Coursera Competitors Analysis

Latest posts by John Hughes (see all)

The promise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to democratize education caught the attention of students, educators, and techies worldwide.

Many saw in MOOCs the possibility of providing free or low-cost quality education to anyone with an internet connection. However, we live in a world with capitalistic structures, and these structures haven’t been slow to act on the opportunity that MOOCs present. 

Coursera, one of the largest providers of MOOCs, is a perfect example. Founded in 2012, Coursera partners with over 200 top universities and organizations worldwide to offer courses online. While some of these are free, the vast majority aren’t.

However, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, co-founders of Coursera, weren’t looking to provide free education when they started the company. They wanted to make money, and they have despite the raging competition.

Coursera stands out as one of the most successful for-profit massive open online course providers, with over 100 million registered users as of March 31, 2022. In 2021, the company went public in an IPO that saw it raise $519 million leading to a valuation of $4.3 billion. As of July 2021, Coursera had a market cap of 2.197 billion

This Coursera competitors analysis closely examines the major companies and organizations challenging Coursera in the MOOCs space. We’ll look at the competitive landscape, the players’ business models and revenue streams, and their strengths and weaknesses. 

Bottom Line Up Front

The competitive landscape for MOOC providers isn’t as fairly consolidated as one might think. In addition to the major for-profit providers, plenty of non-profit and public entities offer courses online. To stand out, Coursera focuses on creating a quality platform and partnering with universities and companies to provide high-quality courses. 

Top 5 Coursera Competitors

  1. Udemy
  2. edX
  3. Skillshare 
  4. Udacity 
  5. Alison 

Coursera Business Model and Strategy

Coursera

Competing in the MOOCs space is no easy feat. A study by Future Market Insights suggests that the global MOOCs market will grow at a CAGR of 16.7% from 2022 to 2030, realizing global sales amounting to over $31 billion by 2030-end. If these predictions are accurate, the market opportunity is significant, and it’s likely to attract more entrants. 

Lucky for Coursera, it established itself early on as a leader in the space. The company doesn’t just offer courses; it also provides certification and degree programs from accredited universities. These factors, combined with partnerships with top educational institutions, help Coursera maintain a dominant market position. 

Before accessing any content on Coursera, users must first create a free account. Once logged in, they can browse the platform’s catalog of courses and programs. If they find something they’re interested in, they can enroll and begin learning. 

While some courses are free, the vast majority aren’t. Guided projects start at $9.99/month, professional certificates at $39.99/month, and MasterTrack certificates at $2,000. Degree courses are even more expensive, starting at $9,000 or as the partner university sets. 

So how does Coursera make money? The company has several revenue streams, the most significant of which are course and program fees, subscriptions, and enterprise licensing. 

In 2021, Coursera generated $415 million in revenue, up from $293.511 million the previous year. However, its net loss increased from $65.3 million in 2020 to $143.215 in 2021. Despite the losses, the ever-increasing user base and the company’s recent IPO have investors confident in Coursera’s long-term prospects. 

Coursera Competitor Analysis

Coursera competes for market share in an industry with many other actors. These include other for-profit entities such as Udemy and Skillshare and not-for-profit organizations like edX and the Khan Academy. This detailed competitor analysis looks at the business models and competitive strategies of some of Coursera’s most significant rivals. 

1. Udemy

Udemy 

Founded in 2010, Udemy is a leading provider of online courses. The company has over 100,000 courses on its platform and more than 52 million students taught by instructors from all over the world. Much like Coursera, Udemy offers both free and paid courses. It also provides an affiliate program that allows instructors to promote their courses and earn a commission on each sale. 

The company has its headquarters in San Francisco, California, and trades on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “UDMY.” Udemy’s initial public offering (IPO) in 2021 saw it raise $421 million, giving it an equity valuation at the offer price of $4 billion. As of July 2022, the company had a market cap of $1.44 billion at an average volume of 949,930 shares.

The competitive landscape for Coursera and Udemy looks similar. They are both for-profit companies that offer courses online and generate revenue through course fees and subscriptions. However, there are some critical differences between the two businesses. For one, Udemy doesn’t partner with universities or offer accredited programs. 

