Free it Certification courses online

If you aren’t familiar, Coursera is one of the leading providers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), along with Udacity and edX. MOOCs are a way for Universities to put their entire curriculum for a given course — lectures, problem sets, texts and more — online for anyone to learn, using video and web-based testing. Many have called MOOCs a revolution in education, and with millions of students enrolling — many from India, Brazil and other low-income nations — it is clear that they are here to stay.


There are three big challenges for MOOC providers. First, the most obvious, how do they make money on these free courses? Second, perhaps equally important, how can they allow students to prove the knowledge that they have gained, when there is no accredited diploma? Finally, how can they manage cheating in an online world where stealing answers is as easy as opening a new instant message window?

Coursera hopes to help solve these problems with their new certification program, called “Signature Track“.

How does it work?

So let’s say you enroll in a free Coursera course. After you enroll and the class has begun, you have about 3 weeks to decide that you want to be in the “Signature Track”, which provides proof of course completion as well as a grade on how well you performed. If you decide that you want to go with the Signature Track option, you have to take a few steps.

  1. Pay between $30-$100 (depending on the course).
  2. Submit a recognized ID such as your drivers license as well as take a picture of yourself via webcam. This gives Coursera a way to verify that you are who you say you are.
  3. Type a short writing sample, which allows them to use your “keystroke” signature like a fingerprint of sorts. They ask you to repeat this typing sample after each test — so they can be reasonably sure it was you who took the test.

After these steps, you continue taking your course, taking tests, and getting grades. Once you’ve completed the course and have your grades, you can then share your detailed course performance with employers via a web-based interface. Currently only 5 courses work on Signature Track, but Coursera wants to upgrade the majority of their 200+ courses by the end of the year.

What’s a Coursera Certificate Worth?

This is a bit more complicated.

At the end of the day, students enroll in courses to learn knowledge that will help them get ahead — get a better job or get a promotion. To be crude, to earn more money. That’s why college has usually offered among the best returns on investment of nearly anything that anyone can buy. You spend money to get a degree, then you use that degree to make more money – it’s proven that a bachelors degree has a net present value of about $450, 000.

With that said, the value of a Coursera Certificate can be measured in a few ways – either its value towards an accredited degree or its stand-alone value to employers.

Since we are really just looking at the value of the Certificate, we can ignore the fact that taking a course certainly has inherent value — you will have more knowledge inside your brain afterwards than you did before. But again, that’s being offered for free already. We are merely talking about what the value to this new $30-$100 product is to your ability to make more money.

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