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25 November 2013

Coursera funding keeps on coming

Online education platform Coursera adds $20m to series B round bringing its total to $63m.

Author: Gregg Bayes-Brown, editor

Stanford startup Coursera has added a further $20m to its $43m series B, bringing the round to $63m.

Backers in the latest round include venture firms GSV Capital and Learn Capital, as well as three universities already partnered with Coursera to offer courses, which are as yet unnamed. According to news provider Venture Beat, the round extension wasn’t announced until now as it took longer for university partners to commit to the funding. Coursera has now raised $85m in total venture backing.

Coursera, which was founded in 2012, builds on experiments conducted by Stanford into online learning in 2011. The platform offers massive open online courses, often dubbed as MOOCs, which are free-to-access higher education courses in a number of different subjects. So far, Coursera has attracted over 5.5 million students and partnered with 107 institutions around the world.

Also announced were two new hires: John Ciancutti and Tom Willerer. Both former employees of online streaming service Netflix, they will fill the roles of leading the product team, and serving as vice president of product management, respectively. They will be focused on improving student experience on the site with a view to increase student retention rates. As with other rival platforms, Coursera’s biggest flaw has been keeping students engaged long enough to finish a course. With revenues stemming from certification upon completion, the high student drop-out rates are a cause for concern with the MOOC provider’s business model.

The financing will be used to support the product’s development, as well as supporting further partnerships.

Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, said: "Over the past year, we've dedicated much of our effort to expanding Coursera's course offerings and channels of access to give our growing student population more opportunities to learn. Now, with continued funding and with John and Tom leading our product team, we're excited to see Coursera grow and provide our university partners and our students with a truly outstanding learning experience."

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