Coursera Inc., the online education company sporting 7 million registered users, added considerable weight to its branding this week by announcing that former Yale University president Richard C. Levin has been hired as its new CEO.
In an article by D.D. Guttenplan of The New York Times, Levin said that the company will be profitable in five years’ time, and that its focus is education, not technology.
“The technology is obviously incredibly important, but what really makes this interesting for me is the capacity to expand the mission of our great universities, both in the United States and abroad, to reach audiences that don’t have access to higher education otherwise,” said Levin.
Levin, 66, resigned from Yale last June. As of last week, Coursera, founded by two professors at Stanford University – Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller – has partnerships with 100 universities in 19 different countries, according to a New York Times article by Tamar Lewin.
Levin has been acting as an adviser for Coursera since January of this year.
Coursera specializes in massive online open courses (MOOCs). In Lewin’s piece, Levin stressed the importance of MOOCs as well as their success thus far in China, where he has previous education experience:
“The main thing we will work on is to establish this model so our partner universities feel that offering large-scale MOOCs is an important part of their mission that helps faculty expand their reach, and benefits the world,” Levin said. “It’s growing rapidly (in China), and I’m very much hoping my relations with Chinese university presidents and the Ministry of Education will help that along.”
Coursera’s main competitor for clients, the not-for-profit EdX, also appointed a new high-ranking officer on Monday, naming Wendy Cebula, formerly of printer Vistaprint, as its president and COO. This hiring allows company president Anant Agarwal to take a lateral move to CEO, according to an article by The Wall Street Journal’s Douglas Belkin.
Launched in April, 2012, Coursera has partnered with institutions worldwide to offer college-level courses for free to anyone with an internet connection. It hit a milestone of 4 million students just a year later, and tripled its funding to expand offerings, relationships and develop a sustainable business model.