How might we increase new user conversion rates on Coursera?



For the KPCB Design Challenge, I tackled the challenge of increasing the number of new users and improving the onboarding journey for Coursera. 

The Solution

In order to encourage new users to sign up for Coursera, I redesigned the Coursera home page to include hero stories and a more focused onboarding experience. With more streamlined content that humanizes the product and prevents information overload, potential users can more tangibly see the benefits of the classes and be more motivated to complete the courses.


Scope: 3 Weeks

Categories: User Research, UX design, Prototyping, usability testing

Role: Individual Project

Tools: Sketch, Principle, Omnigraffle, Typeform



THE home page redesign


Spotlight Success Stories

First impressions are important. Instead of a stock image, video content will humanize the experience by showing success stories of users who have reached their career goals through Coursera. 


Showcase the Network

Most users of Coursera saw their large affiliate network as a competitive advantage over other MOOCs. This section makes the network more apparent, while keeping the visual look of the website neat. 


Simplify Categories

Information overload was problem on the original homepage. Simplifying the choices to a few large categories will make the website more easily digestible. 



Using active action words to contextualize the classes makes it easier for the user to understand the tangible benefits of the course. 



PROVIDE Tangible Results

There are already great student success stories and mentor spotlights on the Coursera Blog which is not being showcased. Since Coursera is already making great content that makes the Coursera experience real, it seems a shame that it is not prominently displayed to new users. 

Being clear about what comes with a Coursera course can be easily simplified and communicated in the description at the bottom. 



New Homepage.png
New Homepage.png

The Onboarding Redesign





The goals could be simplified to career advancement and learning for fun. From my interviews and research, most users were able to categorize their interest in Coursera into these two categories. 



OB Screen 2.png





This page remained the same as the original onboarding process. However, now all career related choices in the previous screen now directs to this screen. 







OB Screen 3.png






I redesigned this page to mirror the previous page. This kept consistency in the design and added more imagery to the original choices. 







OB Screen 4.png


Time Commitment

Time commitment is very important to users. Since Coursera already has an estimated time commitment per week of every course, they can filter their recommendations more specifically based on the user's choice. 




OB Screen 5.png



Interacting with Classmates

Depending on this choice, Coursera can decide whether or not to recommend classes with cohorts or On Demand classes. 






MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been championed as an equalizer for accessible education. Coursera, as one of the main players in this space, has been at the forefront of this conversation. According to the Harvard Business Review, over two million people complete courses on Coursera every year. Of those who completed classes for career advancement, they saw tangible benefits to their careers. 


How do people interact with Coursera online? From SimilarWeb.com, I was able to find site traffic data for coursera.org.

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The homepage of Coursera.org gets almost 40 million visits every day. 



Of the visitors, more than 40% of them are direct visitors to coursera.org. This means that the home page of the site gets a lot of direct traffic. For that reason, I decided to focus on the redesigning the home page for the most impact. 



To understand the users behaviors,  I interviewed three types of users in the space:

  • students who have completed a Coursera course
  • students who did not complete a Coursera course
  • students who are browsing Coursera for the first time

All of the students had taken the courses by recommendation of a friend or colleague. For those who were first time visitors to the home page, many of them described it as overwhelming. When asked to choose a course to take, one user spent 15 minutes scrolling through classes before complaining that he couldn't figure out which class to take


Expert Interview

I was also lucky enough to get some time with the Head of Partner Services at Coursera. From him, I was able to understand limitations from the point of view of Coursera and the the universities that Coursera partners with. 

  • Courses cannot be deconstructed. Each class is a package deal with Coursera. However, Coursera can augment them with extra related content. 
  • Many courses need to be structured in cohorts. This is primarily to hold the users accountable and to allow for peer reviewed assignments.
  • The majority of the content is meant to be learned on a desktop browser. Although the mobile app allowed for more convenience for the user, many courses required access to a web browser to complete the assignments. (i.e. programming assignments) 


In addition to tapping into the extensive research that has already been done on MOOCs, I also distributed a survey of my own in order to better understand user behaviors and expectations on Coursera.  

