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College credit recommended for free online courses

SAN FRANCISCO — Students may soon be able to receive college credit for the free online courses reshaping higher education.

The American Council on Education said Thursday that it is recommending degree credit for five courses offered by Coursera, a Mountain View, Calif., 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.

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