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Course Report

Stanford Moves to edX, Stops Offering Free Certificates

The move to edX marks the end of Stanford’s free-certificate courses offered on Lagunita.

Stanford and edX logos

In January 2020, I published a list of 40+ Stanford online courses that included a free certificate of completion. The courses were hosted on Lagunita, Stanford’s MOOC platform based on Open edX.

One day after the publication of the article, most courses and certificates were gone from Lagunita. As it happens, the article had nothing to do with it; that was just unlucky timing.

On the same day, Stanford announced that they had become an Institutional Member of edX: Stanford would stop offering courses on Lagunita and would start offering them on edX instead.

Stanford Lagunita: Then & Now

Stanford Lagunita homepage
Stanford Lagunita homepage

Stanford’s Open edX MOOC platform was launched in 2013 but was only renamed “Lagunita” in 2015 as a reference to a lake situated on the university’s campus.

A month ago, Lagunita hosted 69 free online courses, 44 of which included a free certificate of completion, which Stanford prefers to call “statement of accomplishment.” The offering included courses in computer science, education, engineering, humanities, medicine, and music.

Today, Lagunita hosts 18 courses, 14 of which are really a single course split into 14 mini-courses. The offering includes one computer science course and a few education courses. Here’s the full list:

Learners that were already enrolled in a course prior to its removal from Lagunita should still be able to access it. New learners may only enroll in the few courses left. All Lagunita courses are set to end on March 26th, 2020, after which Stanford will stop offering MOOCs on Lagunita.

In an email to Class Central, a Stanford representative has confirmed that this transition marks the end of Stanford’s free statements of accomplishment.

Stanford on EdX

Some of Stanford Lagunita courses have found their way onto edX, and more will be added in the months to come. Currently, Stanford offers 13 courses on edX, about half of which used to be offered on Lagunita. Here’s the full list:

Like on Lagunita, Stanford courses on edX are free to audit. But unlike on Lagunita, they don’t include a free statement of accomplishment. Instead, learners have to pay between $50 and $150 to earn a verified certificate.

Stanford retiring its statements of accomplishment reinforces a well established trend: free certificates are becoming rare. Stanford was likely the last prominent university to offer several.

Certificates have found their place behind the paywall of online education, turning a benefit of the many into a prerogative of the few. Fortunately, there are some exceptions — most notably, CS50, Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science, continues to offer a free certificate in 2020.

Manoel Cortes Mendez Profile Image

Manoel Cortes Mendez

Software engineer and online graduate student in computer science passionate about education, technology, and their intersection.

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