coursera signature track

One of the difficulties with online courses is how they offer credentialing.  Many classes offer a certificate.  Unfortunately, it isn’t worth the bytes it is stored in as anyone could have taken the class for you.  (Students: it is still fine to use it as a conversation piece.)  There are a few ways to deal with this:

  1. The honor system – I got my Masters degree at Regis University.  Most exams and projects were the honor system.  The only thing that wasn’t was the thesis presentation.  And that was a phone call so someone else could have done it for me.
  2. Testing at Prometric/Pearson.  Another moderator at CodeRanch got her Bachelors degree at Western Governors University where much of the course work is a series of certifications.
  3. Proctored exams at work/school/the library – When I was researching online Masters degrees, many schools had you take their exams proctored by someone local.  I didn’t go this route because I didn’t want to keep bothering people by asking them to proctor.  And in New York City, the librarians are busy with their actual job responsibilities and aren’t going to proctor an exam.

Coursera and Udacity have been using the honor system to date.  Udacity is starting a $7000 masters degree.  Coursera is starting a signature track.

Why I tried the signature track

Mostly curiosity.  Also it said that the professor gets a small portion of the fee.  And the professor (@drchuck) was by far the most engaged I’ve ever seen in an online class.  Perhaps a bit too engaged!  He’s on twitter what feels like constantly, posts in the forums and does physical office hours as he travels around the world.

How much does it cost

Coursera says it costs between $30 and $100 per class.  I think I paid $39.

How does it work

When signing up, you take a webcam photo of yourself and one of your drivers license (or other id.)  You also type a sentence about not cheating.  Then after each assignment, you re-type that sentence and re-take your photo.  Your typing pattern is compared to verify it is you.  In theory, your photo is checked as well.  I say in theory because a student said he put up a picture of his dog and nothing happened.

Was it worth it

Only in that I was curious.  I wouldn’t do it again.  It was annoying to have to keep typing the sentence and taking a photo.  I don’t need a certificate for anything.  And it STILL doesn’t prove you didn’t cheat.  Just that you were present when the assignments were submitted and quizzes were taken.

The interesting thing is that the course was definitely worth $39.  It was a fun review of internet history and some things I never knew.  But paying for the benefit of a somewhat verified certificate isn’t.


One thought on “coursera signature track

  1. Having just paid for one of Coursera’s signature courses, I found another annoyance – one that might stop me in the future: the camera plugin would only work in Safari for me. My normal choice of browsers is Firefox, Chrome, and Safari as a last resort. So most of this course was done in my least favorite browser. 🙁

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