Chegg cozies up to Coursera to tap into MOOC movement

With roots that go back 10 years, you could say Chegg is an old hand when it comes to education technology. But the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company that made its name as a textbook rental site still wants a piece of the newest big thing.

On Wednesday, Chegg, which now bills itself as an online “student hub,” said that it is partnering with ed tech darling du jour, Coursera, to provide digital content, including textbooks and other materials, to students enrolled in its massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Through the partnership, Coursera students will be able to purchase Chegg material, as well as receive some publisher content for free. They will also be able to make use of other Chegg features, including Q&A forums, search and highlight options. Coursera students could still purchase content from other sources, but the company said it offers lower prices than other vendors and students wouldn’t benefit from the social options connected to Chegg content.

The companies declined to share financial details of the deal. And, when asked whether similar partnerships with other MOOC providers edX and Udacity might be on the horizon, CEO Dan Rosenweig said, “Our vision is to become the leading connected learning platform… We’re not going to limit ourselves to anything.”

MOOC providers have faced more vocal challengers in recent months, but this deal underscores their steadily growing influence. Even if their completion rates hover around just 10 percent, Chegg clearly wants to be able to get in front of the millions of learning-focused eyeballs that are being drawn to Coursera.

Until now, Coursera professors have only been able to require supplemental content that is available for free on the web and recommend textbooks. Chegg said it will enable the MOOC provider to make some publisher-created content available for free during the course. Students will then have the option to purchase the full eTextbook from Chegg for continued learning after the course.

As of the partnership’s launch, just two courses will offer Chegg content but, over the next few months, the companies said it will expand to several dozen of the site’s 370 courses.