There has been a trend toward attaching stigma to taking the courses for free. Removing the certificates from free tracks is an obvious part of it.
A person simply intent on becoming more than yesterday has no one to fool. Their capacity for self-evaluation is preserved. They can enter into an autodidactic loop that isn't utterly bound on I/O. I suspect this is much more effective than traditional education, albeit much less convergent and measurable.
Once someone learns something -- they can put it into practice (or not if they were just learning for fun).
It makes sense that in the future, rather than a certificate, examples of putting learning into practice would become more important. It is certainly easy to show proof of practice already with smartphones, cheaper computers and great publishing tools.
portfolio trumps certificate :)
When we start seeing that happen, we're back to the focus on ability to show work, experiments behind them, and the ability to describe the work in great detail to a potential employer in order to get the job.
also , for new college grad jobs in chemistry, rocket design, metalurgy -- these can most certainly be done at home, or civilian grade facilities. See also Amateur Rocket Society and the kinds of things they're up to http://www.space-rockets.com/arsa.html
Also to deflect a potential counterpoint: most of the very expensive equipment will probably never be any cheaper because it isn't built in enough quantities, and for things like good RF equipment, everything needs to be carefully spec'd and machined, and the manufacturing is very time and resource intensive (you're getting your money's worth on a good spectrum analyzer or network analyzer, typically).
I have less than $10K in my HP8510C, thanks to eBay, but I'm also lucky that I'm not into organic chemistry or something else that would get me added to the no-fly list as soon as I tried to equip my lab.
In some states like Texas, the brave, patriotic drug warriors have successfully outlawed common glassware. After all, why would you want an Erlenmeyer flask or a reflux condenser if you're not cooking meth? Eventually, I'm sure it will occur to them that I could use my VNA to optimize the radar cross-section of a homebrew drone to evade the air defenses at the White House, and that'll be the end of that hobby.
Totally agree about having a person present -- but moocs don't preclude that - see "inverted classroom" concepts.
back to complicated high-end equipment :
* there are people who have electron microscopes of their own - http://hackedgadgets.com/2013/01/01/garage-scanning-electron... .
* usb protocol analyzers used to be 20k (if I remember correctly how much catc's were) ...and now they are available for < $100 or can be made with open source parts.
Its hard to imagine ahead of time, but many exotic things come down in price and complexity when smart people come along and imagine a need for them in their garages or similar lower-end-than-original setting.
Not on my home country. If you don't have the certificate good luck going through HR.
So question for you is - in your country is the need for the certificate increasing or decreasing?
As I said, without papers certifying the knowledge one has, the application will just be tossed into the garbage can.
The only way to workaround that, like every southern country in Europe, is if you know someone that knows someone....
Also for any IT related job, applicants are expected to have at least a 3 year duration degree, with preference given to those with a 5 year duration one.
Some subjects are inherently less practical and/or difficult to produce evidence for.
 which was among the best of more than a dozen classes I've taken across a few MOOCs, highly recommended! https://www.coursera.org/course/modernworld
You're claiming these courses, and you also claim you did well and learned something.
Scenario 1 you're interviewing for a job:
Interviewer has knowledge and experience in the area of question.
They ask you "tell me about XYZ - you have taken courses on the subject? <looks at your resume>".
Your answer is:
* "blah blah blah blah blah ..lots of juicy details about the cool stuff you learned."
* "blah blah blah, where you learned it from"
* "blah blah what you did in the course"
* "yada yada, here's an essay I wrote, citing sources".
* "foo bar baz I got a article published in a magazine or did a talk at XYZ"
* "I built this thing for XYZ ..check out these pictures"
* "Here's my credential in XYZ"
Someone says "FOO in XYZ subject is cool"
You say: "No doubt! I took a course on on XYZ on coursera. I did a whole section on FOO, it was sweet"
You do not say : "here's my credential"
Scenario 4 you're on a date
You do not say : "here's my credential(s)"
Scenario 5 you're hanging with your significant other, having a intellectual discussion (I guess the date in #4 went well)
You do not say : "blah blah blah - I have credential(s) - yada yada, I'm right"
 whatever credential(s) is a euphemism for -- you can never lead with this on a date :) :) :).
 this never works
Personnel manager: "You claim that you have knowledge in [topic]. What do you have to prove this kind of knowledge?
