This is certainly a tough question with varying answers from different parties.
This post is being sparked from two separate but related email updates from Udacity (one of the MOOC providers that I learn with) and they are summarized below
- From Udacity support: Phasing Out Free Certificates of Completion 4/16/2014 2:28PM
- Summary: “certificates for free courseware completion reward completing a rigorous course, but they are neither identity-verified nor based on a project completion review”>> Based on feedback the process to get these certificates is not rigorous enough for the unverified freeware to validate actually mastery of a subject matter in the eyes of industry (ie to impress hiring managers)
- From Udacity support: Certificates for Design of Everyday Things 4/16/2014 4:42PM
- Summary: ‘We’ve done a poor job communicating about certificates for students in this course. We’d like to make this right by offering you the opportunity to earn a free certificate of completion.” >> hence my prompt download and social media sharing efforts of my completion of Intro to the Design of Everyday Things: Design Fundamentals certificate
In a nutshell my take of Udacity’s efforts is a step in the right direction toward the validity of MOOCs (in comparison to tradition education, which I’m sure MOOCs prefer the distinction). Verified certificates insure (for the most part) that a user that participated in a course actually submitted the work. Unfortunately these certificates are just pieces of paper. The true work behind MOOCs lie in the learners ability to apply that knowledge to create a portfolio, displaying comprehension and working knowledge of a subject. I do love certificates though and they will be very missed from Udacity’s offerings in freeware.