A few weeks ago we had a company-wide Make-a-Thon. What happens when you give a bunch of Coursera employees free reign to create something inspired by their daily work? A music video is born.
As an ode to more than 5.6 million Courserians around the world, we poured our hearts (and musical abilities) into this video of pop star Katy Perry’s new song, “Birthday.”
The video was written, directed, edited, and produced by Coursera employees (with the help of some AMAZING Courserians who submitted their dancing videos from countries like Brazil, Spain, China, Bangladesh, UK and US)!
The video offers a sneak peek behind the scenes here at Coursera. We have a new office space and our team of passionate individuals is devoted to having fun while supporting our mission - to change the world by helping to advance worldwide education.
2013 has been an incredible year for us at Coursera, and we wanted to share our thanks with you. It’s time to celebrate… and get funky. Feel free to share the fun and as always, learn, learn, learn!
Part of scaling our work means growing our own team to support partnerships, services and products, which means we’re hiring! Check out our Careers page for current opportunities. We’re a smart, creative and passionate bunch tackling challenging problems on the way toward creating education for everyone.
Last week we reached some major milestones within our community, which now surpasses more than 100 institutional partners, 5 million students, 700 professors, and 500 courses. Such growth could not have happened without the hard work, dedication, and passion of our teams.
As we continue to scale our company to support broader growth, we’d like to acknowledge an internal milestone as well with the hiring of Jessica Neal, our company’s first VP. Jessica will be critical to our recruiting and HR efforts, and will play a key role in helping us build up Coursera’s team and culture so that we can, in turn, build better products and experiences for students.
Jessica comes to us from Netflix where she spent more than 7 years and was most recently the VP of Talent and Talent Acquisition. While at Netflix, she built the internal recruiting team that scaled the organization from a DVD by mail service to an innovative and successful video streaming platform. Later, she took on the important role of Human Resources to support employees and leaders across the company. In addition to driving company growth, Jessica was also instrumental in evolving the company culture. Jessica got her start in recruiting as a head-hunter at an agency focused on placing technical talent, after receiving a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts.
Read on to hear from Jessica herself about what drew her to Coursera and what she hopes to accomplish in her first days at the company.
What led you to join Coursera?I was ready for a new challenge, and found myself inspired by Coursera’s mission, its core team of employees, and the fact that the company is truly doing really innovative work within education, a field with major impact and great potential for advancement through technology.
Coursera has also identified within the company a core set of values that I can really relate to - including putting students first and caring for teammates. It’s a culture of passion-driven work, support, and collaboration, and it aligns nicely with the philosophy that, if you have a culture that enables people to be successful and lead initiatives they believe in, this in turn affects your company’s success. In the case of Coursera, it will allow us to better achieve our goals of educating the world, and is a great foundation to build the company upon in the coming months.
What would you define as Coursera’s culture?At Coursera, you have a nice intersection of intelligence and passion. There’s a strong drive and hunger among employees to do amazing things and change the world. Every person that I’ve met here has inspired me not just with their talent but with the way that they care for the company and each other.
What are your priorities at Coursera?We’re rapidly growing our teams to build better products, support partners and faculty, and give students better experiences, which means we’re looking in all directions.
One thing that I think will make Coursera really attractive to prospective employees is that we offer an incredible opportunity to tackle complex problems. We’re creating a platform for delivering education that simply didn’t exist two years ago and we’re constantly experimenting to make it better. For our engineers this means focusing on challenging technical problems, while for others working on product and design, it might mean trying to figure out how to create an online education experience that works as well for someone in a remote area with limited access to computer as it does for someone here in Mountain View.
We’re thrilled to have Jessica here to help our team grow. If you find yourself interested in specific job opportunities, please check out our Careers page.
Today we are honored to announce that we have reached the triple milestone: 100+ institutional partners offering 500+ courses to 5 million+ students on Coursera’s platform.
In celebration of the triple milestone, we’ve created an infographic that highlights the extraordinary growth of Coursera and our community. Thank you to everyone who has joined us along the way, and welcome to all those who are joining us for the first time.
Coursera Co-Founder Andrew Ng shared his reflections on this exciting day:
“Two years ago, Coursera was still a budding idea. My team comprising four Stanford students and me had just launched our first two courses, each of which eventually reached over 100,000 students, thus helping kick off the MOOC movement. When we first put these courses online, we could not have envisioned the growth and community response that we witness today, among universities, professors, and students from every corner of the globe.”
