Google is offering a "GoogleIT Support Professional Certificate". This is similar to other IT industry certificates offered by Microsoft, Cisco, and Red Hat. However, rather than producing a book and leaving it to government and commercial education institutions offer the program, Google is offering it through Coursera. This has implications for the future of post-secondary education in Australia and elsewhere.
The program consists of five courses, each of six weeks, 8 to 10 hours a week and a series of projects. The cost of the entire program is not given, but courses cost AU $64 per month, putting the total cost at AU$480. However, this assumes the student completes everything on time, which is rarely the case and the real-world cost is likely to be significantly higher.
Media reports indicate Google will also partner with US community colleges. However, it is not clear if this will be directly with Google, or if the colleges will be supporting students studying on-line via Coursera. The latter approach could have implications for post-secondary education. In Australia this could see non-government VET institutions and government TAFEs reduced to the role of providers of tutors to assist the on-line students and invigilate assessment. This could also effect some universities which offer industry certifications as part of degree programs.
New educational startups, and more traditional VET providers, have been attempting to come up with a credible alternative to a traditional university degree. However, these have failed to gain widespread adoption. In the IT sector vendor certifications are widely accepted and some traditional degree programs incorporate these. Google's endorsement of online courses may be the step needed to make this approach widely adopted. Students may study a series of on-line certifications which are accepted by industry and based on these a formal educational qualification.
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