Me: "I attended course in [provider] and completed it successfully with distinction. Here's the certificate..."
Scenario 7 - again job interview
Personnel manager: "You claim that you very actively continue to educate yourself. What can you offer to prove you claim?"
Me: "Here's a list of certificates that I earned on Coursera for the last year alone. These show my individual initiative in self-improvement in quite a range of skills that could be important for the job."
On the other hand, checking the certificates is easy...
Look, I say this as a teacher who offers degree classes, and as a student earning a certificate that says I can teach...
You can earn certificates without learning a damn thing.
I openly can't answer this question for reasons that are off topic here. But I have good reasons to believe that the stories are often true: If you just look at job advertisements you'll very often see very contradictory job requirements that by simple logic and knowledge of, say, programming can hardly be satisfied and simply make no sense for the job. No, say, programmer with the faintest knowledge about his job would write such a job advertisement. On the other hand, if you know the typical hire process, where often the personal manager has a say...
I haven't had many of those myself - but that may be a selection bias due to not having accumulated credentials. Have to admit, no body has ever asked me to prove I went to university but they have consistently asked for the types of answers I describe in scenario #1 above.
In the case of the hiring I do, our "personal managers" are code surfacing resumes based on their content and then a lightweight screening before they come to me. That screening might include a check to verify experience or references.
Then I never ask for credential -- only discussion and proof of work (again - maybe a bias of me and those like me).
MOOCs help us reach the goal that any motivated, bright individual can learn the skills necessary to reach their potential. Obviously we're still far away from that - but free online courses are certainly one step in the right direction.
Unrestricted, undisturbed internet access has had a net positive effect on my life. I learned to program using the internet, I was able to learn other subjects at my own pace in which ever order. My test scores jumped from low-end in the class to up there with the highest. This continued through high school and came out with above average grades. I suspect I would have done better if I'd have recognised and sought treatment for attention deficit disorder.
Learning new things changed my life very much for the better. That is why I continue to do so fifteen years later.
You might feel insignificant off in some far corner of the world, but when the creators hear your voice, they REALLY care what you think.
My first MOOC was also David Malan's CS50x on edX; what an incredible teacher! He brings such a unique enthusiasm and joy to the study of Computer Science. In case you're reading this, thank you Professor Malan!
Second, while MOOCs are MOOCs are great, they don't fit every type of person.Are people in your country organizing to give the support needed to make MOOC a good fit for everyone ?
That said, the Coursera Android App has become consistently worse. It wants to run at startup and once entered, never release the camera even after the app is stopped. To get rid of the camera-in-use toast, the app has to be uninstalled or the device rebooted. I came to the conclusion that unfortunately Coursera is headed down the road to finding the optimum between suck and income as a business model. Basically, it's given up on platform growth via innovation and is optimizing for Venture Capital fund liquidation timelines.
MOOC's are a model that can live off of exhaust fumes (in the words of Spolsky) but turning them into part of the people tracking infrastructure is simply more consistent with conventional wisdom and ten year investment fund timelines.
[edit:] On the 50% for a certificate comment, that's what Jeff Ullman does for his Finite Automata course and for me, it was non-trivial and required a lot of learning. There have been other courses where 90% and distinction was far easier.
(thinking to myself: how can put blub state on my linkedin profile)
more seriously though, to your points about Coursera and VC liquidation timelines: We need coursera like moocs that are "B-Corps" or similar http://sos.oregon.gov/business/Pages/benefit-company.aspx .
I made some comments along similar lines in the comment section of this post : http://continuations.com/post/119930478310/going-past-capita... - ironically a VC's blog, but don't prejudge - he's also a philosopher of sorts and has some good ides.
