Coursera Opening Centers to Bring Online Courses to World’s Poor

Coursera Inc. will offer free online courses in more than 30 locations around the world, mostly in third-world countries, bringing instruction to students who lack computer access.

Under an agreement with the State Department, courses will be available at some U.S. embassies, the Mountain View, California-based company said today. All but one of the sites are outside the U.S., including Baghdad; Port au Prince, Haiti; and Hanoi, Vietnam.

Students can take the courses, have reliable Internet access and learn from local course facilitators, Coursera said. Along with the State Department, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and Overcoming Faith Academy, an orphanage in Kenya, are among the groups hosting the space. Of the more than 5 million students who have signed up for the free courses, about 1.2 million are from emerging markets, said Yin Lu, who leads the company’s growth and international outreach efforts.

“We target students who need it the most and have the most learning barriers,” Lu said in an interview. “By setting up these low- to no-cost learning hubs all over the world, we are allowing people the ability to learn and break some of those limits.”

The company is looking for additional sites and later may charge to offset operational costs such as electricity, she said.

About 535 courses are available in more than 20 subjects including biology, math, business and computer science. The material is created through partnerships with more than 100 institutions, mostly universities, and encompasses topics such as “Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change” from the University of Chicago and “Nanotechnology: The Basics” from Rice University.

Stanford University computer-science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded the company in 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Lorin in New York jlorin@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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