Data Sheet—Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31, 2016, 12:51 PM UTC

Remember MOOCs? Otherwise known as massive open online courses, these ed-tech disruptors were supposed to revolutionize higher learning, delivering quality classes to the masses at little or no cost. In late 2012, The New York Times ran a feature story titled “The Year of the MOOC.” The hype escalated. And then, well, it died down. But the startups in the space—at least the bigger ones—didn’t.

Coursera, one of the larger MOOCs, is still on a mission to provide broader access to a high-quality education. But its ways of trying to achieve that goal are changing. On Wednesday morning, the company launched Coursera for Business, an enterprise platform for companies. According to CEO Rick Levin, a large percent of the site’s users are seeking content that can advance their career. Many of them are signing in from corporate email addresses. “With that in mind, we felt we could expand the horizon and the number of people we were reaching by going directly to companies,” Levin told me during a phone interview earlier this week.

In a nutshell, Coursera offers online courses curated by 145 universities, including Stanford and Duke. These include “Python for Everybody,” “Fundamentals of Music Theory,” and “How to Start Your Own Business.” The company says it now has 21 million “registered learners.” But it’s not alone. Its competitors include Udacity and, on the nonprofit side, Khan Academy, which tends to focus on younger students. So far, those companies have not launched products specifically tailored for corporate consumption.

Coursera’s early customers include BNY Mellon, Boston Consulting Group, L’Oreal, and Axis Bank. Some use Coursera for their onboarding and training process. Others simply see it as a retention tool—after all, who doesn’t want to learn Python?

There is no doubt that the early mission of MOOCs was a noble one, and it can still be achieved. But perhaps Coursera’s move is a good indication of what’s to come: At least when it comes to the for-profit, venture-backed MOOCs, turning a profit was also always a part of the goal.

Michal Lev-Ram is a senior writer at Fortune. Reach her via email. Share this essay:


It looks like Google has Uber-envy. The tech giant is expanding the pilot of a ride-sharing and carpooling program that started with employees across the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The initiative targets users of Waze, the traffic information app that Google bought back in 2013. (Wall Street Journal, New York Times)

Mark your calendar for Sept. 7. It's a big day for tech, even if you're not an Apple watcher. That's when the merger of business tech giants Dell and EMC—a deal now valued around $63 billion—is supposed to close after receiving clearance from Chinese regulators. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)

Cisco bulks up software portfolio. The networking giant is paying an undisclosed sum for Container X. The startup specializes in "containers," which allow companies to develop software applications that can be moved from data center to data center relatively easily. Google, for example, uses the approach (if not this specific software) extensively. (Fortune)

Twitter will pay more video creators. The social media company has been allowing larger publishers to earn a cut of the advertising revenue generated by their content under the Amplify Publisher program. Now smaller producers can benefit too. (Fortune)

Another day, another GE software investment. The company is paying an undisclosed sum for ShipXpress, which helps railroads and other logistics companies track goods. (Bloomberg, GE)

SWIFT issues another warning to banks. The global financial messaging system says multiple attacks have been attempted on member banks since the $81 million heist at Bangladesh Bank, disclosed back in June. Some of those attempts were apparently successful, but SWIFT didn't disclose details. (Reuters)



Uber poaches senior Target executive. The retailer's chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones, is now president of the ride-sharing company. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick apparently coveted Jones' experience in marketing and managing a global brand. (Fortune)

Google absorbs Nest developers. The team working on software for Nest's Internet-connected thermostats and smoke detectors is now part of a combined group working on technologies for the smart home. The effort, intended as a competitive answer to Amazon, is being led by Hiroshi Lockheimer. (Fortune)

Women bring more tech expertise to boardroom than men. According to a new Accenture study, they are twice as likely as their male counterparts to have held CIO or CTO positions. (Fortune)

Meg Whitman is campaigning for Hillary Clinton. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO, who previously stumped for Republican candidate Chris Christie, visited Denver on behalf of the Democratic nominee. (Fortune)


Why Apple's $14.5 billion tax fine is worse for shareholders than it looks. Realistically, the technology giant would have no problem covering the fine. It has $231 billion in cash and investments, and generated nearly $11 billion in cash flow from operations in the last quarter alone. There’s also rumbling among some analysts that Apple may not even have to pay the full amount. Both the computer company and Ireland are likely to appeal the ruling.

Even if Apple loses, it may be able to offset some of that cost with U.S. tax credit. Still, investors should anticipate its book value to take a bigger hit than it did initially. Here's why.

More coverage of the EU-Apple tax kerfuffle:





Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg, But Facebook Is Definitely a Media Company,
by Mathew Ingram

Say Hello to Virtustream, EMC's Other Cloud Company, by Barb Darrow

How Companies Are Developing More Apps With Fewer Developers,
by Anne Fisher

12 Business Leaders on How They Handle Stress, by Ashley Lee

Startup Uses Deep Learning to Make Self-Driving Cars More Like Humans, by Kirsten Korosec


Maybe you can skip the sedatives. A new medical study (albeit limited) suggests that letting a child use an iPad to play games before a surgery is just as effective as relieving his or her anxiety as the drug midazolam. (Time)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.

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