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Out in Front, and Optimistic, About Online Education

With seven million registered users and 25 million course enrollments to date Coursera is the largest provider of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. A for-profit company, its main rivals include Udacity, another commercial firm, and edX, a nonprofit backed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But with its sole revenue stream coming from a small minority of students who enroll in its “Signature Track” — which charges a fee of around $50 to verify a student’s identity, and issues a certificate upon successful completion of the course — questions have been raised about how long its backers will have to wait to see a return on their investment.