Coursera: The Edtech platform that could disrupt Higher Education
Coursera, one of the world’s leading online learning platforms offers MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. Founded by two Stanford professors less than 8 year ago it has managed to create a community of ~48 million learners across the world. It partners with 207 education and corporate institution including Yale, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and Google across 52 countries in offering 4,113 courses to its learners. The platform uses recorded lectures, assigned readings and auto or peer graded assignments/ projects and community discussion forums as an alternate to traditional classroom or live online learning experience.
Using Clayton Christenson’s disruption theory principles, Coursera is a low cost disruptor, offering lower quality (in terms of classroom experience and not course content) for a fraction of the cost. It creates immense value for individuals, for instance individuals from emerging markets such as South Asia are able to upskill themselves to move roles based on the new skills acquired. I believe the 5 main advantages of Coursera to individuals are:
- Learning and upskilling
- Its free or much cheaper than traditional education
- Access to lectures from some of the top instructors and thought leaders of the world
- Its self-paced so individual could learn after work or on weekends
- Flexible learning options in the form of courses, Specialization and Degrees
- Access to technical data science, programing and frontier technologies
A major barrier to widespread adoption is that Coursera courses still don’t have the same recognition or credibility as standard courses as they do not, for the most part, count towards university credit.
The other side of the platform is content partners which includes some of the world’s leading universities and corporations. Coursera originally attracted partners to create high quality education content, which gave the platform the credibility and allowed it to attract the students. Hence, Coursera has a very strong cross-side network effect. The same-side network effects on the consumer’s side are strong as they give the platform more credibility to attract more learners, this results in an active discussion forum community and word of mouth marketing. As the number of learners and Coursera’s Alumni base grows, the recognition of its certifications would improve. The same-side network effects are relatively weaker on the Partner’s side. Although renowned partners enables Coursera to attract others, courses and specialization often compete with one another.
The motivation for more partners to join is driven partly by social corporate responsibility to make education universally accessible, improve employability of individuals, increase society’s technical knowledge, and lastly to open additional revenue streams. I believe the monetary benefits and value for the partner are more long-term while the value proposition for the customers is more clear and immediate.
Business Model evolution and offerings
Coursera has continued to evolve and innovate; from starting off as individual courses it then went on to monetizing through certificates of completion, and then eventually partnered with institutions to launch specialization for topics like data science, AI, and Machine Learning by combining a series of courses of the same partner. It then launched accredited Master track certificates in topics such as Supply Chain Excellence which counted for university credit within the same institution. It further expanded to launch online Bachelors, Masters and MBA degrees with several leading universities.
Just last month, it launched an online subscription, Coursera Plus, for $399 a year which allows learners unlimited access to 90% if its education catalogue to complete courses to earn certificates and specializations. Coursera also offers tailored learning solutions for Enterprises, Governments and Campuses. Coursera for Business and Government offers training and development programs to employees by packaging courses from multiple partners. Coursera for Campus makes high quality global online courses available to university students of campus partner. Despite all these monetization opportunities, Coursera remains a learner centric platform allowing anyone to audit a course for free and offering financial aid for its premium offerings.
Scalable and Sustainable?
The Platform is extremely scalable with an addressable market of the entire adult population of the world. Although customers often multi-home with other EdTech rivals such as Edx, Udacity, Code Academy, Udemy and other online University education programs, Coursera is sustainable because of the breath of its content and partnerships. The Partners do not multi-home. I believe a future catalyst for growth would be 5G that could allow Coursera to roll-out more live learning programs in a world where distant learning would increase.
The real value in the platform is derived from the strength of its partnerships and the recognition of Coursera certificates among employees will continue to increase the platform stickiness. I anticipate Coursera to continue to thrive at the back of growing partnerships, recognition for certifications among employees, ease of platform use, more value added features and growth in the B2B space with Coursera for Campus, Government and Business.
Coursera. 2020. Coursera | Build Skills With Online Courses From Top Institutions. [online] Available at: <https://www.coursera.org/> [Accessed 24 March 2020].
Knowledge@Wharton. 2020. Moocs On The Move: How Coursera Is Disrupting The Traditional Classroom – Knowledge@Wharton. [online] Available at: <https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/moocs-on-the-move-how-coursera-is-disrupting-the-traditional-classroom/> [Accessed 24 March 2020].