Adding to this, Co-Founder Daphne Koller expressed:
“We are privileged to host this vast breadth of amazing courses across a broad range of disciplines from many of the world’s leading institutions. It is remarkable that such a powerful network has developed just 18 months since the official launch of our company. With so many countries, languages, and educational backgrounds represented, we are proud to be a part of a movement promoting lifelong education for everyone.”
This past summer, I had the lucky opportunity to intern as a software engineer at Coursera on the infrastructure team. As the summer came to a close, my mentor suggested that I write a blog post about my experiences and projects, so here it goes:
Being an East-Coaster at heart (raised in NY, going to college in DC), I was nervous about moving across the country on my own for the summer. Luckily I came to realize very quickly that the people at Coursera are some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met!
On my first day, I remember waking up around 7am, checking my phone, and finding over 20 emails from people all across the team welcoming me to Coursera. Once I had made my way into the Mountain View office, my orientation began with me being shown my brand new Macbook Pro and ginormous monitor sitting on my GeekDesk. Throughout the day I learned all about how Coursera operates from a technical standpoint, and by the time I left that night had already deployed code to the live site and added my photo to the team page!
Over the course of my first week or two, I learned all about the unique culture that we have here at Coursera, including Formal Fridays (a fun reversal of casual fridays), Show-and-Tell on Mondays (who doesn’t love show-and-tell?), “owning” someone (lock your computer when you leave, or someone will send an email to the entire company on your behalf!), and team mascots.
Despite the fun that goes on in the office, I learned quickly that everyone here works extremely hard. It’s not unusual to get an email from someone after 2am, and see them back in the office before 8am. That’s not to say that people here don’t do anything but work though — I’ve come to really enjoy our Friday happy hours, movie and laser-tag outings, and hilarious dinner conversations! But with over four million students, and only 60-or-so employees (including 9 interns this summer!), there’s a lot of work to go around!
As for my personal experience as an intern here — I can’t say that it’s much different than anyone else’s on the team. I never once felt like “just an intern,” and I’m pretty sure they didn’t adjust my workload to that fact! During my first month or so here, I got to build a pretty cool product named Moncour (almost every tech product here has “cour” in its name, including PlayCour, Courservice, PyCoursera, etc.), which monitors our ever-growing list of services.
Once that was finalized and launched, I was thrown in the deep-end and worked alongside my mentor Brennan (and Frank, one of the original Coursera team members) to revamp our authentication system. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot involved with user accounts, and something as simple as changing your email address ends up touching about three or four different systems! Plus, with our recent partnership with ten state systems, there are a lot of schools to integrate systems with.
While these past 15 weeks have gone by extremely quickly, I can say that it’s definitely been an absolutely incredible ride. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest (and craziest) people, interacted with school administrators, instructors, and students from all over the world, and learned more about online education than I realized was possible.
Now for the thank-yous / shoutouts:
- My mentor, Brennan, for teaching me a whole lot of Scala, pushing me along whenever I hesitated [which was quite often), and trusting me with more than I trusted myself with.
- KPCB Fellows program for helping me get the initial interview with Coursera and having awesome events this summer
- And everyone else that I’ve worked with at Coursera for being patient as I learned, teaching me an incredible amount of useful [and some useless) information, and being the most fun group of people that I’ve ever worked with.
It’s been an exciting journey since our launch last April. In this short time, we’ve partnered closely with 86 universities and institutions to deliver hundreds of classes to 4.4 million learners (and counting). We’ve also launched new programs to support student learning, including Coursera’s successful Signature Track, the Teacher Professional Development Track, and the Global Translation Partners Program. Thanks to great faculty and universities around the world, we’ve become the leader in creating solutions for education access and affordability.
To accelerate our next phase of growth, we are delighted to add Lila Ibrahim to our team as Coursera’s first President. She will join our co-founders and co-CEOs to form the Executive Office. During this period of time, she will remain an operating partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).
Lila has worked closely with the company founders over the past year. She has been consistently passionate about education and brings the experience to help us turbo charge Coursera’s growth.
Lila brings Coursera over 20 years of operating experience with rapid technology growth, including more than a dozen years in education technology. She joined KPCB in 2010 as a partner leading operations and business development. Lila previously spent 18 years at Intel, first as a microprocessor designer, then establishing DVD standards for PCs, then driving Intel’s developer program before working as the chief-of-staff to the CEO & Chairman, and finally growing their global education business. She has lived and worked in the US, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, and traveled to over 75 countries. Her global experience leading ecosystem, engineering and operating teams will accelerate Coursera’s success.
