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Providers of Free MOOCs Now Charge Employers For Access To Student Data

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the oh-right-they-need-a-business-model dept.

Education 40

An anonymous reader writes "Coursera announced its 'career services' feature yesterday for students who opt in. The company that works with elite colleges to offer free courses is sharing more than just academic scores — showing potential employers evidence of 'soft skills,' like how helpful students were in class discussion forums. 'Udacity, another company that provides free online courses, offers a similar service. ... Udacity's founder, Sebastian Thrun, said in an interview that 350 partner companies had signed up for its job program. While Mr. Thrun would not say how much employers pay, he characterized the fee as "significantly less than you'd pay for a headhunter, but significantly more than what you'd pay for access to LinkedIn," a popular social network for job hunters.'"

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thrun, wheres the source code for the google car? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42196199)

Does anyone know where the sourcecode is for the DARPA Grand Challenge? This is Thrun's initial claim to fame, and I haven't been able to find any source code.....

Help eliminate stupid speeding tickets. [wikispeedia.org]

IOW... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42196225)

Just like everyone else, they can't come up with a better business model than selling personal data.

Good business, but... (2)

neverwhere9 (2597405) | about a year ago | (#42196251)

A bit of privacy is sacrificed here, but I think it would be worth it in the long run: free education and possible job prospects? Sounds good, and it's a good way for MOOCs to make some money. The article said there would soon be charges for certificates, though the course will remain free. I can't see anyone paying for a certificate of completion for a non-accredited course. Is there any benefit to these certificates? Overall though, I love MOOCs.

Re:Good business, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42196381)

A bit of privacy is sacrificed here, but I think it would be worth it in the long run: free education and possible job prospects? Sounds good, and it's a good way for MOOCs to make some money.

The article said there would soon be charges for certificates, though the course will remain free. I can't see anyone paying for a certificate of completion for a non-accredited course. Is there any benefit to these certificates? Overall though, I love MOOCs.

The certificates are worthless. It's the knowledge gained which is valuable.

Note the above statement also applies to certificates which you pay for...such as CISSP or MCSE.

I've met several CISSP/MCSE holders who managed to earn their certificates, but in the real world couldn't earn their keep, and were dumber than rocks.

why not have apprenticeships where peoele can lear (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42196615)

why not have apprenticeships where people can learn and show off real skill and not just have a piece of paper. The ivory tower costs way to much with some of same trun out even more so in IT where CS is not system admin / networking / desktop / ect.

Vocational skills (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42197003)

That's fine for vocational skills, but vocational training is not the sole purpose of our education system, nor should it be. A free society needs people who are educated in more than just their immediate vocation; we need people to learn philosophy and ethics, history, politics, etc. People need to be educated enough to call out their politicians on obvious lies, which means they need to be educated in economics, foreign affairs, and the various other things that politicians are supposed to manage for us.

We should not try to create a society where only the wealthy are sophisticated enough to be leaders, and where the poor only learn enough to do what the wealthy tell them. We should be working to break the aristocracy, not further cement it.

Re:Vocational skills (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about a year ago | (#42197623)

Not just that.

Suppose you're 68, retired and bored. You live 300 km from the nearest university. And you don't have the qualifications to get in to university either.

If you are willing to put in the time and work required to learn about astronomy [coursera.org] , including reading up on the maths and physics involved as it pops up, why shouldn't you be able to follow a course on the subject?

You may find out later, that this isn't something you have the necessary skills for yet, or that it's a lot more boring than you thought, but if you're curious about it, but you've never had the chance to learn about it outside of TV, why not?

Humans are rarely too old to learn new things.

Re:Vocational skills (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#42200809)

To be blunt, the people who've 'majored' their lives in philosophy, ethics, history, and politics, are the majority who've ruined just about everything good there is about life for the rest of us. This society of ever growing artificial restrictions conforming the rest of us to some crazy set of counterproductive/incompatible ideals is their fault. Unfortunately most of them are rich enough to insulate themselves from it, but I'd still like to turn their creation loose on them so they can burn in their own shit.

Re:Good business, but... (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42196415)

I can't see anyone paying for a certificate of completion for a non-accredited course. Is there any benefit to these certificates?

