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Analysis

Coursera’s 2021: Year in Review

In 2021, Coursera went public and is on track to end the year with 21M new learners and 400M in revenue.

Coursera – A Year In Review

In 2021, Coursera went public on the NYSE, raising $519 million. Since then, its stock price has been steadily falling even though revenue has been increasing.

Compared to 2020, revenue has jumped 43% and losses 143%.

In terms of new learners, Coursera is on track to gain 21 million new learners in 2021. Though lower than the 31 million of last year, it’s still a lot more than the 8 million from 2019. The company has done much better than its nearest MOOC competitors in maintaining the pandemic boost.

In 2021, it launched and shutdown community guided projects, dabbled in cohort-based learning with a new credential, announced 10 new degrees, and more.

For Class Central‘s complete analysis of Coursera’s 2021, keep reading. For our previous years’ analyses, follow the links:

Early this year, I read through Coursera’s 240-pages IPO prospectus and discovered interesting details like Rhyme’s acquisition cost, Andrew Ng’s DeepLearning.AI revenue, and how much Coursera paid its university partners. You can find the in-depth analysis here.

Coursera’s Impact Report also provides some details about its demographics and different segments like Coursera for Campus and Coursera for Governments.

By The Numbers

Coursera over the years
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Employees NA NA 330+ 450+ 600+ NA
Revenue $60m $95.6m $141.8m $184.4m $293.5m $400m+
Courses 1,700 2,700 3,100 3,800 5,5401 8,2502
Specializations 160 240 310 400 570 820
Degrees 2 4 12 16 25 34
Learners 23m 30m 37m 45m 76m 97m3
Coursera for Business customers 30 500 1,500 2,000 2,300+ 2,900
  • [1] 4600 courses with 940 Guided Projects from Coursera Project Network
  • [2] 6000 courses with 2250 Guided Projects from Coursera Project Network
  • [3] Estimated based on adding 5 million learners per quarter

Revenues

Coursera revenue over the years
Revenue 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 (till Q3)
Total  $95.6m   $141.8m $184.4m $293.5m $300.4m
Consumer $85.7m $107.5m $121m $193m $180.4m
Enterprise $7.4m $26.0m $48.2m $70.8m $84.5m
Degrees $2.5m $7.4m $15.1m $29.9m $35.6m
Net Loss  ($53.3m) ($43.6m) ($46.8m) ($66.8m) ($97.6m)

Now that Coursera is a public company, we get a clear picture of their revenue. Till 2021 Q3, Coursera had made $300m and lost almost $100m. It’s on track to make over $400m this year.

Coursera Revenue Growth 2021 Q3
Coursera revenue growth

It’s seen revenue growth across its three different revenue streams: Consumer, Enterprise, and Degrees. In the first three quarters of 2021, revenue grew by 43% while losses more than doubled.

Coursera revenue: 2020 vs 2021
Revenue 2020 (till Q3) 2021 (till Q3) Year over Year
Total  $210.2m $300.4m 43%
Consumer $139.9m $180.4m 29%
Enterprise $49.8m $84.5m 70%
Degrees $20.6m $35.6m 73%
Net Loss  ($40.1m) ($97.6m) 143%

Enterprise seems to be Coursera’s most promising segment with revenue growth at 70%, and with the segment more than doubling the revenue of their Degree segment.

Courses

In terms of numbers of courses, 2021 saw the biggest increase, with 2700+ new courses added to the platform. But almost half of these courses didn’t come from Coursera’s university partners, but from the Coursera Project Network.

In 2021, Coursera tried to further boost its course count by letting learners create courses, but this was recently shut down as reported exclusively by Class Central.

Here are the ten most popular new courses launched by Coursera in 2021, and all of them are from Google:

One fifth of Class Central’s 100 most popular courses launched in 2021 were launched by Google on Coursera.

Specializations, MasterTracks, Professional Certificates, and University Certificates.

Coursera microcredentials over the years
Type 2018 2019 2020 2021
Specializations 310 400 570 820
Professional Certificates 0 13 26 55
University Certificates 0 0 0 16
MasterTrack 3 6 18 22

In 2021, Coursera added a new category of certificates called University Certificates (more about them below). This was perhaps done to separate it from Professional Certificates which are created by companies like Google, Facebook, IBM, Intuit, and Salesforce.

In particular, the certificates from Google have been extremely popular. They’ve been made available to US community colleges and Career and Technical Education (CTE) high schools for free. Some of these certificates are also eligible for college credit.

Online Degrees

Degree Students 2021 Q3
Coursera degree students growth

In 2021, Coursera added 10 new degrees, including 2 bachelors, 2 postgraduate degrees, and 6 masters, taking the total number of degrees to 34. None of the new degrees came from its US university partners.

In the third quarter of 2021, Coursera added 1400+ new degree students, taking the total to 16k+ students. But we also noticed that, even though the number of students is increasing, Coursera’s degree revenue is dropping.

In Q3 2021, Coursera’s Degrees segment made $11.6M compared to $11.9M in Q2.

