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Online Educator Coursera Plans to Sell Shares

Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller are Stanford University computer science professors who started Coursera. They posed for a photo in 2012. In March 2021, the company will offer shares for sale on the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller are Stanford University computer science professors who started Coursera. They posed for a photo in 2012. In March 2021, the company will offer shares for sale on the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Online Educator Coursera Plans to Sell Shares
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If you are like over 70 million other people around the world, you may have taken a class with Coursera.

Coursera is an online education company that helps create Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller are computer science professors at Stanford University. They started Coursera in 2012.

Opening classrooms to the world

The company gives professors and universities a way to make a version of their classes available to students all over the world.

With the system from Coursera, a professor from Duke University in North Carolina can reach a student in Korea or a woman from Brazil. The company says it works with over 200 universities, from the small Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to the large Peking University in Beijing, China with its 3000 professors.

There are now over 6,600 courses listed for anyone who wants to learn a new skill or prepare for a new job.

Coursera is the largest online education company of this kind. Other companies include FutureLearn and Udacity.

While Coursera says it has 77 million people registered for its website around the world, it is not clear how many of those have actually taken a class.

People who support online education say it opens up classrooms to everyone. They say it costs less than a class in person.

Critics say many people who start online classes never finish. They are not as invested in finishing a free or less costly course.

In the past, people took classes on Coursera to satisfy an interest in learning about a subject. Now, more students have taken classes for certificates that are accepted by many organizations. Some Coursera courses now count toward college degrees. And degree programs can cost up to $45,000.

More interest during the pandemic

In the last 12 months, many people were not able to go to class in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So they turned to Coursera as a way to continue their studies.

Coursera launched “Coursera for Campus” to help schools offer courses to stuck-at-home students. By the end of 2020, over 130 colleges and universities paid Coursera to use “Coursera for Campus” to teach online.

Coursera also has a similar program for government agencies and businesses that want to teach their employees online. Some high school students in the U.S. also took classes with Coursera because after-school activities were canceled.

In 2020, Coursera took in 59 percent more money than in 2019. Its revenue was almost $300 million. It also spent a lot of money to expand so it lost almost $70 million last year.

However, Coursera and other online education companies think the business is expanding. For example, some people who lost jobs during the pandemic are now learning new skills online. Even before COVID-19 closed schools, research company HolonIQ said people spent over $2 trillion on higher education around the world in 2019.

Stock market offering

Since 2012, Coursera has been supported by private investment companies. As interest in online learning grew, the Silicon Valley-based company filed for a stock market listing in early March to look for new investors.

Carla Hickman studies online education for a company called EAB. She said the investment will help Coursera as it grows.

“I do think some of this initial capital is just going to make sure Coursera can continue to deliver the product they are today at a high standard as they grow.”

With the new money, Coursera should be able to offer more classes to its audience, Hickman said. It may help Coursera keep students coming back for more classes.

In 2012, when Coursera started, it permitted universities that did not have strong online learning systems to make some of their classes available to more people. This was a form of marketing and advertising. Now, however, most universities have a way to teach online. Do they actually need Coursera, or can they have their own system instead?

“With many institutions, you have to ask yourself ‘what uniquely is Coursera providing that benefits the college and university that they would not do on their own?”

As the company grows, Hickman said it is becoming less “open and massive as you have to pay money to access the content.”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Have you ever taken a class with Coursera? What did you think? We want to hear from you. Tell us in the Comments Section and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

massive –adj. large in amount or degree

course –n. a series of classes about a particular subject in a school

certificate –n. a document that is official proof that you have finished school or a course of training

stuck –adj. in a place or situation that is difficult or impossible to get out of

stock market listing –n. the act of making a small part of company for sale at a place where stocks are bought and sold

initial capital –n. money, property, etc., that is used to start or operate a business

product –n. something that is made or grown to be sold or used

unique –adj. very special or unusual

content –n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a book, article, speech, movie, etc.