Thursday, February 16, 2017

Coursera: The New Netflix for Learning

Coursera, a leading online educator, recently came out with a new type of search which allows users to search for a specific skill.  With this search, a list of courses that deal with that specific skill, is generated.  The new search was “built off a skills graph that maps skills to content.”  Some of the skills that users would be searching for are so specific, that is very unlikely that they would be contained in descriptions of courses that relate to the skill.  This new type of search was compared to Netflix’s framework for watch next recommendations.  In fact, the previous director of product innovation at Netflix, is now the chief product officer at Coursera.  The company is trying to get a leg-up on the competition such as Khan Academy with this new search ability.  “The more preemptive leg work Coursera can do for its learners, the more likely they are to find the right content on their first attempt and stick around with high levels of engagement.”

What Coursera is doing is something that will prove extremely beneficial to both themselves and their customers in the future.  By providing their customers with the ability to toggle to individual and quite specific skills, it will shorten the search time for courses, and help with narrowing down the options.  At first it can be a bit overwhelming going on their website and searching for a course, but this new search option should make that process quite a bit smoother.  Having this ability, will also attract employers and others in the work force to use it by eliminating the hassle of searching for sufficient training material.  For those following a set track in order to gain the necessary skills for a particular job, this search will prove exponentially useful.  Not having to sift through courses that do not have much to do what one is specifically looking for, will make it easier for them to choose a course and will free up more time for them to dive right into the material.  The schools that have courses on the site are more than likely overjoyed by this advancement.  It would be impossible to compare the same titled class from two varying institutions without actually taking the class.  Now, a user would be able to search for specific skills under that subject and receive only classes that contain instruction on that skill.  It is obvious that Coursera is really taking to heart what their customers want.  They are trying to make their site as user-friendly as possible.  This simple “skill-search” will undoubtedly increase their web traffic and the number of people taking their courses.  It took a while for Khan Academy to add a general search bar for the site, so Coursera is learning from that and anticipating what will carry them into the future.  The rate of transfer and application of skills from the course to the work environment is becoming increasingly faster and faster.  It would not be surprising if employers began incorporating Coursera courses into their training curriculum.  The same could be said for universities.  In a course that requires pre-requisites, certain specific deficiencies a student has could be narrowly targeted with one or two Coursera courses.


Jacqui Schmidt said...

I think it is important to recognize Coursera’s improvements, like the searching capabilities, as well as the conceptual idea as a whole. Coursera to me represents the future of learning in that more online learning platforms will become a norm. Previously I attended Rutgers University where I was taking two of my five classes online. This was not something unusual as many other students were doing the same. In one of my classes a professor asked us a question about what we thought Rutgers would look like in 50 years. Many said bigger and some said more technologically advanced. My professor then asked us if Rutgers still be physically be here? What he meant was that, he believes online learning will be the future of universities.
I think this is true to some extent. I believe there is still an advantage to going to a physical class and participating in a university environment to the point that online learning will not completely wipe out universities. Although, it did seem possible that eventually online learning could have a larger emphasis in education.
Loyola University does seem to be gravitating towards incorporating more online classes, hence online week in our business classes. My experience is that online learning is beneficial in some classes and not as productive in others. I would much rather take a statistics class that involved majority excel teachings, online, but if the statistics class was primarily computations by hand then I would rather attend a physical class. Classes that require learning steps to excel or other computer programs I feel are more productive online. When learning computer programs sometimes it’s easier to be able to pause a video, take notes, try it out yourself, and then return to the lecture. While in a physical class, it is hard to learn computer programs and take notes at the same time. It is also harder to follow along especially if you miss one step and fall behind.
In an article posted by World Economic Forum, titled, “Is online learning the future of education?” it mentioned that in a Global Shapers Survey that 77.84% students around the world have taken an online course. The article mentioned benefits of the online platform saying, “students have access to their “classroom” recordings whenever they want, allowing them to go over ideas and review lessons at their convenience.” Another benefit to online learning is the concept of “education for all” which refers to helping increase education access.
Coursera to me is a symbol of the changing education system in terms of going from mainly traditional classrooms to an increase in online classrooms as well. I do not think traditional learning institutions will be going anywhere because of their benefits and popularity but I do believe online educations will be more present in the future.


Matt Lodato said...

