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New Guides Aim to Become the Yelp for MOOC’s

Students looking for massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, have many options, with a growing number of providers and course titles. A handful of Web sites have popped up over the past few months to help students find courses they’re interested in, much as a restaurant-goer might turn to Yelp. Some of the sites let students review the MOOC’s they’ve taken, incorporating their views into the sites’ overall guidance.

One new directory, Course Buffet, was started two months ago by Bruce Bolton, out of his frustration over trying to compare the quality of online resources. The site lists more than 500 courses from various MOOC providers, and each course is assigned a difficulty level (Psychology 100, for example), to help students move from easier to more difficult material. He hopes to turn a profit by selling advertising, such as by sending offers from certification companies to students.

Mr. Bolton plans to add an online-transcript feature to show a list of MOOC’s a user has completed, he said. “There’s no way to prove you have taken all those courses—we’ll have to work on that,” he said. “But it gives you something to show people.”

Another site, Class Central, groups online-course listings into one page of tables categorized by the dates they are offered. Dhawal Shah, the site’s founder, works as a Bay Area software engineer by day and takes MOOC’s at night. He began working on Class Central last November and built up an audience through hits from sites like Hacker News and Reddit.

“I want to be the one destination for this, but at the same time I also do these courses and I have a day job,” he said. “I can’t commit a lot of time.”

Knollop, which stands for a “dollop of knowledge,” started its beta phase in October and lists a number of providers, including Open Yale Courses and Khan Academy. Students can filter course options by provider, date, topic, or rating. Users give courses overall reviews and also rate the courses by content, difficulty, depth, and entertainment quality. The site plans to expand beyond MOOC’s to other learning materials, like educational podcasts and problem-set sites, a co-founder, Karen Sun, said.

“Our goal is to build a knowledge-dependency graph between learning materials so that students can take what they need, buffet-style, and put together their own curriculum that best serves their needs and their learning styles,” she said by e-mail.

CourseTalk, which has drawn more than 500 reviews since its October debut, organizes courses by rating, popularity, timing, subject area, university, and top reviewers. To compete with the other sites, Jesse Spaulding, the founder, has expanded his list of providers to include smaller platforms like CodeAcademy.

He also added a recommendation feature similar to one employed by the online retailer Amazon. It gives users a list of MOOC’s that “people interested in this course were also interested in.”

“A lot of people will sign up for one of these courses and then go through a week or two and realize for various reasons they don’t like it,” Mr. Spaulding said. “People can have a better idea of what they’re getting themselves into.”

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