Online for-credit courses available to CMU students

Credit: Kelsey Scott/Operations Manager Credit: Kelsey Scott/Operations Manager

Semester Online, which debuted at Carnegie Mellon this semester, offers students an opportunity to gain credit from online courses at other universities.

Semester Online describes itself as a “first-of-its-kind program offering rigorous, for-credit online courses from prestigious colleges and universities to top undergraduate students worldwide.” The program began with over 100 students in 10 courses across the consortium, and has expanded to 19 courses for the coming spring semester.

Semester Online courses are provided to Carnegie Mellon students by consortium partner schools, such as Boston College, Brandeis University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Notre Dame, Wake Forest University, and Washington University in St. Louis, all of which were ranked in the top 35 of U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Colleges list for 2014.

Courses consist of weekly live classes via webcam and online chats, capped at 20 students, with traditional class structure — including discussions, slides, and quizzes. These courses are designed to be equivalent to on-campus classes and are taught by the same professors.

“Despite calling in from all different places across the country, it has been really easy to interact and connect with the professors and other students,” said Northwestern journalism major Netta-Lee Lax, according to Semester Online. “The class I’m in only has three other students, which has made the learning process more fulfilling for me personally.”

All courses from Semester Online are worth three credits, which are accepted by Carnegie Mellon. The university offering the course will issue the credit, provided that the student has completed the course with a passing grade, and the student will receive an official transcript from that university.

“The expansion of Semester Online’s course offerings demonstrates the speed at which the program is growing, as we provide more students the opportunity to participate in this unique academic experience,” said Andrew Hermalyn, executive vice president and general manager of Semester Online.

Courses for the spring 2014 semester include How to Rule the World from Boston College, Baseball and American Culture from Emory University, Electronics Out of the Box from Northwestern University, and Critical Earth Issues from Washington University in St. Louis.

Semester Online gives students the opportunity to take courses that they otherwise would not be able to, if the desired course is not taught at their university, or if they can’t be on campus due to a full-time job or internship.
“Students will no longer grapple with the dilemma of sacrificing an internship or volunteer opportunity to take a required course,” wrote Northwestern senior William McLaughlin in The Daily Northwestern.

Many students find the weekly classes easier to fit into a busy schedule, and since students can attend class anywhere with Internet access, they can take courses while studying abroad or at home over the summer.

According to USA Today, Emory University senior and Semester Online student Nenad Tadic said, “In our increasingly ‘busy’ lives, we want to pursue as many opportunities as we can without having their qualities devalued and online courses allow us to do that.”

“The fact is, everyone is very bright and really wants to be there. And the flexibility is awesome. It’s definitely something I’d recommend to other students,” Tadic said.

“Semester Online is a convenient option because it’s easy to fit into your schedule, especially for busy students like athletes,” said Gary DiLisio, academic advisor for the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “But I think for the average Carnegie Mellon student it’s not enough; students here care about learning and want more interaction than online classes can provide.”

To apply for a course in the spring 2014 semester, students must be enrolled in a regionally accredited institution, in good academic standing, and apply by Dec. 23. Admission is limited, and students are selected based on their academic achievement and strength of transcript, although those who apply to Semester Online by Nov. 22 are preferred. To learn more about Semester Online, visit