Higher education that overcomes the boundaries of geography, time, and money.

Saturday 1 June 2013

4 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Coursera is a company that provides high quality courses through partnerships with the top universities and organizations in the world. These courses are online for anyone to take, for free.

The website provides free courses including Social Sciences, Medicine, Biology, Humanities, , Mathematics, Business, Computer Science, and others. Each course includes short video lectures on different topics and assignments to be submitted, usually on a weekly basis. In most humanities and social science courses, and other assignments where an objective standard may not be possible, a peer review system is used.
Coursera started in 2012 working with Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania. 12 partners were added in July 2012 followed by 17 more in September 2012. In February 2013, the company announced another 29 partner universities. Today the total number of partners goes to 80.

The contract between Coursera and participating universities contains several ways to generate revenue, including certification fees, introducing students to potential employers and recruiters, tutoring, sponsorships and tuition fees. The company has been funded by $16 million in venture capital awarded in April 2012. John Doerr, one of the funders of the company says that people will pay for "valuable, premium services".

Moreover, it provides a service that contains proctored exams at the end of these courses through Proctor U, an online proctoring service that connects proctors and students via webcam.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

The main objective of Coursera is making available and affordable a high quality of education to anyone who is interested in.

Knowledge is a resource that, thanks to books and Internet, is practically open and available at a small cost to anyone. Information is not kept by someone, or forbidden. Information is accessible to all. So, providing such information for free is not the ethical challenge that Coursera is facing. The core of its ethical dilemma is another one. Although we might have the information, we think that to have a complete learning process we have to be able to acknowledge it. Then the contribution of Coursera is making available all the learning process.

We believe that a good learning process must go through 3 parts, and Coursera offers all of them. First, the content must be structured in order to facilitate the learning process. The more prepared the content the better. So it can have activities, cases, examples, and explanations of any kind that help to contextualize all the concepts. Secondly, we need to have available a platform that can give us answers to the problems and questions that we will have during the process. And finally, it is important to receive some feedback showing if we are learning or not.

Then, Coursera can be a revolution in the education field. Taking advantage from opportunities that internet provides, Coursera can give the possibility to receive a course with high quality content from a well known university like Stanford.

Apart from providing courses, Coursera allows an enrollment without discrimination. All kind of people can engage this initiative regardless their age, race, status, capacities, background or available time. So, Coursera allows to anyone who wants it to participate from its courses. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have previous knowledge of that topic, if you are old or young, if you are working, if you have a family to care or if you cannot go to that university for any reason; in all these cases you will be able to start the course in your computer, at home, at any country.

Solve the questioning of Welfare State in European countries. Nowadays European countries are in a constant moment of questioning. A lot of the dreams and realities that European Countries have are facing a critical moment. One of them is the wonderful idea of Welfare State. The Welfare State idea became strong in European Countries after the WWII. European population had lived one of the worst periods of their existence and governments to compensate this and to avoid in a future that the reasons that provoked the war reaper again they bet for the Welfare State. Nowadays due to bank crises, debt crises and problems of identity European Governments are questioning the Welfare State. This is not the solution the Welfare State is a wonderful idea for which a lot people has fought for we cannot give up. The solution is to readapt the Welfare State to the new era. We have to take advantage of the opportunities of this new era to make a better world. In the education field Coursera can be the solution, we can earn a lot of costs by taking advantage of what internet can provide to us. By that we don’t mean eliminate the actual education system but to take advantage of Coursera as a complement. The main reason of being a complement and not a substitute is the social factor of presential education that we cannot get online.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

The fact that is increasing the number of universities that are working with the initiative, as well as the number o courses that Coursera provides and the people that trust them for their contribution.

The awards that Coursera is winning. In 2012 Coursera was picked as the “Best Overall Startup”

Most of the opinions we have found on the internet and media are good. We have found plenty of people explaining how Coursera have helped them to learn despite the fact of not having an opportunity in the conventional educational system.

Their goal is not to get profits but to provide an opportunity to get people educated.

For now the only people that are paying is the one that wants to receive a certificate to show that he or she has passed the course. We think it’s fair enough to charge and to have fees for these cases, as long as it remains only in some special services and not for the courses in general.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

Coursera has to keep in mind that conventional Universities are partners and not competitors. Coursera has to keep working the relationships with the existing partners, and keep searching for new fruitful partners.

They may have economic problems to sustain all the volume of courses and services that they will have. They can keep asking for donations as far as they have total transparency of where and why are these funds invested.

It should maintain the quality level in order to offer the best courses and learning services. Quality is its principal competitive advantage.

Taking advantage of technological changes to improve and keep innovating.


Location: West Mountain View (EEUU)

Sector: Education

Official website:

Key figures:

Founders: Andrew NG and Daphne Koller (Stanford University)
Funders: Scott Sandell and John Doerr
Company size: 1 to 10 employees
Total number of partners: 80 Universities
Users: More than 3.7 million Of users (April 2013)
Courses: 377 available courses
Awards: Coursera Wins “Best New Startup of 2012”

Nbr. visits: 532

Nbr. inspires: 4