Coursera, an online learning portal that offers 14 degrees and 3,600 courses from 190 university and industry partners, today announced that it has acquired Rhyme Softworks, a software startup developing what it describes as a platform for hands-on projects. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda said Rhyme’s soon-to-be-expanded Bulgaria offices will extend Cousera’s capabilities by adding customizable assignments that run in preconfigured Windows or Linux environments.

“With Rhyme’s virtual machines, beginner to intermediate-level learners can follow along with self-paced or live guided sessions while simultaneously completing a project or assignment,” wrote Maggioncalda. “Rhyme truly embraces the concept of “’earn by doing’ and ‘moving forward.'”

Coinciding with the announcement, Coursera took the wraps off Coursera Labs, a feature that will enable partners to make standalone or course-integrated programming projects using Jupyter Notebook, RStudio, VS Code, cloud software consoles, or almost any other native desktop app. In addition to programming, Labs will allow educators to create custom apps designed to reinforce skills in business, marketing, and humanities.

Coursera Labs

Above: Coursera Labs in action.

Image Credit: Coursera

The University of London, a pilot partner for Coursera Labs, added an app called Sleuth to its Computer Programming course that tasks students with writing code to solve interactive puzzles. Separately, the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois plan to tap Labs for upcoming Coursera content.

Labs will roll out broadly to Coursera’s full partner portfolio by the end of the year, according to Maggioncalda.

“As online learning continues to support workforce training on the job and at home, it’s important to provide engaging, hands-on experiences that enable learners to test their mastery of new skills with the tools used in the workplace,” he said. “We look forward to Coursera Labs and Rhyme enhancing our partners’ courses to prepare more learners for jobs of the future.”

Coursera Labs

Above: A program created with Coursera Labs.

Image Credit: Coursera

San Francisco-based Coursera — which recently raised $103 million at a valuation of $1 billion — was founded in 2012 by Daphne Koller, a Stanford University computer science professor, and former Baidu chief scientist and Google Brain veteran Andrew Ng. It competes with well-funded rivals like Udemy and Udacity, the latter of which was launched in 2011 by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford professor who previously headed Alphabet’s X skunkworks (formerly Google X).

The online education platform industry is anticipated to grow from $4 billion today to $21 billion by 2023, and Coursera has successfully carved out a chunk of that market. More than 43 million people have taken its courses, and its enterprise offering — Coursera Enterprise — has attracted 2,000 customers to date.

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