“Coursera’s Business Challenge Is Getting Predictably High Revenue Growth,” Says Its CEO

John G. Paul | IBL News, New York

Coursera has $180 million in the bank after the last round of funding of $103 million in April, company’s CEO Jeff Maggioncalda revealed during a candid interview with a manager from the European start-up accelerator The Family in Paris.

However, this pile of cash is not giving Jeff Maggioncalda much tranquility, given his admitted challenge based on making sure that Coursera’s existing profitable business and financial model works by generating increasingly high margins. “I’m perpetually thinking about how do we get predictably high revenue growth for the next three or five years,” disclosed Coursera’s CEO, who has been in this position for the past year.

“You want to demonstrate that, as you become bigger, you will become more profitable. If you don’t generate predictably high revenue growth, it is going to be difficult to attract a lot of investment,” he said. (Coursera’s IPO is currently one of the most expected operations in the edtech industry).

Another interesting revelation from that interview (watch it below) is that designing educational programs for governments is providing “one of the biggest growth rates of Coursera for Business”. “We work with Singapore, Egypt, India, Abu Dhabi. Our biggest deal is with Abu Dhabi; they hired us to train and skill up 60,000 government officials,” Jeff Maggioncalda explained. “Country after country, governments realize that education is the only hope.”

Regarding the controversial issue of completion rates, Jeff Maggioncalda provided interesting data. Completion is 10% for people who don’t pay for courses, and 40% or 50% for learners who pay. For online degrees it’s 90%. “The completion rates are much higher depending on the value of the credential you get when you finish your learning”. 


View: A MOOC Platform Catalog is No-Marketing. Leveraging Institutional Networks Is Key

Mikel Amigot | IBL News

An effective marketing plan will drive enrollment, engage with learners and increase word of mouth awareness.

We start defining our target audience: who are the type of students who would be interested, what is the course about, and why should learners enroll in the course –what new skills and knowledge will they gain, and how will they benefit and help advance their career. In addition, we need to determine what is the key differentiator of the course: is it the institution, the instructor, the topic.

We all agree on this approach. We also agree that promoting the course description page (or About page) will require an SEO, Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn social campaign and maybe some paid Adwords.

But this isn’t enough. A well-crafted plan needs to activate the college’s existing institutional web properties, faculty networks, PR department media capabilities, blog spaces, newsletters, and landing pages. The outreach of the organization, either is a university or a large company, is simply impressive.

A client of ours forgot or was unable to activate, this little detail, and the enrollment fell short. This department thought that the failure was due to the lack of presence on a catalog of a big MOOC platform like Coursera o edX.

Institutions tend to believe before joining a consortium that a MOOC platform is a magic bullet for marketing. When they launch their first course or program, they discover that enrollments are surprisingly low. What happens? Well, first, they put too much faith on those platform advertising pitches, and, second, they don’t activate their institutional networks.

Truth be told, Coursera and edX do advise about the importance of undertaking an integrated marketing approach between the institution and MOOC platform, with the university’s web assets as the most important. In the end, Google is always your best ally. A centralized catalog has a limited impact.

JetBlue Eases the Financial Burden of Their Crew Members Earning a Master’s Degree

IBL News | New York

JetBlue is expanding its JetBlue Scholars program to provide crew members a way to earn online master’s degrees at discounted rates of $13,000 to $30,000.

Participants will be able to seek degrees in leadership, business, information technology, aviation management and liberal arts from City University of New York School of Professional Studies, Louisiana State University Shreveport, Thomas Edison State University, University of Maryland University College and Western Governors University.

Since launching the program in 2016, more than 185 employees have earned a degree and over 700 crew members are currently enrolled. The completion rate is 93 percent, and the average time to complete a bachelor’s degree is 16 months.

“Our partner institutions share similar values with JetBlue and together we’re removing some of the complexity from the process. The online format allows flexibility, and low costs combined with specialized support is a great combination for our Scholars to earn advanced degrees at their own pace. These new Master’s Pathways will open up even more opportunities for crewmembers,” said Rachel McCarthy, head of talent and learning at JetBlue.

The JetBlue Scholars program also utilizes alternative college credit options, including new technology-based learning platforms like Study.comSophia.org, and StraighterLine.com.

JetBlue has joined a growing number of companies to offer employees access to certificates and online degrees as a corporate benefit.

An Innovative, Stackable Online Master’s in Supply Chain Management from ASU On edX

IBL News | New York

edX, Arizona State University (ASU), and MIT announced today the launch of an innovative, stackable online Master’s of Science in Supply Chain Management, starting in January 2020.

Learners who pass the MIT MicroMasters Supply Chain Management on edX.org will have the opportunity to transition to a full master’s degree from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business and ASU Online (also hosted on edX).

“This new offering truly transforms traditional graduate education by bringing together two top-ranked schools in supply chain management to create the world’s first stackable, hybrid graduate degree program. This approach to a stackable, flexible, top-quality online master’s degree is the latest milestone in addressing today’s global skills gap,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT professor.

“We believe there will be many students who are eager to dive deeper after their MicroMasters program to earn a master’s degree from ASU, and that more learners will be drawn to the MIT Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program as this new pathway to a graduate degree within the edX platform becomes available,” added Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU.

