Coursera: Leading the Online Learning Revolution with Impressive Growth

Coursera: Leading the Online Learning Revolution with Impressive Growth

Coursera has emerged as a dominant player in the online learning space.

In February, the company reported a 21 per cent year-over-year increase in revenue, reaching $635.8m in 2023. The platform, which launched in 2012, features more than 300 leading universities and companies, including Stanford, Duke, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, Google and IBM, providing instruction.

The global platform has more than 142 million registered learners (and the number is growing by the minute) who range from students to working professionals, pursuing courses offering specialisations, certificates, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Coursera’s success reflects the growing relevance of online learning in current times. According to a Research and Markets report, the market is expected to reach a staggering $491.35bn by 2028, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.28 per cent from 2022-28.


One of the key areas that will contribute to its growth is the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. According to a Business Market Insights report, the region’s e-learning market is expected to grow from $15.43bn in 2022 to $23.18bn by 2028, developing at a CAGR of 7 per cent.

Coursera is well-positioned to leverage that growth with its strong presence in the MEA region. It has partnered with more than 170 businesses, 230 campuses and 40 governments, and by the end of Septem- ber 2023, had supported the skills development of more than 8.4 million learners in the region, with an impressive three million enrollments in 2023.

The UAE has close ties with Coursera. In August last year, the platform tied up with the COP28 Presidency to provide 5,000 free licenses for a curated programme of climate-focused online courses and certificate programmes. More recently, in February, Coursera launched the Generative (GenAI) Academy in the UAE, designed to equip executives and their employees with the skills needed to thrive in an AI-driven workplace. Artificial intelligence has been a transformative factor in the learning space, says Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, who spoke about the future of education and what those looking to upskill should consider.

Here are extracts from the discussion.

Online learning exploded in importance during the Covid-19 pandemic and with the introduction of remote working, how did that change things for Coursera?

Covid-19 compelled many people to experience online learning in some form. In 2020, the company saw its learner base nearly double, going from 47 million to 77 million. It’s interesting to note that ‘The Science of Wellbeing’ was one of the most popular courses during that period. However, people who join the platform are looking for job training, skilling and adding credentials that employers will find attractive.

What does the future of education and work look like?

The future of work and education is undergoing a radical transformation. By embracing continuous learning, data fluency and technology-driven solutions, individuals and organisations can thrive in this dynamic landscape. Coursera provides accessible and effective learning experiences to empower everyone to reach their full potential. Online learning is revolutionising education. Blended learning models combining online and in-person elements are increasingly prevalent, making education more accessible and flexible. Another key area is gamification. Gamification in education enables participants to think strategically, examine circumstances, and generate solutions by introducing these features into teaching, and we will see more of it.

Coursera has seen rapid growth in the region. Are there any challenges that could impede growth?

The Middle East presents a unique picture when it comes to online learning opportunities. On one hand, a burgeoning young population thirsts for skills to unlock their potential. On the other, traditional education systems often struggle to keep pace. This creates a compelling need, but also a remarkable opportunity for online learning to step in and bridge the gap. Vision statements in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE prioritise human capital development. This translates to productive partnerships to help make learning accessible to people and organisations.

In terms of challenges, reliable internet access and devices are still hurdles in some regions. Closing this digital divide is critical. Basic literacy and numeracy are crucial building blocks for online learning and investing in K-12 education remains vital. Inflation, economic pressures, and policies restricting education access create additional obstacles, particularly for girls.

Coursera is seeing significant growth in the UAE. Can you elaborate on it?

We have 867,000 learners in the UAE in 2023, a 27 percent increase over 2022. This growth took off post-pandemic, with registered learners quadrupling between 2019 and 2022. Both individual and institutional adoption is strong, with growth in businesses, universities, and government entities partnering with us.

You have partnerships with the Ministry of Education and the National Qualifications Committee. Tell us about them.

We’re working with the ministry to encourage universities to integrate Coursera content into degree programmes, promoting industry-relevant and digital skills. Additionally, the NQC will recommend Coursera courses with recognised credit to universities, further facilitating integration.

How are you catering to Arabic-speaking learners?

We’ve made significant progress in translation using AI, reducing costs from $10,000 to $20 per course. We now offer 4,000 courses in Arabic, with subtitles, flipped interfaces, and transcripts in both languages.

What other innovations are improving accessibility and learning experience? We have two key AI-powered features, Coursera Coach provides personalised tutoring within courses, answering questions and explaining concepts in Arabic or English, while Course Builder enables instructors to create custom courses by specifying learning objectives, audience, and desired content. It then pulls together expert lectures and materials from various sources.

How does Coursera address concerns about the perception of online degrees in the job market?

While our individual course certificates and professional certificates are valuable, we also offer fully online bachelor’s and master’s degrees from top universities. These degrees hold the same weight as traditional programmes, with identical curricula, professors, and diplomas.

How much does Coursera invest in technology?

Coursera dedicates a significant portion of its revenue – 22 per cent – to research and development (R&D) to enhance your learning experience. While some R&D goes towards content creation, a large chunk focuses on technological advancements. The focus is on seamless mobile learn- ing to enable offline learning, where you can download courses to learn without an internet connection, and compressed data courses that minimise data usage, considering some regions have expensive data plans. We also have Coursera Labs, which is specially designed to help people learn data science and artificial intelligence with very large datasets. Our R&D efforts ensure accessibility for diverse learners and optimise the learning experience through innovative teaching methods.

Finally, if you were to advise people on how to adapt to this changing world, what would it be for individuals who are 15, 25 and 50 years of age?

My advice for the 15-year-old: Focus on developing healthy learning habits, critical thinking, and agility to adapt to change. Prioritise mental health and balance social media consumption with longer-form learning. To the 25-year-old, I would say capitalise on job-specific training programmes to enhance your career prospects. Data fluency is key. Explore micro-credentials and alternative pathways to learning.

I would tell the 50-year-old to adapt their leadership style to manage younger generations effectively. You will need a different skill set to deal with millennials and Gen Zs. Embrace data and upskill yourself through online learning opportunities – that’s a great way to advance your career and stay relevant. However, data fluency is a must in all cases. You don’t have to be a math genius, but it’s imperative to have the ability to understand, analyse and interpret data effectively.

News Source: Gulf Business, Image Source:

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