Tech Support Blog

Online Startup Coursera Has Free Courses, With Dollar Signs in Mind

Now that Coursera, an online higher education platform, has offered its free courses for almost a year, it is announcing ways it plans to make money. It originally received $22 million in funding. Coursera says it will share earnings with its participating universities.

Stanford professors and Coursera founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, launched in 2012 to use technology to give people around the world more educational opportunities. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as Coursera’s, can have thousands of students enrolled in just one course.

Koller told RESCUECOM that “2.4 million people have registered on the Coursera platform to date. There is also a ticker that keeps track of our rising number on our website.”

Reasons for taking Coursera courses can include improving employment skills, enriching people’s lives or exploring topics of interest. Courses range from computer science, the humanities, science, business and math to social sciences.

Besides Stanford, some of the 33 universities offering some courses through Coursera are Columbia, Princeton, Georgia Tech, Caltech, Duke, Johns Hopkins and the Universities of Michigan, Virginia, Washington, London and Melbourne.

Coursera course methods include classroom lectures, interactive exercises, group discussions and peer assessment.

One of the few requirements for studying online is a computer that is ready to use without immediate computer repair.

As one way to make money, Coursera recently started offering a job placement service. Potential employers pay for introductions to qualified job candidates. These candidates must indicate their interest for employment consideration. At first, the placement service is focusing on software engineering positions.

To start another revenue stream, Coursera will begin offering a “verified certificate” to show that a student succeeded at a specific course, at a cost of $30 to $100 per certificate. Courses are still free to take.

Even if a student does not complete a degree in a certain field, certificates are one way to show mastery of a topic and could be valuable to an existing or potential employer. Coursera uses biometric authentication, including a photo and an example of how a person types certain phrases, to verify identification. Only a few courses will offer the certificate at first. It is possible that these certificates could count toward degree credits in the future.

“Although verified certificates are not the equivalent of transferable credit, they do allow students to provide compelling proof that it was they who completed their own coursework,” Koller noted. “For students using their Coursera courses on their resumes, this kind of verification will be very valuable.”

The verified certificate authenticates a Coursera student’s identity. Internet security precautions will help prevent identity theft through the computer.

Since Coursera online courses are free, paying $30 to $100 is not bad to verify a credential not otherwise recognized from a prominent university. It also enables Coursera to continue its mission.



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