After a big fundraise and subsequent reorganization last year at Coursera — which saw a change of CEO, as well as the departure of its COO, CFO, CMO and CPO (along with some 40 others) — the online education startup is today launching a new IT course with Google to underscore its message that the ship is still sailing as it passes 30 million users and 2,500 courses

Today, the pair announced a new program to train IT support professionals — a course written by Googlers for the Coursera platform to teach and then test across six fundamental areas of customer support: troubleshooting and customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, automation, and security. No prior IT experience is necessary. 

The companies say they are filling a need in the tech world today. Coursera cites statistics that say that at the moment there are some 150,000 unfilled IT support jobs in the US alone.

The IT Support program — which is launching globally, but will offer courses initially only in English — has 64 hours of coursework in all, and students are expected to complete it eight to 12 months, at a cost of $49/month.

For some context, this is the typical price of a Coursera subscription, although in the case of this course, Google is subsidising it. On top of that, Google is also offering financial aid to 10,000 people, based on need, and also via a few charitable partnerships it’s forged to improve outreach, specifically with Goodwill, Per Scholas, Year Up, Student Veterans of America, and Upwardly Global. (While the course is global, the financial aid will be open to those only in the US.)

All in, the typical cost of the course for full-paying students will be between $392 and $588 depending on how long it takes, which comparatively is a pretty good deal. In my online hunting, I’ve seen courses from reputable companies that can cost as much as $1,230 for 20-25 hours of IT support instruction. 

For Coursera, the IT Support course is part of a larger strategic push for the startup to promote more vocational training alongside the company’s academic mandate (it works with some 150 universities to offer courses, and has its roots more in academia). In this, it’s targeting both students looking for jobs, but also businesses as part of its Coursera for Business offering.

It’s also a way to tease out other potential business lines for the company in areas like career placement. After you finish the course, Coursera can then help you find (but does not guarantee) a job, tapping its partner network of businesses, which includes Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, PNC Bank, Infosys, TEKSystems, UPMC, and Google. 

“I believe that the future of work and the future of education are converging,” Coursera’s CEO Joe Maggioncalda said in an interview. “I think that it’s natural to see the jobs that people might want to have when they finish a course.”

Offering job suggestions, of course, also puts Coursera into the crosshairs of Microsoft-owned LinkedIn, which has been pushing its own online education and professional development initiatives via its purchase of Lynda.com, and linking this with its hefty recruitment business.

For Google, the course is one of the bigger efforts it has made to date for its Grow with Google program, an effort that the company launched in October 2017 to offer training, scholarships and other tools to help train people in skills related to tech and entrepreneurship (which in turn is part of a larger, $1 billion CSR move from the company to further educational programs).
Offering more targeted vocational courses, as well as working with Google, are both not completely new areas for the company. Google was already offering a couple of courses through the platform, specifically for certifications for Google Cloud architects and Google Cloud developers, for companies that are implementing its cloud services and want to train up staff to run them. 
Meanwhile, the Coursera for Business division of the startup, which has been around since September 2016, has been “wonderful” so far, said Maggioncalda. Coursera has worked with over 500 companies, growing more than 300 percent in 2017, according to Maggioncalda.
The CEO joined from financial services business Financial Engines, which he took as CEO from startup to public listing — a notable detail for Coursera, which is now valued at over $800 million and may well also be looking at a similar trajectory.

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