Speaking at the main stage at the 2014 GMIC Beijing, Andrew Ng, founder of massive open online course platform Coursera, told the audience that the ideal of universal access to education is not far off.
“I think of having an education as having superpowers.” Ng said. “What we have at Coursera is the technology to give people super powers at scale. The idea of universal access to great education is no longer a utopian idea, it is something we can obtain.”
Currently, U.S.-based Coursera offers 622 courses to a total of 7.5 million students. In Mainland China, Coursera has established relations with a handful of universities offering original course material in Mandarin. China is Coursera’s fastest-growing market and the second-largest, behind only the U.S.
What separates Coursera from other MOOC platforms, Ng said, is the depth of the courses and the option to pay extra for a verified certification. He pointed to a cutting-edge bioinformatics system that ensures students do their own work, peer-grading, and game integration as unique strengths.
As Coursera’s popularity grows worldwide, it has revamped its mobile application efforts. Today, China is number one source of downloads for android and number two for iOS. Ng said that having a strong app presence is crucial because poorer members have intermittent access to the internet, but if they can download all course content onto a mobile device, they can then take it back with them to rural or net inaccessible areas.
Ng argued that Coursera is disrupting the long-seated notion of education. He added that Coursera has emerged as a key platform for continuing adult learners, who need new skills or need to update skills they already have.
This is especially useful to society, Ng said, because it helps fill skill gaps that emerge. Mobile developers, for instance, are urgently needed, but the supply is insufficient. Coursera offers a certification program that allows programmers to get the skills they need along with a resume-fortifying certification.
Author: Nick Compton