a MOOC to charge for certificate

Chronicle of Higher education published an article today on Udacity’s decision to begin charging MOOC participants for the certificate of completion for their courses. This is an interesting move in ‘free’ education. While the content will still be free, and participant-students can continue to access and complete courses as they deem necessary, they will no longer be certified for that completion without a fee. According to Udacity – this is a move to validate the credentialing offered by Udacity. The fee includes monthly access to the course, and all sorts of additional ‘educational’ support relevant to the online world (not the instructor though…..). The movement toward MOOCs seemed to imply a cultural shift back toward the utopian democratization possible with the internet applied to higher education – making higher education accessible to anyone anytime. Now, in stating that credentialing and proving that a student completed a course to validate the learning implies that without money, without tuition, a university can’t validate learning. This makes a statement about higher education in america as degree factories if you just pay tuition, but it also makes a comment about the content available in MOOCs. The focus is no longer learning, and providing academically rigorous courses for personal gain, it’s now requiring fees to certify a students learned what they were supposed to learn (according to what measuring standard I’m assuming depends on the course?) – something that can not be done without a fee. I understand universities have overhead costs to keep themselves running (I worked in higher education administration for 9 years, I understand) – and universities need to have standards – and universities need to create incentive for students to continue for them to be successful. So is this the answer? Charge for credentialing?



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2 responses to “a MOOC to charge for certificate

  1. i, too, was concerned when i saw this. my model remains Khan Academy, which promises to be free forever. their values best represent my motivation for working to further MOOC availability to all.

    here’s an additional spin on udacity’s change. i’ve only taken one udacity comp sci course but found it poorly executed. (to highlight, one set of exercises contained NO correct answer among the response choices… which was noted as an ‘oops’ in the next video segment.) as i recall, udacity lost a contract with CSU San Jose b/c of poor completion rates. if my experience was at all typical, i’m not surprised.

    so it occurred to me that maybe the fee is really more about providing the new one-on-one tutorial support. which wouldn’t be so necessary if courses were more respectful of online students time and effort.

    • I agree with you that the one-on-one tutoring seems to be motivating the fees. I know several universities go to the model with 24/7 tutoring, not provided by faculty or students who have previously completed the course. So I also question what makes these tutors content experts, and what does that say about content in these courses and how we value content and learning….

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