Coursera, a massive open online course (MOOC) provider, announced yesterday that it has made some money, collecting $1 million from students wanting “verified certificates” in recognition of successfully completing its free courses.
That pales in comparison to the amount of funding Coursera has raised—$22 million last year and $43 million in Series B funding this July.
But this first $1 million in user-generated revenue could be just the earliest confirmation of the prediction by venture capitalist Matt Greenfield that MOOCs can, indeed, make money, though he sees more opportunity for MOOCs in their ability to source and evaluate employees, starting with programmers who get perfect scores in their courses. Coursera is also working on a “Career Services” opportunity to pair successful students with prospective employers who want to fill positions at the expense of the employer.
Coursera made its first $1 million since being founded in April 2012 with the certification program by requiring students who want a certificate, which costs $30 to $90 per eligible course, to enter what the company calls its Signature Track. By registering, students agree to have their identity verified, in part, using a biometric profile of their unique typing patterns.
To date, 25,000 students have signed up for the Signature Track, according to the company’s blog announcement. The Mountain View, Calif.-based startup, which partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer courses anyone can take for free online, accumulated this number of Signature Track registrants in nine months.
According to a fact sheet provided by the company earlier this year, any profits generated are shared with university partners.
This May, Coursera announced plans to move into training K-12 teachers in the United States and elsewhere for free.
Also in May, the company announced that it had reached an agreement with 10 public universities and higher education systems to create new options for using MOOCs, with a nod of approval from education secretary Arne Duncan.
Meanwhile, virtual educators have critiqued the value of MOOCs for K-12 in Education Week.