Updated, September 20, 3pm.
If you want to get an education with massive open online courses (MOOCs), you have to approach it like an autodidact. Combine a couple MOOCs, three or four dozen Wikipedia romps, and even a few trips to the library, and you have something comprehensive.
Or that, at least, is the idea.
Today, MIT announced plans to offer something more comprehensive. The university will soon bundle MOOCs together into “course sequences” which tackle a coherent subject matter. Before taking one these “XSeries” courses, students can pay — about $100 per course — to verify their identity, in part through their webcam. Students who take an entire sequence verified can then earn a certificate of achievement (which isn’t academic credit).*
One of the course sequences students can take might cost up to $700. As Steve Kolowich points out at the Chronicle of Higher Education, the announcement of these pay-to-verify course sequences follows news that Coursera has made $1 million in 2013 selling “verified” tests. (Coursera recently announced another $43 million in funding.)
edX’s first course sequence will teach “Foundations of Computer Science,” designed for students at the “introductory undergraduate level.” Its first course teaches the basics of Python programmings — a typical MOOC topic — and it begins this fall. MIT won’t offer the final course in the sequence, though, until fall 2015.