Coursera is growing up.
The MOOC said today that former Yale University president Richard C. (“Rick”) Levin will join as chief executive officer in mid-April. Cofounder Daphne Koller will be president; Andrew Ng will be chairman. Lila Ibrahim, who joined as Coursera’s president last year after working with investor Kleiner Perkins, will become chief business officer.
In two-years’ time, the Mountain View-based startup has become the world’s largest MOOC: Worldwide there are 7 million Coursera users. The MOOC offers more than 600 free courses, contributed by 108 educational institutions in 19 countries.
Levin, age 66, spent 20 years leading Yale and retired last June after leading a significant expansion and modernization program for the school. He is also credited with improving relations between Yale and the city of New Haven. He earned his undergrad degree in history at Stanford and went on to become an economist. He also published a collection of his speeches and essays in a volume, The Worth of the University.
In his final address to the graduating class of 2013, Levin started with a quote from the Grateful Dead: “Lately it occurs to me, what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
Coursera will make Levin’s trip even more strange: After spending decades helping strengthen the archetype Ivy League university, he will now pilot the growth of Coursera, which continues to pack on new users at a torrid pace: last year, the number of unique Coursera users grew by 73%; course enrollments grew by 134%.
In addition to offering classic university offers, Coursera is also branch into programs or concentrations. Coursera’s “specializations” are “focused programs” developed by institutions, aimed at helping people build specific skills for which they earn non-credit “certificates” from Coursera and the partner organization. Among the programs: Data Science (Johns Hopkins), Foundations of Teaching for Learning (Commonwealth Education Trust) and Cybersecurity (University of Maryland, College Park), to name a few. There’s a fee associated with the courses. To earn the cybersecurity certificate, for instance, students must pass four courses that cost $49 apiece.
“We are all about rethinking how people will learn and how teachers will teach in the online world. Rick will help us tremendously in creating those experiences on all fronts, in close collaboration with our university partners to shape the future of education,” said Koller in a statement.
Levin, who began advising Coursera in January, offered this advice to the Yale’s graduating class: “Protect the future from the parochialism, partisanship, and paralysis of the present. Participate, speak up, and lead this nation and the world to the future you deserve. I will be working alongside you.”
Indeed he will.