EE204: Business Management for
Electrical Engineers and Computer Scientists

Final Paper: Coursera


  1. Coursera  (HBS course materials)
  2. Supplementary readings:
    1. Faculty, students offer mixed opinions on Coursera
    2. MOOCs in Transition: Not so massive, open or even online
    3. Still Questioning The Model: Elite Universities' concerns over MOOCs
    4. Baidu Hires Coursera Founder Andrew Ng to Start Massive Research Lab

Case Summary

By providing free and open-access online courses at a large scale, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms seek to innovate the business models of the traditional higher education industry. In a little over a year, Coursera had grown at a rapid rate to emerge as a leader of the MOOCs in terms of the number of student enrollments, courses, and partners. The case examines two aspects of these developments in the industry : (1) What choices did Coursera make that enabled it to grow so quickly? (2) In what ways did Coursera's success impact the success of is competitors, Udacity and edX? Would one player naturally come to dominate the industry, and if so, what choices should Coursera make to retain its market positioning?

Written Assignment

You have been hired as a consultant by Coursera's Board of Directors to prepare a detailed report analyzing the company’s current position and recommending a plan to push the business forward and strengthen its leadership position in the On Line Education market.

As part of your report, you should provide the Board with an assessment of the market, competition, timing, results to date, and team. They would also like your perspective on the financial impact of your recommendations in terms of profitability and timing of additional financing.

They want you to make recommendations to achieve the company goal of elevating the quality of education and being the market leading platform for delivery of instructional content to students.

The Board has also asked you to include, as one of your exhibits, a five-slide summary that can be use to present your findings at the next board meeting. Note: These slides should be as simple as possible. All exhibits in total count for 4/20 in the grading criteria.

NOTE: Only the facts presented in the case and linked to from this page should be used in your recommendation. This assures consistency of information and consistency in grading.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the customer­s for online education? What is driving them to seek this new method of delivering education?
  2. What factors contributed to Coursera's speedy growth?
  3. Compare Coursera's strategy to that of Udacity and edX. What are its competitive advantages and disadvantages?
  4. Approximate Coursera's burn rate. How long will they be able to stay in business?
  5. Refer to the supplementary material. How might Coursera increase student engagement and completion rates?
  6. How can Coursera best sustain its relationships with its university partners?
  7. What should Coursera's priorities be at this stage in its growth? How should it pursue them?
  8. Does Coursera need to find a revenue model that will lead it to profitability? If so when and which model should they chose?
  9. How should Coursera further differentiate itself from its competition and continue its success?
  10. As one of your exhibits, a five-slide summary that he can use to present your findings at the next board meeting. Note: These slides should be as simple as possible. All exhibits in total count for 4/20 in the grading criteria.

SCPD Students

Submit the written assignment as described above. There is no other writeup due for this day of class.