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Online learning platform sees major growth amid COVID-19

Class Central Founder & CEO Dhawal Shah joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss how his online learning platform is seeing a massive boost in visitors amid the coronavirus.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But as we've seen play out during this pandemic, a lot of students out there have been shifting to online learning, whether it's their decision or their college's. But even beyond that with a lot more time on their free hands, we've seen people turning to online courses just to stay busy through all this. And one company seeing quite the boost through that is Class Central, a trip advisor-like guide to thousands of online learning courses from major universities out there with courses online, in many cases free for you to take.

They saw traffic jump quite a bit during the pandemic compared to last year. When you look into those numbers, it saw 15 million visitors since the pandemic started. That was more than double the entire traffic totals they posted in 2019. So here to talk about that is the Founder and CEO of Class Central Dhawal Shah joins us now.

And Mr. Shah, when I look into it, it seems like a big jump for you guys, but what would you be, I guess, attributing that to? Would it be more college students that might be unhappy with the idea of learning online and just-- or going, actually enrolling? Or do you think it's more people being bored with less to do?

DHAWAL SHAH: So Zack, when the quarantine went live, that's when we saw the spike, so on March 15. One of our articles that you see on the homepage right now, it's the "Ivy League online courses" article that went viral on Facebook. And since then, we have received almost a million likes and comments on that article on Facebook.

So I don't think these online courses even before, where the target audience were adult professional learners, and that's what we saw. When colleges were going remote, we didn't see a spike. But when the whole-- when quarantine went in place in US and across the world that's when we saw a huge interest in Class Central.

ZACK GUZMAN: So maybe more-- more to do with Americans just being bored, in general. But when we think about it, too, I mean, it's-- it's something that college students have, right, a lot of colleges out there might have some sort of a rating system to say this class is worth taking, this one's not. But when you back up and think about all the classes that are online, I could see the use case for a Class Central here. When you talk about rating those classes, though, what are you seeing right now in terms of interest in the highest ratings out there for what people at home might want to start learning from?

DHAWAL SHAH: So the-- generally, the highest rated courses come from a different-- a variety of topics, so they are not focused on any technology. It depends on the instructor and quality of the instructor. But we published an article called the "Top hundred courses during the pandemic," and the most popular course was Yale's Science of Well-Being, and it received over 100 million enroll-- sorry- 2 million enrollments just after the pandemic.

One of the other courses that made it to the list is called Learning How to Learn, which is also my favorite course. And this is one of the courses that I recommend. If you've leaned online, I would recommend you to start with this course.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, you're overlooking number two there from Harvard's CS50 class that I took, one of the most painful classes in my life, also receiving five stars on your platform. When you talk about kind of the average user, though, turning to Class Central-- you know, I've seen ads there in terms of people trying to promote the classes that they offer from colleges, other institutions. What's kind of the model been like right now? Are you looking to be more that on-ramp to some of these colleges that now are trying to attract exactly that type of student who might want to learn online? How has business grown?

DHAWAL SHAH: Yeah. So the way we do is we have a focus on Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. So we focus on free online courses from universities all around the world, and we have a catalog of 15,000 courses from 1,000 universities. And you know, Class Central is a team of learners. We have a team of 10 people in 10 different time zones, and we have completed over 300 courses.

So what we focus on is not on colleges, but on the learners. And we try to aggregate the best courses for them. So we are bootstrapped and profitable, so we are not really data driven by the business model, but more from, like, what learners should take.

Our goal is to make online education work for everyone. And that's why we focus on courses that work for most number of people, not the ones that monetize the most. So that's why we focus on free-to-audit courses from the world's top universities.