In the IT world there's a whole universe of people doing just that in meat-space. Pay $2000 to sit in your "global knowledge" class. Also the testing side, pay $250 to some testing service, walk away with 1/4 a CCNP or whatever, repeat a couple times, etc. I did all that, collected cisco certs like toilet paper.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

Heed00 (1473203) | about a year ago | (#42196679)

I think the model will be moving quite rapidly towards optional invigilated final exams in meatspace where identities can be verified. In those cases, the certificate could become accredited by the institutions, count towards degree requirements or have another form of recognition by another respected body. This leaves the open free knowledge aspect of MOOCs intact for those unwilling or unable to pay and adds the option for some form of more official and weighty recognition for those willing to pay a small fee and sit the exam. These courses are handling 50k students, so if 10% are willing to sit an exam and pay 100 bucks for some form of official and recognized verification, then that's 500,000 in revenue for one iteration of the course -- and once up and running, the courses themselves don't require a large amount of staff or upkeep costs. That's comparable to the kind of income universities can generate from courses where the student numbers are in the hundreds.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#42200777)

No fuck this.. Encouraging 'soft' (another buzzword for sociability) skills to the deficit of actual job skillsets and their objective measurement is nuts. While being able to communicate is important, there's already too much of this slimy 'shmoozing' bullshit in corporate politics that does little but obfuscate uncomfortable truth for the sake of insecure employees/management. We shouldn't put carrots on sticks that lead students towards this counterproductive behavior. School should be as close to a meritocracy as possible and not reward students for winning popularity contests.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

hazem (472289) | about a year ago | (#42201257)

I dont see the problem. These classes are free for students and they get as much as they want out of it in terms of what they learn.

The class providers are partnering with businesses to give access to student performance as they seek out potential hires. Among that data is the test and homework performance. But there's also other data about how much the student is involved in the forums, etc.

Nobody is saying the employers must use that data or even take it into account. It's their choice to get what they want out of that. If they value the "soft skills", then why shouldn't that data be made available to them?

Plus, there's a big difference between "slimy schoozing bullshit" and participating in the class forums to get help and help others. In the meat-space world, the first is equivalent to brown-nosing the teacher like "Mr. Smith, wow, your theories on blah are so wonderful", and the second is like attending a study group and helping other students out. Do you not see the difference?

Additionally, from a couse-provider point of view, it benefits them to have people in the forums talking about their problems and helping others solve theirs... it adds to the value of the course. They "pay" for that by making it another data point that employers can choose to use when looking for potential candidates.

Students are free not to participate in the forums if they don't want to, and employers are free to use that data if they want. Don't you think it's a bad match if the employer wants these soft skills and the candidate doesn't like to exhibit them? I mean, if a company is one of those pansy-ass companies that wants soft-skills, wouldn't you want to know that it's not a company you want to work for? It's a win-win-win.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year ago | (#42202021)

Those Who Would Sacrifice Privacy For MOOCs Deserve Neither.

Your tradeoff is misplaced. The mere fact that you think such a tradeoff is even acceptable shows how far off the path of liberty you already are.

I'm all for MOOCs done right. That is, free education for the masses. We have the technology and knowledge to do this, gratis. The same way we do open source, gratis. Everybody chips in a little here, a little there, and copies get widely distributed for free, with no strings attached except encouragement to share and improve *even more*. That's how this thing can and will work.

The wrong way to do it is building a centralized platform for mass video lectures when it's not affordable, and turning around wondering where the money will come from afterwards. That's half assed, and isn't worth supporting.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

neverwhere9 (2597405) | about a year ago | (#42229885)

Sorry for the late reply. That would also be a good plan, but I don't see how the current one is "off the path of liberty." It's no different than using Facebook for free in exchange for sending data to third parties, except that in this scenario you potentially have a job. Neither situation is ideal, but I fail to see how it's really harmful? Also, Coursera seems to be mostly "mass video lectures" and a few peer graded, short essays--not at all equivalent to a full course, in my opinion--but Udacity from what I understand has some fairly high quality course material.

Re:Good business, but... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year ago | (#42230199)

The underlying problem is that some methods scale better than others.

If you have a centralized platform for serving data with tight control, this is expensive, and the operating costs will be proportional to the number of users. Thus when the number of users doubles, the total costs will more or less double. As a consequence, the service cannot be offered for free, some rate of income must balance the rate of expenses. This necessarily leads to subscription and/or exploitation of some sort or other.

If you have a decentralized platform for serving data with weak or no control, then expenses are shared locally by all those who wish to act as publishers. The users can now be distributed among all the publishers. For example, if the number of users doubles, it suffices to double the number of publishers and the costs per publisher will still remain the same. This is scalable, but no single publisher can control the content, and that's usually unattractive to businesses.

The mathematics is unavoidable. If we want free education for the masses without strings attached, we have to organize many tiny local education providers who can each afford to teach a small number of students, for free. We must give them free materials that they can broadcast, rearrange, and distribute themselves. The optimal class size is an interesting problem. Once any one class size becomes too big, the provider can no longer afford to do this entirely pro-bono, and _then_ has to find _some_ way to recoup costs, using all the means available.

Gad damn it. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42196295)

Computers are bullshit. I'm not using them any more.

