Coursera’s offering a real master degree, and access to faculty is the key differentiator between free and paid.
Users can test out the program by taking some courses for free and earning specialization certificates. Then, they’ll decide whether they want to pursue additional classes — which include direct contact with the university faculty — for the full degree, at a cost of $20,000 (less than either an on-campus degree or a traditional online degree).
The talking-head-in-a-box is reduced to marketing in this freemium equation. This reflects the business model of a lot of the smaller, specialised online schools.
In the Source Thesis, we investigate why the power of the student-teacher relationship is undervalued in online education, and why the scale levers that online education promises sell increasing irrelevant content as platforms push farther afield.
Relationships don’t scale as easily, but they don’t have to when you let go of the idea that education needs to be done by teachers. When that happens, peers can educate each other, and do so on topics of relevance and immediacy.