Stanford University computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng believe that the future of education is in free, online classes--and at least 16 universities seem to agree.
Koller and Ng's online education platform, Coursera--founded in fall 2011--has signed on a dozen new university partners in its goal to democratize education. The list of universities that have pledged to offer free courses on Coursera now includes educational powerhouses California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, UC San Francisco, University of Edinburgh (in Scotland), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, and University of Washington. The 12 new schools join existing members Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, and University of Pennsylvania.
In addition, CalTech and Penn invested $3.7 million in the company, bringing the company's round A financing to $22 million. Other investors are venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In less than a year, Coursera says, more than 680,000 students from 190 countries have enrolled in 1.55 million courses. To date, Coursera has offered 43 courses--although the number of course offerings will likely increase significantly with the new schools now active on the platform.
The company does not yet have any revenue, Ng says. He says Coursera is exploring job placement partnerships with firms that are hiring as a potential way to monetize the company.
Another potential revenue opportunity, says Ng, will open up if universities that offer classes on Coursera start charging students for certificates of completion. Currently, Coursera classes are taught by university professors and cover the same course material as their classroom versions, but don't offer any accreditation or certification.
JOHN MCDERMOTT is a business and culture reporter whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune and Playboy and on AOL.com. He recently moved from Chicago to Brooklyn, New York, to work for Inc.com. @J_M_McDermott