By D.D. Guttenplan
LONDON — Besides his name and email address Richard C. Levin’s new black-and-white business cards contain just two short lines of type: “Coursera” and “CEO.” Mr. Levin, the former president of Yale University, was named head of the online education company late last month.
With seven million registered users and 25 million course enrollments to date Coursera is the largest provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. A for-profit company, its main rivals include Udacity, another commercial firm, and edX, a nonprofit backed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But with its sole revenue stream coming from a small minority of students who enroll in its “Signature Track” — which charges a fee of around $50 to verify a student’s identity, and issues a certificate upon successful completion of the course — questions have been raised about how long its backers will have to wait to see a return on their investment
In a recent interview, Mr. Levin predicted that the company would be “financially viable” within five years. He began by disagreeing with Andrew Ng, Coursera’s co-founder, who described Coursera as “a technology company.”
Q. Why is the former president of Yale going to a technology company?
A. We may differ in our views. The technology is obviously incredibly important, but what really makes this interesting for me is this capacity to expand the mission of our great universities, both in the United States and abroad, to reach audiences that don’t have access to higher education otherwise.
[ Full article available at The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/education/out-in-front-and-optimistic-about-online-education.html ]