MOOC Monetization Begins: Student Identity Verification

Posted on January 12, 2013 by


First step in providing value for course completion: Ensure that the student is who he says he is.

The major players in the Massive Online Open Course space, coursera, udacity and edx have so far not charged a fee.  Their revenue plans are not yet clear. They’ve got other challenges to overcome as well: Plagiarism, and student identity challenges.

Coursera is the first to step forward with a solution to the identity issue with their “Signature Track

a new option that will give students in select classes the opportunity to earn a Verified Certificate for completing their Coursera course. Signature Track securely links your coursework to your identity, allowing you to confidently show the world what you’ve achieved on Coursera.

Signature Track offers:

Identity Verification. Create a special profile to link your coursework to your real identity using your photo ID and unique typing pattern.

Verified Certificates. Earn official recognition from Universities and Coursera for your accomplishment with a verifiable electronic certificate.

Sharable Course Records. Share your electronic course records with employers, educational institutions, or anyone else through a unique, secure URL.

The Chronicle, and Inside Higher Ed have reported on this as well.

The Signature Track isn’t free:  Coursera plans to charge between $30 and $100 for this feature. So, this represents first steps for MOOCs on two fronts: Non-free courses, and student verification. I believe both will add significant value to these courses.

The value of student verification

Employers do value MOOC completion, but they’re also aware that sometimes the student’s credential was not earned by him or her. Employers will soon learn the difference between a verified course and one that is not verified, and the students will follow suit.

The value of  “skin in the game”

In a related recent blog I wrote about the value of student investment in the course. So far the evidence is anecdotal, but it seems that even a small investment by the student, be it intellectual or monetary, changes their attitude and can lead to higher completion rates.


I teach one of the courses that will be part of this new program at Coursera.