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6.9.20   2:40 PM Innovation - Consumer

Online educators Udemy and Coursera are red-hot right now. But that may not be the case all summer.

Online options for education are helping students get a leg up on training for tasks ranging from piano to Python.

COVID-19 is keeping Americans homebound due to record unemployment and work-from-home orders — but that time isn’t being spent idly. The immense growth of online learning platforms like Udemy ($PRIVATE:UDEMY) and Coursera ($PRIVATE:COURSERA) show us that Americans are looking for ways to keep busy under lockdown and that COVID may have permanently changed the face of education.

There’s no greater example of how much demand for online learning has grown than Udemy, one of the largest platforms which offers over 100,000 courses on topics ranging from piano to Python.

Udemy announced in a recent report that its enrollment and number of available courses have increased by 425% and 55% respectively during the pandemic. Linkedin Headcount shows Udemy's workforce increased by 21% since the new year to keep up with demand, with the most significant increase occurring after March 15 when quarantine began for many Americans. 

It was apparent right away that Udemy would see a surge of subscribers due to COVID. Udemy’s Facebook Talking About count saw a 273% increase over the 17 day period of March 15 to April 1. Since then, it has continued to fluctuate around that 200,000 benchmark. While the company’s report claims that hobbies like “Ukulele” and “Pilates” have increased at the same rate as workplace skills like “Business Fundamentals,” it is also worth noting that Udemy offers hundreds of courses about COVID-19 which surely captured the attention of anxious customers at the pandemic’s outset.

All this growth might make it seem strange that Udemy’s job openings have decreased by a dramatic 48.4% since March 15 — the same time it began to see an increase in nearly every other metric. While that slowdown may at first seem like a worrying sign, it wasn’t too long ago that it was considered a sign of a potential IPO leadup. Udemy also joined the unicorn club with a $2 billion valuation in February before the pandemic went into full swing, and its impressive numbers should help to further boost its valuation. Backers include Japanese publisher Benesse, Learn Capital and Insight Partners.

Coursera, which also reached unicorn status back in 2019, may have a similar goal in mind. Unlike Udemy, Coursera offers classes and even online degrees from accredited universities like Stanford, Yale, Arizona State University and more.

Like Udemy, Coursera quickly capitalized on stay-at-home orders by offering courses for free to students impacted by COVID-19, and has essentially extended the offer into a “summer school,” allowing anyone with a working .edu address to access Coursera’s entire catalog until September 30. As a result, Coursera added 10 million new users between March and May, according to the New York Times.

Coursera’s LinkedIn Headcount is up 19.6% since the new year and rising as new courses and subscribers continue to roll in. 

The success of services like Coursera and Udemy is not mutually exclusive from that of supplemental education companies like Chegg, which are also performing better than ever thanks to COVID. Students will continue enrolling at universities, but the path forward may be a model like Coursera’s, partnering with established universities to provide opportunities for those who can’t afford regular tuition.

With rumblings of a second wave of COVID and companies making permanent shifts towards work-from-home, it seems Udemy and Coursera will continue to benefit from the environment that gave way to their rise for quite a while. If they can keep up this rate of growth in a post-pandemic world, they may soon set their sights on Wall Street and an IPO, in the long-run.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

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