Trends and Insights from Coursera’s 35 Million Learners

Trends and Insights from Coursera’s 35 Million Learners

India Inc is facing unprecedented transformation as business leaders steer their organizations through technology upheavals. Across sectors, enterprises we engage with on the Coursera platform voice the same concern – “How can my employees keep pace with digital transformation?” Acceleration in technology is profoundly impacting the nature of jobs and the skills needed for these jobs. In today’s workplace, industry-specific skills can go from relevant to obsolete within months!

Earlier this year, NASSCOM launched FutureSkills, a platform to reskill people on new technologies. It hopes to reskill two million existing IT employees and another two million students and potential employees over the next few years. This is an ambitious goal, given that the IT industry currently employs between 4-4.5 million people. FutureSkills was born from a study NASSCOM conducted with the Boston Consulting Group, which identified eight disruptive technologies including AI, big data, cloud computing, and robotics. Within these new technologies, it identified 55 new job roles and 155 new skills. Given India’s position as a global IT hub, that’s a reasonably massive challenge ahead, but also an opportunity. CRISIL expects the share of digital services in Indian IT exports, to double to 30% by fiscal 2020. But the sweep of digital goes far beyond the IT industry.

A recent Microsoft-IDC Asia/Pacific study predicts a dramatic acceleration in the pace of digital transformation across the country. It foresees digital transformation will add an estimated US$154 billion to India’s GDP by 2021. Given the possible scale and scope of this transformation, companies across the board are in a race to unlock their digital potential.

To achieve this, organizations must build workforces that are responsive to change. The good news is that learner insights from the Coursera platform reveal India already has an edge in its reskilling efforts!

Of our 35 million users worldwide, India has the largest number of learners on the Coursera platform after the US. Industry wise, we see high adoption amongst learners in Financial Services – no surprise there given large disruption in the sector. IT/ITeS also has a substantial representation. Given the sizeable reskilling challenge, directionally we are on the right track. The Indian tech industry is in-step with the US on acquiring cutting-edge skills. The most popular courses in both countries overlap – learners in the IT/ITeS industry in the US and India chose Machine Learning, Architecting with Google Cloud Platform, and Data Science among their top 5 choices. In India, like in the US, we see the largest number of learners in the eight tech domains laid out by FutureSkills.

India’s demographic dividend, a young workforce, also creates an advantage. Today, 45-50% of the Indian workforce is made up of millennials – a generation that embraces technology and lives entirely in the digital world. Not surprisingly, 72% of Coursera learners in India are millennials. Based on their learning patterns, millennials are mindful of the importance of self-learning and lifelong learning. Professional development ranks high for them, sometimes over compensation. The kind of specializations India’s millennials choose, also completely aligns to the emerging technology areas that require reskilling.

So how can organizations use these insights to their advantage? We are continually learning from enterprises as we work with them in their transformative journeys. India has the second largest number of enterprise learners on Coursera, again after the US, giving us a deep perspective on the impact of L&D programs. Based on this, I’d like to share some approaches that I believe will help companies drive real results, as they future-proof their workforces.

1. Map business needs to the right skills and content

Two years ago when we launched Coursera for Business, companies wanted to build a culture of learning, or provide employees access to a library of world-class content. Today, we are seeing a shift to more targeted programmes tied to business and L&D objectives. For example, banks are training data analysts to become data scientists. Everyone on the team knows precisely what they need to achieve. L&D programs that lead to business results start with specific programme objectives.

2. Give employees the best learning experience

Custom learning programs that curate high-quality content from reputed universities and industry partners, meet the learning needs of different kinds of employees. But along with choice, flexibility is central to an effective enterprise learning experience. Employees want the convenience of completing coursework on their own schedules. With the Indian workforce comprising a large number of millennials who are always online, a robust mobile platform enables learning on the go. We have found a large percentage of employees take Coursera courses during their commute on our mobile app.

3. Create an inclusive program

Content curation needs to be broad-based and inclusive to drive effective outcomes across the organization. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush, or only account for the needs of the largest audience in your company. Our analytics reveal Indian companies are falling short on engaging women learners. While the percentage of women learners on Coursera is 40% in the US, in India, it is 23%. Given that India’s IT-BPM industry currently employs 34% women, there is a strong opportunity to engage them and increase their participation. Insights show a gap between what women want and what companies offer. While women’s top specialization choices on Coursera include leadership, marketing, communication skills and data science, company programmes primarily focus on a mix of technology and communication courses. Reskilling more women can lead to larger economic benefits too. The current contribution of Indian women to the GDP is 17%, far below the global average of 37%. In WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India ranks 139 out of 144 countries on economic participation and opportunity. The report found that making full use of women’s capabilities paves the way to optimizing a nation’s human capital potential.

4. Champion the cause of learning from the top

While this may sound obvious, in our experience, it is not always applied! We see strong impact where business leaders believe in investing in L&D, at times even giving their managers the power to link elements of L&D to performance management. But, the approach that yields the best results and delivers the most impact is one where business and L&D work together, closely aligning their objectives. If it’s only business or L&D driven, reskilling efforts tend to lose momentum.

Finally, the most critical success factor is execution. It takes robust and sustained implementation to build a workforce of agile, lifelong learners, and there is no shortcut here. I ask leaders to think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. This is going to be a long term commitment – keeping pace with technology never stops in a digital world!

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