Coursera announced a shift in its business model this month that many people view as making their offerings less open and less like courses.
New courses in their Specializations category will require learners to either to pay up front for the first course in the Specialization or prepay for the entire program. In the past, you had the option to take it free with access to all the course materials but no certificate upon completion, or you could opt to pay ($49 at one time) for an identity-verified course certificate provided upon completion.
In the new model, the courses that charge up front (and that is not all of the courses they offer) still allow you to choose not to pay, but then you then are in the “explore” mode and have access to course materials (lectures, discussions, practice quizzes) but you are in a "read-only" mode for graded assignments.
I don't see this as the end of the MOOC. A viable business model for companies to pay the bills of creating courses and maintaining the infrastructure has been inevitable since 2012 was named the "Year of the Mooc." For many learners, having access to the materials is all they really wanted anyway. As long as that option continues, I think these are still important educational options, even if the the open and course parts of MOOC may have been demoted to lower case o and c.
Udacity has gone farther and earlier down the path to paying for courses and developed a clear business model to work with companies and not function as an alternative university. Working with Google , their "Responsive Web Design Fundamentals" course (see video intro below) is an example of that approach. You can jump into that course and explore, but it is also part of Udacity's "Nanodegrees" which is comparable to Coursera's "specializations."
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