Coursera Raises $16M and Plans Wide Range of Courses
Written by Sue Gee
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
After months of maintaining a low profile, Coursera, the online course site, has been awarded $16M in funding and has revamped its website to reveal the extent of its ambitious plans.
The Coursera brand originally appeared unheralded and in such a low-key way that it led some would-be students to doubt that the planned classes would ever materialize.
Piecing together what little information was available it transpired that the Coursera initiative was being led by Stanford Professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller but it was far from clear what the relationship between Coursera and Stanford University was and how it would develop in the future.
Finally, together with the news that it has raised $16 million in venture capital funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and New Enterprise Associates (NEA), we have information about its past, present and future.
According to its press release:
Coursera was founded in the fall of 2011 by Stanford Computer Science Professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng. It builds on the groundbreaking technology they helped develop that was used to host Stanford's free online classes. These classes were an instant success, receiving more than 350,000 enrollments across 172 different countries.
Koller and Ng are currently on leave from Stanford to establish Coursera, which suggests that they will resume teaching there in due course. This has to be contrasted with the actions of Sebastian Thrun who after the same experience declared that never again would he be content to teach students in a conventional classroom setting.
Whereas Thrun's new venture, Udacity, is "standalone", developing new course materials that don't have a campus pedigree, Coursera is relying on established course content from world-class universities, repackaged for online presentation and delivered free of charge.
It's revamped website prominently displays the logos of Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and University of Pennsylvania, the small print adds University of California, Berkeley to the mix and the plan is to add other "top-tier educational institutions".
The classes on offer from Coursera.org have also expanded - not just in number but also in scope. They are now arranged into six categories
Mathematics and Statistics
Society Networks and Information
Healthcare, Medicine and Biology
Humanities and Social Sciences
Economics, Finance, and Business
Some classes are offered in more than one category, and some are planned for twelve months in the future with few details yet available. But however you count it the number of courses and the credentials of the tutors it is impressive.
Given that it now has secure funding, Coursera is on course to make good on Andrew Ng's vision:
"Our mission is to teach the world and make higher education available for everyone"
One of the foundations of AJAX, it is what made it possible, is the XMLHttpRequest method, which allows you to programatically download new data and resources. It isn't perfect but it seems to work. M [ ... ]