I have a two-year-old daughter, and am expecting my son to be born later this week. When I think about what we can do to build a brighter future for our children, the most important thing is to create a foundation for education. Because education is knowledge, and knowledge is human progress.
Today Coursera, which I co-founded almost nine years ago to transform lives through learning, became a publicly listed company.
I remember building the machine learning course that wound up being the first course on Coursera. There were many Friday nights when I met friends for dinner and then headed back to the office to record videos until 3 a.m. I felt privileged and humbled sitting in a room by myself speaking to a webcam, knowing I was playing a small role in helping thousands of learners.
Of course, Coursera quickly became much bigger than a professor and a webcam. I’m grateful to my cofounder Daphne Koller, my early team members, our university partners, instructors, investors, advisors, executives, board members, and 1,000-plus employees over the years. Special shout-out to the company’s CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, who treasures the education mission as much as I do.
Most of all, I want to thank all the learners. Let's face it — learning is fun, but it can also be hard work. I remember once reading an article about the percentage of programmers who were self-taught. I couldn’t understand anything less than 100 percent, because I think all learners are self taught. Teachers can play a role, but ultimately it's up to learners to learn. So thank you for watching the online videos, doing homework, and spending your spare time to master these materials.
Coursera was launched on April 18, 2012 (the company and I share a birthday!). I hope we’ll continue to reach more learners, because everyone should be a lifelong learner, and everyone should have the opportunity to transform their life through learning.
The education mission is bigger than any person or single institution. If we can unlock the full potential in every person, we will move humanity forward.
(This letter is excerpted from a speech I made at Coursera’s IPO event earlier today.)