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I'm of the opinion that the value of Coursera's courses comes from the learning opportunity, not the certification. I think they should simply allow cheating and not issue certificates. Alternatively, allow cheating and continue to issue certificates while letting employers decide the true value of the certificates.

The point of Coursera (to me) isn't to pad my resume, it's to learn from courses not always offered at my university.




Just wondering - would you put a certificate from Coursera on your resume? I raised this question a while ago in here : http://workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/2074/showing-co...

Also - cases will be handled on an individual basis - I guess it's not a standard sized class. There is a few hundred people signed up at least. Putting up a free course in functional programming seems like a lot of work. On top of that, trying to find people who are cheating and handling them more or less individually is a bit of a time waste in my opinion.


I would not list it under "Education" alongside a formal degree. However, I might mention it in a cover letter to demonstrate passion and internal motivation for a given subject.

While I'm quick to condemn certification, I can see the other side of this argument as well. To a lot of people, Coursera represents the opportunity to overhaul a broken education system. In order for true change, Coursera must not only demonstrate that it can educate people, but that it can do so credibly and consistently.


As an employer, I take continuing education of any sort as a positive sign when looking at resumes. Software development is a Red Queen field; one has to keep up.

However, I do take most certifications as mild negative signs. E.g., SCJP, CSM, PMP. A lot of for-profit certifications are worthless. A notable exception are some of the Cisco certs, which really put people through their paces. Which makes sense, as Cisco benefits more from having expensive Cisco products work well than from certification revenue.

It'll be interesting to see what bucket Coursera certs fall into. They need to jump on the cheating thing right quick, though.


Considering that the Coursera certificates require you to take a class (usually taught by experts in the respective field) as opposed to cramming for a certification exam, I'd say it's a good bit more valuable.

I took the first AI class last Fall, and if you've never been exposed to the material, it was a very good survey of Artificial Intelligence.


I agree, just as long as the certificate actually means you've taken the course and done the work. If one can cheat one's way through the homework and then just cram for the final, the Coursera certs would end up being of low value. I hope not, though. I'd love to have a good way to tell the continuous learners from the people who get stuck.


> Which makes sense, as Cisco benefits more from having expensive Cisco products work well than from certification revenue.

I'm not sure about the actual comparative amounts, but Cisco makes a lot of money off of certifications. Of course, in the long run making them actually represent something is best for both sides of the business.


> I'm not sure about the actual comparative amounts, but Cisco makes a lot of money off of certifications.

80% of Cisco's revenue is hardware. And even the service side is something close to $2 billion. I suspect the amount of money they make off of certifications is a tiny slice of that. Even if there are 10k CCIEs each paying $1500 for a yearly test, that's only $15 million, which is nothing to Cisco.

> Of course, in the long run making them actually represent something is best for both sides of the business.

That's not true for many certifiers. Take a look at the CSM certificate. It is meaningless, but popular and therefore profitable.


I completely agree, which is why I find the cheating so interesting. I strongly doubt that any employers are going to lend much value to the certification so early in Coursera's lifespan, but I don't doubt that cheating is going to continue even though the only thing you 'truly' gain from a Coursera course is knowledge.


I agree with you, but that is mostly because I already have a 4 year degree in Engineering and I'm assuming you do too. There is a problem in the fact that many people cannot afford that degree because their parents can't afford it (or the loans that they'd need).

Cheating degrades the quality of education at any level. Cheaters are trying to get accreditation when they shouldn't. While Cheating is all over in education (we had a couple of cases at my school), it is obviously going to be more prominent in a place like Coursera, where cheating is easier and looking for cheaters is harder.

One thing they could do is create an algorithm that checks answers much like what they do for journals, but again that's an extra load they "shouldn't" have on their employees.


> Cheating degrades the quality of education at any level.

Not in the least! You can argue that it degrades the prestige or something like that, but the education remains the same.


I would argue it hurts after the cheating, though possibly not precisely when it occurs. Later courses, things that build on what was cheated, that kind of thing. Time (and money, and happiness) must be spent to deal with people who aren't prepared, degrading the quality of what the legitimate ones receive, and the educator's time.


There is a big crediblity difference between taking random classes and completing a program in a university.

The university has the onus to hire credible teachers, and to maintain a high reputation. You're paying for the standards they apply. Some universities aren't worth their weight and some are. The information that they have is out there. This has not changed. Textbooks have been arround for a while. Additionally professional teachers have the ability to communicate the material affectively.