This move is a deliberate strategy on the company’s part, as it believes that “the future of education is not about institutions, it’s about you.” Udemy’s courses go beyond the traditional academic offering, with many of them focused on professional development and technical skills. 

Udemy has a strong financial outlook. In 2021, its revenues totaled $518.2 million, representing a 21% year-over-year increase. While it did make a net loss of $77.526 million in the same year, this was relatively lower than the $77.620 million it lost in 2020.

Udemy’s main competitive advantage over Coursera is its scale. With a more extensive catalog of courses and a bigger user base, Udemy can offer students more choices and better prices. 

See also: Airtable Competitors Analysis

2. edX

edX is an online learning platform founded in 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It hosts university-level courses from various institutions, including Harvard, MIT, Berklee College of Music, and the University of California, Berkeley. The edX platform runs on the Open edX software, which is open-source and freely available. 

Initially, edX started as a non-profit organization to increase access to high-quality education and enhance online and on-campus learning outcomes.

It operated with this mission until 2021, when 2U Inc., a publicly-traded educational technology company, bought edX and the www.edX.org domain for $800 million. MIT and Harvard no longer govern the platform but remain active partners on the board of trustees.

As part of the for-profit model, edX now generates revenue through certificate programs, enterprise licensing, and content licensing. It also has a B2B business model where it partners with universities and companies to build and deliver custom online courses. 

edX is one of Coursera’s most significant rivals, given that it is a well-established player in the industry with a strong reputation. The company has a vast catalog of courses, with over 3,000 programs from 465 institutions.

In 2020, the organization announced it had surpassed the 110 million global student enrollment mark. The same year, the company reported an average of 400,000 daily student engagement in course content.

While 2U as a company isn’t profitable, it’s growing rapidly. In 2021, its revenues increased by 22% to $945 million. With the successful integration of the edX platform into the 2U ecosystem, we expect the company to establish a strategic financial framework that’ll enable it to achieve profitability.

Perhaps edX’s main competitive advantage over Coursera is its content partnerships with prestigious universities and the fact that it’s a learning platform with a more significant focus on higher education. 

3. Skillshare

SkillShare

Skillshare is an online learning platform offering various creative, business, and tech courses. Michael Karnjanaprakorn and Malcolm Ong founded the company in 2011 to “empower people everywhere to achieve their creative and professional potential.” 

Skillshare is a membership-based platform where users can access all courses for a monthly or annual subscription fee. It also has a premium membership option that gives users access to exclusive content, product discounts, and other benefits. The company generates revenue through these memberships and content partnerships.

The company’s main advantage over Coursera is its focus on creative and professional development courses. Unlike Coursera, it provides a hands-on approach to learning with its projects and challenges feature. Unfortunately, its courses are non-accredited, so the platform may not be ideal for those looking to add qualifications to their resumes. 

Despite being a smaller private company, Skillshare is one of the market leaders in terms of revenue. We estimate that it nets around $119 million in annual revenue. In 2020, it raised $66 million in new funding, which it plans to use to expand its content catalog and grow its international user base. The company has over 12 million users and is available in 190 countries.

4. Udacity

Udacity is a for-profit educational organization founded by Sebastian Thrun, David Stevens, and Mike Sokolsky in 2011. It offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed for professional adults. The company has its headquarters in Emeryville, California, and prides itself on being “on the cutting edge of technology.” 

Udacity offers three different types of courses: nanodegrees, which are accredited programs designed to help students get jobs; University credit courses in partnership with Georgia Tech and San Jose State University; and free courses. As of October 2020, the company has about 70 nanodegrees and 200 free courses.

Coursera and Udacity are similar in that they both offer accredited and non-accredited courses. However, while Coursera focuses on a broad range of topics, Udacity specializes in technology courses.

The company has partnerships with tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and IBM to create its nanodegree programs. The comprehensive nature of these programs makes Udacity an appealing choice for those looking to break into the tech industry. 

Udacity is a privately owned company and doesn’t disclose its financials. However, in the first half of 2020, the company reported that its annual recurring revenues rose 260% year-over-year. During the same year, the company secured $75 million in funding to fuel its growth and double the sales and customer success teams.

