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Credit urged for free online courses

SAN FRANCISCO — 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.

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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.

The American Council on Education, which represents US degree-granting institutions, is recommending credit for five entry-level courses. Students seeking credit will need to pay between $100 and $190 to verify their identities, take exams monitored by web­cam, and receive transcripts with the council’s credit recommendations.

Ultimately, the institution where the student wants credit will decide whether the units will count toward a degree.

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