Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are coming of age this year, according to Coursera's cofounder and president Daphne Koller, and Coursera plans on being in the lead as it happens.
Coursera is discovering how to offer courses immediately to its consumers rather than having to wait for weeks or even months for a class to begin.
"We find the number of people who enroll for a class and immediately start taking it are twice as likely to complete it as those who enroll a month or two before it begins," Koller explained.
Koller went on to say that just enrolling is not a very strong commitment for students, who are unsure of their plans for three to four months down the road.
Online education has gotten some bad press lately from companies who have high tuition costs and low graduation rates, offering student loans that are too easily obtained, creating a never-ending cycle of poverty for students in the programs.
Coursera, however, offers courses at a cost of $50.
The company is testing the idea out on four courses. If it proves successful, more courses will be added to the list in the future.
One of the courses to offer "continuous enrollment" is Jim Fowler's Calculus One, a course so popular that his first six-week course attracted 35,000 students. Since then, more than 110,000 more have enrolled in his 23-hour course.
College students only account for 25% of those enrolled in the class. The majority of his students are older professionals who enroll in MOOCs to keep their brains fresh or for professional incentives.
According to Koller, only about 5% of those who enroll in an online course with the company end up completing it. However, she also said of the number of students who planned on finishing the course they enrolled for, that percentage rises up to 70%.
The number drastically rises when students are offered a course completion certificate.
One of the most popular courses that offers credentials is the Johns Hopkins Data Science specialization, which was launched in January in an effort to raise the student completion rate.
"The credentials are becoming much more valued in the workplace—70% of our learners want to post their credential on their resume," Koller said. "Conversion rates among learners who are taking a course for the credential have more than doubled."
And credentials from MOOC courses are becoming increasingly important to employers. According to a study from Duke University, 72% of the 392 employers to complete the survey "had used, considered using, or could see their company using MOOCs for recruitment."
Koller also noted that about 70% of Coursera students listed completed courses on their LinkedIn profiles, and about 60-70% of employers look at those credentials positively.