Students currently enrolled in, or who have already completed, the MITx Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program can apply now for the online Master of Science in Supply Chain Management from ASU, with an application deadline of Dec. 16.

With this new offering, the MIT Supply Chain Management MicroMasters program now offers learners pathways to completing a master’s degree at 21 institutions.

Master’s degrees on edX are stacked, degree programs with a MicroMasters program component.






Capella Online University Opens a Brick-and-Mortar Center to Provide In-Person Support

IBL News | New York

The online institution Capella University will have a brick-and-mortar presence. Last week, it opened its Campus Center in Atlanta, Georgia, where it has a large population of online learners.

Classes will continue to be taken online. The new center, located at 805 Peachtree St. NE, will serve as a networking hub for current learners and alumni, as well as a space to provide access to enrollment counselors and academic advisors. In addition, local employers will be able to conduct informational sessions.

“Contemporary learners juggle multiple responsibilities while pursuing a degree, including family and work responsibilities. Capella is committed to providing a flexible education with personalized support to help them succeed,” explained Dick Senese, president of Capella University. “While our learners will continue to take classes exclusively online, our new Atlanta Campus Center will offer in-person resources unique to most online education programs.”

Capella University, founded in 1993, offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, along with certificate courses, encompassing 50 programs and 132 specializations. It offers a competency-based learning format paired with a direct assessment model, called FlexPath, as well as a GuidedPath option, a more structured learning format, which features weekly preset deadlines and group discussions.

Coursera’s Google IT Support Certificate Program Gets a Good Response

IBL News | New York

Out of 75,000 enrollees, over 8,000 students have completed the Google IT Support Professional Certificate program, hosted in Coursera.

Google created this $49 a month program in early 2018. It was designed to take beginner learners to job readiness in about eight months.

There are 215,000 unfilled IT support staff roles nationwide, Google estimates. The average annual starting salary for these entry-level IT jobs is $52,000, federal data shows.

Around 70 percent of enrollees come from underrepresented populations in tech, including women, Latinos, African-Americans, veterans and learners without a college education.

Employers that are recruiting from the Google IT Support Certificate program include Bank of America, General Electric, Walmart, Wyndham Hotels, Sprint, Home Depot, H&R Block, Infosys, Intel and Cognizant.

Community colleges with a strong track record in workforce development are also successfully offering the certificate to their students with additional support and in-person instruction. Google partnered with an initial group of 25 community colleges in 2018 but intends to grow that number to 100.

The Internet giant provided a grant that allows community colleges to offer the program for free.

Some colleges are offering the course for credit as part of a degree program. Others are including it as part of their continuing-education programs.

“The IT support role, which involves troubleshooting and solving technical issues, typically doesn’t require a four-year college degree, so it should be a strong entry point for nontraditional talent,” Natalie Van Kleef Conley, Product Manager for Grow with Google, said in Inside of Higher Education.

Moving forward, Google wants to expand partnerships and move into new areas of tech training.

Artificial Intelligence is Here to Stay: Will it Augment or Replace?

Zoe Mackay | IBL News

Are significant advancements in AI (Artificial Intelligence) going to eventually lead to the replacement of traditional teaching roles?

Attendees at an IMS Global Learning Consortium panel were asked to contemplate this question. The panel, entitled “Is Artificial Intelligence the Future of Education?” featured the outstanding speakers Tom Gierke, Ari Chanen, Eric Cosyn, Yakut Gazi, and Alex Kaplan with Ray Schroeder moderating.

It’s no secret that AI is nested within the wave of innovation in online learning. As Kaplan mentioned, “AI is already playing a really active role in education today, and that this is really more about maturing of the offerings as opposed to is it happening or not?”

Along with the other panelists, Kaplan agreed: “AI is about augmenting and enhancing human capability, and not replacing human capability.”

As AI gets integrated in education, the impact it is going to have is to expand the range of teaching modalities available to instructors and institutions,” said Cosyn. “The classic model, where the instructor addresses the whole class, that’s not going to go away, but the AI will function as a side teaching assistant.”

AI will allow information to surface regarding what material students need help with, Cosyn poses, and will play an important role within traditional models and new models of online teaching.

Gazi’s team has experience working with AI in online courses, first introduced three years prior as an AI teaching assistant which “farmed the previous discussion boards and used that as resources to answer student questions.”

While AI is instrumental in moving forward with online education, Gierke questioned the validity of commentators who think AI will replace traditional teaching techniques. “As much as AI is advancing, is it going to replace a teacher? I think we have to remember that the research shows that teachers are one of the most important factors in student outcomes… Advances in AI, can help [teachers] save time.”

To watch the full panel discussion, please see the video below.



MITx Prepares 30 New MOOCs and Builds with Other Universities a Blockchain System for Credentials

MITx has become, along with Harvard University and Microsoft, the most prolific course creator on edX.org, with 111 MOOCs shared in the past year, and 26 of them being run for the first time.

