First, a few statistics. Coursera, which partners with top universities and organisations to offer courses online, has 35 million registered learners globally, and adds half a million new learners every month. Globally, it runs more than 1,400 enterprise partnerships, 2,700 active courses, 250 specialisations and 11 degrees. With 7.7 million users, the US is its biggest market.
It entered India, in the form of an office and workforce presence, three years ago, and the country is already the second-largest market for Coursera (both in terms of individual learners and enterprises), with 3.4 million learners and about 60,000 new learners joining every month. It has 40-plus enterprise partners, including Infosys, Axis Bank, YES Bank, Tata Communications, insurance firm AXA, Manipal Group and Airtel.
“We are the world’s largest online education platform, and we operate on three pillars—learners, educators and employers”, says Raghav Gupta, director, India and APAC, Coursera. The last three years, Gupta says, have seen a lot of activity.
“The numbers of learners from India has been growing rapidly. While initially we partnered only with world’s top universities, now we also have industry partners whose content is available for learning. The Coursera for Business platform, in particular—which is for employers—is helping them transform their talent”, he adds.
Gupta attributes three reasons why learners are increasingly coming onto Coursera. “One, the learning is great. Two, the content is available from the world’s best universities and enterprises. Three, it actually helps people from a career standpoint”.
We are in the midst of what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In February, at the NASSCOM annual conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the platform FutureSkills, for skill development in eight varied technologies. “Technologies such as machine learning, IoT, Big Data, robotics, virtual reality, 3D printing, etc, are changing how businesses operate. A lot of companies are reskilling their employees on these technologies. So, platforms such as Coursera will only get popular”, Gupta says.
They already are. Coursera certificates are today the second-largest in number on LinkedIn globally. “It’s a great signalling mechanism that you have learnt something new, and it helps a lot from a career standpoint”, Gupta adds.
The primary courses that are being taken up globally are in the domains of business, technology, data science and personal development. Within India, most are in technology and data science domains, and some on financial management and leadership (see table).
For career progress, many MBA colleges today run a one-year, full-time residential programme in management, aimed at executives who want to accelerate their career path and assume leadership roles. IIM Ahmedabad, for example, has the PGPX. Can platforms such as Coursera, in the long run, replace these programmes? Gupta says it’s tough to project that. “I don’t see Coursera replacing on-campus education at all, but it opens up an opportunity for another set of people who may not have gone out and gotten that education”. Moreover, getting into programmes such as the PGPX is far tougher, and more expensive, than an online course. “An online course from a top global university is certainly better than doing a full-time residential course from a tier-2 or tier-3 college”, Gupta says, adding, “but online courses are not a replacement for college or university life. These should be looked as a reskilling or retraining process, without really moving away from your job”.
For taking Coursera courses, one needs either a laptop or a smartphone. “If you have both, it’s better”, Gupta says. “More than 90% of what we have on the laptop is available on the mobile app. But if you do a technical course, say Python programming and you need to do coding as well, you need to have a desktop/laptop”.
(Course prices vary; these are in public domain and can be seen on the mobile app or the website.)