Its main competitive advantage over Coursera is its focus on the tech industry and its strong partnerships with industry leaders. However, Coursera is much larger, with over ten times the number of users. 

5. Alison

Alison

Advanced Learning Interactive Systems Online (Alison) is a free online learning platform founded in 2007 by Mike Feerick. It has its headquarters in Galway, Ireland, and offers over 4000 courses in various languages. The company has over 23 million registered learners from all over the world. 

Alison offers both accredited and non-accredited courses. It partners with universities and organizations to offer free certification in various subjects. As a result, the platform strongly focuses on employability and skills development. While the site is free to use, Alison makes money through its enterprise solutions, which it offers to businesses and organizations. 

Upon completion of a course, students pay a fee to receive a certificate. The company also offers diploma programs, which are more comprehensive and take longer to complete.

The fees for these programs are higher, but they provide more value in employability and skills development. Alison is a much smaller company than Coursera but boasts a global reach with learners in 190 countries. 

Capernaum Limited is the parent company of Alison. As a private company, it does not disclose its financials. However, Alison’s focus on growth shows a company ready to scale. In 2021, it acquired Dash Beyond, an Indian company that offers skills training and career development.

As Alison grows, it will likely expand its course catalog and offer more comprehensive programs. Coursera’s solid financials and extensive user base make it a more powerful competitor. However, Alison’s many free courses and its focus on employability give it a competitive advantage. 

Coursera SWOT Analysis

Below is a detailed SWOT analysis of Coursera: 

Strengths

  • Its extensive course catalog with over 5,000 courses ensures that there is something for everyone
  • The company has a solid financial position with over $415 million in 2021 revenue and $822 million cash in hand
  • Its partnerships with top universities and organizations expose students to high-quality content
  • The platform’s focus on job-oriented courses gives it a competitive advantage over other e-learning providers

Weaknesses

  • The company is highly dependent on these partnerships and could be adversely affected if they are terminated
  • Some of its courses are not accredited, which may limit their appeal to some learners

Opportunities

  • The MOOCs market is growing fast and is expected to be worth $31.3 billion by 2030. Coursera can take advantage of this growth. 
  • The company can expand its partnerships to include more universities and organizations
  • It can launch new products and services to stay ahead of the competition, such as developing courses that provide a hands-on learning experience. 

Threats

  • MOOCs face stiff competition from traditional education providers such as universities and colleges
  • The company faces stiff competition from other MOOC providers such as Udemy and edX
  • Reduced consumer spending such as that one caused by the Covid-19 pandemic could adversely affect Coursera’s revenue

Coursera Competitor Analysis (FAQs)

Question: Is edX or Coursera Better?

Answer: Both edX and Coursera are great MOOC providers. Courses on both platforms go through a rigorous quality check process to ensure they’re up to par. However, we believe that the quality of Coursera’s courses is slightly better. In addition, Coursera offers more comprehensive programs such as specializations and degree programs. 

Question: Which is bigger, Coursera or Udemy?

Answer: Udemy has over 100,000 courses, while Coursera only has around 5,000. Financially, it’s almost a tie with Coursera generating $415 million in 2021 revenue and Udemy generating $518.2 million. What sets them apart is the quality of their courses. Udemy’s courses are non-accredited and are taught mainly by individuals. In contrast, Coursera’s courses come from partnerships with top universities and organizations. 

Question: Who is Coursera’s Main Competitor?

Answer: Coursera competes in an ever-growing industry with several large and small providers. However, its two main competitors are edX and Udemy. Other companies have a large selection of courses and are financially strong. Other competitors in the industry include Alison, Skillshare, and Khan Academy.

Conclusion

Coursera is a powerful competitor in the MOOCs industry. It has a large catalog of courses, partnerships with top universities, and a solid financial position. However, it faces stiff competition from large and well-established players such as edX, Udemy, and Udacity. Its main differentiating factor is its focus on enabling access to high-quality higher education.

To maintain its position as a leading MOOC provider, Coursera needs to continue to expand its catalog of courses and partner with more universities. It must also invest in marketing and promotion to make sure potential students know about its offerings. Additionally, it should consider offering more free courses and reducing its prices to make its courses more accessible.

Recommended Reads:

Scroll to Top