Coursera degrees
Degree Name University Cost
[+] Bachelor of Science in Marketing University of London £12,000 – £16,000
[+] BSc Business Administration University of London £12,000 – £16,000*
[+] Maestría en Dirección de Empresas (MBA) Universidad de Palermo USD 11.640 | ARS 1.164.000
[+] Master of Business Administration Fundação Instituto de Administração $10,000 USD
[+] MBA in Business Analytics O.P. Jindal Global University Rs. 550,000 / $7,500 USD
[+] M.A. in International Relations, Security, and Strategy O.P. Jindal Global University Rs. 450,000 / $6,000 USD
[+] M.A. in Public Policy O.P. Jindal Global University Rs. 450,000 / $6,000 USD
[+] Global Master’s in English Language Teaching Leadership Tomsk State University 1,050,000 RUB
[+] Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Statistics Indian Statistical Institute $6,000
[+] Postgraduate Certificate of Public Health Imperial College London £6,500 or £10,725
Master of Science in Management University of Illinois  $11,052
Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences University of North Texas ~$40k
Maestría en Inteligencia Analítica de Datos Universidad de los Andes $35.280.000 COP
Master of Science in Data Science University of Colorado Boulder $20,010
Master of Science in Population and Health Sciences University of Michigan $43,500 – 47,500
Master of Business Analytics HSE University 832,000 – 1,280,000 RUB
Master of Computer Vision HSE University 660,000 – 1,320,000 RUB
Master of Data and Network Analytics HSE University 600,000 – 1,200,000 RUB
Master of Finance HSE University 720,000 – 1,280,000 RUB
Master of Machine Learning and Data Science Imperial College London £28,000
Maestría en Ingeniería de Software Universidad de los Andes $9,800
Master of Data Science Natural Research University Higher School of Economics 675,000 – 1,350,000 RUB
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering University of Colorado Boulder $20,010
Master of Computer and Information Technology University of Pennsylvania $26,300*
Global MBA Macquarie University AUD $39,600
Bachelor of Computer Science University of London £11,229 – £16,790
Master of Computer Science Arizona University $15,000
Global Master of Public Health (GMPH) Imperial College London £6,500 or £10,725
Master of Public Health University of Michigan $43,500 – 47,500
Master of Applied Data Science University of Michigan  $31,688-$42,262
Master of Business Administration (iMBA) University of Illinois  $21,104
Master of Computer Science (Featuring Data Science Track) University of Illinois  $21,440
Master’s of Accounting (iMSA) University of Illinois  $20,564 – $27,200
MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship HEC Paris 21,950 EUR

Community Guided Projects

Some of Coursera’s first Community Guided Projects

Last year, for the very first time, Coursera allowed individuals or “subject matter experts” to create courses. Previously, only Coursera’s partner universities and institutions could do so. Coursera called these new courses Guided Projects.

Guided Projects were a product of Coursera’s $10m acquisition of the edtech startup Rhyme in 2019.

In 2021, Coursera took it a step further by letting their learners create courses that would be entirely free. But just a couple of months into the experiment, Coursera decided to shut down Community Guided Projects (as reported exclusively by Class Central).

Instructors who create high quality, popular projects were invited to upgrade their projects to Coursera’s Projects Network — thus dropping the “Community” label.

University Certificates: Cohort Based Learning

Dartmouth’s “Digital Transformation” University Certificate

In 2021, Coursera launched University Certificates, which are cohort-based and include live classes, office hours with instructors, and projects.

Note that unlike Coursera’s other microcredentials, University Certificates are issued exclusively by the university: their certificate of completion doesn’t mention Coursera, only the university. For instance, University Certificates offered by IIT Bombay look like this:

IIT Bombay “Digital Transformation” University Certificate

Currently there are 16 such certificates, of which only three come from US universities: Dartmouth, Duke, and ASU. The rest come from India: IIT Bombay, IIM Kozhikode, IIT Roorkee, and IIM Calcutta.

Peer Grading Problems

Coursera’s additional Honor Code prompt

Early this year, my colleague @pat wrote about the challenges of peer assessments at scale, which even got a response from a Coursera assessments senior product manager.

As if on cue, during the conference, Coursera announced several changes related to academic integrity. One is a new prompt shown before submitting peer assessments, reminding learners about Coursera’s Honor Code. According to Jeremy Rudy, Head of Degrees Product at Coursera, the prompt reduced plagiarism by 15%.

Coursera also introduced a Similarity Score for peer assessments, powered by Turnitin. It tells learners whether Coursera thinks their work is plagiarized before they submit it. It’s only available for Coursera for Campus — not all Coursera users.

Coursera Conference 2021

Coursera Partners Conference Highlights
Coursera conference 2021

Due to the pandemic, Coursera Conferences, previously limited to their partners, have gone online and are open to everybody. In the 2021 conference, coursera introduced five new degrees, shared growth numbers, and talked about new product updates.

You can read the Conference highlights here.

Searching within Courses

Coursera’s new functionally: search within a course
Coursera’s search-within-course function

Coursera now allows users to search within courses, with results pointing to specific points in course videos.

Coursera has had video transcripts for a while, right underneath each video. Clicking specific parts of the transcript would allow you to jump to the corresponding point in the video, or to create a note. But transcripts weren’t searchable course-wide. This has now changed.

Leadership

In 2021, Coursera’s leadership team didn’t change.

Here is how the current leadership team looks (excluding advisors):

  • Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO
  • Shravan Goli, Chief Product Officer and Head of Consumer Revenue
  • Kim Caldbeck, Chief Marketing Officer
  • Betty Vandenbosch,  Chief Content Officer
  • Rich Jacquet, Chief People Officer
  • Richard Wong, Vice President of Engineering
  • Leah Belsky, Senior Vice President of Enterprise
  • Ken Hahn, Chief Financial Officer
  • Xueyan Wang, Vice President of Services
  • Anne Tuttle Cappel, General Counsel
Dhawal Shah Profile Image

Dhawal Shah

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.

Comments 1

  1. Tina

    Always such a wealth of information in your articles. Thank you so much for all of this. It’s greatly appreciated.

    Reply

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