Coursera’s Hottest Business MOOCs


For most, Excel is a glorified calculator. We use it to track our budgets and forecast our sales. But what if we could apply Excel to more than the bare minimum? Imagine a world where you could plot out complex probabilities, like forecasting risk or customer behavior, on a spreadsheet. Normally, such modeling requires fancy regression algorithms or expensive contracts with elite consulting firms. These days, you’ll find similar analytical capabilities in Excel. And you don’t even need to know coding or calculus to use them.


That’s one big appeal of Duke University’s Mastering Data Analysis in Excel. Like most MOOCs, the course is designed to level the playing field, so entrepreneurs and middle managers can keep pace with investment banks and marketing mavens – at a fraction of the cost. That’s also a major reason why it was the most popular MOOC on Coursera in 2015 – averaging an eye-popping 1,594 registrations per day for the number of days the course was active in 2015.

Coursera shared its 10 most popular business courses of th year with Poets&Quants, ranking the top classes by using a unique metric to quantify these courses’ reach. Rather than relying on total headcount, Coursera instead chose to evaluate daily enrollments while the course was in session. In doing so, Coursera removed any inequities between courses with longer lengths or more sessions. By whatever measure, Duke’s Excel course would likely have topped the list. It had nearly double the number of daily registrants as its runner-up, the University of Michigan’s Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills MOOC.

In fact, you’ll find a trend in this year’s ranking, with the University of Michigan and the University of California-Irvine each placing two courses in the Top 10. However, that doesn’t measure up to the Wharton School, which began placing its MBA core courses on Coursera in 2013. Wharton placed three courses in the Top 5 – Introduction to Financial Accounting, Introduction to Marketing, and Introduction to Corporate Finance  – with each averaging 771-816 registrations per day (though the number who complete the courses, on average, is roughly 15%.



These days, MOOCs are no longer viewed as an inexorable forced destined to flatten the foundations of higher education. Instead, they are another tool to teaching concepts, nurturing learning communities, and building brands. And Coursera is the biggest brand in the field. To put its size in perspective, the online education platform now lays claim to more than 16.6 million learners, 1,500 courses and 140 partners – including education leaders such as Harvard, Yale, and Wharton. And they are also evolving. Traditionally, Coursera has earned revenue from course completion certificate. In 2015, it expanded its efforts into specializations – a series of 3 to 10 interlocking courses where students pay a nominal fee per course and complete a faculty-supervised capstone project to earn a certification.

In this specialization niche, the top business performer is the University of Illinois’ Digital Marketing specialization, which is based on the highest rate of learners sharing certificates on LinkedIn. John Hopkins’ Data Science and the University of California-San Diego’s Interaction Design rounded out the top three.

Overall, the University of California-San Diego’s Learning How To Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects was Coursera’s most popular MOOC in 2015, with Duke’s Mastering Data Analysis in Excel finishing second.  Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills and  Introduction to Financial Accounting also ranked in the Top 10. 

To see how the Top 10 courses and specializations rank, go to the tables on the following page.   

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