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Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later

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University of Pennsylvania Professor Edward Rock

"It makes more sense to build your user base first and then figure out later how to monetize it," says University of Pennsylvania law professor Edward Rock.

Credit: Yale Law School

In less than a year since Stanford University professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng launched Coursera, the online education company has attracted a million users and $22 million in venture capital. Other approaches to online education are emerging, as universities across the U.S. are increasing their online offerings, hoping to attract students from around the world. However, none of these programs have developed a method for turning their growing popularity into profit.

Coursera has created revenue streams through licensing, certification fees, and recruitment data provided to employers. However, New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann says "no one's got the model that’s going to work yet," and it may be "a decade later that somebody figures out how to do it and make money." Koller and Ng hope to keep courses freely available to poor students worldwide. Education should be a right, not a privilege, the professors say.

Antioch University's Los Angeles campus recently agreed to offer its students credit for successfully completing two Coursera courses. Antioch would be the first college to pay a licensing fee to offer the courses to its students at a tuition lower than any four-year public campus in the state.

From The New York Times
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