Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Verification as MOOC add-on

Security Check #CGK #MozTrip #USTrip by Viking KARWUR, on Flickr
Not surprisingly I start off 2013 with another development in the MOOC saga. As the search to find viable business cases for MOOCs intensifies Coursera have just announced a new revenue avenue - namely identity verification. According to an article by Paul Fain in Inside Higher Ed, Paying for proof, Coursera  students will be able to buy in to a "Signature Track" with photo and keystroke identification to prove that they have done the course work themselves. Student will then have a verified certificate with a detailed course performance record stored by Coursera which will then give added credibility to the student's work if it is to be exchanged at another institution for credits. These institutions will naturally be wary of student portfolios from MOOCs unless there is convincing proof that the student actually wrote the material.

This fits nicely into the layered model of education I mentioned a few weeks ago: A layered model for education. The foundation layer is the open content available to all and free. Above that in layer 2 comes various packaging solutions where institutions and educators can package the resources into courses that can be offered for free or not. Layer 3 includes the add-ons that are probably going to cost money and in this layer we find Coursera's signature track solution as well as services like tutoring and support. Layer 4 could include testing, examination, quality assurance and so on. The principle is that access to education is open and free for all whereas the higher layers will most likely be offered at a price, though free alternatives may be offered.

What we're seeing here is that universities have realised that you can't sell content and that the business case for MOOCs is selling credentials, verification and examination. The article mentions that  the other MOOC players, edX and Udacity, are also selling proctored testing of students at local test centres. Learning is free and open but if you want credentials and other add-ons then you will have to pay. However if the total costs for this path is lower than the full campus experience then we have succeeded in opening up education to more people. That's the benefit in my opinion.

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