Online classes can't guarantee a level of understanding of the material. Additionally online classes will never be able to guarantee that the person who signed up for the class is the actual one that gets the credit.


The algorithm for checking answers in journals is to send it to a panel of other people in the field, ask them if it checks out (obvious errors, overlooked things, etc.), and publish if it does. This model has already broken down when people outright fabricate results, it has missed blatant plagarism, and overall is largely dependent on all the parties being honest.

It wouldn't work at Coursera's scale and for a price point they can afford.


Coursera has a huge amount of data and could create their own algorithms that check for similar code in the database. It wouldn't be perfect but it could do simple string comparison against other work.


People shouldn't let cheating degrade the quality of education. You either possess the skills or you don't, and if you don't you shouldn't act like you do. It'll probably be obvious. Here's the scenario in my mind...

A: "Oh hey I know how to program Scala"

B: "Ok program Scala..."

A: "Well I only got the cert, I don't actually know."

B: "Sorry I guess you're not qualified then. Why don't you learn?"


"Ok program scala"

Yeah that sounds like a great interview. How long do you let them go, half an hour, a day? Do you think you can adequately judge someones abilities like this?


I think it was more of a broad sketch of a series of interactions, not a formula for an interview. Someone represents themselves as having some skills because they are certified as having those skills; they are asked to apply those skills; etc...


Who said interview? You did.


Your format implies more formality than a normal conversation - I assumed you meant it in terms of an interview too, and if not that, I'm not sure what you were aiming for. I don't see conversations like that outside technical interviews.


From a practical standpoint, while it's disappointing, I don't understand why they are so surprised that solutions were posted online.

I mean, if there are 5000 students in the course, for even odds of it happening, 0.5 = (1 - n) ^ 5000 -> n = 0.0139% chance per student, which seems like an awfully saintly ratio to assume.

Won't they be making the problem worse by drawing borderline cheaters' attention to it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_effect)?


Some would argue that the point of Coursera is to offer education to those who cannot afford it or access it through traditional means. If I come from a poor community anywhere in the world, but have internet access, this certificate means quite a bit to me in terms of employment and opportunities (not just as a resume pad). I think for this reason alone your second alternative is more fair. Obviously, Coursera also helps to augment someone's existing knowledge, or as an educational source for a hobbyist.


Present market value of learning materials - ~$0. (Wikipedia/library/sneak into university/independently tinker/etc)

Present market value of a common certification - ~$100k.

Which aspect would you attempt to build a business around?


What employer takes Coursera classes seriously?


At this moment: very few but I imagine this will change in the near future and that Coursera is betting on this. That, off course, requires strict enforcement of the rules.


Well, things change. Some years ago, nobody took MMORPG experience seriously (even thought it to be a bad thing), but these days, people get management positions because of it.


For many of us, the value is in the learning opportunity. Some people, I imagine, are out of work and need a way to pick up skills and job credentials cheaply. For them I think huge value could be found in a certification. Having a certificate on your resume can start an interesting conversation in an interview, show personal initiative, and so forth.


>I think they should simply allow cheating and not issue certificates.

This kind of thinking really bothers me. They've gone to some pains to ensure their certification has some level of meaning, and now they want to chuck it all out the window based on the actions of a tiny minority.

Collective punishment is usually the product of lazy thinking.


Fair enough. Perhaps, the second option I proposed might work. The value of a Coursera certificate will not be reduced if it continues to be only a tiny minority who cheats.

I suppose I've always been of the opinion that they should offer the courses in a fashion similar to that of Khan Academy. I don't expect a certificate when I complete a section there as I'm there for the purpose of educating myself, not for accrediting myself. I think it's hard for Coursera to fulfill accreditation, but wish them the best if it's what they want to try for.


I think that's how I instantly analyzed the title: "how can someone cheat at coursera??". I get it that some people put the certifications on their resumes, but there are also a subset of people who take the courses just to learn, and therefore may not be able to spend the time doing the work.


While its true that the value is in learning and not the certification, it is also true that assignments have a specific role to serve.

If learning is truly your motive and you are unable to do the assignments, well just don't do them. Why even go as far as cheating.


Indeed, the possibility to learn quickly, without wasting time on filtering and validating publicly available information (mostly long, self-praising blog posts by narcissists) is such a rare opportunity.

Certification is second after ability, as it is in most arts and activities, except scams, such as SAP, Oracle, Cisco or other pay-walled artificial hierarchies.

To put it differently - certification is for those, who are unable to prove/show his abilities second time.)




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