Coursera recently had their first ever bloggers meet in New Delhi, India which was focused on taking the audience through the new tech features and innovations made to the Coursera product & platform via presentations and demos.
Sunny Kumar Aditya wanted to gain a higher degree in Android Development but due to limited finances and time, he couldn’t. When he found out about Coursera, he enrolled himself in the Android App Development Specialization, which helped him hone his skills by learning from top academic experts in the field. While taking the Specialization, he left his job and became the first employee of a startup.
Many people like Sunny face challenge of access to opportunities to learn new skills throughout their careers. At Coursera, we want to enable anyone at any point in their life to learn a new skill or advance their knowledge with courses from the world’s best universities. Indians have been quick to pick up on the advantages of online education. India recently jumped China as Coursera’s second largest market (only after the US) with 1.8 million registered learners. 60,000 new people join Coursera every month from India alone.
Coursera has built a world-class team, attracting engineers from top Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Netflix, Facebook, LinkedIn and many others. Our team is brought together by a joint vision to build a technology platform that enables truly life-transforming learning experiences for anyone, anywhere in the world.
Here are some of the technology innovations Coursera has developed to address the most important problems we face in delivering impactful online learning.
“I want to become a software engineer. How do I find and complete the right courses for me?”
Recommendations engine – Tell us what your career goals are and what topics you’re interested in – starting last month, Coursera will now recommend courses and Specializations that teach the skills you need; kind of like a career counselor. Learners no longer need to find their way through thousands of Coursera courses. With just a few clicks, they can define a goal for themselves and be presented with the most efficient path to reaching that goal.
Progress tracking tools – Coursera recently launched new progress tracking and planning features. Our early data suggests that learners who have access to these features are over 10% more likely to complete a course successfully overall. In developing these features, we drew inspiration from pedagogical best practices as well as fitness trackers and financial planning apps. We also recently introduced a subscription model that encourages learners to complete courses more often and more quickly.
Flexible sessions – Coursera is the only online education platform to offer university courses through “flexible sessions” that provide learners with the flexibility to complete on their own schedule while also providing enough motivation to stick to deadlines. Courses have start dates every few weeks and weekly deadlines. But if life gets in the way, they can switch to a different session with just a click.
“I need to master this new skill in order to apply it in my job. Are online courses rigorous enough?”
Peer grading – How do you provide personalized feedback and deliver assignments to 100,000 students at a time? Peer grading is one of our earliest solutions for providing quality assessments at scale. The grade learners receive for written assignments on Coursera are based on an average of the grades given by their peers – research shows that this is a surprisingly effective, accurate method of grading. In just the last year, over 1 million assignments have been peer graded on Coursera.
Mentors – People love learning on Coursera so much that they often want to give back. Coursera has official volunteer mentors in over 300 courses and will have them in most courses by next year. Mentors are typically “super-learners” who have completed a course and have a clear mastery of the material. They can create forum topics to help spur discussion and also respond to questions from learners who might be stuck.
In-browser coding – So we are able to do written and verbal assignments with peer-grading – what about coding assignments? Coursera has over 200 courses in computer science alone from world-leading experts at top universities. For these courses, we recently launched a feature that allows instructors to seamlessly integrate coding assignments in the Coursera browser in any language enabling learners to practice coding without the hassle of downloading IDEs, data sets, starter code, runtimes, etc.
“I spend hours commuting to my job – How am I possibly going to get through a course in my limited free time after work?”
Mobile is key – For Coursera to live up to its philosophy of making education accessible to everyone, we need to ensure people are able to learn not just on laptops but on mobile phones. Mobile enables urbanites to study on their long commutes as well as rural dwellers who may not have access to laptops. So we have invested heavily in mobile – 96% of all our courses can be completed entirely on a phone.
Offline access – Our systems deliver petabytes of data every month to users. So for developing countries like India where network speeds are often slow and data is expensive, our team has worked hard to build a heterogeneous data-fetching framework to support a seamless online/offline experience. Learners can click on the cloud symbol next to the video to download the video and watch at any time without an internet connection.
Audio mode – Along with the offline access feature, we also offer audio mode wherein instead of watching videos, learners can listen to the content in audio mode, without draining their phone’s battery. This is a popular mode for commuters!
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