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Online classes: The big three

Many places offer massive open online courses and many more will. But Coursera, Udacity and edX are the leading providers. Here’s how they differ:

Coursera

Web: www.coursera.org

Profile: For-profit with Stanford roots; 33 university partners, including many Ivys, Duke, California Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Berklee College of Music.

Courses: 197 in 18 subjects, including computer science, math, business, humanities, social science, medicine, engineering, education.

Assessment: Software grades quizzes, homework, problem sets; five other students grade written responses. Many instructors allow quizzes to be taken multiple times, with highest grade counting (a different quiz each time).

Academic integrity: Click a box agreeing to an honor code.

Social interaction: Online forums and study groups, meet-ups organized by students in about 1,400 cities.

Pacing: Most courses have start and end dates, though it’s possible to join a course after it has begun, as long as it is before the registration cutoff date.

What you get: Some instructors offer signed certificates of completion, but not from the university. Beginning next semester, Antioch University students can get credit at the Los Angeles campus for approved courses.

Udacity

Web: www.udacity.com

Profile: For-profit with Stanford roots but no university affiliation.

Courses: 18, in computer science, mathematics, physics, business.

Assessment: Software grades tests, problem sets, programming assignments.

Academic integrity: Proctored final exams at Pearson testing centers, for $89.

Social interaction: Online forums and study groups, meet-ups organized by students in over 450 cities.

Pacing: Courses taken at own speed.

What you get: Certificates according to academic performance: completion, distinction, high distinction, highest distinction. Colorado State’s Global Campus accepts transfer credit for a course in building a search engine. In a free job-matching program, résumés are sent to partner companies, including Google, Bank of America, Twitter, Facebook and TrialPay, based on their job openings and student’s analytics (grade, participation level).

edX

Web: www.edx.org

Profile: Nonprofit run out of M.I.T. and Harvard; with the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Texas system.

Courses: 8, in chemistry, computer science, electronics, public health; plans for 20 to 30 in the spring.

Assessment: Software grades tests and homework.

Academic integrity: Some final exams are proctored, at Pearson testing centers for varying costs. To prevent copying, users get different, randomly generated numbers in their problem sets.

Social interaction: Rudimentary; only one course, given by the Harvard School of Public Health in quantitative methods, has regional get-togethers.

Pacing: Courses have start and end dates. Registration closes two weeks after start date. Students may miss a week but lose points if they don’t make a deadline for turning in an assignment.

What you get: Two certificates available, one designating an honor code, one a proctored exam. Both bear the edX and campus name — for example, MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTAustinX. The New York Times

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