Acronym usage (5, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#42196343)

I was unfamiliar with the acronym "MOOC". From the summary I concluded it was some kind of online course, but was unable to discern what the rest of the acronym stood for. However, Google is your friend (well, not really but I will save that for a rant another day) and I was able to discover that MOOC stands for "Massive Open Online Course". From what I can see that makes "Free MOOCs" a redundant phrase that belongs in the same bin with "ATM Machines" and "PIN Numbers".

Re:Acronym usage (1)

dr_dank (472072) | about a year ago | (#42196707)

I thought a MOOC was the guy who hung out with Thundarr the Barbarian.

Re:Acronym usage (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | about a year ago | (#42203401)

I thought a MOOC was the guy who hung out with Thundarr the Barbarian.

No, no, no. The MOOC's invaded Spain in the 8th century.

Re:Acronym usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42196713)

Despite the apparent joy it gives people with nothing better to do, redundant phrases like "PIN number" are linguistically necessary as disambiguations or contextual clues. If I tell you on the phone, "I'm over by the Citibank ATM," do I mean I'm by the Citibank office at the moment, or by Citibank Automatic Teller Machine? Get it? Stop trying to be so smug, it doesn't make you look wise at all.

Re:Acronym usage (1)

bjwest (14070) | about a year ago | (#42198457)

Why is "Free MOOC" a redundant phrase? Open doesn’t necessarily have to mean free. It could mean open to anyone regardless of previous educational experience - meaning no prerequisite course (or proof thereof) required.

Re:Acronym usage (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about a year ago | (#42198809)

Did you look at the definition given for MOOC? According to Wikipedia, "Open access. MOOC participants do not need to be a registered student in a school to "take" a MOOC, and are not required to pay a fee."

Re:Acronym usage (1)

bjwest (14070) | about a year ago | (#42200149)

A requirement for a MOOC may be that they must be free, but the "definition" of the acronym is 'Massive Open Online Course'. Saying "free MOOC", or stating that a MOOC is free is quite different from saying "ATM machine" or "PIN number", where the redundancy is actually one of the words in the acronym being repeated.

I will admit I didn't look up the requirements for a MOOC, but, although I wasn't making an argument only asking a question, I will stand by my argument that there is no redundancy in the phrase "free MOOC".

You did answer my question though, By pointing me to the requirements of a MOOC you showed me where you got the idea that MOOC and free together are redundant.

Re:Acronym usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42198543)

i'm reminded of dilbert and it must have been a marketing idea

skills versus a "degree." is a issue in Education (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42196705)

skills versus a "degree." is a issue in Education.

Degrees are tied to systems of the past and are in big fixed blocks of time.

Not all skills fit that well into a degree setting and other stuff needs more hands on learning that is a very poor fit in to a degree class setting.

Sure, but... (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about a year ago | (#42196849)

...online education is not going to solve these problems. There is limited evidence that online education is even as good as more traditional approaches to education, which are riddled with problems (beyond just what you point out).

What we really need is to change the culture that surrounds education. We need to stop making degrees the goal of education, and start making expanding a person's mind and skillset the goal.

Re:Sure, but... (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | about a year ago | (#42197293)

We need to stop making degrees the goal of education, and start making expanding a person's mind and skillset the goal.

The goal is to put food on one's table and a roof over one's head. "Expanding one's mind" is much higher on Ye Olde Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

You worry about "expanding your mind" after you claw yourself out of underemployment, when (if) you can afford it. The degree demonstrably helps get you there.

Re:Sure, but... (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#42197319)

Well we can start by taking the ITT's, devry's , ECT and removing the degree's from them.

And let them become trun tech / trades schools with having them be pined down by having to be part of the degree system.

Offer a gen edu / basic level college GED system.

Have a 1 year gen edu post HS degree at the Community College level. Some Community Colleges also offer tech school classes that any one can drop in.

Re:skills versus a "degree." is a issue in Educati (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42207307)

...is AN issue in Education

all the best (1)

itchybrain (2538928) | about a year ago | (#42199157)

Good. I hope everyone benefits from this feature. MOOC has been a boon for me, and I suspect, for others as well.

One remarkable thing that recently came out of Coursera is Rice University's CodeSkulptor [codeskulptor.org] . With CodeSkulptor, I can write interactive games in Python (with additional help from CodeSkulptor's library functions).

You can do all that if you take the course "An Introduction to Interaction Programming in Python" [coursera.org] . It's a lot of fun.

Oops, I'm Tracked Forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42199521)

Crap, I shouldn't have used my real name. I signed up to a bunch of almost random classes so I could watch something educational instead of reruns of TV shows I've already memorized (I don't like any of the new shows). I don't put much effort, if any, into the homeworks and exams and I never post on the discussion boards. I'm going to look like a really stupid person and would defiantly be classified as a non-team player. It'll suck to be me when I try to switch jobs.

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