And vice versa, I have lots of Coursera courses on my resume, no one has ever asked to see my certificates either.
Do you use it to bolster other experience and education? Or would you be comfortable applying for a position where your only relevant experience was from Coursera?
I would be comfortable hiring someone entry-level most of whose relevant experience was from Coursera, assuming they convinced me they would be a good hire.
If you are a quick learner, IMO you should feel comfortable applying for any job you think you can get hired for, even if it's a stretch based on your experience.
But then, what about when you have far more applicants than time to interview them, and the question of course/degree completion really matters? Do you bring in everyone claiming to have a Stanford degree?
Instead I referred them to the British Library thesis lookup service and pointed out that there's no way I could fake that. It was accepted (much to my relief!) but others may not have that option.
So sometimes some sort of documentary evidence of a qualification is going to be necessary.
I've been at my job for the past 7 yrs, but has hiring changed so much in this time that most jobs DON'T ask for academic transcripts anymore?
(I suspect the point of what they're doing here is to make it so people will care about them -- if you can't get the credentials for free, it makes them rarer and therefore more valuable maybe eventually.)
Nevertheless, the post content is quite accurate. I was immensely disappointed with Coursera's decision to remove free statement of accomplishment certificates.
On the bright side, It seems that edX won't be implementing a policy change. The reason is quite simple: coursera is a for-profit and edx is a non-profit.
The largest and most popular MOOC platforms are nearly universally for-profit orgs: Udacity, Iversity, Coursera, Futurelearn. Same with programming education platforms: Codecademy, Codeschool, Treehouse, Lynda, Pluralsight.
Putting it in UN terms: This is a reason for grave concern.
Platforms like Treehouse and Codeschool have superior learning UX and require monthly payment of $25-50. While this is certainly not much, the majority users of worldwide internet users won't be able to afford this price tag.
Dangers to public benefit will become more pronounced as soon as M&A commence and online education will become an oligopoly. Pluralsight has already acquired Codeschool for $x0 MM.
As Gibson's quote goes: "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed."
If this massive disparity in access to knowledge persists we will find ourselves in the world predicted by cyberpunk authors.
Are we able to change this?
There are expectations of certification in many industries, and the assumption is often made that without a certificate, you do not have the knowledge. In the IT world, this isn't really a thing, but outside it, it often is.
It's therefore completely reasonable to expect a 'replacement for classical schooling' to also provide similar certifications. Because that's what you need from a social point of view.
I live in Germany, so I can just answer this question for Germany and Austria (in the latter country the situation is even a little bit more expressed). But handing in a copy (often even a witnessed copy) of your university degree is nearly always required when making an application even to get an interview.
When I started, the verified certificate was offered. It didn't really offer value compared to the unverified certificate. Coursera has done the easy thing. Instead of adding value to the verified certificate, Coursera removed value from the alternative. Instead of adding awesomeness, it added suck. That's its prerogative as a business and more or less the trend on the internet and in education. Adding value to the world is hard work.
Maybe if you've got no other credentials, they're better than nothing--especially if they indicate a systematic attempt to educate yourself in a relevant area. Or maybe to satisfy some sort of continuing education requirement.
But MOOCs haven't really gone much of anywhere as businesses precisely because their value is correctly largely seen as more akin to self-paced study with books and video than a college class. This isn't only because of the lack of value attached to their credentials, verified or otherwise, but it's one of the reasons.
This seems to be a very US-centric mentality. In Germany's mentality it's rather different: Universities are (mostly) free, but about anybody will want to see a certificate for about anything that you claim to have accomplished. So if you can't show some kind of certificate, then you won't believed to have any knowledge in it.
Some (older) Germans love to joke that some people mostly do further education while in job only to have lots of certificates to show. ;-)
First: Compare the time you need to check an institution vs. the time you need for assessing a job candidate (in particular the former only has to be done one time, the latter for each candidate).
