More than 680,000 students have taken a Coursera class.

The University of Virginia will make four of its courses available for free online in 2013 after the campus’s governing board last month cited a lack of web-based courses in its controversial ouster of President Teresa Sullivan.

But advocates for online education said the university’s partnership with for-profit internet learning site Coursersa—which announced partnerships with 12 universities July 17—should be seen as a tepid embrace of nontraditional courses, not as a momentous shift toward a new learning model.

UVa. will post courses in physics, history, and philosophy to Coursera, part of the massive open online course (MOOC) movement that includes other free educational websites like edX, Udacity, and the Khan Academy.

The courses will be available to anyone with an internet connection. UVa. students will not earn credits upon completion of each Coursera class, whereas students at the University of Washington soon will be able to take Coursera classes for credit.

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About the Author:

Denny Carter

Dennis has covered higher education technology since April 2008, having interviewed some of the most recognized IT pros in U.S. colleges and universities. He is always updating eCampus News with the latest in pressing ed-tech issues, such as the growing i