Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Coursera Founder: Mooc Credits Aren't the Real Deal

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Coursera Founder: Mooc Credits Aren't the Real Deal

Article excerpt

Online study certificates go on sale, but Coursera's Andrew Ng tells Chris Parr they won't match traditional degrees.

The certification offered for massive open online courses (Moocs) will never be as valuable as the currency of a traditional degree from a prestigious university, the co-founder of one of the biggest Mooc providers has said.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Andrew Ng, who launched the Coursera platform last year, also said he was not concerned about making money, despite the fact that his company has just unveiled a "signature track" for Moocs - a system that allows students to pay a fee in order to receive more meaningful certification of their online achievements.

Coursera is one of several large US companies offering free online access to university courses, and the first to start charging participants who wish to obtain accreditation.

"I don't think this will ever be as valuable as a degree from one of our partner universities," said Professor Ng, who is an associate professor in the department of computer science at Stanford University.

"I really don't want to put us in competition with other ways of education because I think universities provide a great service."

He says he thinks that Mooc certificates may be most attractive to older people who have already completed a bachelor's degree.

"It doesn't make sense to go to (university) for four years and then coast for the next 40 years on what you learned ... so for those people who already have a degree, I think Coursera certificates will be very valuable."

According to Professor Ng, the fee-based pathway is Coursera's biggest potential revenue stream, and it will be rolled out across the majority of its 213 online courses.

However, he denied that the move would exclude students from poorer backgrounds from benefiting fully from Coursera's online courses.

"Regarding pricing, because of our commitment to making education affordable and available to everyone, we will offer financial aid to students who would benefit from this but cannot afford it," he said.

"So if you're a poor kid in Africa, and don't have a credit card, we want you in the signature track anyway.

"This is about education, it is not about making money, and so if you can't afford it we still want you to benefit from it. This is not the sort of decision that a normal company would make. But we are here to educate everyone. …

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