It’s almost as if there’s an arms race in online education. Which MOOC platform can expand the fastest? Place your bets now. On the heels of edX’s announcement that it will be expanding internationally with the addition of six new schools (bringing its total to 12), Coursera is doing some addition of its own.
Today, the massive online course platform announced that 29 universities from around the globe have agreed to bring their courses online (for free) via Coursera. The new members will join the 33 institutions already on board, bringing Coursera’s grand total to 62. And, of course, just as edX was kicking back to celebrate its five new handpicked international members, Coursera announces that its updated roster just so happens to include 16 international institutions itself.
The international expansion of both Coursera and edX is a big win for international students, who (at least in Coursera’s case) now have access to courses in multiple languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese and Italian. Of course, international expansion is also an important part of the roadmap for edX and Coursera (and online learning sites like Lynda.com as well) and could be a boon for both, exposing a whole new audience of potential MOOC adopters to courses from some of the most reputed schools in the world.
While edX is a not-for-profit organization, Coursera is decidedly for-profit and, though it has plenty of venture capital in the bank, will need to continue scaling if it hopes to become a sustainable business over the long-term.
To do that, as part of the introduction of 29 new schools to its platform, Coursera is also expanding its course offerings by subject, adding 90 new courses to bring its total to 313 courses in all. “With the addition of so many new courses across a wide range of disciplines, languages and academic approaches, we are now able to meet the needs of a more diverse student body, and give students more academic options to explore,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said as part of the announcement.
Since launching in April 2012, Coursera has registered 2.8 million students and is now seeing around 1.4 million course enrollments each month. Lately, Coursera has been taking some pronounced steps to begin monetizing its growing user base as well, launching Career Services in December — an opt-in recruiting program that matches students with employers — and adding Verified Certificates in January to allow students to verify the work they complete on Coursera for a fee.
Verified Certificates marked the startup’s first steps into credentialing, a move that it has since continued. Initially, Coursera was not able to offer degrees or credits, and its courses lacked context without being able to offer them as part of a degree program. But, earlier this month, the American Council on Education approved five of its courses for “credit equivalency,” meaning that students who complete those classes are now able to “receive college transfer credit at institutions that accept ACE recommendations,” as we wrote at the time. Going forward, Coursera will be working with ACE to add credit equivalency for more of its courses.
With the addition of more universities, languages and courses, combined with certificates and transfer credit, Coursera is beginning to look and feel like a real, global online university. The only question will be whether or not this expansion dilutes the overall experience and whether or not it can maintain quality as its roster grows.
From the beginning, Coursera has vowed to work only with the most renowned and well-respected universities. That’s kind of a fuzzy standard to set and there are many ways to qualify an “elite” institution. On the one hand, the more content and the more options it can provide, the better the experience for students — or so the thinking goes.
But it will be interesting to see where Coursera eventually decides to draw the line — if and when it decides to do so. Offering the same Economics course from five different universities doesn’t necessarily improve the experience for students, but picking the best and most popular Economics courses from universities that specialize in different areas within a particular subject certainly does. But that’s a hard balance to maintain.
Below is the list of the 29 new institutions joining Coursera today.
California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
Case Western Reserve University
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Curtis Institute of Music
École Polytechnique, France
IE Business School
Leiden University, Netherlands
National Taiwan University
National University of Singapore
Penn State University
Sapienza Università di Roma
Technische Universität München (TUM)
Technical University of Denmark
Tecnológico de Monterrey
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The University of Tokyo
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Universidad TecVirtual del Sistema Tecnológico de Monterrey
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
University of California, San Diego
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
University of Geneva, Switzerland
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of Rochester
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Correction: The headline originally read that Coursera had added four new languages. In fact, it has previously offered one course in French. With its new partners, it plans to add significantly to that number.