Online education platform Coursera has raised $49.5 million in funding for planned expansion.
Coursera offers free courses in partnership with universities and generates revenue by the fees students pay to get a certificate upon completion of their class. They have paired up with more than 120 universities including Yale, Johns Hopkins, the University of Edinburgh, and Peking University. Like most online education services, most of its 1,100 courses are oriented towards job skills rather than academic scholarship, serving to fill in gaps that traditional education leaves open.
This year, the company introduced “specializations,” which are a series of courses focused on one topic, writes Frederic Lardinois of Tech Crunch. Some examples of these “mini-degrees” include Android development or business basics, and companies like Instagram, Google, and Shazam have provided help with the curriculum. In a few weeks, Coursera plans to release six more specializations for a total of about 30.
Douglas Belkin of the Wall Street Journal quoted Coursera’s CEO Rick Levin on what fuels the platform’s growth:
This is a natural evolution. We’ve found over the last year that there is tremendous demand for job-relevant skills. We embrace bringing universities and companies together.
The companies involved in these specializations are not acting only out of generosity, however. By helping to find these courses, they can not only improve trust in their brand, but find new employees. Levin said that the benefit is mutual:
We have a big reach and these companies want the visibility. They want to know who the top performers are in the course, and potentially interest them in applying for a job.
Coursera already has 15 million users, 1 million of whom are based in China, and is still seeking to expand its reach with translations and subtitles. Times Internet, which owns the Times of India, is working with them to increase their audience in India. Languages already available include Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Portugese, Turkish, Ukrainian, German, Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Hebrew, and Italian.
This round of funding was led by New Enterprise Associates and included existing investors Kleiner Perkins and International Finance Corporation, along with newcomer Times Internet. Experts expect the round to reach $60 million by this fall, writes Kia Kokalitcheva of Fortune, and to include GSV Asset Management and Learn Capital. So far, it has raised $135 million.
According to Cromwell Schubarth of the Silicon Valley Business Journal, other recent happenings in the world of online education include a $65 million funding round for Udemy in June, LinkedIn’s purchase of Lynda.com in April for $1.5 billion, and a partnership between Udacity and Google to teach skills like app development.