Coursera cuts jobs and revises its growth forecast

Coursera has become the latest education technology company to announce plans to lay off staff and reduce elements of its business.

The Silicon Valley-based company, one of the first providers of massive open online courses (Moocs), is entering a “different chapter” after aggressively expanding during the pandemic, its chief executive, Jeff Maggioncalda, said at the personal.

In an email update, Mr Maggioncalda said Coursera, like other companies, was “navigating through lower growth rates and environmental uncertainty and [would] must make the necessary changes, including the reduction of staff costs”.

“I am sad to share that to slow our pace of spending, we have made the difficult decision to reduce the size of our team,” he added.

The exact number of laid-off employees has not been confirmed, but “all organizations and regions of the business have been affected to some degree,” Maggioncalda said.

Edtech companies have endured a tough 2022, having received record levels of investment during the pandemic, when shutdowns across the world boosted interest in online courses.

UK start-up FutureLearn announced it was ‘drastically cutting spending’ after posting losses, and US e-learning platform Udacity laid off 55 staff last month, along with its executive chairman, Gabe Dalporto, also leaving the Company.

Coursera – founded by Stanford University computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller – has 110 million learners and is used by 7,000 institutions worldwide. Its third quarter financial results, released last month, showed total revenue of $136.4m (£120m), up 24% from a year ago. While there was strong demand for microtitles from the industry, revenue from the degree portion of the business fell 11%.

The company was generally considered to be in better financial health than its competitors due to its success in diversifying its offering away from Moocs to include degrees, microloans, and business-focused training.

The fact that it’s also struggling will add to concerns about the bursting of the ‘bubble’ for the edtech sector, despite universities continuing to make big investments in the transition to tech. online and blended learning.

In his update, Maggioncalda said Coursera’s long-term outlook “remains bright” but blamed the “deteriorating macroeconomic environment” for forcing the company to “refine our focus, prioritize our investments and optimize our structure and operations”.

The company had already revised its growth forecasts and taken measures including freezing hiring, cutting consultancy spending and cutting non-staff budgets, but now needed to go further to cut costs, Ms. Maggiocalda.

“We are reducing resources in areas we no longer pursue as a business and doubling down on critical areas that resonate in the market, strengthening our unique value propositions and building on our vision to serve learners from Moocs to diplomas and jobs,” he added.

“We are combining teams and unifying products and technology to get more out of the assets we have. We have done our best to map the reductions to the capabilities we will need to support our business strategy next year and beyond.

tom.williams@timeshighereducation.com

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