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College credit for open online courses gains momentum

Last month, Antioch University in Los Angeles announced it had entered into a contract with Coursera, one of the most prominent MOOC providers, to offer course credit for certain courses. In addition to taking the online Coursera course, students also would work with a faculty member on campus who also took the course.

The first courses to be evaluated through the American Council on Education have not been identified but will be offered by Coursera, a for-profit company that partners with 33 universities to offer about 200 online courses.

To meet ACE requirements and ensure that credit-seeking students are who they say they are, Coursera said it would begin offering identity-verified and proctored online exams using webcams. And while taking the classes is free, students would have to pay a yet-to-be-determined “modest fee” to qualify for the credit recommendation.

Coursera, founded by two Stanford University professors, is one of several high-profile efforts in which consortia of leading universities are making available online some of their best and most popular teaching. Other MOOC providers include Udacity and EdX. But only a small percentage of students who sign up for such classes are completing the coursework, according to early returns.

That’s partly because many students just want to learn and aren’t pursuing a degree or credential. But for those who do, there have been very few avenues for getting transferable credit from the MOOC courses. So far, that has limited any potential for the MOOC movement to make higher-education credentials more accessible and affordable.

Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng says the potential to transfer credit “is a significant step forward,” but added that it’s too early to know how evaluators or universities will respond. “This is a new thing for all of us.”

(c) 2012, USA Today, with additional reporting from the Associated Press. Visit USA Today online at Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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