Monday, May 06,
2019 / 11:05AM / By Angel List /
Header Image Credit:UCT English Language Centre
“The fourth industrial revolution” is underway, says Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, whose company recently announced a $103 million Series E with a valuation of over $1 billion.
This “fourth industrial revolution, marked by advancements in automation and artificial intelligence,” Maggioncalda says, is going to cause a global workforce challenge. “The future of work and learning are converging, and companies are realizing that there are a lot of jobs that are getting automated,” he said, “so finding an inexpensive but high-quality way to retrain is turning out to be a historic challenge.”
Retraining employees at scale is a global challenge, in Maggioncalda's view, and investors don't disagree. The global market for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is projected to grow from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $20.8 billion in 2023. The unique value MOOCs provide over something like a bootcamp is their scale. In theory, a MOOC could reach anyone with an internet connection and retrain those individuals at a fraction of the cost of traditional degrees or bootcamps. The problem MOOCs have to solve first, though, is credentialing.
In a bootcamp, with an instructor evaluating your work every step of the way, there is a level of confidence in the credential a student earns. In a MOOC setting, it's a little trickier. How do you verify how well a student has learned the material? Testing is the obvious answer, but ensuring the integrity of digital exams at the volume MOOCs handle is tricky as well.
There are a number of companies working on this problem now. Examity, which offers proctoring software for online courses, announced a $90 million round in April. It already has partnerships with online education players Coursera and Duolingo.
At the same time, other models of continuing education—like bootcamps and digital degrees from traditional universities—are continuing to pick up steam. Lambda School, the popular coding bootcamp, recently raised a $30 million Series B, while Trilogy Education—another bootcamp provider—was acquired by 2U, a company that builds online degree programs for universities, for $750 million.
The pressure is on, but if MOOCs can solve this fundamental problem, they will be positioned to take advantage of, what some investors believe will be, a historic disruption of the global workforce.
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