As human beings we cannot be jack of all trades and every day we have some new task to accomplish. It could be anything from changing a car’s battery to cooking a new dish to solving a complex mathematical equation and for all such tasks we often turn to internet for help. Similarly, when it comes to education and professional courses, we now have the option to enroll in courses online and acquire a certificate or a degree and one one such company called Coursera has become a leading player in the online education space.
Imagine those days when we did not have such information and content available on the internet and how expensive was it then to gain access to such information for accomplishing these tasks. It seems almost impossible to learn to accomplish simple tasks to make our lives easier.
While the efficient and cost-effective transfer of information is not just limited to learning simple tasks or basic skills from the comfort of one’s home using the internet, the traditional education in the form of attending school and colleges in physical classrooms is also becoming increasingly accessible online.
It is now possible for the individuals looking to study high school or university level subjects through MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses.
Today, all the major colleges and universities around the world offer engaging online classes across a wide array of topics from computer science to business to finance to sociology to science subjects.
Mostly, MOOCs are offer for free by the universities and colleges but internet companies like Coursera which are specifically into providing online courses to the individuals on their platform are doing it for profit.
We have to understand MOOC for understanding Coursera’s business model. So what is MOOC?
Before the internet made is possible for the individuals to study online or enroll in courses of their choice without actually attending the classroom in real, the only option available was to enroll in distance learning programs which are also known as correspondence courses.
These correspondence courses allowed students to learn and acquire knowledge without attending the actual classroom. It worked via a postal mail through which students receive all their course material and submit back all the assignments in due time to the course provider.
This distance education system was enabling individuals to enroll in courses and study at their own time but it was not benefitting all due to the lack of technology that could bring in the optimal results as expected after completing a course.
It was found that the majority of students enrolled in the distance education system either drop out or performed poorly on tests or lacked knowledge about the subject.
Another problem was that due to the much criticism from the traditional education providers questioning the credibility of the distance education, employers did not take the credentials earned by the students very seriously.
When internet came into existence it had the solution for all the problems related to the distance learning programs and correspondence courses as the transfer of information and course materials became much faster and collaboration between the course providers and the students also became easier.
The whole learning experience went to the next level with the internet as students now have access to the forums, multimedia enabled interactive courses and video lectures.
Jones International University became the first accredited online university in the year 1999 though it was shut down in the year 2015.
Professor James O’Donnell at the University of Pennsylvania offered the very first MOOC on the subject of the life and works of St. Augustine of Hippo.
Today, there are approx. 566 accredited online schools that offer certificate and degree programs in more than 19,000 fields or subjects which is massive and millions of students from around the world enroll in such courses.
History of Coursera and it’s vision
Coursera as mentioned above is for profit venture unlike the MOOCs offered by the universities and colleges for free. It was founded in the year 2012 by two Stanford University computer science professors which has now become the world’s most recognizable internet company.
Coursera does not creates its own content rather it partners with the universities and organizations across the world enabling them to bring their existing courses online on its platform where students can enroll for certificate and degree programs.
In the early days, coursera started working with universities such as Stanford and Princeton and brought their most popular courses online for the students to enroll.
Today, Coursera works with more than 117 institutions world-wide, offering more than 1000 courses on its platform and over 12 million students enroll for courses every year.
There are a wide variety of courses available on the coursera platform ranging from science & Technology to the arts & humanities to business & finance. The classes typically are scheduled between 4 to 10 weeks which includes video lectures, taking quizzes and reading assignments, all done online on the coursera platform.
Classes are also available on-demand which makes it easier for the students to schedule lectures at their own convenience.
Students from the same class enrolled in the same course are encourages to participate in forums and arrange virtual or in-person meet-ups and study groups. Coursera also offers courses through their website as well as through their mobile apps.
Coursera’s technology makes it possible create a secure environment when it comes to online tests to be taken by the students. It has technologically advanced biometric keystroke analysis and live webcam streaming to ensure that students don’t cheat and don’t involve in unethical activities which is against the academics.
So let’s learn How Coursera Makes Money?
Coursera offers ‘signature track’ program which allows students to pay per class and it is for those who wish to earn a certificate at the end of the course. Students are required to submit graded assignments and take graded examinations to ensure subject mastery.
Students who enroll for the signature track earn a verified certificate from the university or college under which they enrolled for the course. These certificates are helpful to the students while facing the employers for job interviews and also add value to their resume.
Coursera has generated more than $5million in revenues within a year of launch of the Signature Track program.
Apart from the Signature track program, Coursera has also launched specializations track program in the year 2014 which involves a curriculum based on subject-related signature track courses.
Specializations track program has helped Coursera generate an additional $1million in revenues.
Coursera has different monetization strategies on its platform such as optional tuition fees, networking opportunities that introduces a student to a potential employer or recruiter.
Employers can also pay to get access to a vast pool of graduates and valuable students information available on the coursera platform.
Other sources of revenue may include:
- Students have the option to purchase university-branded certificates of completion for each course that they had enrolled for.
- Enrolled students can pay for human-provided tutoring services to help them in trouble areas.
- There’s also an option for paid tutoring where students can get private tuition online for difficult subjects.
The Bottom Line
Internet has made it possible for the individuals to have access to the university level education, online.
While most of the MOOCs are free across the world, companies such as coursera have found their business model in online education which is proving to be highly profitable for them.
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