A growing backlash and simmering resentment among some faculty toward massive open online courses (MOOCs), coupled with low retention rates, means the technology’s future, and its ability to change higher education, is not yet certain.
But a handful of investors have enough faith in the much-hyped movement that they have just given more than $40 million to MOOC platform Coursera.
The funds come from GSV Capital, International Finance Corporation, Laureate Education, Inc., Learn Capital and venture capitalist Yuri Milner. Altogether, $43 million was raised during Coursera’s Series B funding.
The company, which is less than two years old, had previously collected $22-million in funding.
“We have selected our investors carefully to make sure their goals align closely with our own,” said Daphne Koller, who co-founded Coursera with Andrew Ng. “This new round of funding will only serve to help us move more quickly in our efforts to provide learning without limits to people around the world.”
The sizable investment comes on the heels of Coursera expanding its university partnerships to 10 state and public flagship institutions. The company currently works with 83 institutions and offers 400 free courses to more than 4 million students around the world.
With the additional funding, Coursera hopes to bring its number of employees to 100 — doubling its size — and make serious strives toward mobile and more collaborative learning environments, which remains one of the larger hurdles facing MOOC adoption.
See Page 2 for what else Coursera may use the money for.
In an announcement Wednesday, Coursera said it plans on creating a suite of mobile apps, opening the platform up to third party applications, expanding its university partnerships and growing its Signature Track offerings.
Signature Track is the batch of Coursera courses that offer a certificate upon completion. These certificates require students to pay a fee, and that could prove to be the elusive key to profitability for the company and its investors.
Coursera also plans on expanding its international reach, “through localization, translation, and distribution partnerships,” according to the announcement.
“We created Coursera in response to real and pressing demands for quality, accessible education around the world,” Coursera co-founder Andrew Ng said. “And today we are proud to be part of a growing movement that is making a tangible impact on this global challenge.”
We feel we are still in the very early experimental stages of exploring what online learning technologies can do to improve education.
As for those who criticize the movement, Koller said she feels online learning technology is still in its early, experimental stages.
“At Coursera we can already see how educational institutions around the world are beginning to open their arms to new ways of doing things,” she said. “Whether we call it ‘MOOCs’ or something else, there is no denying that technology is transforming the education space.”