The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: Coursera: Will Sell Certificates and Verifying Identities
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jan 11, 2013 9:24 PM

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List Jump to Tree View Jump to Tree View   Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Coursera: Will Sell Certificates and Verifying Identities
Posted: Jan 10, 2013 6:29 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (6.8 K)

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wednesday, January 9, 2013.
Coursera Announces Details for Selling Certificates and Verifying Identities

By Jeffrey R. Young

How is a major provider of free online courses going to tell whether
you are who you say you are? By how you type.

The company, Coursera, plans to announce on Wednesday the start of a
pilot project to check the identities of its students and offer
"verified certificates" of completion, for a fee. A key part of that
validation process will involve what Coursera officials call
"keystroke biometrics"-analyzing each user's pattern and rhythm of
typing to serve as a kind of fingerprint.

The company has long said that it planned to bring in revenue by
charging a fee to students who complete courses and want to prove
that achievement. And Coursera has long recognized that its biggest
challenge would be setting up a system to check identity. Other
providers of free online courses, which are often called massive open
online courses, or MOOCs, have decided to work with testing centers
and to require students who want certificates to travel to a physical
location, show an ID, and take tests while a proctor watches to
prevent cheating.

SIDEBAR: What You Need to Know About MOOCs: A guide to The
Chronicle's coverage of massive open online courses. See

Coursera has decided to try to check IDs remotely, so that students
can take tests from anywhere. During the pilot stage, the service
will be offered in only five courses, but if it goes well, it will
eventually be rolled out to nearly every course in Coursera's catalog.

The company's verification system involves several steps:

. Early in the course, Coursera will ask participating students to
hold up a picture ID in front of a Webcam, and then pose for a second
picture of themselves, for an initial identity check. A human being
will compare the two Webcam images to see if they match, essentially
serving as a virtual bouncer.

. Each student will then be asked to type a short phrase to register
his or her keyboarding pattern with Coursera.

. Each time students submit assignments, they must type the same
short phrase for the system to check whether it matches their initial

Can typing style serve as a reliable way to check identity?

Hany Farid, a computer-science professor at Dartmouth College who is
an expert on digital forensics, said that the idea had been around
for a while but that it is generally less secure than a fingerprint
scan or other biometric methods.

"In general, identifying people online is incredibly hard to do," he
said. "It could be that for what Coursera wants, it's good enough. It
could be that it's just a barrier to entry and that it sort of freaks
out some people" who might have otherwise tried to game the system,
he added.

One potential problem with relying on typing patterns is that some
people might type in different ways in different situations. "You
don't want this thing locking you out because you're in a bad mood,"
he said.

Coursera said it was testing two different software programs to do
its identity verification-one from an outside company and one that it
had developed itself. Coursera officials would not disclose which
outside company they were working with.

Setting the Price

The company also revealed more details about how it would award
certificates and how much it would charge for them. Students who want
a verified certificate will have to decide early in the course and
pay upfront. Paying that fee will put students on what the company is
calling the "Signature Track."

The company and colleges are still struggling to decide what to
charge for the certificates, though in its latest announcement
Coursera said the price would run $30 to $100.

"It's a huge decision: You're essentially setting a market," said
Daphne Koller, a co-founder of Coursera, in an interview this week
with The Chronicle. "No one has ever priced this before."

Officials also stressed that they would offer financial aid to
students who demonstrated that they could not afford the fees but
could benefit from the verified certificates.

Ms. Koller said Coursera would continue to offer free unofficial
certificates to students who passed some of its courses.

So why would someone pay for the verified certificates?

Peter Lange, provost at Duke University, which plans to offer one of
the courses in the new pilot, said each free certificate would have a
clear disclaimer on it: "It says something to the effect of, We
cannot vouch that the person who got this document took the course or
did the work."

The new Signature Track could mean serious revenue for Coursera, and
for the 33 partner colleges that will get a cut of it.

Exactly how the colleges will divide that revenue is still being
worked out, it seems. Mr. Lange said the question was on the agenda
at the next monthly meeting of Duke's Advisory Committee on Online
This entry was posted in Distance Education, Uncategorized and tagged
certificate, Coursera, identity verification, massive open online
courses, MOOC's, online education. Bookmark the permalink.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.