The internet has ushered in immense social change since the birth of email, its primary driver, in the early 1970s.
Today, there is nothing – no body of knowledge, no academic paper, no book, film, video or artwork, no individual, famous or otherwise – that cannot be found on the internet. It truly is a World Wide Web of knowledge, a global encyclopedia at one’s fingertips.
The internet’s technology has also spawned online shopping and ecommerce, two more examples of how the web has changed our lives.
MOOCs For The Masses
It wasn’t until the late 2000s, however, that the global reach of the web gave birth to the idea of online education for a worldwide audience. It began with a single course offered by two professors through the University of Manitoba in 2008. 25 students enrolled on campus while 2,300 from around the world enrolled online.
At that time, the two professors coined the term, “MOOC” — massive open online courses ¬— to describe this new kind of online learning.
For some years, many courses were offered free. That has changed to a fee-based model under which course content may still be free but a certificate of completion comes at a charge. With the addition of full-blown degree programs, students register and pay up front; the degree designation is included in the cost structure.
In just 11 years, MOOCs have exploded. By 2017, according to Class Central, 78 million students were enrolled in at least one online course. There are five major companies offering over nine thousand different courses through affiliation with some of the world’s leading universities. Students can take one course at a time or enroll for a full master’s degree program.
While the numbers are huge, one of the problems with online courses is the high rate of incompletions; almost 90% of students drop out, something that has led to widespread changes in course offerings with a decided shift to more vocational, technology-driven courses.
If a company wants to keep track of millions of students taking its courses, a rock-solid data management system is critical. That’s why Coursera turned to Salesforce and Gerent.
Data Going Adrift
“Our client was already using Salesforce in other aspects of their online education business that serve government and businesses,” says Andrew Swartz, Gerent’s Director of Sales, “but they didn’t have anything for their degree student situation. There was nothing in place for their teams to be able to know where students were in the process.”
Had students submitted applications properly and in a complete manner? Why hadn’t Coursera heard back from new students? They had no way to find out. In other words, as Andrew Swartz explained, the company wanted to implement Salesforce Sales Cloud in order to have the means to increase the number of active degree learners by increasing conversion rates.
“So, the opportunities turn into leads and, with Salesforce, the leads turn into applicants who turn into students and then become graduates”, he said.
Coursera uses an enterprise data warehouse (EDW) tied to one of their other Salesforce instances. Student lead data was stored there but when it was called up via Zapier, a technology that integrates apps and services, several key pieces of data would be missing. There were also too many occasions of data duplication, as well.
The way that Gerent implemented Sales Cloud for the client, Andrew says, all data will be fully integrated and key data sets will no longer be missing. The project also involved Salesforce Inbox for the company’s Gmail needs and some data migration was undertaken.
The Implementation Grows
The more that Andrew and his team worked with Coursera, the more the project began to expand. There are now extensive talks around adding more Salesforce products into the solution.
Discussion around the project began in January 2019, but as the SOW changed and expanded, the timeline stretched out. The company gained full use of Sales Cloud in October 2019, and Andrew says they are already deriving benefits from it.
While Coursera didn’t look at any other CRM provider than Salesforce, Gerent was chosen as the solutions implementation partner over two other Salesforce partner companies, an indication of how highly Gerent is regarded within Salesforce.
As for the online educator, the road continues; according to Andrew, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud are on the horizon. Gerent is also working on an ‘org merger’ of the three Salesforce solutions now in place, something that is going to streamline admin maintenance for the company.
By utilizing the data analytics capabilities of Sales Cloud, the company gains complete control of incoming student data, is able to leverage it efficiently and provide best-in-class service to its clients – the 35 million students who have chosen Coursera for their online learning needs.