Complete your studies at a traditional university, and you earn a cap-and-gown ceremony with a smiling dean handing you a diploma. Wrap up online instruction, and nothing so thrilling awaits. But Coursera is about to narrow the gap, Forbes reports.

The Mountain View, Calif., company will start awarding  Specializations for students who have mastered a series of closely connected online courses — and are willing to pay $250 to $500 for validation of their work.

Coursera’s latest initiative is further blurring what used to be a very sharp distinction between full-fledged universities and the anything-goes ethos of massively open online courses (or MOOCs.)

Coursera started operations about two years ago, offering a handful of courses taught by brand-name professors from Stanford and a few other renowned universities. In those days, MOOCs offered by Coursera and other rivals stood out mostly because of their giant enrollment (100,000 or more signups for the most popular classes.)

MOOCs were free, with high dropout rates, enrollees from all over the world, and little in the way of formal recognition for students who completed all their coursework and passed the final exam.

Lately, though, Coursera has been pushing to offer a more formalized, paid version of its MOOC experience.

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eCampus News staff and wire reports


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