US Online Education Providers Push International Partnerships

Demand is rapidly growing for online education and home-based classes both inside and outside the United States, and as online education providers streamline their offerings, they're working more aggressively to enter the international education market.

Udemy, a provider of online courses, intends to make an overseas expansion, the Financial Times reports. The company said it is working to develop its website in nine languages "to meet the needs of thousands of users who want to take courses in their native tongues". Half of Udemy's one million students are now outside the US.

"We always saw this as a global problem," said Eren Bali, co-founder and chief executive. "You can't expect the whole world to translate an American education. It's like asking all people to read a translation of American newspapers everyday."

The popularity of massive online open courses is booming. For the first time, the higher education sector is experiencing the same technology-fueled feeling of giddiness that made the dotcom boom years fly so high. However, as the Economist points out, it's one thing to tout a revolution — and it's another to pay for it. In short, do massive online open course providers have what it takes to make themselves profitable?

The two leaders in the MOOC game are undoubtedly Silicon Valley-based startups Coursera and Udacity. Both boast impeccable academic and business pedigrees. Coursera's co-founder Daphne Koller is a former Stanford University professor, while Udacity's CEO Sebastian Thrun is tied to Google's success.

In the past year, Coursera has raised close to $80 million in several funding rounds, including $43 million in a venture capital funding round announced earlier this month. Koller says that Coursera's fund-raising ability puts it in contention to become one of the small number of dominant players in the MOOC sector when the field inevitably thins in a few years.

FutureLearn, wholly-owned by the UK's Open University, is working to develop online courses and become a significant MOOC provider to join the conversation with Coursera and Udacity. The company is teaming up with the world's largest university and education institutions and is expected launch online courses at the end of the year. FutureLearn plans to offer free online just like other large MOOC providers, and the company would generate revenue by offering added-value services such as exams and certificates of completion.

Following the world's top universities, two of Australia's largest universities have decided to offer free online courses. According to Josephine Tovey of The Sydney Morning Herald, the University of New South Wales and the University of Western Australia announced that they will fully embrace massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The universities will partner with Coursera, a provider of the free courses that also runs online courses for Stanford, Columbia and dozens of other universities in the United States. The University of NSW's acting vice-chancellor Professor Iain Martin said a partnership with Coursera would help boost the university's digital education profile.

08 16, 2013
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