COURSERA- Transforming lives through online education

Raghav Gupta

Coursera was founded in 2012 by two Stanford Computer Science professors who wanted to share their knowledge and skills with the world. Since then, the platform facilitates anywhere and anytime learning to earn credentials from the world’s top universities and education providers, says Raghav Gupta, Director – India and APAC, Coursera, in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).

Coursera being one stop community for students has partnered with colleges, universities and corporate across the globe, how is the same benefitting the Indian learners?

To truly transform lives and bridge the opportunity divide, we recognized the need to provide learners with the currency that connects them to the career outcomes they are looking for – a richer and more applied learning experience and employer- recognized credentials.

Coursera is uniquely positioned since all the courses it offers are from the world’s most reputed universities. As a practice, we aim to partner with universities that are ranked among the top 200 globally, with every course on Coursera being taught by top instructors from these universities and educational institutions. We focus a lot on bringing top-notch content on our platform. We also work with our industry partners like Google, Intel, AWS, PWC, IBM to create career-aligned content to teach in-demand technologies and business skills not typically taught within universities – this ensures that our learners are learning industry-relevant skills and are future-ready.

Taking a step further, through partnerships with universities like Manipal and Duke, Coursera aims to create a University of the Future providing content from the world’s best institutions to campus students, empowering with the knowledge required to succeed in the present and future job markets.

Which education segments do Coursera majorly focus on and what are your product offerings in these segments?

Coursera majorly focuses on working professionals and students in the higher education space. With over 3,300 Courses, 300 Specializations, and 14 full-fledged online degrees, Coursera provides learning experiences and highly valuable credentials to anyone who wishes to upskill. From a product standpoint our offerings are:

Courses: Provide anyone, anywhere the ability to learn about a new topic or skill. They are open to all learners and typically take about 4 – 6 weeks to complete.

Specialisations: Designed to help learners master a particular skill. They are accessible to all learners and usually take 3 – 6 months to complete.

Certificates: Credentials issued by universities and industry. University certificates usually carry credit that can be stacked towards earning a degree. Industry certifications are developed by industry partners and have a rigorous, proctored summative assessment. Certificates usually sometimes require admissions and typically take 6 months to complete.

MasterTrackTM Certificates: Master programs split into modules so learners can earn a career credential online at a breakthrough price. Learners will benefit from real-world projects and live expert instruction. If learners are accepted to the full Master’s program, the MasterTrackTM Certificate counts towards the degree.

Degrees: Accredited credentials issued by universities. In order to meet accreditation standards, degrees usually include high engagement with faculty and classmates including live lectures, expert grading, and access to TAs, group projects, and proctored summative assessments. Degrees require admissions and typically take 2 to 3 years to complete.

How does technology have a positive impact on education and how can it enhance the level of education in remote areas of India?

As per a study by EY, India is the single largest provider of global talent, with one in four graduates in the world being a product of the Indian ecosystem. Touted to have the youngest population, scaling affordable education that is affordable is the top challenge Indian education system needs to address. This is where technology plays a key role.

Edtech platforms provide a host of courses, certificates, and degrees from the world’s top universities with no limit to the number of enrollments. The economies of scale also mean the courses are available at a fraction of the cost. By democratizing access to quality education edtech companies such as Coursera are enabling people to transform their lives through education. We are also moving towards making online learning extremely personalized by better understanding our learners’ career goals and then providing them with a series of courses that help them meet their goals. We at Coursera, are excited to be at the forefront of using technology to transform the way people learn throughout their lives.

What are the challenges that Coursera faces when it comes to aligning modern day technology and meeting student expectations?

As India moves to build a smarter and connected society, and with the nature of jobs evolving, making lifelong learning critical to one’s success, edtech platforms have started witnessing heavy demands. As an edtech platform, in terms of acceptance and utility, our challenges are diminishing with each day. Today, more and more employers are partnering with Coursera to upskill their workforce and are accepting online certificates. Now, Coursera certificates are the second most posted badge on LinkedIn and Coursera for Business is growing at the rate of 200% YoY, globally.

In terms of technology, internet penetration and bandwidth issues are the niggling challenges faced by online education platforms in India. While on the one hand, India is preparing to welcome 5G, many parts of the country still have limited access to high-speed Internet. However, with improvements to our product and digital transformation, we have been successful in overcoming this restriction to a large extent. In a bandwidth-constrained environment, Coursera allows you to download the lectures and assignments, and then seamlessly upload them for a grade when bandwidth returns. The ability to download material to work offline is one of the most-valued features among our mobile users, and thus we are constantly adding more offline features to facilitate on-the-go learning. We at Coursera, believe in constantly upgrading our platform and using emerging technologies to better the learning experience for our learners.

What are Coursera’s plans for upcoming years in the education space?

We’re continually developing new ways to support and empower people to transform their careers through access to high-quality education. Our priority in the coming years will be on:

Expanding career-relevant content offerings to fit every online learners’ needs. This includes launching more Courses, Specializations, and increasingly Master’s Degrees in career-relevant topics

Growing our workforce development initiatives with top employers and Governments

Helping universities across the globe create the ‘Futuristic University’ by equipping their students with the in- demand skills

Building a technology platform that delivers a scalable and personalized online learning experience.

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