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More Top Universities to Offer Free Online Courses

SAN FRANCISCO — More top universities outside the United States are joining the rush to offer “massive open online courses” that are broadening access to higher education.

Coursera and edX, two leading providers of so-called MOOCs, on Thursday announced major expansions that will roughly double the number of universtiy partners offering free online classes through their websites.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Coursera said it will add 29 institutions, including 16 outside the U.S. Over the next several months, they will offer about 90 new courses, including some taught in French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese.

“Having courses taught in other languages will enable more students to take our classes,” said Andrew Ng, a Stanford University professor who co-founded Coursera.

Coursera offers 220 courses from 33 institutions and has nearly 2.8 million registered users who have signed up for nearly 10 million courses, Ng said.

The new partners include Chinese University of Hong Kong, Technical University of Denmark, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico as well as the universities of Copenhagen, Geneva and Toyko.

Cambridge, Mass.-based edX said it’s adding six new institutions, including five outside the U.S., which will provide at least 25 courses.

EdX, which was launched in May by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offers 25 courses from six universities and has 700,000 registered students.

The new partners are Australian National University, Delft University of Technology, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, McGill University, Rice University and the University of Toronto.

Delft University in the Netherlands will be the first edX partner to provide courses as “open content,” which means other universities are free to incorporate the materials into their classes, said edX President Anant Agarwal.

“People can reuse it and remix it,” Agarwal said. “It enables courses to get better and better over time by allowing people to share content.”

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