A few days ago, the dominant MOOC provider Coursera announced its “Signature Track” – “a new option that will give students in select classes the opportunity to earn a Verified Certificate for completing their Coursera course.” This program will allow students to develop a “portfolio” of work completed. By linking students” coursework to their identities, Signature Track provides a way to show achievement and share course records with employers, schools, or whomever you choose.

Another key aspect of the Signature Track program is that it is fee-based. Blogger Paul Fain for Inside Higher Ed calls it “Paying for Proof.” Coursera and its university partners will jointly issue the certificates for $30 to $100 – but will not issue credits for the courses.

The revenue and profits will be shared with partners, with the schools keeping “6-15% of revenue from courses taught by their professors, as well as 20% of profits.” (Still in a startup mode, having been capitalized to the tune of $22 million, and with its business model only now becoming clear, for-profit Coursera is not currently profitable.) According to Inside Higher Ed, the cost to a university of creating a MOOC for Coursera is on the order of $15,000-$30,000.

So far four of Coursera”s 30 university partners have agreed to participate in the program: Georgia Tech, Duke, the University of Illinois and UCSF. Five courses will initially be part of the program: one each on genetics/evolution, microeconomics, nutrition, computational investing and “clinical problem-solving.”

However, Coursera hopes that most of its offerings will include a certificate option by the end of this year. Students who can”t afford fees (USD$40 is a lot of money to someone in the developing world, where the courses are rapidly gaining popularity) can apply for aid.

To participate in Signature Track, students submit photos to Coursera through a webcam, as well as an image from a “verifiable” photo ID. Coursera says it will also create profiles of students” unique typing patterns as an aid to identification; essentially a “keystroke signature.”

Meanwhile, online degree program specialists 2U, as well as learning management system (LMS) provider Instructure and others, are beginning to offer . Which model will win out? Time – and the MOOC marketplace – will tell.

Do you feel that Coursera”s Signature Track will provide a meaningful level credibility in the realm of academic credentials? If you were reviewing job or degree program applicants, how much would you care?

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