Coursera announced last month the launch of Specializations, sequenced courses designed to help students achieve deeper levels of mastery as well as the credentials to demonstrate that mastery.

coursera-moocsAt about $200 per sequence, Specializations also provides an alternative revenue stream for Coursera and its partners, which may be why the announcement featured in news outlets like Inc.com and Forbes.

I just signed up with Coursera a couple of weeks ago to take my first ever MOOC, a content strategy course offered through Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

If I opt in, and finish the six-week course, including a final assignment, I receive a Signature Track credential for about $40.

Departing from the more aspirational mission of “education for everyone” that sparked the MOOC revolution, Coursera’s new venture seems to appeal most to working people looking for a way to hone their knowledge and skills to compete more successfully in today’s job market.

And that’s great. If Coursera et al can deliver what folks need to make even a small difference in their lives and do it for a reasonable cost, I’m all in.

I still see MOOCs falling short of their potential. And a lot of that has to do with that tired and un-trendy word: pedagogy.

There is simply nothing terribly compelling about the MOOC I’m currently enrolled in. And I suspect that my experience in this MOOC is not unique.

Here’s what happens:

  • I watch a video of people talking.
  • A slide pops up telling me, in two sentences, what I just heard.
  • I am presented with a “learning question” and I choose from two options: the right answer or the wrong answer.
  • A short “Bring it Back to Work” summary of the topic emphasizes the lesson one more time.
  • If I choose to, I can participate in threaded discussions, promoting comments, and threads I find valuable.


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