Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have undeniable appeal: they can support hundreds of thousands of students, are accessible to all, are taught by top faculty at prestigious universities, and, of course, are free…at least for now.
Coursera founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng don’t think small. Their Palo Alto, Calif., online-education company is less than two years old, yet it already has attracted more than 4 million student signups. Now Coursera has raised $43 million in fresh venture capital, tripling its cash available for growth.
It’s hard to follow higher education news these days without seeing a reference to MOOCs. The online learning platforms from edX, Coursera, Udacity, and others were launched to great fanfare over the last two years. Proponents praise them for their potential to change education, while critics chalk them up as more hype than hope.
The announcement last month that Coursera, which offers free college classes online, had signed agreements with state universities enrolling more than a million students made it plain that such courses, virtually unheard-of two years ago, are now part of the higher education mainstream.
Although the in-house work in preparing traditional classes to be taught online can be overwhelming, the vast majority of colleges and universities do not to use third-party vendors for online course development. Ottawa University, based in Kansas but with locations across the country, has its own curriculum design studio, says Brian Messer, vice president of online.
Investors are already familiar with the course syllabus: Just like in the music, financial services and corporate IT sectors, it's absolutely, positively possible to get high-quality, first-rate content (in this case, a job-fetching college education) for nothing.