SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Students may soon be able to receive college credit for the free online courses that are reshaping higher education.
The American Council on Education announced Thursday that it is recommending degree credit for five courses offered by Coursera, a Mountain View-based company that provides "massive open online courses" from leading universities.
Many colleges and universities use the association's recommendations to determine whether to grant credit for nontraditional courses.
Molly Corbett Broad, the council's president, said the decision is "an important first step in ACE's work to examine the long-term potential of MOOCs and whether this innovative new approach can engage students across the country and worldwide."
Over the past year, dozens of leading universities have begun offering free, digital versions of their most popular courses, allowing tens of thousands of students to take a class at the same time. But so far, few institutions have offered degree credit for them.
Allowing students to get credit for the massive online courses could help make it easier to earn a college degree, said John Aubrey Douglass, a higher education researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
"As long as we can assess and ensure quality, it's providing one more way that students can receive an education at an affordable cost," Douglass said.
The American Council on Education, which represents U.S. degree-granting institutions, is recommending credit for five entry-level classes: Algebra and Pre-Calculus from the University of California, Irvine; Introduction to Genetics and Evolution from Duke University; Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach from Duke University; and Calculus: Single Variable from the University of Pennsylvania.