New Coursera chief pledges better communication with partners

The incoming head of the largest massive open online course provider has pledged to improve the way it communicates with its university partners.

March 31, 2014

Richard Levin, who was president of Yale University between 1993 and 2013, will become chief executive of Coursera in the middle of next month.

Although he said he was excited to be joining a company that hired the “brightest and best” in Silicon Valley, he added he had heard that some universities were disgruntled about their relationship with the US Mooc platform.

“I will say a word about a concern that I’ve heard from a number of partners already…that we could do a better job of communicating with you and listening to you,” Professor Levin told the 2014 Coursera partner conference, attended by delegates from institutions that offer courses on the platform and taking place in London this week.

It was possible, he said, that with “so many projects going on” at the company, communication could “at times appear one-way…[like] we’re telling you what we want you to do”.

He pledged that steps would be taken to improve the situation. “We want to hear your ideas,” he said, adding that the first priority was to increase the scale of Coursera’s operation, and “attract the revenues to support the mission”.

By the end of last year Coursera was thought to have raised around $85 million (£50 million) in venture capital funding, but how the organisation intends to turn a profit in the long term remains unclear.

Speaking at the event, co-founder of Coursera Andrew Ng offered an update on the amount of money coming in from the platform’s “signature track”, which allows students to pay around $40 to receive an official certificate of achievement.

He said that in the first nine months after the option to pay was introduced in January 2013, the signature track brought in revenues of $1 million. In the following three months, total revenue had doubled to $2 million, and in the three months after that they had doubled again, he said, with total revenues of $4 million.

He said the reason for the increasing popularity of such certificates was that they were becoming increasingly recognised by employers.

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