Coursera, which is a fledgling, one year old online line company that offers free education classes, just raised $43 million more in venture capital from investors who are interested in domestic and international educational endeavors.
Some of the new investors are International Finance Corp., which is the investment branch of the World Bank, and Laureate Education, which is a higher education firm with many universities around the world that turn a profit. Other investing firms includ GSV Capital, Learn Capital and the entrepreneur Yuri Milner.
The co-founder of Coursera noted that she hopes the new cash is enough to make the company profitable, but they have not yet focused on when exactly that will happen.
Coursera is based in Mountain View CA, and raised $22 million last year from New Enterprise Associates, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
Over the next year, Coursera intends to double its staff to 100 or so, and will expand in a number of areas, including in mobile apps and in its Signature Track courses. Those classes charge fees to students who want a certificate when they complete a free class. The Signature Track courses actively verify the person’s identity. Since early this year, when these fee-based classes were first offered, the revenues have been more than $800,000. In the long run, the founders of the online education company think this will be enough to put the company in the black permanently.
Coursera also is planning to put money into international expansions, and will invest in opportunities for blended learning. This is where the Coursera materials online are used along with live classroom sessions with a professor.
Laureate has stated that it sees a good deal of potential for using some of the Coursera materials in its colleges, so it sees this as a wise strategic investment. Coursera is allowing Laureate to invest in a rising technology that will have a strong impact on higher education. The investment will give the firm access to the curriculum and content that Coursera uses.
Coursera has grown with much speed since its launch in April 2012, when it started with four college partners. Now the company is working with more than 80 educational partners around the globe. It offers 400 free classes at the college level, and it now has more than four million students.
After all of the enthusiasm for massive open online classes (MOOCs) last year, there has been some pushback in 2013. Some faculty members at some schools worry that the free classes could have a negative effect on college education. They also wonder if the aim of colleges is more to save money and cut costs than it is to boost education quality.
Most of the students who have finished Coursera MOOCs have been students already graduated from college. It is not clear yet how well this new format is going to help students who do not have degrees. The school just started to market its curriculum to be used by public universities in hybrid online classes. Universities that use such materials will need to pay a license fee, and Coursera will share that with the colleges that make the classes.