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Coursera CEO: Company to Offer 100 Free Online University Classes

Wednesday, 18 Jul 2012 | 11:19 AM ET

Coursera wants to transform higher education.

Jetta Productions | Lifesize | Getty Images

The online learning company Tuesday announced that a dozen major universities — including Cal-Tech, U.VA. and University of Edinburgh — are joining its four original partners, including Princeton and Stanford, to offer 100 free online classes starting this fall.

I spoke with Coursera's co-founder and co-CEO Daphne Koller about her plans to bring the highest quality higher education to the masses.

Coursera CEO Daphne Koller on New Platform
CNBC's Julia Boorstin speaks to Daphne Koller, Coursera co-founder/co-CEO, about her company's business model, and why its grabbing the attention of students around the world.

Koller wants to use technology to inexpensively record and disseminate lectures and classwork from top classes. The offerings are drawing tens of thousands of students each week, putting the company on track to quickly hit 2 million users.

The universities are currently giving away the content, and students don't pay, but Koller says there are a number of potential business models down the line. One idea: using information about students' course work to help companies recruit and hire employees. This could be in partnership with a company likeLinkedIn, or in competition with it. And that revenue would be shared with universities and professors.

But for now, Koller and her business partner are focused on the various possibilities for their new technology — including the ability to personalize lessons, or for teachers to tailor class time to the concepts students do not seem to be picking up. One other advancement— some of the new universities on board will offer credit based on the course work. And that credit may come along with a fee.

Coursera isn't the only EdTech company — Harvard and MIT have partnered on edX and there's Udacity, founded by a Stanford professor.

— By CNBC's Julia Boorstin
@JBoorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.