Harvard University will offer one online computer science course in three different ways this semester, allowing students to choose from options that drastically vary in price.

harvard-online-moocThe expense of creating a type of online learning that is meant to be offered for free has made financing massive open online courses (MOOCs) a challenge for some schools.

With its Introduction to Computer Science course, Harvard is taking a crack and what it hopes may lead to a sustainable business model.

The course now comes in three flavors: a completely free MOOC, a moderately-priced certified hybrid course, and the pricier full Harvard course.

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The MOOC version of the course is offered through HarvardX, Harvard’s division of the nonprofit MOOC platform edX. Like many edX MOOCs, those who successfully complete the self-paced course will receive a personalized certificate.

While completely free, the certificate carries no college credit or traditional value within the institution.

Students wanting a certificate with a little more recognition can pay $350 to participate in a “blended” version of the course that combines aspects of the MOOC with facets of more traditional online learning.

“For this fee-based option you interact with teaching assistants in discussion forums, participate in virtual group office hours with the instructor, and work towards earning a passing score on nine problem sets,” edX said.

The certificate is coupled with a $350 tuition voucher for the Harvard University Extension School, turning the course into a sort-of promotional coupon for the university’s continuing studies program.