- Online education company Coursera raised $103 million in a Series E funding round led by the Australia-based education investment firm SEEK, a new investor with the company. Existing investors Future Fund and NEA were also involved.
- Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda told Education Dive that it is "pretty safe to say" the round put the company's valuation over $1 billion. The capital infusion comes as online education companies expand their offerings.
- Coursera will use the funds to improve its platform and tap more international markets, in particular governments that want to upskill their workforce. "They can bring the top universities in the world to their populations to give everybody access to a much, much better education," Maggioncalda said.
Coursera has grown its footprint since launching in 2012 to offer massive online open courses (MOOCs). It now has a learner base of 40 million, with 3,200 courses and 310 specializations that can be completed over time and "stacked" to form a full degree or certificate or count toward an existing program at a partner institution. It also offers more than a dozen master's degrees in topics such as business, computer science, data science and public health.
In 2016, the company made a formal move into workforce development with Coursera for Business. The enterprise platform gives companies access to courses developed by partner universities and companies. Its largest partnership yet is with the Abu Dhabi School of Government, in the United Arab Emirates, to provide skills training for 60,000 government employees.
Coursera is also providing courses that tap demand from companies seeking skilled workers. One example is the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, which launched on Coursera in early 2018 to help the tech company fill its talent pipeline. As of last fall, students could earn credit for the five-course program at more than 25 community colleges and Northeastern University.
And earlier this year, Coursera announced plans to partner with 15 universities to launch a suite of 100 courses, 30 specializations and two master's degrees in health care topics.
As the broader market of OPMs diversifies, so too are MOOC providers, which allow colleges to develop programs to host on their platforms.
Master's degrees are one area of interest. Maggioncalda said Coursera is "really focused on" master-track certificates, or pay-as-you-go course modules students can complete to earn a certificate and, if they choose, credit toward the full degree offered by the institution. Additionally, he said, they allow colleges "to take one step toward an online degree without necessarily even putting a whole degree online."
EdX, which launched in 2012 as a partnership between Harvard University and MIT, offers similar master's degree tracks with its MicroMasters. They can also roll into credit for a full certificate or degree from a partner university.
The company also recently added a set of online master's degrees, with its current list of partners across eight programs including Georgia Tech, Indiana University, the University of California, San Diego and the University of Texas at Austin. Topics include accounting, data science, computer science and leadership.
"MOOCs have become a gateway to online degrees," Maggioncalda said. "They are a really important part of attracting an audience, letting someone learn, meet the professor, see whether they'll like the material and see whether or not that degree program will be right for them."
He continued, "We really see this as a system, and these open courses, as well as master track certificates, are different ways to create much broader access."
They're not the only ones to see it that way. OPM 2U has touted the company's "career curriculum continuum," through which short courses and skills training can be bundled or feed into more intensive certificates and degrees.
MOOC providers are trying to reach that market at a lower price point, however.
In an interview with IBL News, edX President Adam Medros said the "lean OPM" model offered by his and other MOOC companies stands to "change the economics of customer acquisition and customer retention" for online degrees. (Its online master's degrees are priced from $9,900 to $21,000.)
Yet both Coursera and edX have been criticized for requiring customers to pay for premium content. However, observers have noted offering MOOCs alone was never likely to be profitable and it's uncertain the extent to which they can draw students into paid programs on a platform known for its free content.
That shift is taking a toll. Earlier this month, MOOC-provider Udacity moved to restructure its operations, laying off roughly 20% of its workforce, TechCruch reported. The company — which offers short-term certificates called "nanodegrees" — attributed the overhaul to the need to recover from a period of fast growth followed by a slowdown in volume as new degrees saw less uptake than earlier offerings.