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Coursera logo.PNG
Coursera's homepage in August 2014
Type Online education
Headquarters Mountain View, California
Founder(s) Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller
Key people Rick Levin (CEO)
Employees 120+ (August 2014)
Alexa rank Increase 803 (March 2015)[1]
Registration Required
Users 11.8 million (March 2015)[2]
Available in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Ukrainian, Hebrew, German, Italian
Launched April 2012; 2 years ago (2012-04)
Current status Active

Coursera /kɔərsˈɛrə/ is a for-profit educational technology company founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs). Coursera works with universities to make some of their courses available online, and offers courses in physics, engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science, and other subjects. Coursera has an official mobile app for iOS and Android.[3][4] As of March 26, 2015, Coursera has 12,088,380 users from 190 countries enrolled. As of March 2015, it offered 992 courses from 117 institutions.

Business model[edit]

The contract between Coursera and participating universities contains a "brainstorming" list of ways to generate revenue, including verified certification fees (started in 2012 as Signature Track),[5] introducing students to potential employers and recruiters (with student consent), tutoring, sponsorships and tuition fees.[6][7] In September 2013 it announced it had earned $1 million in revenue through verified certificates that authenticate successful course completion.[8] As of December 2013 the company had raised $85 million in venture capital.[9][10] John Doerr suggested that people will pay for "valuable, premium services."[11] Any revenue stream will be divided, with schools receiving a small percentage of revenue and 20% of gross profits.[7][12]

In January 2013, Coursera announced that the American Council on Education had approved five courses for college credit.[13] As the journalist Steve Kolowich noted[13] "whether colleges take the council's advice, however, is an open question." The courses that were recommended to degree-granting institutions for college credit are:[13]

Coursera will offer proctored exams at the end of these courses through ProctorU, an online proctoring service that connects proctors and students via webcam. The service will cost $60–$90.[14]

Coursera reduces the cost of courses it offers by using instant computer-based marking where appropriate, making students grade their peers' homework in some cases where computer-based marking cannot be used, such as for poetry composition exercises[15] and employing statistical methods to validate the assessment.[citation needed]


All courses offered by Coursera are "accessible for free"[5] and some give the option to pay a fee to join the "Signature Track." Students on the Signature Track receive verified certificates, appropriate for employment purposes. These students authenticate their course submissions by sending webcam photos and having their typing pattern analyzed.[16]

The website provides courses in a variety of areas, including Humanities, Medicine, Biology, Social Sciences, Mathematics, Business, and Computer Science.[17] Each course includes short video lectures on different topics and assignments to be submitted, usually on a weekly basis.[15]

Coursera courses approximate from four to ten weeks long, with one to two hours of video lectures a week. These courses provide quizzes, weekly exercises, and sometimes a final project or exam.[18] Courses are also provided on-demand in which the user can take his/her time in completing the course with all of the material available at once, as of March 2015 64 courses are on-demand.

Coursera also offers specializations which is a set courses in help increase understanding of a certain topic.[19] As of March 2015 there are 29 specializations available.[20]

Web forums are provided for courses, and some students also arrange face to face study meet-ups using, or online meetups. However, the Coursera Honor Code prohibits copying answers, therefore the discussion should not exchange answers but should practice a healthy debate.[21]


  • Founded in 2012 by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.[22]
  • Penn hosts the Inaugural Coursera Partners' Conference on April 5 and 6, 2013.[23]
  • October 2014, Coursera reaches 839 courses in October 2014 and 10 million users in October 2014.[24]


Coursera started in 2012 working with Stanford University, Princeton, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania.[25] 12 partners were added in July 2012[12] followed by 17 more in September 2012.[26] In February 2013, the company announced another 29 partner universities.[27] The current total number of partners is 108.[28]

In late October 2013, Coursera teamed up with the US State Department to create learning hubs all over the world.[29] In January 2014, the State Department told Coursera to block access to its courses from Iran, Sudan and Cuba.[30]

On June 3, 2014 Coursera says it has been "working closely with governing authorities to navigate licences and permissions" and, as a result, "Iranian learners will now regain access to the majority of Coursera's courses".[31]

In May 2014, Antioch University announced that it was the first US institution to offer college credit for Coursera courses. Antioch said it hoped the partnership would allow them to reduce student costs to complete a degree.[32]

On September 17, 2014, Coursera was launched in Brazil introducing Portuguese course. It has tie-ups with big universities like University of Sao Paulo (USP) and State University of Campinas (UNICAMP).[33][34]

Keystroke biometrics[edit]

