MOOC巨头Coursera变现之路:为网络教育寻求盈利途径 _英语阅读

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Online education providers may very well disrupt the higher-education establishment, but first, these for-profit companies need to find a way to finance the mammoth technical infrastructure needed to support millions of students. It’s a challenge that all mission-based businesses wrestle with, and why many have wondered whether Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers will ever become big business — or be around in five years — let alone “transform higher education,” as they’ve so often promised.在线教育提供商也许很好地颠覆了高等教育体系,但这些追求利润的公司首先要找到方法来获得资金,从而为支持数百万学生的庞大基础设施买单。这是所有任务型的公司都需要应对的挑战,这也是为什么许多人都不确定大规模开放网络课程(MOOC)提供商是否能在五年内成为一大产业,更不用说它们经常承诺的“变革高等教育”了。

Today, one of the biggest MOOC providers on the web, Coursera, showed skeptics that it has indeed found a way to monetize free educational content and may just be on the road to riches. In a blog post this afternoon, Coursera announced that it has raised over $1 million for paid certifications, which verify that students passed (an otherwise free) online college course.今天,互联网最大的MOOC提供商之一Coursera 向怀疑者们证明,自己确实找到了一种变现免费教育内容的方法,使其可能走上了盈利之路。Coursera下午在一篇博文中宣布,已从学生通过免费在线大学课程的付费认证中获得了100多万美元的收入。

For those unfamiliar, Coursera partners with top-tier universities — more than 83 institutions on board — to make their classes and lectures available online, for anyone in the world to consume. The company burst onto the scene with millions of dollars in backing from big names, and ever since its buzzy debut has been dogged by questions over whether or not MOOCs will ever be able to make enough money to justify $65 million-worth of venture capital.Coursera与超过83家顶级大学达成了合作,向全世界所有用户在线提供它们的课程和讲座。Coursera 刚一问世即获知名企业投资,同时也引来了众多质疑。人们怀疑Coursera是否能赚足够多钱,不让6500万美元的风险投资打水漂。

In July, Coursera added a significant round of funding (bringing its total to $65 million), saying that it would use its new capital to develop mobile apps and increase its presence internationally (among other things). Of course, with so much capital and so many investors now on board, Coursera’s road to monetization and profitability became that much steeper.7月份,Coursera又获得一大笔融资(使得融资总额达到6500万美元),并表示会把新资金用在开发移动应用以及增加国际知名度等业务上。当然,获得了如此多资本,董事会中加入了如此多投资者,Coursera的变现和盈利之路也变得越发急迫。

The news today is reason enough for optimism, especially considering how quickly it has been able to turn a new feature into $1 million in revenue. The startup unveiled “Signature Track” back in January — a program that has been designed to allow students to earn “Verified Certificates” for a small fee.今天宣布的消息足够让人乐观看待Coursera的前景,尤其是考虑到Coursera从一项新功能中获得100万美元收入的速度。这家初创公司在1月份推出“Signature Track”计划,允许学生支付一小笔费用来获得“认证证书”。


Through Signature Track, students are able to verify the work they complete on Coursera, with the idea being to supplement the value of the work students do on the platform. While this represented Coursera’s first step (really, tiptoe) into credentialing , it does give students something tangible to prove that they’ve completed the course and know the material.通过Signature Track,学生们能认证自己在Coursera完成的课程,对学生们在Coursera完成课程的价值做了补充。这只是Coursera涉足认证的第一步,但却给了学生们有形的东西,证明他们完成了课程且了解课程知识。

While $1 million every nine months wouldn’t pay back their total $65 million in investment, there’s every reason to believe that there are many more students who would pay for this service. First, beyond being nine months old, Signature Track really hasn’t been aggressively promoted. Second, Coursera is quickly expanding to more universities, both in the U.S. and around the world.9个月赚100万美元可回报不了总计6500万美元的投资,不过,有足够多的理由相信,会有大批学生为这一服务付费。首先,尽管Signature Track功能推出了9个月,但并没有进行大规模推广。其次,Coursera正快速扩张至更多大学,不仅是美国还包括世界范围内的大学。

Third, and perhaps most importantly, tech companies are exploring an alliance that would weight these types of certificates as equal to a college degree in the hiring process. While this Alliance is still very much in the nascent stages of development, if MOOC providers like Coursera and Udacity are able to come together with the Googles and Apples of the world to develop some kind of standard, it could have big implications for higher education.第三点,可能也是最重要的一点是,科技公司正寻求联合,在招聘流程中将这类证书与大学学位平等看待。虽然这一联盟仍处于早期发展阶段,但如果Coursera、Udacity等MOOC提供商能与Google、苹果等公司合作,开发出某种标准,就将对高等教育产生重要影响。

In the future, we could see these platforms (and others that are sure to launch in the interim, like, for example) allow students to mix and match classes from MOOC and traditional universities, with MOOC providers offering some kind of paid certificate to its students.未来,我们会看到这些平台允许学生混搭MOOC 和传统大学的课程,而MOOC提供商则会向学生提供某种付费认证。

There are, of course, many very valid concerns that need to be discussed as MOOCs, tech companies, startups and schools themselves rush to integrate technology and tear down the ivory walls around traditional higher education. Questions like these are becoming increasingly important to ponder: Are MOOCs best used as a platform for continuing education — to re-train, brush up on subjects and for general edification purposes — or as a viable alternative (or even replacement) for the traditional college degree?当然,随着MOOC提供商、科技公司、初创企业以及学校都在快速整合技术,拆除包围传统高等教育的象牙墙,肯定存在许多合理的担忧。思考以下问题也变得越发重要:最好把MOOC当做继续教育平台——再培训、复习科目、启蒙——来使用?还是当做传统大学学位的可行替代品(乃或取代)更好?

For now, it’s the former, but as Coursera and others plow more time, resources and capital into their Signature Track-style programs, the more they will compete with campuses, institutions themselves — and the diploma. This is a great thing for education in the long run, as long as Coursera and MOOC providers aren’t just content with the bar set by traditional education, but look to push that bar higher. That’s what we want to pay for, and that’s what will shape the next big education technology business — not just a digital version of the same old thing.目前而言,MOOC提供商的作用是前者,但随着Coursera等向Signature Track类似项目投入更多时间、资源和资金,他们与校园、机构以及学位的竞争也会越大。从长期来看,这对教育是好事,只要Coursera和MOOC提供商不只是满足于传统教育设置的标准,而是寻求提高标准。这也是我们想要付费的地方。这将塑造下一项教育技术大业务,而不只是旧教育的数字版。

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