Over the last two months, Coursera, the world’s leading MOOC platform — with its over 44 million users, 3,700 online courses, and 16 online degrees — made five important announcements:
- First Acquisition: Coursera acquired Rhyme, a startup dedicated to creating authoring tools for hands-on, online projects.
- New Online Degrees: Coursera announced two MOOC-based degrees: Uniandes master’s degree in software engineering and HSE Moscow master’s degree in data science.
- Professional Certificates: Coursera reintroduced Professional Certificates, signaling a renewed focus on career-oriented learners.
- Coursera for Campus: Coursera announced a new program allowing universities to integrate online courses into their on-campus offering.
- New MasterTrack Certificates: Coursera announced two new MasterTrack Certificates in partnership with IIM Calcutta.
Coursera acquired Rhyme, an edtech startup based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The startup is dedicated to creating software to support cloud-based, interactive projects.
More specifically, 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 that students can follow along.
The acquisition aims to augment the capabilities of Coursera Labs, the platform’s broader initiative to put hands-on projects at the heart of the learning experience. Coursera Labs allows course creators to seamlessly integrate programming assignments into their courses.
For instance, the University of London leverages Coursera Labs in their Introduction to Computer Programming course. The course includes a game called Sleuth that invites learners to complete coding challenges in the context of a film noir, mystery game.
A couple of years ago, Udacity made a similar first acquisition when it bought CloudLabs, a startup dedicated to building self-contained programing environments.
New Online Degrees
Coursera announced a couple of MOOC-based degrees.
The first is an online master’s degree in software engineering, developed in partnership with the University of Los Andes, Colombia. The degree has the particularity of being the first MOOC-based degree offered by a Latin American institution and to be taught entirely in Spanish. The degree will launch in 2021 and its cost has still to be announced.
The second is an online master’s degree in data science, developed in partnership with the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. The degree is structured around different study paths, including machine learning and data science research. The degree will launch in Spring 2020 and cost between $8,000 and $17,000 depending on grant eligibility.
Reintroducing Professional Certificates
Coursera renewed its emphasis on Professional Certificates. This type of microcredential promises to help learners gain in-demand skills and prepare them for specific industry roles.
Professional Certificates comprise a series of related courses on a particular subject. Once a student completes all the courses in the series, he unlocks a certificate of completion. All certificate options can be found of the platform’s new dedicated page. These include:
- IBM’s Data Science Professional Certificate
- Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate
- UCI’s Project Management Professional Certificate
Professional Certificates come in all shapes and sizes. They range in duration from 1 to 10 months and require between 5 and 18 hours of study per week. Some have prerequisites while others don’t. And some involve a monthly subscription (between $39 and $79) while others require a one-time payment (between $99 and $2,980).
In total, Coursera currently offers 13 Professional Certificates — a far cry from its closest competitor, edX, who currently offers 115 Professional Certificates. Coursera re-emphasis of Professional Certificates may denote the company’s desire to close the gap with its competitor in the race to attract career-oriented learners.
Focusing on Campus
Coursera announced Coursera for Campus, a paid program that gives universities access to a large subset of Coursera’s catalog.
The program, akin to Coursera for Business, comprises 3,600 courses, roughly 94% of Coursera’s catalog. Universities may pick and choose from this pool of courses and integrate them into their on-campus offering in different ways — for instance:
- Universities may create blended learning experiences by interleaving online and on-campus courses.
- Universities may use online courses as supplemental material that students may use to fulfill prerequisites or go beyond the course requirements.
- Universities may grant credit for completing specific online courses, effectively displacing part of their student body online, thereby freeing up space on campus.
- Universities may offer online courses not only to students, but also to faculty, staff, and alumni wanting to get up to speed on certain subjects.
- Universities may leverage Coursera’s analytics tools to identify learning trends and align their offering in consequence.
The program promises to be highly modular, allowing instructors to mix and match learning resources to reach specific learning outcomes. Furthermore, the program allows instructors to create their own learning material and make it available online to their students. In this sense, the program aim isn’t just to bring online courses to campus, but also to enrich the online experience by making authoring tools readily available to on-campus instructors.
MasterTrack Certificates with IIM Calcutta
Coursera has partnered with the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, to create two new MasterTrack Certificates:
- Management Science MasterTrack
- Supply Chain Analytics MasterTrack
MasterTracks correspond to a fraction of specific on-campus degree programs. If after completing a MasterTrack, a student applies and is accepted into the corresponding on-campus program, the Certificate will count toward his graduation requirements.
The new qualifications will explore specialized topics such as product manufacturing and distribution, but also broader topics such as agriculture, finance, and health.
Coursera’s catalog currently lists six MasterTracks, all offered by US institutions. So the announcement marks the first expansion of MasterTracks beyond the US border, but also, the first partnership between Coursera and an Indian Institute of National Importance.
The new qualifications are expected to launch in 2020.