Today Coursera announced their new round of fund raising, as reported at GigaOm:
Just last year, online education startup Coursera raised $22 million in venture funding, but the Mountain View-based company is topping up its coffers once again.
On Wednesday, the startup said it had raised $43 million in a Series B round of financing from an impressive and interesting group of investors, including education-centric investors GSV Capital and Learn Capital, well-known Russian investor Yuri Milner, the International Finance Corporation (which is the investment arm of the World Bank) and Laureate Education, a for-profit higher education provider formerly known as Sylvan Learning.
Besides the size of the funding, what strikes me is that one of the emerging trends is that MOOCs are becoming more and more of a learning platform, adding many of the basic features of an LMS.
With the new funding, he [Andrew Ng, Coursera co-founder] said, the company plans to focus on several key areas, including:
- New mobile apps (coming in the next few months)
- Deeper international expansion through translation and distribution partnerships
- Opening up Coursera to enable third-party apps and integrations (long term, the plan is to open up APIs, but in the short term they’ll enable university partners to integrate other apps with Coursera)
- New features to encourage more collaboration between students
When I pointed this out on Twitter, Burck Smith of StraighterLine got it right when he said "Sounds like an LMS".
Last year I took a little bit of heat when I added MOOC platforms onto the graphic of the LMS market.
There is a new band / category for “homegrown systems” to account for a relatively new trend where organizations, primarily MOOCs for now, are opting to develop their own learning platform rather than adopt a pre-existing LMS.
If you look at this is an LMS market where vendors compete through campus RFPs requiring a boatload of features, then these are separate markets. If you look at this as a learning platform market where different vendors and approaches are vying to be the underlying Internet delivery for online and hybrid courses, with different approaches to revenue models, then the markets are becoming one.
Coursera, Udacity and edX provide minimalist learning platforms bundled with content and marketing for students outside the college walled garden - providing what they perceive as just the necessary features to enable the online courses in question. Clearly there is pressure from colleges and universities for the MOOC providers to add mobile, open integrations, and collaboration features, as indicated by today's announcement. I have also heard that there is pressure on them to provide grade books, but I do not know if the MOOC providers will go this route.
As I described to Inside Higher Ed based on a previous Coursera announcement:
Phil Hill, an education technology consultant, said Coursera's announcement represented not just an expansion of colleges that partner with Coursera but an expansion of and change to the company's business model.
"This could be an indication of the MOOC providers getting much more pressure from their venture capital investors and themselves that they need to find revenue models -- and LMS is a revenue model," Hill said, referring to the learning management systems market.
I'm sure there will be more to come.