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Council to evaluate free online courses

Dec. 21, 2012 - 12:38PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 21, 2012 - 12:38PM  |  
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The nonprofit American Council on Education, representing most of the nation's college and university presidents, is preparing to weigh in on massive open online courses — MOOCs — which have been around for barely a year but have taken higher education by storm.

Top faculty at dozens of the world's most elite colleges and universities are teaching hundreds of online courses in a variety of disciplines to millions of students around the world. The courses are free, but they don't count toward traditional degree programs.

The first courses to be evaluated will be offered by Coursera, a for-profit company that partners with 33 universities to offer about 200 online courses. Other MOOC providers include Udacity and EdX. The process is scheduled to start early next year.

Some universities already are incorporating MOOCs into their programs. Last month, Antioch University in Los Angeles announced it had entered into a contract with Coursera to offer course credit for certain courses. In addition to taking the online Coursera course, students would work with a faculty member on campus — who also took the course. At issue is whether the quality of the courses offered through MOOCs are equivalent to similar courses offered in traditional classrooms.

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