I believe that Coursera’s newest addition of a system that allows users to search for a specific skill is definitely a way for them to surpass their competitors as well as gain a better connection with the user. Due to a wide variety of providers in any service industry, customers will choose and stick with the one that provides them with a quality experience that is simple and focused on their personal benefit. This is exactly what Coursera is aiming to provide with their new search system. As a Netflix user, I find it very convenient to have a framework that provides me with recommendations of what to watch next. It shows that they are showing concern for individual preferences while also making the users experience as simple and smooth as possible. This is a prime example of how companies use information technology to gain information about their customers and use it for their benefit. While Netflix and Coursera provide their customers with very different services, they are comparable in the sense that they use information technology to guide their users based on individual preferences. It could be difficult or overwhelming to choose a movie or a course, but the systems that these two companies use aims to aid those difficulties and benefit them, making their experience easier. Not only will it make choosing a course easier, but also it will ensure that the user is going to choose a course that focuses on their specific skill preference. This is important because it better insures that they will gain knowledge of the skill they desire for the money that they put into taking the course. As technology becomes more widely used in almost all industries, it becomes clear how much it is used to gain information about customers in order to provide them with the best possible service. This advancement will increase consumer delight as it makes their search for a course much less stressful and time consuming. This focus on the individual needs of customers is seen way more often as it has proven to be successful in many industries such as retail and hospitality. I believe that as technology becomes more advanced over time companies will start to use it more and more to gain as much information about their customers as possible, whether we know it or not.

Michael Bacci said...

Making things look pretty and function efficiently is a strategy that works for many companies. I always enjoy and prefer using something that is pleasing. It is proven to provide tangible benefits for businesses. The article evidences Netflix and now Coursera as two prominent examples. Netflix particularly implements an improved search and suggestion system to keep their customers consuming their products. It uses machine learning to get to know the customers. This strategy worked wonders for them, especially in the beginning stages where they didn’t have a ton of content. It allowed them to keep their customers entertained and coming back for more by focusing them to the items that they may be interested in the most. Unfortunately, I am afraid that Coursera may not be able to simply adapt this search and machine learning technology to have the same effects on their business. There are far too many competitors that Coursera is dealing with right now. Before any search improvement, Coursera is in critical need of a next step in their business model. There are many competitors that offer a similar product to Coursera for free. As a pay for play site with many, Coursera has no way of differentiating their product as worth the premium price. The content that Coursera offers can largely be found for free thru competitors like YouTube, MIT Courseware, Khan Academy, Udacity and more. The article talks about a need for Coursera to “measurably differentiate from competitors like Udacity and Khan Academy.” This is exactly true but machine learning and search design is not going to get the job done. The key for Coursera is being able to offer content that would count towards course credit. This would legitmize their service and products. Coursera is in a difficult position as being one of the only pay for play company in a mostly free landscape. It is excellent that Coursera is able to offer very detailed courses for almost anything you could imagine but a customer rarely has a use for any of those courses. If a customer does choose a Coursera offering, I only see them using a few products to supplement all of the free content available on the internet. I believe it is going to be very tough to encourage the level of involvement that they are looking for out of their clients. This mostly comes down to their positioning, not lacking search and machine learning technologies.

Bryce Carrasco said...

Coursera is definitely bringing things to the table that competitors are failing to offer. I agree that Coursera has tremendous upside potential if they continue on the path they have started and continue to innovate online education and course offerings to those seeking a quality education that can be flexible to their schedule. But, with this new search filtering capability, they are taking a huge step forward that is innovative and ground breaking. By allowing users to search particular skills within the website and to find courses that cover the skills one is looking for, Coursera is widening their market segments to not only students and those looking for educational purposes only, but now they have broadened their target to employers and job seekers. This is an immense advancement for Coursera because now they have differentiated themselves from their competition definitively due to the fact that no other website or online education tools offer a similar or comparable feature. I think that if Coursera can finesse their integration of this new feature, they will soon be the dominate training program used by employers looking to train employees. Not only will corporations look to buy Coursera's services, but also people looking to join a new field of work or change career paths. The versatility of this feature is extremely innovative and is a significant differentiator in the current market place. Khan Academy and other similar websites do not offer this type of transparency so as a result people will start to increasingly turn to Coursera instead of these websites. The scope of this application is so wide that I think that if Coursera can execute this effectively, they will soon be the dominant online education service in the market.