Last year, Coursera, a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform started off with a bang and $22 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates, the University of Pennsylvania, and California Institute of Technology, the last two being two of their educational partners as well. And now, they have tripled that amount by raising another $43 million in Venture Capital from GSV Capital, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s investment arm, Laureate Education, Learn Capital and Yuri Milner, the Russian billionaire investor.
With this new round of funding, Coursera is all set to roll out several new features. Their expansion plans over the next few months include doubling their number of employees from 50 to 100, creating a larger international presence by focusing on the local, and offering blended learning courses where the material they have online is used in conjunction with real world classroom teaching. They also plan to expand to mobile platforms – an area which has been neglected so far – and broaden the scope of their Signature Track system, an option that gives students an identity-verified certificate on successful completion of any of the eligible courses, for a fee. Since January, when Signature Track was introduced, the system has earned them around $800,000 in revenue, thereby quelling the negative buzz around the difficulty of monetization when it comes to MOOCs. Co-founder Daphne Koller says that she hopes Signature Track earns them enough revenue to make the business model sustainable in the future.
Coursera has already grown in leaps and bounds, going from strength to strength. In just the last 6 months, they have expanded their course selection to around 400, made forays into grade school education, and teamed up with 83 universities in 4 continents, among them illustrious names such as the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Illinois in the US, the University of Toronto in Canada, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, as well as the University Edinburgh in Scotland. Their user base spans 195 countries and more than 4 million students. The Mountain View based startup has also taken steps towards becoming a true replacement for formal University education with its Signature Track courses being approved by the ACE (American Council on Education) for credit equivalency.
This means that instead of taking a traditional class at University you can instead choose to complete a Coursera course, and receive the same credits you otherwise would have. Valid in over 2000 colleges and Universities across the US, this accreditation is a true revolution in the world of education, as it claims power back from the hands of educational institutions and gives it back to the masses. Among the courses available for credit equivalency are those offered by the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University and the University of California, Irvine. This is real Ivy-League education at a minor fraction of the cost.
However, even though Signature Track is a monetization tool, their courses will always remain free, co-founder Andrew Ng assures us. In an interview with Inc. in April, he said “We’re a for-profit, but if I had to choose between making money and changing millions of lives, I’d much rather change millions of lives…I want to live in a world where everyone has access to a great education for free.”