Lila earned a BS EE from Purdue University and is a respected global leader, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and a Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute. She is also the co-founder of Team4Tech, a Silicon Valley non-profit that partners with NGOs and tech company employees to deliver K-12 education technology in developing countries. Team4Tech was born from Lila’s experience in building a computer program at the orphanage where her father was raised in Lebanon. Lila also regularly speaks at universities supporting women in STEM.
We respect her accomplishments and experience, and know her collaborative approach is going to make us an even stronger team.
— Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng
Editor’s note: Sankalp is a student who recently wrote about his journey through a UPenn Coursera Signature Track course. Sankalp and his friends have taken Coursera’s vision to heart and rallied an entire organization in India to empower a large community of younger students in Mumbai to learn more about MOOCs! Read more about how one Courserian turned a vision into a working reality!
As a student in India, Coursera gave me the opportunity to learn on my own time. I experienced the sheer pleasure of learning when I took Intro to Mathematical Thinking last fall and Calculus: Single Variable this past January. After taking Coursera courses, I felt empowered. I believed that every student in India should know about Coursera and other educational resources online, like Khan Academy and YouTube learning channels. So, I decided to live up to Coursera’s vision and do something to give back to the community I live in. I combined my experience with computers and Photoshop to lead an education session for younger students at my school. Here are the steps I took to apply my Coursera knowledge to empower my community:
1. Spreading the Word
I got together with a few of my friends (all my grade level) to create a “Computer Geek Award,” and my aim was to teach kids how to use the sites like Coursera, WolframAlpha, Khan Academy, and TED at my school. To make the session interesting, we incorporated a quiz, in which the winner got a handmade trophy created by our crew, a team of students devoted to spreading the word about online education.
This was very successful at my school, and we started going to different schools, talking to educators about the flipped classroom model and demonstrating online resources to kids, enabling them to scratch the surface of higher education. We loved seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when we introduced the rich material to them.
This is a picture taken of us speaking to students at an Orphanage in
Mumbai last week (Aditya Birla Centre for Children’s Welfare)
2. Overcoming Challenges by Being Creative
There were several disadvantages that we had to overcome when we started going to schools more broadly:
• We could only teach a maximum of 60 students per session.
• It was often a one man show. I did all the talking, and in spite of having a talented crew, they were just used to maintain discipline in the session hall.
•There was no way to control attention loss. The kids had no way to repeat and rewind in case they missed any material. To solve some of the issues we faced, we decided to make short videos about the material!
Here is an example of a video we made based off of what we learned in
Coursera’s Single Variable Calculus Course.
[Huge shout out to Professor Ghrist for teaching us how to teach!]
Our other videos can be seen here. Inspired by the model of other online education sites like Coursera, we branched out to teaching other subjects, and tried to explain concepts in a way that got students interested in learning to get them to use Coursera and Khan more. We even gave our group a name: TAPtheTECH.
3. Personal Learning and Education for Everyone
The current education model strongly discourages students from taking on time-consuming creative endeavors, but we organized as a team to divide the work of creating videos. We knew that our work was not just a matter of personal interest, but something that had the potential to education many students.
TAPtheTECH is teaching us, the video creators, as well as students! We take courses from Coursera to get a better understanding of the material and then use those concepts to make our videos more relevant to India students. Aside from purely academic skills, TAPtheTECH also teaches us people management and professional skills. Through TAPtheTECH, I have been able to teach programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash to many kids. No high school in India teaches these, and design and VFX classes cost a lot of money. Through our videos, students are gaining skills that will help them apply to college and get good jobs.
4. Overcoming More Hurdles, One Step at a Time
While we were really excited to implement the flipped classroom model in Indian classrooms, we faced some rejection and difficulty in getting schools involved. Inspired by TED Talks from Sir Ken Robinson, Sal Khan, and Prof. Daphne Koller, we are determined to change the education system. But many schools were hesitant to let us speak to their students, especially when they thought that we were trying to sell videos. We try to explain our cause, and that we are there to promote the cause of education for free.
Despite these hurdles, we believe that persistent efforts will get us there. Initiatives like Coursera coupled with community engagement can solve a lot of problems in developed and developing countries. For example, right now India is facing a primary teacher shortage. I see the potential solution to come from educational videos; imagine each and every kid getting education by taking courses online!
5. Getting Involved Wherever You Are:
Teenagers and adults worldwide can come together not only to watch videos, but also to create them and spread the word. Imagine the design of a video created by one teen in Mumbai and animated by another in New York! In this manner, the world can unite for the cause of education. We talk about dissolving the boundaries between nations, and this can certainly be true when it comes to online education.
