‘Constant upskill is a must’: Coursera CCO reveals pandemic pushed more women to take on new courses – Economic Times

“It is encouraging to see women embracing online learning to develop new skills that can help accelerate their return to work and promote economic mobility. We have seen women in India learning at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic, representing 44% of new learners in 2021, up from 37% in 2019,” says Dr. Betty Vandenbosch is Chief Content Officer at Coursera, where she oversees the company’s content and credential strategy and partner relationships.

Coursera was launched in 2012 by two Stanford Computer Science professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, with a mission to provide universal access to world-class learning. It is now one of the largest online learning platforms in the world, with 102 million registered learners as of March 31, 2022.

“Indian women show a balanced investment in human and digital skills. Computer programming, machine learning, and probability and statistics are among the top skills, followed by business-critical skills, such as communication, leadership, and management,” she adds.

The top courses among Indian women learners teach in-demand skills across tech, data science, personal development, and business, while globally, women enrolled more in courses teaching human skills such as writing and language learning. In a chat with ET Panache, Dr. Betty Vandenbosch, we find out the importance of upskilling in a post pandemic world and why India is a big player for the brand.


Do you find that the pandemic has pushed more people/women to upskill?


The double disruption of the pandemic and automation has forever changed the ways we learn and work. In 2020 alone, 30 million new learners joined the platform. Today, the demand for online learning continues to outpace pre-pandemic levels. In India, we have added over 11 million learners since January 2020 – this is the highest number of new learners globally.

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The latest Women and Online Learning in Emerging Markets report, developed in partnership with Coursera, IFC, and the European Commission, shows how online education can expand job opportunities. About one-third of the women learners in emerging markets found a new job, set up a business, or improved their job or business performance after taking online courses. The analysis also finds that one job is created for every 30 people trained online in these countries.


What are some of the courses that are doing well that you did not expect?


The pandemic has taught us that no skill is underappreciated. To succeed, you must have a mix of both tech and human skills. We have seen increased demand for data analysis, cloud computing, and digital marketing skills, as well as courses that teach negotiation, communication, and problem-solving.

In India, it is heartening to see learners embrace these dual requirements! They are learning digital skills, gaining control of their mental health, and exploring personal passions, like learning a new language. First Step Korean by Yonsei University was one of the top 15 courses in 2021.

How important is it to upskill?
If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it is the need to constantly upskill and reskill, to stay relevant, drive innovation, and navigate disruption. Skills are the new business currency in the knowledge economy. Skills and jobs are changing at an unprecedented pace. Microsoft estimates that digital job capacity will grow, creating 2.8 crore new technology jobs in India in the next three years. The double disruption of automation and the pandemic have further pushed adoption of technology across companies, which the World Economic Forum predicts will transform tasks, jobs, and skills by 2025.

If you had to do 3 courses, what would you pick and why?
That is tricky! We always recommend courses that align with learners’ career aspirations or passions. Regardless of your career path, you cannot go wrong with these three courses. They’ll change how you look at life and approach problems.

AI and ML – AI is the new electricity! AI and ML have become critical skills for all professionals. Coursera co-founder, Andrew Ng, has recently launched a Machine Learning Specialisation, updating Coursera’s first and most popular course ever. AI for Everyone is also a great course to explore to get a fundamental understanding.

Data – Managing and visualising data has become a requirement for nearly every job. Data helps you make better decisions and analyse performance. Foundations: Data, Data, Everywhere by Google is a great way to start building data-centric skills, and it stacks into Google’s Data Analytics Professional Certificate, so you can keep learning!

Well-being – The pandemic has underlined the importance of health and well-being – physical, physiological, and mental. The Science of Well-Being from Yale is a perennial favourite – it outlines research-backed ways to increase personal happiness and establish more productive habits.

What kind of course (that’s not already available) would you like to add to Coursera?
This is tough as we have over 5,000 courses. Given that, I would love to add more courses that teach learners practical life skills, instil greater confidence, and encourage them to ask more critical questions.

Which areas or regions are you seeing the most interest from and what do you credit this to?
We see growing traction from learners in Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and across the world. In India, Coursera has worked on creating a level playing field for learners, erasing the access divide between urban and non-urban centres. The highest growth in India is happening in remote parts of the country, such as Manipur, Bihar and the Anadaman and Nicobar Islands. Manipur showed a 500% growth in learners over two years ending 2021, followed by Bihar, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, and Arunachal Pradesh.

Affordability is a key driver. Our scholarship programs benefit underrepresented communities, and especially in India, special pricing and flexible payment options have helped more learners invest in skills that improve employability.

Mobile is another powerful tool in bridging the access divide. 61% of Indian learners use mobile devices to access their learning. The percentage is even higher for non-urban centres, where over 70% of learners from states like Nagaland, Bihar, and Odisha access Coursera courses on mobile.

What motivational quote do you love?
I live by the Dutch proverb “Nee heb je, ja kun je krijgen,” which literally translates to “You have (a) no, (a) yes you can get.” This means that being told “no” after asking for something is only as bad as never asking in the first place. The quote reminds me to explore more options, take up new challenges, venture into new areas and perhaps most importantly, be bold.

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