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Columbia, Brown, and 15 More Universities Join Coursera's Free Online Platform

Having already teamed up with more colleges than any of its rivals, Coursera adds 17 new global universities to its roster.

Coursera, the platform for "massively open online courses" founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng of Stanford, announced today that it has doubled its number of university partners. The new roster includes several global institutions.

Since its debut earlier this year, 1.3 million people have signed up for a free six- to ten-week Coursera class, which includes videos, exercises, embedded assessment and a social component delivered through message boards. Here's a more detailed explanation of how the program works, from Fast Company's September 2012 feature story about Coursera:

Coursera courses are 6 to 10 weeks long, with an hour or two of videos per week. In addition to the snap quizzes, they feature weekly exercises, ranging from problem sets to spreadsheets to design projects or essays, and sometimes a final project or exam. For all quantitative courses, the platform uses artificial intelligence to evaluate each longer exercise, with instant results. Students can keep trying until they get the right answer. For humanities courses, Coursera is testing a form of peer grading.

Although still exploring business models, the venture-funded company plans to eventually make money through certifications (a path competitor Udacity is already pursuing). The addition of these new partners will give Coursera an advantage in what's become an increasingly crowded online education market.

Berklee College of Music, Brown University, Columbia, Emory University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, The Ohio State University, University of British Columbia, University of California, Irvine, University of Florida, University of London, University of Maryland, University of Melbourne, University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, and Wesleyan University have all signed agreements with Coursera to bring versions of their professors' courses online for free.