My concluding words are for students all over the world — the hidden protagonists. If you are interested in doing something, join us! Send a message on facebook or sankalp[at]tapthetech[dot]org.
Thanks for reading our blogpost, everyone! -TAPtheTECH Team
Editor’s note: Muhammad and Khadija Niazi are twins living in Pakistan. They are turning 13 this year and have each completed over 6 courses already. They, along with their mom, will be guest blogging to share their perspective on MOOCs for young students and families in the coming months. We’re excited to have them share their thoughts with the community!
Hello from Pakistan, Coursera community!We are fraternal twins (Muhammad, the brother and Khadija, the sister) who are turning 13 years old, and have just been promoted to the 8th grade. We live in Pakistan with our family. As twins, we both share mostly the same interests. One similarity is that we both love MOOCs, and that love for MOOCs brought us to Coursera. We both love physics, astronomy, history and other science-related subjects.
We want to tell you all how our wonderful journey through MOOCs started. The news came in one day; we read an article about an online class which had more than 65,000 students. The course was being offered by Stanford University. We were both determined to take that course (we were both 10 at that time). So, we completed it! After that, we received an email from Udacity asking us to join. We were (once again) excited, and completed three courses. Then, through the forums, we learned about Coursera.
A few months ago, Khadija was invited to speak at Davos because she was mentioned in a Time magazine article, so we traveled there to discuss how MOOCs had changed our lives and how they have given us a new meaning of education. Over there, we met a lot of amazing individuals, including Daphne Koller (one of the founders of Coursera), Sebastian Thrun (founder of Udacity) and Thomas Friedman. It was a memorable experience.
Our Favorite Coursera Courses So FarWe chose Coursera because of the awesome variety of courses which the platform offers. Plus, the university partners, which are collaborating with Coursera, are very prestigious.
The first course that caught our attention was Duke University’s “Introduction to Astronomy” taught by Professor Ronen Plesser. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing, because that course was the first class we had ever taken about astronomy (one of Muhammad’s passions since he was a child). We never thought we would be learning with so many other students, and it was far better than reading just a book because of the amount of interaction we had in class online.
The most interesting point came when we both had a chance to do a “Google hangout” with him. We were overflowing with questions, which he calmly answered with a smile on his face.
We also enrolled in “Astrobiology” (we spent lots of hours — even a whole day, maybe — participating in discussions in the forums) and “Pre-calculus,” where we experienced our first timed exam! We were panicking because our electricity is unreliable; our Internet crashes a lot, but we were successful in taking that exam using our lovely back-up system.
We also took “How Things Work,” which had challenging homeworks, and “Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity,” taught by Larry Randles Lagerstrom. It was a cool course, and it was totally new in every sense. We loved the quizzes in this course because it required a lot of critical thinking.
Coursera really enabled us to explore a vast range of subjects; we feel lucky to have been born in this revolutionary era where education has been taken to a different dimension. Our journey still continues, because we both are currently doing two more courses… and the list goes on, which we will never end.
We will be writing more soon to share tips, suggestions and to update you on our plans. Please feel free to follow us on twitter @M_Shaheer_Niazi and @KhadijaNiazi. Talk to you soon!
Learning is inherently social. More than that, building friendships has always been one of the best parts of school. Already, we’ve seen tremendous activity in our forum, to the point where question response time averages as low as 22 minutes! Students from around the world have also started meeting up with classmates to discuss material, form study groups, build friendships, and just hang out. We’d like to help this process!
To join an existing group or create a new one, go to www.meetup.com/coursera and type your location (if not automatically identified) in the box in the upper-righthand corner. Coursera Meetups are a great way to meet your fellow “Courserians,” swap stories, share ideas, form study groups, and have a great time. Find a meetup near you, or start a new one! These events are for you, by you, so meet wherever you like. You choose the topic, the time and the venue. Meetups could be course specific or be for all Coursera students.
To kick things off, we’ve organized two outstanding events open to all of our students. We’ll be helping to organize meetups in other locations in the months to come!
Happy Hour - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 18:00 in San Francisco, CA, USA at Gestalt Haus, 3159 16th Street.
BBQ with Stanford and Berkeley Professors - Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 12:00 (noon) in Mountain View, CA, USA. The location is still to be determined. We’re expecting a number of Stanford and Berkeley Professors who teach on Coursera to join, including Scott Klemmer, Daphne Koller, Andrew Ng, David Patterson, Jeffrey Ullman and more.
—Greg, Product Manager
P.S. Reply with photos and stories from your meetups!