Students Rush to Fill Online Courses

A recent New York Times article covered the rapidly growing popularity of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) such as Coursera, Udemy and edX. In four months Coursera had drawn in 1 million users, a faster launch then social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Coursera continues to experience growth with enrollment passing 2 millions students at the end of 2012 and seeing 70,000 new students a week signing up for one of their over 200 courses ranging from Computer Sciences to Mathematics.

Why free?

It’s founded in the company principles. The founders of Coursera, Ms. Koller and Mr. Ng proclaim a desire to keep courses freely available to poor students worldwide. Education, they have said repeatedly, should be a right, not a privilege. And even their venture backers say profits can wait. Oh, did we mention they have raised $22 million in venture capital in less than a year.

While they are still figuring out how to monetize this model many experts say they are doing things the best way to ensure long-term growth. “Part of what Coursera’s gotten right is that it makes more sense to build your user base first and then figure out later how to monetize it, than to worry too much at the beginning about how to monetize it,” said Edward Rock, a law professor serving as the University of Pennsylvania’s senior adviser on open course initiatives.

Ways Coursera is Initially Monetizing the Free Course Model

  • Licensing high-quality content/courses to universities
  • Charging for certificates of completion
  • Charging corporate employers (including Facebook and Twitter) for access to high-performing students
  • Referral revenue (students clicks a link to amazon to purchase recommended reading material)

The Best Days Are Ahead

In late 2012 Antioch University’s Los Angeles campus had agreed to offer its students credit for successfully completing two Coursera courses, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry and Greek and Roman Mythology, both taught by professors from the University of Pennsylvania. Antioch would be the first college to pay a licensing fee — Ms. Koller would not say how much — to offer the courses to its students at a tuition lower than any four-year public campus in the state.

Coursera is pursuing another route to help students earn credit for its courses — and produce revenue. The company has arranged for the American Council on Education, the umbrella group of higher education, to have subject experts assess whether several courses are worthy of transfer credits. If the experts say they are, students who successfully complete those courses could take an identity-verified proctored exam, pay a fee and get an ACE Credit transcript, a certification that 2,000 universities already accept for credit.

The Revolution is Here, Are You Listening?

This is the beginning of a revolution in online learning and testing. While a large number of courses were and are available for free, you typically wouldn’t receive credit for completing them. As more schools and accrediting bodies recognize the quality of the online courses, the next step is to offer the students the ability to test-out and complete these classes from remote locations. To do this, students will need to take an identity-verified proctored exam. That’s where ProctorFree comes in. We partner with the schools to provide the testing service and peace of mind to the University that the student is who the say they are while taking the course and taking the exams associated with the course.

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