Now as a business, Coursera has three institutional channels—one for businesses, one for campuses and one for governments. “What they're all looking for is really high quality, online courses that they can get and use for their constituents,” said Jeff of their customers.

Keep learning, even at home

The COVID-19 pandemic closed offices and schools around the world last year. 1.6 billion students around the world had their schools closed in April 2020 or 90% of all students. My partner is an assistant principal at a K-12 school in Colorado, and I have witnessed first-hand the new challenges that she and all educators and learners have had to navigate.

On the Reboot Chronicles podcast, I recently interviewed Jeff Maggioncalda, Board Member at Silicon Valley Bank and CEO of Coursera, which provides anyone anywhere with access to online courses and degrees from world-class universities and companies. Coursera, which was once known as the Craigslist of education, enrolled 30 million new learners in 2020 and grew revenues by 64% year over year.

Lifelong, “chunky” learning has moved from a nice to have to a must do! The world is moving and changing faster than ever, so it is critical for everyone to continue to learn new skills to stay relevant and grow personally and in their careers.

Higher education reinvents itself

Jeff detailed how Coursera was not a business at all when it started, and grew from the “Craigslist of Education” to a multi-platform business. Initially it only offered free courses directly to consumers. Many top universities, expanded their businesses when they began publishing their content and supplying it to global audiences through Coursera.

Now as a business, Coursera has three institutional channels—one for businesses, one for campuses and one for governments. “What they're all looking for is really high quality, online courses that they can get and use for their constituents,” said Jeff of their customers.

The higher education business model is under pressure and somewhat fragile. Their curriculum is an institution’s core offering or the family jewels. However, from Jeff’s point-of-view, tools like Coursera are allowing the higher education sector to reinvent itself. Universities are collaborating and licensing content from other academic institutions. This is very similar to textbooks, but just with the digital mechanism that empowers speed and scale.

Responsibility beyond shareholders

The Milton Friedman shareholder theory that a firm’s sole responsibility is to its shareholders worked for some time in the 1980s. But now, there is much more longevity with organizations that have coordinated initiatives to positively impact society.

Coursera recently received the rare B Corp certification, which means the company has an obligation to affirmatively attest that it is not just serving shareholder interests. The mission-driven company was a natural fit for this certification because it offers many courses for free to refugees or anybody who needs financial aid.

Jeff says, “You can be a multi-billion dollar, public, for profit company. And if you do the right thing, balance the interests of more than just shareholders and still be a successful business as well as serving the world.”

The B Corp recognition seems like a natural fit for EdTech companies, but also other tech companies, with past podcast guest Logitech CEO Bracken Darrell immediately coming to mind.

Digital transformation and personalization

Businesses of all sizes are undergoing a period of digital transformation. Business models and customer experiences are shifting online, so more operations are harnessing cloud computing.

Personalized recommendations are a key component of a positive experience. Even baby boomers have high expectations around personalized recommendations and their digital experiences with a brand.

Jeff pinpoints the challenge when he said, “Consumers have a digital expectation that's being set by Apple, Google and Amazon.”

A college degree used to be able to sustain employees through several years of their career because change wasn’t evolving as quickly. To compete in today’s environment, companies are being forced to train teams on technologies that didn’t exist when many of the employees were in school. It is important to demystify technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), data science and cloud computing. Coursera strives to be an “enabler of change” by helping make companies more adaptive and understanding how technology like AI can advance their business models.

“It really is sort of a do or die, either you figure out how to better harness the data and create better experiences, or as a retail company, you're going to even see a bigger gap between the digitally-savvy competitors and your own business’ performance,” said Jeff.

An offensive strategy to the future of work

There is so much competition in Silicon Valley for strong talent. As it relates to the future of work, Coursera took an offensive strategy rather than a defensive one. When Jeff and his team sent home employees on March 6, 2020, they were told from the start they would never be forced to return.

Jeff and his head of HR were able to envision and anticipate a future where people can work from anywhere for the long-term. The company has kept offices for the people who may want to return to that environment, but this strategy has helped them retain and acquire new talent from companies who may be forcing employees back into an old “normal.”

This approach also has improved diversity, equity, and inclusion. With access to a broader talent pool by hiring from anywhere in the U.S., Coursera is helping to dramatically change the composition of the global workforce—for the better.

Watch here or tune in where ever you listen to podcasts.

About the Reboot Chronicles Podcast

Hosted by Dean DeBiase. The Reboot Chronicles is a popular no-holds-barred podcast on iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube that has been bringing together CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, and global leaders, for over a decade, to discuss how organizations are rebooting their leadership-competitiveness of everything from growth, innovation, and technology to talent, culture, and governance. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts or at

About Dean DeBiase

Named a Growth Guru" by Inc. Magazine, Dean DeBiase is a Faculty Member at Kellogg School of Management and Silicon Valley serial CEO, where he has served in chief executive and chairman roles of more than a dozen emerging growth companies, CEO of Fortune 500 subsidiaries, and a director on public, private, family-enterprise, CVC, PE and VC boards. He is a Technology Fellow at Northwestern University, a Board Leadership Fellow at The National Association of Corporate Directors, and an Advisor to the National Science Foundation. A Forbes Contributor and co-author of the best-selling book The Big Moo, Dean, is working on his next book, Dancing with Startups. Connect with Dean here: