Education disruption: Top universities join free online platform

More universities are heading towards digital teachings methods, but is Coursera about to shake up the higher education model for good?

Online education startup Coursera has just secured new investment -- adding twelve leading universities in the U.S. and United Kingdom to its expanding portfolio.

Originally created by two Stanford University scientists, the Coursera platform provides free access to classes designed by academics at institutions around the globe. Announced on Tuesday, the signing-up of twelve reputable universities can only herald a positive beginning for the start-up.


A world away from the classic, campus-based lecture theatre model, since the release of its first courses, Coursera has acquired over a million students from 190 countries. Currently, 43 classes are on offer; 37 of which are undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Its new formal universities partners include the University of Edinburgh and University of Toronto; adding to academic partners announced in April. The universities joining the platform will contribute dozens of new courses in a variety of subjects; including computer science, health and medicine, mathematics, history, and the arts. Coursera already offers classes from academic institutions including Princeton, the University of Michigan, Stanford, and Berkeley.

Some of the new, free courses on offer include:

  • Duke: Bioelectricity, Healthcare innovation & entrepreneurship

  • Gatech: Energy 101 EFPL: Programming Principles: Functions & Objects

  • Toronto: Learn to Program: The Fundamentals

Classes hosted by the platform do not count towards degree credit, but students are able to acquire a certificate to prove they have completed a course.

Andrew Ng, one of the co-founders of Coursera, said the expansion would give students "greater access than ever before to the world's foremost subject-matter experts".

Daphne Koller, the second founder, said "we're fortunate to have the support of these highly respected academic institutions as we move toward our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world."

In addition, Coursera has announced an additional $6 million in funding; $3.7 million from the California Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as $2.3 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates. This brings the start-up's total funding to $22 million.