The private company, which is backed by venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and New Enterprise Associates, is launching a payments model similar to the offerings from movie and music streaming groups Netflix and Spotify, rather than charging by course as rivals do.
Tom Willerer, Coursera’s chief product officer, joined the company from Netflix. He said that when Coursera experimented with subscriptions for a small section of its 22m user base earlier this year, it found two and a half times more learners completed courses.
“I think because when you’re watching Netflix, you start watching a show and love it and watch the whole thing right away. We’re not introducing a new payment model so much as a new psychological model. The power is in their hands and they see the benefit of moving fast because it saves them money,” he said.
Coursera is one of a generation of so-called Moocs — massive, open, online courses — that were started to link potential students, from ambitious young people in emerging markets to busy professionals in the west, to courses at top universities.
It will launch subscriptions for consumers taking any specialisation, a string of six to eight courses on one subject. The charge will be between $39 and $89 a month depending on the topic area, from personal development to data science. The cost previously was between $19 and $99 a course for each unit of the specialisation.
Mr Willerer said the price remained a bargain: “For what we’re providing, on a campus you’d add zeros to that: it would be $2,500, not $250.”
Students can access course material for free, but must pay for feedback, assessments and accreditation, which comes jointly from Coursera and the relevant university.
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