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Jul 29, 2013 - 4 minute read - Courses Selenium Simplified Blog

Certificates of Completion Controversy

Udemy have started offering Certificates of Completion.

But not for my courses. I opted out.


Well, I have some issues with the notion of certification which I blogged about a long time ago.

But these are certificates of completion, not a certification!

True. But…

  • I don’t agree with the wording
  • I don’t agree with the definition of completed
  • I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘successfully’
  • I don’t like a facsimile of my signature being used without my permission
  • I think it incentivises the wrong behaviour
  • I will not devalue the course

Udemy created the certificate, and I have no control or configuration over the wording of the certificate:

Certificate of Completion

This is to certify that John Smith successfully completed the 'course name' online course on 04.15.2013

Signed, Instructor Name

That seems innocuous enough, doesn’t it?

Well, how do Udemy define “Successfully Completed”?

  • By triggering all the API calls sent at the end of watching a video

Yeah, that’s not ‘successfully’ in my book. That’s fast forwarding to the end of a video.

So what does Successfully Completed, really mean?

  • You watched all the videos you needed to
  • You worked through all the exercises
  • The code you produced for the exercises works and was ‘good enough’
  • You reviewed the code I wrote for the course and compared it against yours to learn how we approached it differently
  • You asked me for clarification on issues you weren’t clear on
  • You read the source code for Selenium WebDriver to gain a deeper understanding of the tool
  • You experimented with all the API calls covered
  • You started writing your own automation code on production projects and realised that you were able to do this

Yeah, that’s a little different.

With online training it is impossible for me to certify this:

  • I don’t get to see your work.
  • I don’t have time to review the work created by every student - certainly not at the low price I offer the course.

Since my definition, and Udemy’s definition don’t match, I can’t put my name on the certificate. If it was just the Udemy brand name on the bottom, then I wouldn’t care. You could have your certificate of completion, because it was issued by Udemy.

But my name is on it, with a forged facsimile of my signature. I will only put my name on things I agree with. I’ve been testing too long, to ‘sign off’ on things, I don’t agree with.

You might be able to get a certificate in the future if Udemy allow me to configure the certificate, i.e. take my name off, or let me change the wording.

So what wording would pass my review?

Certificate of Action

This is to certify that John Smith has triggered the 100% viewing API for all videos of the 'course name' online course, with the last API called made on 04/15/2013


I appreciate it isn’t as catchy, but its honest.

Apparently a lot of people asked Udemy to add these so they could prove to their company that they had completed the course. I don’t think it does any such thing. I think your company should be able to tell that you completed the course because you now have a set of skills that you didn’t have before.

If your company wants a piece of paper that says you now have these skills then ask them to contact me, and we can arrange a fee for my conducting a review of your automation code and approach.

I’ll point out where I think you excel, where you need work, and I’ll provide examples of alternatives and pros and cons for pursuing them. I can also interview you and we can verbally talk through your understanding. If we conduct the review on site then I can pair with you and get a much better understanding of the thought processes involved.

I will sign my name on any evaluation performed like this.

In the discussion on the Instructor forums, a lot of instructors couldn’t see any issue with the certificates. They felt that it would be good marketing and they would sell more courses. I don’t think many instructors on Udemy opted out of the Certificate of Completion ‘feature’.

But I did.

I had to.

I know what happens when you measure and report on the wrong things… You get the wrong results.

I know that gamification of the wrong criteria, leads to playing the game for the ‘achievements’ not the fun, the learning or the game play.

I was not prepared to devalue the course with a “Certificate of Completion” that certified no such thing.

So, if you wonder why my Udemy courses have no “Certificate of Completion”, now you know.

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I reserve the right to delete spam comments e.g. if your comment adds no value and its purpose is simply to create a backlink to another site offering training, or courses, or etc.