I am under the impression that paying 49$ to Coursera to receive a “verified certificate” for attending one of their course fails the whole spirit of MOOCs.

mooc and money

I began the “Mathematical Biostatistic Bootcamp” online course organised by John Hopkins Universities in collaboration with Coursera. Coursera is an catalogue of over 100 different online courses – given away for FREE – and organised by some of the most important schools in the world.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were a big fuzz last year: everyone was captured by the idea that freely available courses in engineer and math from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and Yale were going to “change the landscape of education one and for all”. None has ever mentioned (at least that I am aware of) that MOOCs just so happen to be also excellent advertising for Universities, at a reasonable price. I think MOOCs are not a big commitment for Universities: all they need to do is putting online PowerPoints and exercises that teachers have already developed for their classes. Every now and then, the Uni opens the course, releases the video-lessons all together or one and the time, and leaves the students with a forum to discuss. The final examination, to my understanding, is always corrected by a computer. Done.

Bottom line: MOOCs are an incredible thing AND not a big effort for the Universities that release them. Yet, at my second day of “Mathematical Biostatistic” I received an email from Coursera that told me that if I wanted the “official Verified Certificate” of attendance of the course, I had to pull 49$ out the wallet.

I feel disappointed and somehow betrayed. I haven’t made up my mind about the certificate yet: if I get it, I will be able to show everyone that I successfully concluded a course in Biostatistic from John Hopkins. I’ll share it on my LinkedIn page, on Twitter and on my online CV. It feels good to acknowledge efforts! On the other end, this is absolutely not the spirit of the MOOCs I expected to attend: I can afford 49$, but the people who uses MOOCs to enter the job market with a higher level of education, cannot necessarily pay those money. Or maybe they prefer not to.

As a note: I did not naively think that MOOCs websites run for free: they must get cash from somewhere. I though Universities were paying them. Now I know that they get cash also from students. Disappointing.


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