From my research, I learned that Coursera users cared most about how much time a course would take each week and what universities the courses were affiliated with



I did a thorough analysis of many of the top competitors in the Massive Open Online Courses space. 

Education Competitive Space.png

The biggest takeaway from this analysis is that Coursera has a competitive advantage from it's extensive network of accredited universities. 




At the top of the current homepage, there is a tagline coupled with a stock image. There is an opportunity to really showcase what Coursera has to offer. Especially based on F-Shaped pattern for reading online content, these are prime real estate locations on the home page. 

Current Coursera.png
Credit: Jeff Wang, Medium

Credit: Jeff Wang, Medium

On the Coursera blog, there are already many Coursera user success stories that personalize the experience. However, it is not on the main page and difficult to navigate to. 


2. Showcase Network of University Partners

Coursera's biggest strength over it's competitors is it's large network with accredited universities. The current homepage doesn't make the breadth of the network apparent. With 161 partners across 29 countries, and 2,649 courses it really should be something that is bragged about on the homepage. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 9.38.30 AM.png

In the current homepage, there is a banner of only 8 universities, without clear indication of how large the network is. In addition, the logos, with varying fonts, colors, and sizes is not very visually appealing. 


3. Avoid COGNITIVE overload

On the current homepage there is a large section dedicated to classes. As a user, I can’t read and interpret more than one result at a time. It is very difficult to navigate all of the options. If I'm coming to Coursera to become a data scientist, I don't want to be bombarded by social science courses, even if it is a popular subject on Cousera. 


4. Use Action Verbs and Contextualize Courses


Using verbs to contextualize what you can do with the courses makes it easier to see what benefits you can gain from the course. The mobile app already does this, but the website still only shows the names of the Specializations. 

For a new user, the term Specialization might be confusing. Highlighting a phrase that captures what users are learning from the course might be more effective. 


5. Show Tangible Results

My conversation with the Coursera Head of Partner services helped me to discover that there is already a repository of awesome hero stories and mentor spotlights. 

Coursera Stories.png

Unfortunately it's really difficult to find them. The only place on the homepage you can find these is in these tiny links at the very bottom of the page. 


Looking at SimilarWeb again, we see that the Coursera community page only has 151K visits, as compared to the almost 4 million visits that the Coursera home page has. 



From my interviews, I learned that many potential users cared about things such as time commitment and level of classmate engagement. 

Coursera already has information per class which can help to personalize the onboarding process, such as the length of commitment per week that is needed per class. 



Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 11.57.33 PM.png


To personalize the courses that are recommended to a first time user, I made a few changes to the structure. In the original flow, there were five options for the question "What is your main goal?". However, all of these options pared down into the same two screens. 

Based on my interviews, most users were able to classify their goals into career goals and personal knowledge goals. 

Onboarding Flow.png


In addition, from my research I found that the time commitment for the course was very important to the potential users. Since Coursera classes already have an estimated time commitment, this could be incorporated into the onboarding process. 

Through my research I also found that Coursera has started offering some on demand courses, which are perfect for users who don't want to join a class with a cohort. 


  1.  Do Your Research Thoroughly. Through my research, I was able to find and leverage many existing videos and content already created by Coursera. However, the biggest takeaway I had was that the content needs to be well organized and easy to access. If the content is created but not even making it to the eyes of the user (kind of like a resume in job applications..), it is not
  2. Consider All Stakeholders. The stakeholders in Coursera are the content creators (i.e. universities), the business, and the students. Luckily, I was able to interview someone from within the organization who had the interests of the content creators. 
  3. Data is Powerful. Although I was only able to do a limited amount of research, being able to look at data from sources such as SimilarWeb and a survey done for the Harvard Business Review. 
  4. Teamwork Is Important. Although I was luckily able to get feedback from classmates and instructors, it would have been great to ideate and discuss with a team in order to more effectively tackle this challenge.