MOOC Breakdown (Part 2 of 5) – The MOOC Landscape

This is part 2 of a 5 part series taking a deep-dive look at the MOOC industry; please see the other posts for more.

Part I  – MOOC definition, background
Part II  – Landscape – Competitors, players, news, etc.
Part III  – Top Goals, challenging modes of thinking
Part IV – Users – Who are they, what do they want?
Part V  – Product & business model brainstorming


Major Players

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

I find when first learning about an industry, it’s always good to start with just a broad look at who else is out there. I try not to go into the research with any preconceived ideas – or just as dangerously – start trying to analyze them too much before absorbing the feel of the landscape. By that I mean, getting a feel for what products there are, who the competitors are and how position themselves, and what they’re doing.

While doing so, try to read between the lines. What are the perceptions of the companies? What image do they portray? I always find it amazing how much you could glean about a company’s culture and values by listening to what they choose to say in their marketing copy, job descriptions, website, etc. I also usually try to piece together a mini-timeline of major competitors by looking at their overarching trends: Which big initiatives have they tried recently? Did they work? Did they fail? Which products or deals did they quietly try and then cut? Also, funding is important too. Not so much the headline news, but by the nuances you can pick up from the timing, size, and history of the VCs funding them. Did an early VC bow out of a newer round? If so, there might be some core problems with unit economics, etc. Is the pace of funding accelerating? They might be experiencing a period of hyper-growth.

So with that context, here is an overview of the major players within the MOOC industry. Also, please do what I did and go spend some time with each of their products. There’s no better way to become acquainted with a company than spending time using what they provide. The fact-sheet below is meant to be a supplement to that.

Note: An excellent earlier breakdown of the three big MOOC providers is here. I did my own analysis below, but if you wanted to compare the companies over time, this is a great article doing a similar analysis in  August


MOOC Landscape:




Founded:                                     April 2012
Funding:                                      $85M Total

11/2013        $20M Ser B           NEA, Learn Cap, 3 Unknown Universities
7/2013          $43M Ser B           NEA, Learn Cap, Yuri Milner, World Bank
7/2012          $6M Ser A             Kleiner, NEA
4/2012          $16M “Seed”        Kleiner, NEA
Source: Crunchbase

Founders:                                    Daphne Koller, Andrew Ng
Enrollment:                                 5.5M
Content:                                       Created from partner universities
Status:                                          For-Profit
Classes Offered:                         ~500
Notable Initiatives:                  International Learning Hubs, ACE for-credit classes, Signature Track
Participating Universities:    100 +


Started by two Stanford Professors, one of which (Andrew), noticed that the  course material he had put on YouTube had over 100,000 views.

Recent News:

Dec 16, 2013:         For the World’s Largest MOOC, Broader is Better
Dec 10, 2013:         Coursera Debuts its iPhone App to Bring You Online Education
Nov 23, 2013:         Coursera Adds Another $20M to its Already Massive Series B
Nov 21, 2013:         Coursera Founder Ng counters MOOC criticism, Aims for Corporate Education
Oct 15, 2013:          World Bank and Coursera to Partner on Open Learning
Sep 23, 2013:         Inside the Coursera Hype Machine



Founded:                                     2011
Funding:                                      $20M Total

10/2012         $15M Ser B           CRV, Steve Blank, Andreesen Horowitz
1/2012              $5M Ser A          Charles River Ventures
Source: Crunchbase

Founders:                                     Sebastian Thrun, Peter Norvig
Enrollment:                                 ~1.5M (most recent figures here, let me know if you know more recent)
Content:                                        Created in-house, partnering with industry and academia
Status:                                           For-Profit
Classes Offered:                          33
Notable Initiatives:                   Cloudera PartnershipGeorgia Tech MastersSan Jose State
Participating Universities:      N/A


Started by Sebastian Thrun who video taped his lectures and put them online, garnering 160,000 participants.

Recent News:

Dec 13, 2013:         The First Cohort (GT Partnership)
Dec 12, 2013:         The Audacity of Udacity
Dec 10, 2013:          After Setbacks, Online Courses are Rethought
Aug 19, 2013:          Udacity CEO Says MOOC “Magic Formula” Emerging
Nov 19, 2013:          Praise, Criticism, Questions After Udacity “Pivot”
Nov 14, 2013:          Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, Godfather of Free Online Education, Changes Course



Founded:                                     May 2012
Funding:                                      $61M Total

6/2012                 $1M                  Bill, Melinda Gates Foundation
5/2012               $60M                  Harvard, MIT, Joint Venture
Source: AllThingsD, MIT

Enrollment:                                 1M (As of June)
Content:                                        Created in-house and with partnered universities
Status:                                           Non-Profit
Classes Offered:                          110
Backstory:                                     Joint Venture Between Harvard and MIT
Notable Initiatives:                   High School AP Initiative, Arab Initiative
Participating Universities:     30

Recent News:

Dec 9, 2013:         edX to Supplement High School Advanced Placement Curriculum
Nov28, 2013:        Moocs: edX unveils Arab initiative, Udacity rethinks ‘lousy product’
Dec 5, 2013:         What Modularity Means for MOOCs



Ed-Tech Startups:



Khan Academy

Founded:                                   2006
Funding:                                    $16.5M Total

Others – including Bill Gates, etc.
5/2013            $2.2M                    Grant
11/2011            $5M                     Grant
Source: Crunchbase

Enrollment:                               45M+
Content:                                     Lots (4000+) of exercises and in-house videos
Status:                                        Non-Profit
Classes Offered:                      110
Backstory:                                 Hobby of Salman Khan, grew into large non-profit
Notable Initiatives:                Comcast Joint Venture, Turkish School Partnership

Recent News:

Nov 26, 2013:          Turkish Schools Eager to Use Khan Academy
Nov 19, 2012:          One Man, One Computer, 10M Students: How Khan Academy is Reinventing Education




Founded:                                   2/2010
Funding:                                    $16M Total

12/2012            $12M Ser B     Learn Capital, Lightbank, Insight
10/2011            $3M Ser A        500 Startups, Lightbank, MHS
8/2010              $1M Seed        Various Angels
Source: Crunchbase

Enrollment:                              1.5M
Revenue:                                   $5M+
Content:                                    User-Generated Lessons
Status:                                        For-Profit
Notable Initiatives:                Udemy for Organizations – Corporate Dev

Recent News:

Aug 7, 2013:          At Udemy, Online Education Meets the Marketplace
Aug  6, 2013:         Udemy is now teaching over 1M students as it adds localized support for 10 new languages
Dec 3, 2013:          Udemy Grows Its Corporate Online Learning Platform to Over 2,000 Organizations Globally
Jun 24, 2013:         Get Rich Quick: Become a Teacher
Jun 18, 2013:         Udemy’s Online Learning Marketplace Has 8k courses, 800k students, and launches a new “Summer” Grant


Founded:                                   1995
Funding:                                     $103M Total

1/2013            $103M Ser A       Accel, Spectrum
Source: Crunchbase

Enrollment:                                1M Paying Customers
Revenue:                                    $100M
Content:                                      Produced in-house
Status:                                         For-Profit
Backstory:                                  Started by husband and wife team, bootstrapped to $70M in revenue.

Recent News:

Jul 24, 2013:           At, Content is Queen, But the Contributor Model Could be in Jeopardy
Jan 15, 2013:         After 17 Years, Education Platform Raises its First Round of Funding, $103M from Accel & Spectrum
May 3, 2012:          Smart Education: How Hit $70M in Revenue Without a Penny From Investors

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