4-6 weeks.
Advising: Always talk with your advisor at your home school before enrolling in another university to ensure the course you’re taking will meet the educational gap you’re attempting to fill. You should also make sure your home institution accepts transfer credits from the institution you select. Again, the transferability of any credit is at the discretion of the receiving institution. Some schools are willing to accept transfer credits, and some schools are not. You should confirm prior to enrollment if you intend to use a single course for credit at a different institution.
Summer is the most popular time at UOPX for students to enroll in single-course offerings. The University typically sees about a 50 percent jump in enrollment for these courses during the summer months. Students are often trying to catch up so they graduate on time or take courses they need to transfer into a new academic program in the upcoming academic term. Offerings span the coursebook, from algebra to upper-division language arts, cybersecurity and genetics.
Regardless of why you’re looking to take single-course offerings, taking advantage of this option is a smart way to make sure a few missed courses don’t derail your educational timeline.
Lynn Moksvold is a Senior Manager in Category Marketing for the University of Phoenix College of Education, College of General Studies and Continuing Education.