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Coursera's market debut is proof that the future of education is online. The company went public Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, opening 18% above its initial target of $33 per share. It closed the day up 36% at $45, giving the online learning platform a market cap around $5.1 billion.
In 2017, Jeff Maggioncalda became Coursera's chief executive. Before then, he served as founding CEO of Financial Engines Inc., an online retirement advice platform, that he also took public. He was drawn to Coursera because of its size, and pointed to the growing need for the platform's services as the perfect catalyst for going public now.
"This is another financing event," he told Protocol. "We have to make sure that [Coursera] is resourced to provide our products and services. We don't know what the new normal is going to look like, but we believe online learning is going to stick around for individuals, governments and universities."
By working with more than 200 universities and industry partners, Coursera offers self-paced learning content and certificates at a cheaper cost than traditional four-year colleges. Prices start around $9,000 to complete a bachelor's or master's degree. It has around 77 million users, with 3.6 million paying for at least one course. Because the coursework is online, it allows flexibility for students to learn at their own pace. Around 80% of its user base is outside the U.S., in large part from India, Mexico, Brazil and China.
Coursera generated $294 million in revenue in 2020, up 59% from the year prior. Last year, about two-thirds of the company's total revenue was generated from consumers taking courses and working to obtain industry certifications.
"The courses on Coursera come from great educators with great brands," he said. Those brands include Google, IBM, Facebook and Salesforce. "They're also creating courses that are not just content-based, but [users] also gain professional certificates and specializations that can help advance their career — and that's what sets aside from other platforms that just show videos."
Post-IPO, Maggioncalda is looking to continue to grow Coursera's reach and "to provide the best service for customers and operate differently than our competitors."
"The truth is we all will not go back to offices, we all will not go back to campuses. And so, online work and online learning —among other things — are here to stay. And we believe our job to meet those individuals and institutions embracing online learning will be bigger than ever," Maggioncalda said.
Penelope Blackwell is a reporting fellow at Protocol covering edtech. She reports on the developments in tech that are shaping the future of learning. Previously, she interned at The Baltimore Sun covering emerging news and produced content for Carnegie-Knight's News21 documenting hate and bias incidents in the U.S. She is also a recent graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Morgan State University.