Coursera scales its global user base and ensures strong academic integrity with Persona

Coursera switched to Persona to verify learners’ identities before delivering course credentials, giving both Coursera and its partners reassurance that learners are who they say they are.

Coursera is one of the largest online learning platforms in the world, with 82 million registered learners as of March 31, 2021. Its mission is to provide universal access to world-class learning, partnering with over 200 leading university and industry partners to offer a broad catalog of content and credentials, including courses, certificates, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees. To date, more than 6,000 institutions have used Coursera to upskill and reskill their employees, citizens, and students.

Problem: Coursera needed to quickly scale identity verification.

COVID-19 accelerated the digital landscape by years, with many institutions and individuals realizing that online learning was both possible and efficient.

With this rapid growth, IDV was top-of-mind for Coursera. As more learners turned to Coursera to earn degrees and educational credits, the online education company knew it was important to maintain the highest academic integrity standards. “Identity verification is a critical component of academic integrity, which Coursera and our partners take very seriously,” says Shravan Goli, Chief Product Officer at Coursera.

That’s why when it noticed that some individuals were dropping out of the onboarding process at the verification stage, Coursera set out to find a new identity verification platform that’d both offer a better user experience and help it maintain its standards at scale.

Solution: Coursera partnered with Persona to future-proof its identity verification process.

Coursera switched to Persona to verify learners’ identities before delivering course credentials, giving both Coursera and the education partners it works with reassurance that learners are who they say they are. It ultimately chose Persona for the following reasons:

Tailored verification flows for every use case and customer

Coursera supports all types of learning, whether individuals want to earn a full-fledged degree or learn a few specific skills to advance their career. This wide range of options is amazing for students but was making things tricky for Coursera, as it knew it didn’t make sense to put all these learners through the same verification process. For example, individuals looking to complete courses accredited by a university should be vetted differently than those casually looking for a free way to learn about a subject they’re interested in.

Coursera also serves learners all across the world in many different languages, and in order to serve as many people as possible, it wanted users to be able to verify their identity even if they didn’t have a traditional government ID.

With coverage spanning 200+ countries and territories and 20 languages, Persona stood out not just because of the regions we cover, but also because we’re constantly adding new ID types, allowing Coursera to verify even more users.

Additionally, Persona gives Coursera full control over the verification experience it wants for each customer and use case. With Coursera able to match the verification flow to its brand, ask for just enough information to verify identities, and get users verified in seconds, it knew its learners would have a much better experience. “Persona enables us to seamlessly customize the verification process, accounting for the unique needs and forms of identification across Coursera’s global learner community,” Goli explains.

Persona enables us to seamlessly customize the verification process, accounting for the unique needs and forms of identification across Coursera’s global learner community.
Shravan Goli
Chief Product Officer at Coursera

Compliance

As Coursera has grown, so has its compliance needs. Especially when dealing with accredited university partners, it needs to stay compliant with a number of regulations and standards, including WCAG 2.1 AA, FERPA, GDPR, CCPA, and various other data storage and retention policies from specific countries.

Inclusivity is important to Coursera, so it also wants to comply with VPAT standards and make sure its service is as accessible as possible.

After conducting a full review of Persona’s systems, Coursera knew it had found the right partner. Not only does Persona give Coursera full control over its data, allowing it to retain and redact PII as necessary, but “with Persona, we can make sure the right learner receives credit for the right content by quickly and reliably verifying a learner’s identity while adhering to evolving accessibility standards,” explains Goli.

With Persona, we can make sure the right learner receives credit for the right content by quickly and reliably verifying a learner’s identity while adhering to evolving accessibility standards.
Shravan Goli
Chief Product Officer at Coursera

More than a vendor

With Persona, Coursera didn’t just get the identity infrastructure it needed — it also got a sounding board and partner. Persona works closely with the Coursera team to understand its needs and tailor our recommendations for its specific business. For example, we proactively reviewed its funnel metrics to give it guidance around how to improve learner success conversion rates without compromising on fraud detection. In addition, we created tailored metrics to help it monitor success.

Technical sophistication and ability to scale

Coursera also wanted to work with a platform that matched its technical sophistication and could seamlessly handle volume spikes. “As a global growth company, Coursera needs an identity verification provider that can keep up with demand for online learning,” explains Goli.

With our flexible API, information flows seamlessly between Coursera and Persona. In addition, we’ve proven our ability to scale with a variety of businesses, from other edtech companies like Preply to fast-growing fintech companies like BlockFi and Brex.

Results: Coursera is verifying more learners and excited to scale with Persona by its side.

With Persona, Coursera now offers a more seamless learner experience, which has improved learner verification conversion

Perhaps most importantly, as Coursera continues expanding its offerings and providing universal access to world-class learning, it can rest easy knowing Persona has its back. “Persona has helped automate our verification system, allowing us to focus on what matters most: creating a world-class online learning experience,” says Goli.