The high cost of education is a big problem in this country, with student loan debt ballooning at an alarming rate. For that reason, it is understandable that a lot of people have been turning to online education, where they can earn a degree for a lot less than they would pay to actually go to a university.
Frankly, I always saw this as a problem that mostly affected the United States, but perhaps I was wrong about that. Ed-tech startup Coursera, which partners with universities to provide courses online for free, is launching in 29 new universities from 13 different countries from around the world, including China, the Netherlands and France, it was announced Thursday.
Of the 29 new universities, 16 of them are outside of the United States and Coursera will be offering courses in Chinese, Spanish, French, and Italian for the first time. The company will also be hosting more courses from universities at the top of their respective fields, including leading schools of Business, Medicine, Engineering, and the Arts.
Some of the new schools that have signed up to offer Coursera's services include: National Taiwan University, National University of Singapore, Penn State University, Sapienza Università di Roma, Technical University of Denmark, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The University of Tokyo, University of Copenhagen, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
With the previous number of universities offering Coursera's free online courses standing at 33, these new partnerships bring the company's total number of schools to 62.
"We have been humbled by how quickly Coursera has grown in less than a year, and we're working hard to continue to build our network of university partners to offer a high quality learning experience to anyone who wants it," Coursera Co-Founder Daphne Koller said in a statement. "One of our top priorities is to reach the people who need education the most, including those who would not otherwise have access to the type of courses offered by the institutions that we have the honor of working with."
Mountain View, Calif-based Coursera was founded by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Koller in the fall of 2011. It is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with universities in order to offer courses online for anyone to take for free.
Since launching in April 2012, the company has registered more than 2.7 million students, and is seeing approximately 1.45 million course enrollments per month. Coursera has students from at least 196 countries around the world registered for its courses.
The company says that it is exploring a few monetization strategies, including Signature Track, which offers students the option to pay a small fee to receive verified certificates and official shareable course records; this service is purely on an opt-in basis, and access to the course remains free. Another is Career Services, which offers successful students opportunities to connect withprospective employers seeking to fill positions that match their skills and interests,at the expense of the employer. In all cases, any profits generated are shared withour university partners.
Additionally, Coursera has recently begun offering students opportunities to receive credit and recognition for their work, through Signature Track, which offers verified certificates and shareable course records. Coursera also offers Credit Recommendations from the American Council of Education (ACE), which offer the potential for students to receive transfer credit to college degree programs for select courses. Both of these services will be available to students for a small fee.
Coursera has raised over $22 million in funding, including $16 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) in April 2012.
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