A consortium of highly regarded universities around the country said today that it was starting a first-of-its-kind program that would allow undergraduates from the schools to take approved online courses for credit from any of the institutions.

The schools involved are: Brandeis University, Duke University, Emory University, Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University and  Washington University in St. Louis.

The Semester Online programs will allow undergraduates to take courses that will be developed by faculty at each of the schools. Northwestern University Provost Daniel I. Linzer said that the program was the first of its kind in the country. It is not, he said, an attempt to replicate the course catalog and is not a degree program, but an experiment to give students more course options. It can be especially helpful for students who spend part of their college careers off campus, he said, and by having a group of universities work together, the risk is reduced.

“As universities, we are tasked with continually figuring out the best way of delivering an education to our students,” he said. “We don’t know how this will turn out.”

A growing number of universities are offering free massive open online courses, known as MOOCS, which have been tried by millions of people around the world on Web sites such as Coursera, edX, Udacity and others. This is different. Students will pay for the courses and receive credit.

Courses will be developed by faculty in the consortium interested in experimenting with online learning.