Online education has made astonishing strides in recent months. In the past year alone, projects like EdX, Udacity and Coursera have gone from hypotheticals to live programs. But the latter appears to be pulling ahead of its competitors:
How is [Coursera] growing so fast? By leaving all the labor-intensive parts of online education—the teaching, the curriculum selection, the quality control—to its partners, the universities themselves. Whereas Udacity offers its own curriculum and EdX is run by three universities that offer only their own courses on the site, Coursera focuses on providing a platform that, in theory, just about any university can use.
At a time when schools are tripping over themselves to join what might or might not turn out to be a revolution in higher education, Coursera has positioned itself perfectly to capitalize on their eagerness. Universities can join on a trial basis with only a couple of classes, and Coursera requires no exclusive commitment, so they’re not closing off any other options. What board of regents could resist?
There is a lot to be said for Coursera’s approach: that is, leaving the teaching to the universities while focusing on the platform and the means of delivering those educational resources. This model looks like it has given Coursera a head start over its competitors, but we’re sure to see more experimentation, successes, and failures in this field in the years to come.