Coursera expands into corporate learning and development

Coursera, the education tech platform that offers online courses from prestigious colleges and universities, is branching into corporate learning and development  and has officially launched Coursera for Business today.

Coursera CEO Rick Levin, formerly the president of Yale University, told TechCrunch that the move was a natural one for the startup.

“We have 21 million registered users and are adding about half-a-million registered users per month. When we looked at the email addresses of our learners… we would see thousands signing up from one corporate email domain, ten thousand in one case,” he said.

That was an indication large employers already were, or would be interested in using Coursera to help employees with professional development.

Coursera for Business will be tapping into a broad trend in corporate training, learning and development.

According to the 2015 Annual Training report, total U.S. corporate training expenditures hit $70.6 billion last year, with less money going to payroll, or full-time training staff, and more money going to outside products and services, and technology use on the rise.

More than 70% of companies use learning management systems and virtual classroom, webcasting and other e-learning platforms, the report said, and at least 40% use application simulation tools.

Coursera’s catalog spans from the more technical to softer subjects, including management, psychology and the humanities. The selection, and the company’s relationships with higher ed institutions, with whom it shares revenue, make it distinct from Pluralsight, Treehouse and myriad others that focus on tech skills for employees or others.

And Coursera’s classes are longer format videos and assessments, rather than videos and interactive quizzes broken into bite-sized chunks like those developed by Grovo and others catering to a short attention span demographic.

The new Coursera for Business allows companies to track the progress of employees who are working on new skills, or brushing up old ones via the platform. And it offers learners certifications that they can display on profiles internally or LinkedIn and elsewhere to advertise their successful completion of a course.

Companies that have already been piloting Coursera for Business include: BNY Mellon, BCG, L’Oréal and Axis Bank, the company said.

Coursera Executive Vice President Julia Stiglitz added that professional development has become a “perk,” of sorts. Referencing a PriceWaterhouseCooper survey of their preferences, she said millennial workers consider learning and development in a job as important as (if not more important than) how much they are paid.

Co-founded by Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, Coursera has raised $146.1 million in venture funding. New Enterprise Associates led a $50 million Series C round in the company last year.