17 more top universities offer free cyber courses (Update)

(AP)—Seventeen leading universities in the U.S. and abroad will start offering free cyber courses through the online education platform Coursera, the company said Wednesday.

The announcement by Mountain View-based Coursera underscores the rapid expansion of so-called MOOCs, or massive open online courses, that are reshaping the higher education landscape.

Coursera, a for-profit company started by two computer science professors at Stanford University, will now offer more than 200 courses from 33 institutions that are open to anyone with Internet access. Officials said the website has registered 1.3 million students around the world.

The new Coursera partners include Brown, Columbia, Emory, Vanderbilt and Wesleyan universities, as well as Berklee College of Music and Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The foreign universities added are Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of British Columbia, University of London, University of Melbourne, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Coursera said.

The new additions include five public institutions: Ohio State University, the University of Florida, University of Pittsburgh, University of Maryland and University of California, Irvine.

"As boundaries and limitations begin to disappear in the world of higher education, Coursera is clearly an up-and-coming player on the global stage and we look forward to partnering with them," University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in a statement.

EdX, a competing online platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced this month that it will start giving students the option of taking proctored final exams, which will allow them to earn independently validated certificates to show potential employers or educational institutions.

In a report issued last week, Moody's Investors Service said the growth of the online courses could help participating universities generate new revenue, increase brand recognition and become more efficient.

However, the Moody's authors warned that such courses, which can reach an unlimited number of students worldwide, could hurt for-profit education companies and less selective nonprofit colleges that could see reduced student demand.

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