Q:

My son will go to college next year. He is thinking of getting a jump on earning college credit by taking some online college level courses. Will he learn the same material that is covered at the college he will attend? How costly are these courses? -- Online Education

A:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not a good way for students like your son to earn college credits. Very few colleges actually offer credits for taking these courses. The good news is that both colleges and universities are now seriously considering the credits question.

The American Council on Education advises college presidents on whether MOOC courses pass muster for college credit. So far the council has endorsed very few MOOCs for credit. In addition, colleges do not have to accept these recommendations for credit.

A few schools are now offering credit for their own courses that are taken online, as well as giving credit for some online courses supplied by other schools. If your son plans to get credit for a MOOC course, he will obviously need to find out the policy of the college he plans to attend. Incidentally, when students earn credits for these courses, there is typically a fee of a few hundred dollars per course.

Unless your son's college-to-be offers a course, it is not likely to be exactly the same as the one he would take at his own school. However, many introductory level classes will be very similar in content.

Even if he doesn't earn credit for a MOOC, your son could profit by learning what college classes are like. He also could get a good introduction to one or more classes that he will be taking at college during his first semester of college. An AP course could do the same thing.