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Online education groups add colleges from U.S. and overseas

February 20, 2013 |  9:00 pm

Two of the emerging providers of online college classes, Coursera and edX, are announcing significant expansions in the numbers of campuses that will join their organizations and offer free courses.

The high-powered competitors, both founded last year, say their academic offerings will have more of an international flavor as a result of additional schools signing on from outside the U.S.

Mountain View-based Coursera said 29 universities are joining the 33 already offering at least one class on the platform of the for-profit group. Among the 13 new U.S. members are CalArts in Valencia, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, Penn State and Rutgers University. The 16 new overseas ones include the Ecole Polytechnique of France, the University of Tokyo, the University of Copenhagen and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. More classes will be offered in languages other than English, officials said.

The not-for-profit edX, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., was founded by Harvard University and Massaschusetts Institute of Technology and was joined later by four other U.S. schools, including UC Berkeley. EdX said it is adding one U.S. campus, Rice University in Houston; two from Canada, University of Toronto and McGill University; the Australian National University; Delft University of Technology inf the Netherlands; and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. At first, all will be taught in English but edX will be adding other languages later, administrators said.

Students from around the world are taking the free online courses that are largely offered without college credit. Some offer a completion certificate for a small fee. Professors typically videotape lectures and often comment in general on message boards without answering specific questions. It's not unusual for a class to enroll tens of thousands of students to start.

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--Larry Gordon

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