Kabir Chadha is India Country Manager of Coursera—the US-based online education provider. “We are here to build a network and add value to it,” Chadha says. He adds that Coursera is in the process of expanding its offerings in the country. In June, the Indian School of Business forayed into the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) world with “A Life of Happiness and Fulfilment,” which is offered on Coursera.
Last month, Coursera secured $49.5 million in Series C funding to expand access to job-relevant learning opportunities from the world’s best universities. The education provider will use the funds to source new content and expand its global reach, as it works to address demand for high quality, accessible learning in Latin America, China and India.
Chadha—who prior to joining Coursera founded Epoch Elder Care startup and worked with McKinsey & Co—shares with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express that the education provider’s immediate focus is adding talent to the India team and spending resources to create local content. Excerpts:
There are numerous players in the Indian online learning space. How is Coursera different?
There are two things that set us apart—our platform is the best place for learning online and we host high quality content from the best universities. Our platform is not just about video-taped lectures, it uses short interactive video segments, discussion forums, peer grading, pop quizzes and other features to ensure your course experience is fun and effective. You can access our courses on your mobile device too and learn on the go. In addition, for people who want to dive deeper into a particular topic, we offer a series called “Specializations” that end with a real-world capstone project. The project is usually co-developed with corporates to test competency in skill-sets such as data science, digital marketing or computer programming. We’ve started to see Specializations being referenced in job postings as qualifications, and we believe this trend will continue as professionals seek ways to differentiate themselves in a competitive market.
What about India-specific courses?
We offer courses in 30-plus languages, but the majority are taught in English. We are now looking at translating some of our top courses into Hindi so as to reach a wider audience in the country. We are also looking to partner with Indian universities to launch content that is tailored to the Indian user. The Indian School of Business, our first Indian university partner, recently launched a course that got over 60,000 enrolments.
Here I must talk about the Global Translator Community (GTC), which is a group of volunteers working to make Coursera’s educational content accessible to all, regardless of language barriers. Thousands of GTC volunteers work together to translate their favourite Coursera courses into their native languages. We have initiated a programme to translate English courses into Hindi, Tamil and other Indian languages.
Who all consume your content?
While our learners come from every possible demographic, a majority are career professionals in their mid-30s; enrichment learners from mid-20s to mid-50s; and aspiring academics from late teens to early-20s. In fact, most Indian learners come to us to enhance their academic path or to take a further leap in career opportunities. The reason is we offer courses that teach skills for the most in-demand jobs—software engineers, application programmers, database administrators, web designers, project managers and so on. The three top performing courses in India cover the topics of machine learning, programming and algorithms.
How does Coursera India function?
We are bullish about India and are making investments to further expand our course offerings and partnerships in the country. Our investments will include adding talented individuals to our India team and spending resources creating and translating content.
What are Course Certificates? How much does a learner pay for these?
Course Certificates are credentials that showcase what you’ve learned on Coursera. While all our courses are free, but if a learner who completes a course or Specialization and wants to demonstrate that achievement to employers can pay around R3,000 for a certificate.
Do all major companies in India recognise Coursera credentials?
Companies and hiring managers are increasingly recognising our certificates as a positive signal on a job candidate’s resume. We hear anecdotally from numerous people how a Coursera class has helped them get their foot in the door for an interview, a promotion, or a pay raise. A recent survey of about 500 US hiring managers by the Career Advisory Board reports that a quarter of these managers strongly value micro-credentials and 87% are at least somewhat likely to consider them. A 2014 study by Duke and RTI International found that 73% of employers appreciate a job candidate who takes related courses from MOOC providers.
What percentage of your learners are from tier-2 or tier-3 towns?
We only have data broken down by region. The south is our biggest base, constituting nearly 40% of our learners from India. The breakup is: North (25.43%); South (39.41%), East (6.76%) and West (27.1%).
The Indian government has talked about launching MOOCs in collaboration with various universities…
It is a positive step to encourage quality online education in the country. We’re excited that Coursera is playing a leading role in bringing open online education to India, our third largest market with over 1 million registered learners.