Analysis of keystroke dynamics during typing is used in combination with webcam images to confirm the identity of fee-paying "signature track" students during tests and quizzes.[35]

IT infrastructure[edit]

Coursera runs the nginx web server on the Linux operating system on the Amazon Web Services platform with the primary stack in Scala on the Play framework. Data is stored in Amazon S3, and site search is handled by CloudSearch that indexes over 4.3 million documents on the site. Each month Coursera's database servers (running on RDS) answer 10 billion SQL queries, and Coursera serves around 500 TB of traffic per month.[36] Coursera uses OAuth2 protocol for user authentication and LTI 1.1 protocol for interaction with courses.[37]

Country restrictions[edit]

In January 2014, Coursera blocked their courses for users in Cuba, Iran and Sudan as a result of US sanctions to those countries.[38] The company has made progress in restoring access to non-STEM courses in these countries.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-09-10. 
  2. ^ "Community:Coursera". Coursera. 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  3. ^ "Coursera on the App Store on iTunes". 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  4. ^ "Coursera - Android-apps op Google Play". 2014-04-09. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  5. ^ a b Carson, Erin (2014-06-20). "How MOOCs are flattening corporate training and education". TechRepublic (United States). 
  6. ^ "Possible Company Monitization Strategies". Schedule 1 of the contract between Coursera and the University of Michigan. The Chronicle of Higher Education. p. 40. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Jeffrey R. Young (19 July 2012). "Inside the Coursera Contract: How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Heussner, Ki Mae. "Coursera hits $1M in revenue through verified certificates". Gigaom. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  9. ^ Kolowich, Steve. "Coursera Snags [Additional] $43-Million in Venture Capital". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Coursera Receives $20 Million in Funding to Create and Deliver Better Learning Experiences". 
  11. ^ Markoff, John (18 April 2012). "Coursera Plans to Announce University Partners for Online Classes". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Tamar Lewin (17 July 2012). "Universities Reshaping Education on the Web". The New York Times. Retrieved July 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c "American Council on Education Recommends 5 MOOCs for Credit". Retrieved 7 Feb 2013. 
  14. ^ a b "Online learning goes official as five Coursera courses get approved by the American Council on Education". Retrieved 7 Feb 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Coursera: Pedagogy". Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Anders, George (2014-01-21). "Coursera Flirts With Diplomas: Online 'Specialization' is $250". Forbes. 
  17. ^ "Coursera: About us". 
  18. ^ Kamenetz, Anya (2012-08-08). "How Coursera, A Free Online Education Service, Will School Us All | Fast Company | Business + Innovation". Fast Company. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  19. ^ "Coursera". 
  20. ^ "Coursera". 
  21. ^ Terms of Use, 2014-01-02 
  22. ^ Lewin, Tamar (2012-07-17). "Consortium of Colleges Takes Online Education to New Level". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Coursera Partners' Contest". Retrieved 2014-12-09. 
  24. ^ Larson, Christina (2014-10-27). "Coursera CEO Richard Levin Plans to Expand the Company in China". Bloomberg Businessweek. 
  25. ^ "UK university joins US online partnership". BBC News. July 17, 2012. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  26. ^ Lewin, Tamar (2012-09-19). "coursera adds more ivy league partner universities l". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  27. ^ "Coursera adds 29 new universities to bring total to 62, offers first courses in Chinese, Italian, and Spanish". The Next Web. 21 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Partner universities". Coursera. Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  29. ^ Lewin, Tamar, "U.S. Teams Up With Operator of Online Courses to Plan a Global Network", The New York Times, October 31, 2013
  30. ^ Collins, Katie (2014-01-29). "US government forces Coursera to block course access in Iran, Cuba, Sudan (Wired UK)". Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  31. ^ Coughlan, Sean (2014-06-04). "Iran's students to have US online courses (BBC UK)". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  32. ^ "Antioch University Becomes First US Institution to Offer Credit for MOOC Learning Through Coursera - News - Antioch University". Retrieved September 8, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Coursera launches in Brazil, becomes first online education provider to partner with its public universities". 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  34. ^ "Coursera Now Launched in Brazil with USP & UNICAMP". 2014-09-18. Retrieved 2014-09-18. 
  35. ^ "Coursera announces details for selling certificates and verifying identities". 
  36. ^ "Coursera on AWS - Customer Success Story". Coursera. Retrieved Aug 10, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Coursera App Platform". Coursera. Retrieved Nov 16, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Update on Course Accessibility for Students in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria". Archived from the original on 2014-07-27. 
  39. ^ "Coursera Now Accessible in Sudan and Cuba". 

External links[edit]