Second: Nearly all universities in Germany (in terms of quality of education) can be considered as rather equal. On the other hand: If you have a graduation certificate from a university in a country, where this is not the case, you will, indeed, be doubted, if it's not from a internally renowned university. Similar things hold for the German academic scholarship programs (there are only seven or so big ones in Germany and you know which focus they have on the candidates).
> Yes, as long as the institution is reputable this is a pretty good heuristic.
Third: This is why you preferably get certificates from reputable institutions (for Coursera, the fact that Stanford offered courses there gave some initial credibility; the same holds for edX - MIT).
Fourth: The fact that I got certificates on Coursera from not-so-renowned universities, too, doesn't make them worthless. They'd only be doubted to show deep knowledge in the topic of the course. They still show that I'm willing to upgrade my education on my one (something that employers, of course, love to see).
It may have to be done with less frequency, but you probably still want to evaluate them periodically to make sure standards haven't slipped.
Otherwise I agree with you on all points.
The only solution is to evaluate a candidate directly. Where or how they learned what they know is at best a mechanism to filter resumes but that itself is a bit naive since you could get candidates from famous universities that don't know anything useful.
Nobody remembers absolutely everything from any course of study. However, graduating with good marks from a university like Oxford shows that an individual is capable of succeeding in a rigorous environment.
> How many cheated their way through the hard parts?
Most likely more than zero, and this is something you have to take into account when addressing the reputability of an institution. Oxford in particular does have issues with cheating, but most of the discovered cases seem to come from their business school, so even different programs from the same university might have different reputability.
> The only solution is to evaluate a candidate directly
That's obviously false. That is one solution, and clearly the one you prefer, but it is not always (or even often) practical.
It's silly, I know, but free certificates were the gamification of learning, and I'll miss that particular aspect of the game.
Absolutely. Even if I'm the only person in the world who even knows I took the class, grades and deadlines, and (to a lesser extent) certificates are part of the added value of an online class, compared to self study.
Me, personally, I don't care about certificates. I want the knowledge; and that is still free. Methinks the OP is making a big deal about a piece of paper.
Haha. Coursera's verification technology is a joke and prevents only the worst cases of cheating.
>Me, personally, I don't care about certificates
What's fine for you is fine for others, right?
It really is terrible. It can't recognize me, so I stopped caring about verification.
IMO, the important thing about MOOCs has never been accreditation (show me an employer who actually cares about potential candidates' MOOC certifications, anyway), but simply making university-level courses available without the overhead of actually attending school. And in that regard, nothing's changed.
Granted, my fears at the time were about the materials vanishing, not the diplomas, but I still fear that the entire thing will some day become completely closed up.
Of course 'subjects' is only one of many things you learn by going off to college, but as a new 'tradesman' class of job emerges in technology it is struggling with its own accreditation and evaluation crisis. In my youth I was a mason part time and I was required to join the union (although as I was just starting and doing odd jobs it really was more of temporary membership rather than entering as an apprentice with the goal of making masonry my profession). What struck me was how very much the masonry union was, in large part, a educational facility which dedicated a big chunk of its resources to both training new recruits, and ensuring the skills of existing members. And as software has gone from being something just a few people understood or worked on, to something every nerdy secondary school child can do the basics of, I realized that perhaps one way to solve both the 'tuition debt' and employee shortage is to just create a coders union. Something you can walk into at 15 if you want and start apprenticing, and structured so that once you were a master in good standing you could be relied upon by any employer to tackle what ever coding task they threw at you.
The conditions are ripe for this transformation of the software industry, but it is going to be painful for the entrenched players.
Khan Academy is free. MIT Courses on youtube are free.
These websites that want you to sign up, only be able to view courses at certain times, etc etc. Please, just give me youtube links and pdf/slides and have a forum for discussion.
This is not hard, youtube is free, pdf/slides are very cheap to host, as is a forum.
Why does Coursera even exist, what's the differentiating factor?
There are labor costs involved in grading assignments and "making sure that you're the one taking the class".
Considering that point, I view the "bait-and-switch" slightly differently, but I agree more transparency is necessary.
