Monday, January 14, 2013

Is the Distance Student Who They Say they Are?

The explosion in demand for higher education is no longer restricted to the physical lecture hall or even campus. In fact we constantly have to redefine the word campus and distance learning as it is fast becoming the effective tool for satisfying the emerging economies demand for places. Obviously distance learning is not new and players such as the Open University, University of Phoenix and BPP are among many who have long championed the approach.

However the ability to validate the individual and ensure the person doing the work is the right one can be a challenge. Now Coursera have announced that it verify the students throughout the course. They will do this by comparing a photo ID with a webcam and also enabling students to create a biometric profile of their unique typing pattern by typing a short phrase which will them be used to authenticate their submitted work. The company will charge a fee of between $30 and $100 for certificates depending on the course.

In their first 4 months Coursera had achieved 1 million users and some 8 months later this has grown to 2.2 million students. They offer some 213 free courses from 33 top universities and around one third of students come from the U.S., followed by India, Brazil, Russia, Canada, and the UK.

Will  we soon be looking back at the higher education auditorium model and three hour lectures of today and wonder why they happened? Will the best lectures and teaching be supplemented by the likes of TedEd, will identifying the right student accomplished the work over the full course be more important than the final exam?
Some obviously believe that Coursera has a lot to offer as they have raised some £16 million in funding.

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