Leah Belsky, senior vice president of Enterprise at Coursera(HT)
Leah Belsky, senior vice president of Enterprise at Coursera(HT)

Online learning has created a talent ecosystem that is collectively upgrading its skills: Leah Belsky

Coursera has recently announced partnerships with different stakeholders. Leah Belsky, senior vice president of Enterprise at Coursera explained this need to expand the range of partnership and engagement.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON OCT 09, 2019 11:41 AM IST

Coursera has recently announced partnerships with different stakeholders. Leah Belsky, senior vice president of Enterprise at Coursera explained this need to expand the range of partnership and engagement. Edited excerpts:

What kind of relationships is Coursera trying to build through its enterprise partnerships?

Coursera’s enterprise business launched about two and a half years ago. Today, we have over 2000 global companies, governments and educational institutions that are consuming content from the platform. When we first launched, many of the institutes came to us so that they could consume our courses. But over the past six months, we’ve made a major shift in the business, really focusing on skill development, rather than just delivering courses. And when I say skill development, I mean as follows. Coursera is an educational platform that brings together 42 million learners. And from that set of learners, we have tremendous amount of data that can tell us what the world is learning and what skills are trending in various industries. And for many companies and governments, we can show what their competitors are learning. From that data, we’ve built what we call an essential skills map, which is a mapping of the skills that we recommend people learn in specific domains. The essential skills map has really transformed the business.

So now when we engage with enterprise institutions, we come with a perspective and can help them understand what skills are needed to develop as part of their overall workforce plan. At this stage, we’re also expanding the scope of institutions that we’re working with. We started out primarily working with companies, we’re now getting significant attention from governments that are looking to train government employees as well as do larger citizen development programs. Universities such as Manipal University - which has been a longtime partner - want to deliver Coursera on their own campuses for upskilling.

The second important thing we’re starting to do is to create institutional networks. So the universities that we work with are producing students that are often hired by the companies that we’re working with. This has created a talent ecosystem that could be developing skills as a whole.

Re-skilling and upskilling are touted as the buzzwords of the future of work. Since organizations are not homogenous, can these two alone resolve all the challenges posed by automation and other threats?

I don’t think that these alone are sufficient but upskilling is the overall answer to all the challenges that will be posed by automation advancement of tech.

What you see when you look at the challenges posed by the future of automation is that one way to create continuous opportunities for people to have relevant jobs is by advancing the abilities of humans to interact with machines, and to push the push human capacities to next level.

w Take something like the insurance industry, where you have tremendous number of people who are actuaries and processing filings and processing data. Now, there’s going to be software to deal with a lot of those types of tasks. But by training those same peoples to become analysts and data science, you now allow them to interact with that software and engage at another level. Upskilling isn’t a kind of pill to cure all. But it can certainly help create more opportunities. For companies, reskilling and upskilling is imperative for two reasons. One, it’s often impossible to find on the open job market, people with the skill sets needed to fill certain jobs, particularly competitive fields, like data science, or artificial intelligence. And it’s also costly.

On the basis of existing learning data, what kind of broad trends exist in terms of who is using online education?

On the platform, especially in India, 93% of learners belong to 18 to 39 years of age. Mostly, these are working professionals and students with an 80:20 ratio. In terms of the reach of our enterprise engagements, organizations are deploying Coursera across many different skill levels and ages. As I look at where the programmes need to expand to have more impact, I would say two things. One is there’s still ample room even within our leading platforms to gain more reach within organizations as the vast majority of learning dollars in India are still spent in offline education. So there’s a significant opportunity to migrate that online. The second place where you will see significant expansion is bringing more online learning to the university student population, particularly in India, through the enterprise platform.

What does the future of online learning look like in India?

Currently in India, we have an active consumer and enterprise business. But on the content partner side, we only have one partner, which is ISB. That said, with the recent opening of education about regulations in India, we’re seeing significant opportunity to bring on more university partners for India. And that’s going to be a big focus for Coursera. Over the coming year, we see a lot of excitement from when we survey and we have learners, they have a lot of excitement to continue learning from local institutions in India. We’re excited to scale the reach of the top universities of India, in particular right now.

Some of the key partners for Coursera business include people like Infosys, Tata Communications, Axis bank, Yes bank, Manipal University. So in particular, we see a significant presence in the financial services sector, a growing presence and education, significant presence in telephones, and then also the professional services industry, all of which are industries that are either serving companies that are rapidly changing, or also being disrupted themselves.

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