U-Md. and Johns Hopkins offer specialized sequences of online courses via Coursera

A major provider of free online college courses from prominent universities has begun to offer “specialization certificates,” for a fee, to students who complete a sequence of courses in a given subject.

The certificates, for courses taken via the online platform Coursera, are the latest development in a movement that advocates say will democratize elite higher education. Coursera hosts what are known as massive, open online courses, or MOOCs, from dozens of colleges and universities. Anyone with a computer connection can register and take the courses for free.

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Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, two of Coursera’s partners, are among the first to offer specialty sequences of courses. Hopkins is listing a sequence of nine MOOCs in data science, with certificates available to those who pass all nine, complete a capstone project and pay $490.

U-Md. is listing a four-course sequence in cybersecurity, with a certificate available to those who pass all four, complete a capstone project and pay $245. U-Md. also is teaming with Vanderbilt University on a three-course sequence in mobile cloud computing with Android, with certificates available for $196.

Since MOOCs became a widespread movement in 2012, there has been much debate over how — and whether — they will shake up the business model of higher ed. Coursera, with offerings from the University of Virginia and many others, is a for-profit company based in California.

A nonprofit MOOC provider called edX, based in Massachusetts, is overseen by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Georgetown University is among the schools that provide courses for edX.

 
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