January 24, 2014
MOOC provider Coursera announced a new program to help online students gain mastery in a specific subject.
According to a Coursera blog post, the online education startup launched "Specializations", a program that will allow students to take a series of online courses for certification. Venture Beat reported that there is no formal application process -- anyone interested in developing mastery in one of the offered subject areas can sign up. Students will have to complete all classes in the series and will also be required to complete a practical capstone project, which can be included in a portfolio or presented to potential employers. According to Inc., unlike most of Coursera's individual online courses, Specializations will cost students about $200 to $500.
"We heard from many students that they wanted help sequencing together courses in order to form more substantive programs of study than can be represented by a single course. On the flip side, we also heard significant interest from our university partners in offering course sequences," said Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng in an email to Inc.
Inc. noted that the program will not only help students develop mastery of a subject, but also allow them to demonstrate their knowledge in a subject area to potential employers at a fraction of the cost for a degree from a traditional university.
Indeed, in an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Ng said, "One of the challenges of the certificate is that courses vary in length and vary in workload, and so it has been challenging for employers to know how to interpret the completion of a particular course. By launching the Specializations program, we hope that this will create a high-level certificate that might become easier for employers to interpret."
The blog post stated that Coursera would start with ten Specializations from a number of top schools. Two specializations -- Mobile Cloud Computing with Android and Reasoning, Data Analysis and Writing -- have already begun and are open for enrollment. Although the program is open to anyone, Venture Beat pointed out that because of the way Specializations is designed, it is geared more towards working professionals.
"Most of the Specializations reflect career paths that are in high demand and have the potential to make a major impact on students' ability to advance their careers," said Steven Syverud, a business developer at Coursera who heads the Specializations program, in an email to Venture Beat.
According to Inside Higher Ed, Coursera is not the only online course provider to offer bundled courses for a certificate. In September, MOOC provider edX launched XSeries, which offers course sequences for certification. Academic Partnerships also recently announced its own version of Specializations, which has more of a global approach. Academic Partnerships is developing a network across five continents and will likely focus on more than 50 countries.
"Where the U.S. has an affordability problem, the rest of the world has an accessibility problem -- especially the developing world. We have strived over the last two years to create a product that would address those two concerns," said Academic Partnerships CEO Randy Best in Inside Higher Ed.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Coursera Comes of Age, Announces Specializations," inc.com, January 21, 2014, Issie Lapowsky, http://www.inc.com/issie-lapowsky/coursera-announces-specializations.html
"Coursera is now offering a 'Specialization' program for professional learners," venturebeat.com, January 21, 2014, Christina Farr, http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/21/coursera-is-now-offering-a-specialization-program-for-professional-learners/
"Coursera Specializations: Focused Programs in Popular Fields," blog.coursera.org, January 20, 2014, http://blog.coursera.org/post/73994272513/coursera-specializations-focused-programs-in-popular
"More Competition for Online Certificate Students," insidehighered.com, January 22, 2014, Carl Straumsheim, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/01/22/after-failed-talks-academic-partnerships-and-coursera-both-introduce-online-course