Every day we get email from learners complaining that we charge for certification. Everyday we also get email from learners thanking us for providing free education. It's a tough balance.
It is often discussed on HN that there is a lack of qualified, say, programmers, data science experts etc. The "typical graduate" of Coursera courses is an ideal candidate to fulfill this role: Why doesn't Coursera instead let employers pay for access to their user database so that they can find high-potential candidates for their open jobs (a little bit similar to Stack Overflow Careers, but with a different focus). Why don't startups that look for underestimated, say, Python programmers search the Coursera database for good graduates of some Python programming course on Coursera. I can imagine that there could be money to be made if the often argued shortage of qualified programmers etc. is true.
However, I do mind getting a certificate showing say a score of 51% when my score is 51% (instead of say 97%) just because I was unable to find time to finish. Does anyone else feel this way? Is my concern real? Assuming so, I would like to pay to get the certificate after I finish the course, not when I start it.
Also the signed certificate should include a clear photo of the person who took the test.
I don't think it matters in the slightest whether you got a certificate or not. These online courses provide a tremendous value by letting people learn. They are especially valuable for expanding your knowledge later on in life, when you already work.
As an employer, I don't care about certificates of any kind. I care about the person I'm hiring — and it isn't difficult for me to get a feel for his/her knowledge in a particular area.
OTOH, they have to make money somehow, and the fact that I still can learn so much without paying anything is plain awesome.
Hi Kathryn and readers,
My name is Hannah, and I’m on the support team here at Coursera. We’re glad that you raised this concern, and we sincerely apologize for any confusion around our policies.
We are fully committed to our mission of providing universal access to the world's best education. As such, we continue to offer free and open access to all courses. We also offer learners the option to earn Verified Certificates, which provide official recognition from Coursera and the partner institution offering the course and formally showcases their achievements. Our robust financial aid program offers full support to learners who can demonstrate that the registration fee for a Verified Certificate is beyond their financial means.
Coursera's free certificates, also called Statements of Accomplishment, were designed before we made Verified Certificates available. Over time, we noticed confusion regarding the relative significance of the free certificate and the Verified Certificate. The latter is an official document, while the former is an unofficial, unverified memento of the course. We chose to phase out Statements of Accomplishment in order to better distinguish the official status of the Verified Certificate.
Last November, we published a blog post (http://blog.coursera.org/post/102036391812/verified-certific...) explaining the value of Verified Certificates and describing how most courses would no longer provide Statements of Accomplishment. Still, some older courses continue to offer Statements of Accomplishment, including the Child Psychology course you’ve referenced above. Understandably, that inconsistency has proven somewhat confusing.
We do our best to communicate changes clearly and will strive to be more transparent in our communication around such changes moving forward. If you have any further questions about Coursera’s certificates, I encourage you to visit this page in our learner help center: https://learner.coursera.help/hc/en-us/articles/201212139-Ce....
HN is a tech news community, where many if not most of you who are working have tech salaries that can easily pay for the new Coursera pricing...
everyone knows the tech industry is volatile in the way that every few months, a new technology comes out that sends IT professionals scrambling to learn it in order to, not stay ahead of the pack, but just to keep up with the pack.
the enormous amount of free tech/programming/CS theory/knowledge from Coursera and others have created more competition in terms of tech jobs.
By principle, all members of our society deserves access to quality education, especially in the STEM areas. But let's face it -- this is good news for existing professionals in IT...for the most part ;-)
“The Statements of Accomplishment (free) and Verified
Certificates (signature track) will be provided to all
those who achieve 50% or higher grade, and will be released
within 1-2 weeks after the final submission deadline closes.
Everyone will be notified by email when they are ready. You
will be able to download the certificate from your course
records after they are released.”
- a community where you can discuss courses like in a real class
- exercises,source,... that are often reviewed by real teachers or peer-review which absolutely invaluable at least for me . I learned a whole lot because of this.
So it's way more than a youtube channel with a bunch of videos. Course are shot specifically for coursera.
PS: MOOCs(massive, online ordered courses)