Coursera’s pandemic response and strong course catalog boosted its total number of learners from 45 million last year to 76 million this year.
The pandemic response also helped them make inroads into two business lines: Coursera for Campus and Coursera for Government.
Coursera attracted as many learners in 2020 alone as its closest competitor did in its entire existence. Among others, the company doubled its valuation, opened its platform to hundreds of professional creators, and launched a new catalog subscription and experimented with another one.
All this has set up Coursera for a potential 2021 IPO.
For Class Central‘s complete analysis of Coursera’s 2020, keep reading. For our previous years’ analyses, follow the links:
*4600 courses with 940 Guided Projects from Coursera Project Network
** Count includes Specializations that have been translated. Unique Specializations are around 500.
Coursera’s total number of active courses has jumped from 3,800 to 5,540. But 940 of these are “Guided Projects” launched by Coursera Project Network. More about these project-based courses further below.
Here are the ten most popular courses launched by Coursera in 2020.
Specializations, MasterTracks, and Professional Certificates
In 2020, Coursera announced nine master’s degrees from six universities. Four are offered by Russia’s Higher School of Economics (HSE). These were just announced last week and should receive their first cohort in September 2021.
On March 12th, Coursera announced they’d give free catalog access to all higher-ed institutions impacted by the pandemic via Coursera for Campus. Universities can sign up to give 5000 of their students access to Coursera’s catalog of 3800 courses and 400 specializations.
According to Coursera, this offer was taken up by over 10K departments, schools, and universities, benefitting 1.7M learners.
According to Coursera’s 2020 Impact Report, Coursera for Campus is used in 3700 campuses and has 2.4M learners in total.
On June 1st, Coursera announced free catalog access for all university students. Simply put, it’s Coursera for Campus, except universities don’t need to apply to join the program. The caveat is that you need an email address provided by your university, and your university’s domain should be part of Coursera’s database.
This led to 1.2M enrollments.
Free Coursera for Government
On April 24th, Coursera extended a similar offer to governments, this time via its Coursera Workforce Government Recovery initiative. It would allow governments to give unemployed workers access to Coursera’s catalog. Each government would receive up to 50,000 licenses.
This effort attracted 1.1 million learners across 70 countries, resulting in 6.6 million course enrollments.
According to the 2020 Impact Report, Coursera for Government is used by 325 government agencies and 725K learners.
This helped Coursera raise $130 million in a Series F funding round at a $2.5 billion valuation. Last year, the company raised $103 million, reaching a $1 billion valuation and achieving so-called “unicorn” status.
In total, the company has raised $464 million. According to Coursera, the last funding round brings the company’s cash balance — that is, the amount of money the company has on hand — to $300 million.
The company’s software allows learners to use their browser to access virtual environments. These environments can be preconfigured to include all the software and tools needed for a project. In addition, they can include embedded video instructions for students to follow along.
In 2020, Coursera started calling Rhyme courses “Guided Projects” and launching them under the Coursera Project Network.
These project-based courses cost $9.99 and generally take under two hours to complete. In theory, this could be really useful for students, but Coursera’s execution leaves a lot to be desired.
At Class Central, we even stopped listing these courses in our catalog.
To scale the creation of these courses, they started accepting applications from “subject matter experts” around the world at teach.coursera.org.
The topics (and potentially quality) seem all over the place. Some feel too small — like they should be part of a broader course. And some feel like they shouldn’t be courses at all…
Another drawback is that you can only launch the virtual cloud desktop six times. Also, the interface, with its side-by-side virtual desktop and video instructions, is a bit clunky. And these courses can’t be accessed on mobile.
Dhawal is the CEO of Class Central, the most popular search engine and review site for online courses and MOOCs. He has completed over a dozen MOOCs and has written over 200 articles about the MOOC space, including contributions to TechCrunch, EdSurge, Quartz, and VentureBeat.