Coursera’s Next Big MOOC Strategy: Headhunting Via “Signature Track”
By Wired Academic on January 16, 2013
Cost of Education, Domestic, Emerging, Gainful Employment, MOOCs, OER - Open Educational Resources, Open Source Education, Personalized Learning, Required, Startups, Unemployment, Universities & Colleges
In case you missed it, Coursera announced its new “Signature Track” option for credentialing students (and making money for Coursera) and connecting them to future employers. It’s future could be in: headhunting. And several reports recently have explained Coursera’s new strategy to make money. Most notably, The New York Times ran a Page One story on Coursera and MOOCs in early January. It highlights Coursera as a “market leader” among MOOCs with its more than 2 million students, 33 partner universities and $22 million in venture funding. It highlight Coursera’s efforts to build a recruiting service that matches employers with star students. Will that or other strategies make money and convert the breakout MOOC trend into a financially sustainable one?
Coursera writes In a December blog post:
If you opt-in to our Career Services, we will try to find companies that match your interests, skills and knowledge. If you do well in a Coursera class and allow us to share that information with potential employers (who will have agreed to keep this information in strict confidence, and use only for the purpose of considering you for employment), this could make you even more appealing to employers.
This month, Coursera gives more details:
Today, we’re excited to announce Signature Track, a new option that will give students in select classes the opportunity to earn a Verified Certificate for completing their Coursera course. Signature Track securely links your coursework to your identity, allowing you to confidently show the world what you’ve achieved on Coursera.
Signature Track offers:
- Identity Verification. Create a special profile to link your coursework to your real identity using your photo ID and unique typing pattern.
- Verified Certificates. Earn official recognition from Universities and Coursera for your accomplishment with a verifiable electronic certificate.
- Sharable Course Records. Share your electronic course records with employers, educational institutions, or anyone else through a unique, secure URL.
Signature Track will be initially available for the following courses (with more to come!):
- Introduction to Genetics and Evolution, Mohamed Noor, Duke University. January 4th
- Microeconomics Principles, José J. Vázquez-Cognet, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. January 28th.
- Nutrition for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE, University of California, San Francisco. January 28th.
- Computational Investing Part I, Tucker Balch, Georgia Tech. February 8th
- Clinical Problem Solving, Catherine R. Lucey, MD, University of California, San Francisco. February 11th
If you’re excited to participate or want to learn more, simply enroll in one of the above courses and you will be notified when you can join.
The price for joining a course’s Signature Track will be between $30-100 per course. As part of our mission to make education available to everyone, Coursera will also offer students with economic need the opportunity to register for financial assistance.
So, how does Coursera’s Signature Track work?
To join Signature Track, you’ll build a Signature Profile that links your coursework to your identity. Your Signature Profile includes your photo ID, as well as your Signature Phrase, a biometric profile of your unique typing pattern. Every time you submit coursework, you’ll easily authenticate your identity by typing your Signature Phrase.
When you successfully complete a course’s Signature Track, you’ll receive a Verified Certificate issued by the participating university and Coursera. You’ll also be able to electronically share your course performance in a verified format via our Certifiable Course Records page. Your Verified Certificate does not include credit towards a degree, nor does it make you a student at the issuing university. Instead, the Verified Certificate proves you met the passing criteria of your rigorous online course.
Joining a course’s Signature Track is optional. You can still fully participate in the course if you decide not to join, and you will still receive the standard Statement of Accomplishment if you successfully complete the free course…
Paul Fain writes on InsideHigherEd:
Revenue from the fee-based path will be split with partner universities. A Coursera spokeswoman said universities would keep 6-15 percent of revenue from courses taught by their professors, as well as 20 percent of profits…While most Coursera partners have deep pockets, the courses come with costs, including a professor’s time and salaries for videographers and other assistants who help run the courses. At the University of Washington, for example, creating a MOOC for Coursera costs about $15,000 to $30,000, said David Szatmary, the university’s vice provost of educational outreach.
Washington has already begun a hybrid model in its collaboration with Coursera, where the standard, free MOOCs are offered simultaneously with more academically rigorous credit-bearing versions, which include a fee. Last year the university offered two of its souped-up Coursera courses, which cost $1,000 for noncredit and $2,000 for credit options. Only a handful of students registered for those versions, but Szatmary said that was partially because the university had little time to promote them.
The numbers of fee-based Coursera applications are up for winter courses, said Szatmary, with 26 students applying to enroll in one course in computational finance. While that group is a tiny portion of the more than 30,000 students who signed up for the university’s Coursera offering in computational finance in the fall, it doesn’t take much to break even. Szatmary said 15-20 students would do it.
A similar calculus could apply to Coursera’s new verified courses, where a relatively small number of full-freight students would cover costs for tens of thousands of their peers enrolled in free versions. For example, 1 percent of students paying $50 in a course with an enrollment of 100,000 would create $50,000 in revenue.
Tamar Lewin of The New York Times writes:
Coursera has grown at warp speed to emerge as the current leader of the pack, striving to support its business by creating revenue streams through licensing, certification fees and recruitment data provided to employers, among other efforts. But there is no guarantee that it will keep its position in the exploding education technology marketplace.
“No one’s got the model that’s going to work yet,” said James Grimmelmann, a New York Law School professor who specializes in computer and Internet law. “I expect all the current ventures to fail, because the expectations are too high. People think something will catch on like wildfire. But more likely, it’s maybe a decade later that somebody figures out how to do it and make money.”
Right now, the most promising source of revenue for Coursera is the payment of licensing fees from other educational institutions that want to use the Coursera classes, either as a ready-made “course in a box” or as video lectures students can watch before going to class to work with a faculty member.
Ms. Koller has plenty of other ideas, as well. She is planning to charge $20, or maybe $50, for certificates of completion. And her company, like Udacity, has begun to charge corporate employers, including Facebook and Twitter, for access to high-performing students, starting with those studying software engineering.
GigaOm wrote in December:
As with Coursera courses, the Career Services support is free for students, but employers pay Coursera for information on who might be good candidates. So far, Facebook, Twitter, AppDirect and TrialPay are among the companies that have signed up. For now, the company is just starting with software engineering but plans to expand to other disciplines.
The announcement isn’t surprising as Coursera has previously indicated that matching students with employers is a possible revenue model, as well as charging students for certificates from partner universities. The company did not disclose how much it is charging employers or how it is splitting the revenue with its university partners, but a contract between Coursera and the University of Michigan obtained this summer by the Chronicle of Higher Education indicated that partners could get 6 to 15 percent of the revenue.
According to the Chronicle, through Coursera’s Career Services program, participating employers are provided lists of students who meet their requirements, which typically includes the top-performing students in a given discipline in a geographic area. If one of the students piques the employer’s interest, Coursera reaches out to the student via e-mail asking if she wants an introduction to the company. In addition to requiring an opt-in from students, the program gives universities offering courses the choice to participate…
Online learning site Udacity also makes money from a similar “headhunter”-style model and, earlier this fall founder Sebastian Thrun told me that, so far, 20 students had found employment through the site. Even though the recruitment programs are still in their infancy, considering that the startups themselves just launched in the first quarter of the year, the progress shows the interest on both the university and employer sides. And even before it had an official program in place, Coursera said its courses helped students find new jobs, indicating the value of free online education, especially as university costs rise and jobseekers struggle to keep up in the changing economy.
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