Coursera hit a major milestone today.
The fast-growing online education provider has partnered with 100 academic institutions. It now offers 500 courses and works with five million students.
Coursera is an ed-tech startup that partners with universities to put lectures online as low-cost (or free) video courses. Its platform makes content accessible outside the lecture hall, delivering it to a much wider audience and opening up opportunities for anyone to learn from academics.
It works with elite private universities like Yale and Northwestern as well as state university systems and public university flagships, including the State University of New York (SUNY) and the University of Colorado system.
In the past few months alone, Coursera has formed new partnerships with 13 institutions across 11 countries, including National Geographic, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, IESE Business School, The World Bank, a new Ukrainian translation partner, BIONIC University, two French universities, and Netease, one of China’s largest internet providers.
Coursera helps these schools establish blended learning systems. Blended learning refers to the practice of students learning at least in part through the online delivery of content. The universities can use Coursera to augment their existing database of online courses and make their educational offerings more accessible.
Educators and policymakers increasingly view providers of massive open online courses — dubbed “MOOCs” — as the solution to the current educational crisis. Student loan debt is rising, as is tuition, and educational institutions have to come up with more accessible ways of teaching students.
Coursera is not designed to be a college alternative, but rather an option for students who can’t afford to go to a full-time university or are interesting in casually supplementing their studies.
The platform is also intended to help universities explore new ways to teach/learn through online delivery of content. Colleges and universities are realizing that it’s not the best use of resources to have multiple instructors teaching the same introductory calculus class when Coursera has an accredited online version. This would free up time for professors to teach specialized courses, or engage with students one-on-one.
Coursera was founded 18 months ago and raised $65 million in a year to fuel its growth efforts. Competitors include Udacity, Udemy, and Khan Academy.