How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses

Coursera has been operating for only a few months, but the company has already persuaded some of the world’s best-known universities to offer free courses through its online platform. Colleges that usually move at a glacial pace are rushing into deals with the upstart company. But what exactly have they signed up for? And if the courses are free, how will the company—and the universities involved—make money to sustain them? I obtained the agreement between Coursera and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the first public university to make such a deal, under a Freedom of Information Act request, and wrote this news analysis of what it reveals about the company’s plans to make revenue.

I talked MOOCs with WHYY’s Radio Times, along with Coursera founder Andrew Ng and UVA professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, in an hour-long call-in segment. And I talked with Oregon Public Radio’s Think Out Loud for their segment, “New Approach to Online Learning.”