Coursera prepares for IPO after the pandemic sends edtech stocks up – The Average Joe
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    Coursera prepares for IPO after the pandemic sends edtech stocks up

    Kevin Roche — Analyst

    March 16, 2021

    After years of preparation, Coursera is ready to defend its dissertation.

    On March 5, Coursera, an online education platform released its S-1 filing as it prepares to go public – a highly anticipated event in the education technology (edtech) industry.

    Online education was supposed to disrupt traditional education

    Low cost and globally accessible education sound great — but in reality, the practice was difficult to implement. Edtech companies struggled for years with many running into the same issues:

    • Lack of engagement — courses had completion rates as low as 7%
    • Lack of value and effectiveness — compared to university degrees and in-person courses.
    • Lack of profitability — amongst public edtech companies (i.e. 2U, Pluralsight)

    COVID changed it all. Strong demand for online education sent edtech stocks up — even the struggling ones:

    • Chegg ($CHGG), an edtech that provides online tutoring and textbook rentals — is up over 190% in the past year
    • 2U ($TWOU), a struggling edtech company, that crashed over 80% in 2018 — is up over 90% in the past year

    The highlight of today’s lesson, Coursera, saw new signups at the start of COVID jump 7x compared to the previous year. Founded in 2012, Coursera offers online courses from top institutions, many of which are free.

    Taking a look at Coursera’s IPO numbers:

    • $293.5m in revenue, up 59% from 2019
    • $66.8m in net losses, compared to losses of $46.7m in 2019
    • 59m enrollments, up 248% from 2019
    • 51% of its sales came from outside the US

    Coursera uses a freemium business model — a popular marketing channel amongst edtechs to acquire free users while figuring out how to convert them into paid users afterwards.

    In addition to its paid courses, Coursera has launched several products :

    • Coursera for Campus, which lets major colleges offer Coursera’s library of online courses to their students — with over 4,000 colleges signed up to its free trial.
    • Online-only bachelor’s and master’s degree (priced between $9-45k) with over 11k enrollments to date.

    For investors… Is online learning here to stay?

    Lockdowns provided the perfect catalyst edtech adoption. But a surge in demand for online education wasn’t enough to help these edtechs become profitable.

    With students returning to campus, the big questions remain: Is online learning here to stay and can Coursera ever become profitable?

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