Coursera announced this morning new partners to support its Specialization Programs, which is a series of courses in a subject area that learners can complete, along with a capstone project, in order to earn a Specialization Certificate from Coursera.
An example of a successful Specialization, is the Data Science Specialization, offered by Johns Hopkins University, which has already seen 1.8 million sign-ups, and has a capstone project that is supported by SwiftKey.
The following are the new partners:
- Instagram will support the Interaction Design Specialization, offered by the University of California at San Diego. Mike Krieger, Instagram co-founder, helped to design the capstone project, which involves designing new social experiences. He will also help judge projects and provide feedback on the best designs.
- Shazam and Snapdeal will support the Wharton Foundation Series (Specialization yet to be formed), by the University of Pennsylvania. These companies will provide capstone participants projects based on strategic challenge scenarios that they are facing. Leadership teams from these two companies will review the highest-scoring projects from the capstone.
- 500 Startups will support the Entrepreneurship Specialization offered by the University of Maryland. In the capstone project, participants will work on their own business idea and create business plan and pitch deck. 500 Startups will join pitch sessions of the top performers, and select participants will be invited to interview with the 500 Startups accelerator.
This is a terrific development from Coursera. Many people have been asking about the value of Specializations, and other similar programs from other MOOC providers. Working in partnership with companies, there are the following benefits:
1. Learners get to work on real-world problems, and learn about challenges that leading companies are facing. This should also make for a more engaging learning context.
2. Learners who are looking to change/advance their careers get the chance, if do something exceptional, to get the attention of these companies. Of course this would be a small proportion of the participants, but at least they would be able to draw upon the experience in future interviews to talk about how they approached concrete problems.
3. The sponsoring companies can get some crowd-sourcing of good ideas, understand their potential applicant pool, and possibly source some talented new employees!
This is surely a great development for MOOCs, and indeed is the direction that Udacity has been taking with its Udacity Nanodegrees program. Let’s hope that it expands to more partnerships, and beyond just tech companies. It can open up a whole new angle on learning and skill development and help people bridge the gap between online courses and their career aspirations.