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'It will never be the same:' Coursera CEO on impact of coronavirus on education system

Akiko Fujita
Anchor/Reporter

The coronavirus outbreak forced universities around the world to experiment with distance learning overnight. Online learning platform Coursera says the education system may never be the same.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance’s On the Move, Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, said demand for the online education platform’s classes have surged with stay-at-home closures globally, from China to the U.S.

With 1.5 billion students, 9 out of every 10 around the world, unable to go to school because of COVID-19 related containment measures, Maggioncalda believes the scale may have tipped in favor of online education. 

“We’re seeing a huge acceleration in something that’s already been happening, which is a move towards online education. When things get to a new normal, certainly people will go back to school, but it will never be the same,” Maggioncalda said.

Founded in 2012 by Stanford professors, Coursera built its platform by partnering with universities to offer open online courses to the public. With classes ranging from guitar lessons to international law courses to coding, the Mountain View, California–based company has a broad following. In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Ivanka Trump, daughter and senior adviser to President Trump, said she was spending her stay-at-home days immersed in a free Greek and Roman mythology course on Coursera.

In recent years, the education platform has focused on developing individualized curriculum for companies and universities around the world. Last fall, it launched Coursera for Campus to help institutions transition to online learning. In March, the company granted free access to its course catalogue to all universities affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, Maggioncalda says Coursera has received 17,000 inquiries from colleges around the world, and has it has helped activate online curriculum for more than 2,000 universities. 

While the higher education system in the U.S. has been experimenting with digital courses for years, few institutions have taken a significant leap. According to education technology research firm Bay View Analytics, 70% of the 1.5 million faculty members in the U.S., had never taught a virtual class prior to the pandemic. 

A schoolteacher marks maths exercices for her pupils. For the 7th day, French people are on lockdown. Schools, highschools, universities are closed since March 13th. French Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquertold teachers to give online courses. Parents and children must interact to work together and for children to do their homeworks and receive online courses. They use videoconference and e-learning. Toulouse. France. March 24th 2020. (Photo by Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“When students go home, when campus is shut down, more and more people will go online to do their learning, so it’s really nice to be able to help out in this way,” Maggioncalda said. 

In addition to the education space, Maggioncalda said weeks of stay-at-home orders are likely to shake up working spaces around the world, with companies increasingly looking to mix remote workers with traditional ones. Video conferencing tools like Zoom and cloud-based platforms like Google Docs are enabling employees to collaborate in a way companies previously never imagined, he said. 

“Just like we have blended classrooms in schools, I think we’ll have blended workspaces,” Maggioncalda said. “Companies more and more will go towards a global workforce because more and more jobs can be done from remote locations.”

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita

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