Coursera closed its first day of trading at the NYSE on March 31 with a market cap of $5.9B. It is now the tenth largest listed education company globally. As Coursera becomes one of the largest ed-tech companies to be ever listed, newer entrants globally are drawing inspiration from this listing.
Founded by two Stanford professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, Coursera has continuously strived to ensure quality learning and skills for jobs of the future.
When the company was founded in 2012, it had a little over a million users. Today, it has 77M registered users across 190 countries. What had started as a US-based learning platform is today a global ed-tech powerhouse.
Coursera pursued a MOOC model in its early years when it offered the same courses for everyone. Today, it offers five main types of services catered towards different user groups - Coursera for Individuals, Coursera Plus, Coursera Enterprise, Coursera for Campus and Coursera for Government.
On the surface, this change in the business model appears to be merely a shift away from MOOC model to a monetised ed-tech model. In reality, it was instead a departure from the one-size-fits-all model.
Coursera currently offers more than 1,000 guided projects, 4,600 courses, 500 Specialisations, 40 Professional Certifications, and 25 Masters and Bachelor's Degree Programs. For every different learner on the platform, there is a catered solution.
Furthermore, Coursera's Career Path feature allows users to specify a preferred job. Based on preference, a bundle of courses, projects and professional certifications are suggested by Coursera that would allow the learner to master skills relevant to his preferred job.
However, increasing the number of courses available via personalisation cannot yield success alone. Quality must also be ensured.
To achieve so, Coursera has created partnerships with 200 leading universities and 60 industry partners so far. These partnerships include educational institutes, like the University of London, organisations, like UNDP, and enterprise clients, like Novartis, Facebook, Google, etc.
Many of these organisations either use Coursera for their students, staff and employees, or partner with Coursera to create and launch courses on the platform. Content created by such brands greatly increases the credibility of the content and the platform.
Currently, Coursera has 76.6M regular users, 37-thousand-degree students, and 387 enterprise clients. While average revenue per user (ARPU) for regular users is only $2.52, ARPU for degree students and enterprise clients is $771 and $183K respectively.
Customisation and quality assurance has led to such high growth rates and per-user revenue for Coursera. The impact of this model is beyond financial metrics. Such a business model has allowed learners to face tomorrow's challenges.
Meanwhile, according to HolonIQ India & South Asia EdTech 100, Upskill, 10 Minute School, Bohubrihi, Thrive, Durbin Academy and Shikho are the six Bangladeshi ed-tech companies that have secured a place in the top 100 list.
Currently, we can already see, both, recreation and localised adaptation of Coursera's model in the Bangladesh ed-tech ecosystem.
Shikho, Durbin Academy and 10 Minute School have been primarily focusing on academic courses catered for school and high school students. (A model that worked remarkably well for BYJU's - an Indian ed-tech unicorn.)
On the other hand, Upskill is now partnering with industry leaders and leading enterprises to create courses. Their recent collaboration with Intelligent Machines to run a course on ML & AI almost mirrors Coursera's collaboration with companies like Google/Amazon to create courses on Cloud Computing.
Furthermore, we are seeing improved personalisation in local ed-tech offerings. Bohubrihi now has a career track feature similar to Coursera's Career Path feature and 10MS has launched its new skill development section, where courses are taught by industry experts.
An estimate from the World Bank indicates more than 200 million college students around the world lack necessary job-relevant skills (October 2017).
The situation is similar in Bangladesh. Calling for a higher degree of collaboration between the corporate world and academia, the corporate leaders in Bangladesh have warned many times that fresh graduates in Bangladesh lack job-relevant skills.
The situation is even more complicated now, as the prolonged disruption of Covid-19 has impacted both accessibility and the quality of academic education adversely.
According to the United Nations, 94% of all students across the world faced (at least) a temporary shutdown of academic activities due to the Covid-19. This means academic activities of 1.6 billion students across 190 countries were halted - suddenly and indefinitely.
The story is no different in Bangladesh. Now, more than ever, more students are turning to local ed-tech for skill development. Whether Bangladeshi ed-techs will be able to recreate Coursera's growth and impact truly depends on ensuring both personalisation and quality.
Therefore, we must refrain from creating nominal courses that add no value. Instead, we must aim for a higher degree of collaboration with corporate leaders so that we can upskill the youth for a smoother transition into the future workplace.