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Episode #153. Saturday June 3, 2023, 12:00 noon Eastern

Credentials. Seems everyone wants more credentials these days in a quest to find value in this fast-changing world. And they have scant time to wait for them or to move to a campus-based program. Coursera has its various “Specializations” and edX has its “MicroMasters.” And then there are “Nanodegrees” from Udacity and likely many other terms used to describe programs of study that are typically much shorter in length and overall course requirements than traditional master’s degrees. But what types of Specialization and MicroMaster topics and credentials do people tend to seek and what types of benefits do they typically perceive that they offer? As we will learn in Episode #153, the United States, India, Brazil, Canada, and Germany are the top five countries where participants are enrolling. But where else? Our guests will inform you of that while also describing the demographics of those seeking such credentials including details by age, gender, race, income, etc. But what are the opportunity costs associated with these decisions? At the same time, what are the potential payoffs? And what might be the common learner plans for further education after completing them? In this episode of Silver Lining for Learning, Dr. Fiona Hollands, Founder and Managing Director of EdResearcher, an independent research, evaluation, and development organization in New York and her team, Aasiya Kazi, Katherine Javier, and Yuan Chang Ginsberg will discuss the results of their February 2023 report, “Benefits and Costs of Participation in MOOC-Based Alternative Credentials” addressing both MicroMasters and Specializations. Hollands and Kazi initiated this longitudinal research in 2017 and built on it with reports in 2018 and 2019. The 2023 report is based on over 25,000 non-duplicated responses collected between 2017 and 2021. As such, this session promises to be both rich in data and rich in thought.

More about our guests below the video



Fiona Hollands, Ph.D., is the Founder and Managing Director of EdResearcher, an independent research, evaluation, and development organization. Previously she was a Senior Researcher at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she conducted quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation in education for almost 25 years. She collaborates with other researchers and with education agencies on grant-funded research, R&D, and technical assistance projects that aim to improve the use of various types of evidence by education decision-makers including school, university, and district leaders. She applies methods such as cost-effectiveness analysis, cost-utility analysis, and program value-added analysis to educational programs and practices with the aim of helping policymakers and education decision-makers optimize the use of resources in education. She uses qualitative methods to understand decision-making processes in education and how they can be best informed and improved.

While Fiona has a particular interest in the use of technology in education, she has studied a wide variety of educational topics including high school completion, early literacy, elementary school reading, online/digital learning, social-emotional learning, out-of-school instruction, gifted & talented identification, automated detection of learner affect and engagement, alternative credentials, MOOCs, student information systems, school nursing, and professional development for educators. Fiona has also led the development of multiple tools and resources to support others in the application of economic evaluation methods and systematic decision-making frameworks in education. Current projects include evaluating Day of AI, an AI literacy initiative developed by MIT and i2Learning. She can be reached at and more details can be found at:

Aasiya Kazi is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Her research interests include gender, education, and human rights. She holds a B.A. in Government from Smith College, an M.A. in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University, and an M.Phil. in South Asian Studies from the University of Oxford.

Katherine Javier has over ten years of experience designing, evaluating, and monitoring public policies and development programs, as well as conducting social and economic research. In her roles in the Dominican government, the private sector, in civil society, and with multilateral organizations she has gained extensive experience carrying out data analysis and implementing qualitative methodologies. Her fields of expertise include education and employment policies, youth policies, rural development, competitiveness, and strategic planning. Ms. Javier is currently a partner at Grupo Linea Base, a social and economic boutique consulting firm based in the Dominican Republic. Katherine holds Master’s degrees in International Development from the University of Manchester in the UK and in Applied Statistics from Columbia University.

Yuan Chang Ginsberg acquired her M.Ed. degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. Currently, she works at Metro Nashville Public Schools as an education program evaluation analyst, where she dedicates her efforts to assessing the implementation and effectiveness of educational programs within the school district. Her other research interests include ethnic disparities in early childhood education, culturally responsive pedagogy, and cost analysis in education.