“We have about 30 more in the pipeline. At this point we have worked with faculty from 29 of MIT’s departments across all of its 5 schools, as we strive to share the best of MIT’s teaching, and learning, with the world,” said Krishna Rajagopal, Dean for Digital Learning, Open Learning, and Professor of Physics at MIT.

Two of the newest MOOCs from the past Spring have been:

  • Healthcare Finance. Professor Andrew Lo, from MIT Sloan School of Management, teaches how to apply financial techniques to biomedical contexts, following its personal mission of bringing more life-saving therapies to patients faster.



  • Qualitative Research Methods: Conversational Interviewing. Professor Susan Silbey, a winner of MIT’s Killian Award, teaches learners how to prepare for and conduct a conversational interview for the purpose of gathering data.


Another remarkable initiative where MIT collaborates with eight other top research universities is related to the design of a digital, distributed infrastructure for issuing, storing and displaying verifiable credentials and certificates of academic achievement.

“We aim to utilize strong cryptography to prevent tampering and fraud, and shared ledgers to create a global infrastructure for anchoring academic achievements that build upon earlier research and pioneering efforts  — including MIT’s pilot program via which it issued all of its 2018 graduates a digital version of their diplomas that are verified against a blockchain,” explained Professor Krishna Rajagopal.

MIT: Digital Credentials

Half of Employees That Need to Re-Skill Don’t Ask for Help, an edX Survey Finds

IBL News | New York

More than one-third of employees have experienced a lack of proficiency in at least one new skill or subject area of a current or past job – usually related to data science (39%) or business and soft skills (37%). However, nearly half of these employees don’t feel comfortable asking their employer to help pay for learning costs, and one in four people have asked an outside resource for help.

These are the main conclusions of a survey conducted by edX on 1,000 consumers aged 18+ on reskilling trends.

“The fourth industrial revolution is here, and as technology continues to evolve rapidly, employees must continue to reskill to keep up with the shifting demands of their job,” explained Adam Medros, President & COO at edX.

According to the World Economic Forum, 1.4 million U.S. jobs alone are expected to be disrupted by technology and other factors between now and 2026.

Survey’s respondents are split between who should be responsible for making sure that they are prepared for the jobs of the future with the right skills – 41% feel it is an individual’s responsibility; 33% feel its an employer’s responsibility; 16% believe it’s higher education’s responsibility; and 9% believe it’s up to the government.

A Billionaire Will Cover the Cost of Coursera’s Illinois Data Science Master’s Degree for His Employees

Marie I. Rose | IBL News

AI-software provider C3.ai, a company owned by billionaire Tom Siebel, has started to offer employees a fully paid tuition for the Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, available on Coursera for $21,000.  

Those who complete the degree will get three more career incentives: a $25,000 cash bonus, a 15% salary increase, and a stock option equity award.

“In this new economy where people are talking about digital transformation; for companies to stay at the top of their game they need to have state-of-the-art continuing education programs,” said Siebel, who got a degree in Computer Science –although residentially – at the same university.

In 2007, Thomas Siebel, 66, pledged $1000 million to support science and engineering at this institution. Currently, CEO at C3.ai, Siebel, with a fortune of $2.9 billion, is a former salesman who became a billionaire after creating and selling Siebel Systems to rival Oracle in 2006 for $5.8 billion. C3.ai is valued at $2.1 billion.

In addition to this degree, C3.ai employees, 330 in total today, already have free access to other Coursera courses and Specializations in AI, IoT, clouding computing, and advanced computing.

“This model of stackable learning will become standard as more companies realize the value of providing a variety of flexible learning pathways for employees to acquire critical skills,” stated Leah Belsky, VP of Enterprise at Coursera.

“We believe that more and more companies will move in this direction in the future. C3.ai is showing real foresight, and they are putting an incredible amount of employee support behind that foresight,” said Rashid Bashir, Dean of The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. “New modes of delivering professional education are crucial to both companies like C3.ai and to universities like Illinois.”

The Coursera-based MCS degree was launched in 2016. Nearly 700 hundred students are enrolled in the program. The acceptance rate is 30%.

Illinois’ Department of Computer Science is consistently ranked as one of the top computer science programs in the world. In 2018, it was ranked #5 on the U.S. News and World Report list of Best Computer Science Schools.

Thomas Siebel, in the picture, shows a clear vision: “At C3.ai, we are assembling a team of inquisitive self-learners, motivated and properly trained to solve some of the world’s most challenging technology problems. This program further enables our employees’ success by encouraging them to further develop their computer science and AI expertise at one of the world’s leading universities.”

Siebel’s educational offering to employees is probably the most generous one within corporate America, beyond  Starbucks‘, which covers a portion of the tuition for those who earn online B.A.’s from Arizona State University, and Walmart‘s incentive of $1,500 cash bonuses to some workers who finish degrees at three subsidized schools.

He claimed in Forbes that “the money his company will spend on employee degrees and cash bonuses are a drop in the bucket when you consider how much we spend on human capital.” When you add in other benefits and travel, he says each employee already costs the company more than $350,000 a year. “If someone is increasing their skills, advancing their career, setting themselves up for multiple promotions, providing better service for their customers, in that context the amount we’re spending on this benefit is nothing.”