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India To Soon Become Coursera's Biggest Market, Says Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda

As Coursera for Campus completes three years of its launch in India, its global CEO tracks the company's journey, its plans for India and how the company is trying to be a differentiator among its Indian peers

India To Soon Become Coursera's Biggest Market, Says Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda
Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda
POSTED ON October 21, 2022 7:26 PM

Keeping pace with the changes in the evolving education domain, US-based edtech Coursera has expanded the range of its formats. These are aimed at helping adult learners upskill themselves to advance their careers.

Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, tells Outlook Business how it is now working on suggesting employment opportunities to students through students with whom the edtech is associated. 

Edited excerpts: 

How has the journey been for Coursera since its launch in 2012?

It's been dynamic. It's been a lot about learning and changing as you grow. We started with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) with the highest quality learning from Stanford University, Michigan State University, etc. 

Next, we took the offering to the institutions. Children from remote areas in India might not know what Coursera is and end up taking up government programmes and jobs. Hence, upskilling and reskilling are key institutions for governments, businesses and campuses.

We also offer multiple formats apart from MOOCs — normally 10-hour courses — such as two-year college degrees, diplomas, university certificates and 5-to-10-minute video clips for insider courses. 

So, Phase 1 was about making Coursera available directly to individuals, while phase 2 was about making Coursera available to students through institutions. Now in phase 3, we will be linking individuals to their jobs.  

How do you plan to position yourself in India and prepare to be a differentiator?

Our biggest differentiators in India are quality and collaboration. On the quality side, around 1100 best universities use Coursera to teach their students. 

Maintaining quality at that scale becomes very important. To achieve that, it is essential to understand who is producing the content and the quality of the learning experience. 

So, we have invested a lot in the technology that helps learners learn more efficiently with videos, quizzes, and hands-on data science projects. The second piece of collaboration is with universities all over the world to institutes and learners here in India. 

Also, we are not only helping universities collaborate with universities; we are assisting universities in collaborating with businesses and vice-versa. We are bringing industry micro-credentials into the university setting. 

So, what started with the Google IT certificate has now expanded to 27 professional certifications that are getting credit recommendations from the American Council of Education. I don't think any edtech in India is doing that.

Fintech edtech
India now has 17 million learners of Coursera, while the US has 20 million, making it a large market for the edtech

Have you been successful in bridging the industry-academia gap through your courses? 

When a student graduates from college and wants to become an UX designer, they can do the Google UX designer certificate and graduate. So, it's a certificate designed by Google, made as per what they want or expect a UX designer to know–a win-win for any learner.

In Coursera for business (for companies), we have created skillsets that businesses expect their specific candidates to know. We tell the industry that if you want to train a software engineer, these are the particular skills you must look at. 

Inside these courses, which number around 5,000, there are 5 lakh assessments and projects that students must do to prove that they know these skills. We are also taking these skill sets to universities. So, that completely bridges the gap because these courses offer the skillsets per the industry's ask. 

How have your plans for India changed since the pandemic?

We will keep expanding the learner base by serving them directly, which is growing faster than any other country in the world. India now has 17 million learners of Coursera, which is growing faster than Africa. 

Country-wise, only the US has more Coursera learners than India, at 20 million. I sense that in the next couple of years, India will surpass the US in the number of learners for Coursera. 

According to a report by Mckinsey, 20 per cent of the global workforce will be in India in the next five to 10 years. So, we will play our role in upskilling and reskilling 20 per cent of the global workforce. Our next step, connecting employers to institutes for onboarding students, will also begin in India. 

Interestingly, in India, the highest growth is happening in the remote parts of the country, such as Manipur and Anadaman and Nicobar Islands (in 2021 vs 2019). Manipur stands at 500 per cent, Bihar at 380 per cent, Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 375 per cent, Kerala at 320 per cent and Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh at 300 per cent.

Are the global online education trends different from the ones you see in India? 

One of the biggest trends is that every university in the world is looking to add micro-credentials to its courses. Businesses are asking for potential employees who actually have the skills they are looking for. 

Students want to join courses that help them get jobs. Focus on digital is another global trend, be it data, computer science or business skills. 

Collaboration among universities is also a big trend, as are platforms bringing learners, students and businesses together. Integrating online content in university courses is also a global trend. 

Students want to join courses that help them get jobs

How is the edtech space in India different from the US?

India has a large demographic of young population, around 850 million between the ages of 18 and 24. On the other hand, in the US, the population of young people is dropping and colleges are having trouble recruiting students. Everywhere else, the population is ageing apart from Africa. 

There are more young people here, the economy is different, and there are more emerging companies. A lot of that growth has come from outsourcing. 

If you look at it, many job creators and the nature of employment in India is different from that of other parts of the world. We see that the IT service headcount will grow from 4.8 million to 9.5 million, which is way bigger than any country in the world. 

As the Indian economy grows and the median disposable income creates a significant middle class, it will be less about serving multinationals and more about an economy fully serving the Indian population.

With several edtech companies, including some huge ones, going through the worst phase of their existence, where does the sector's potential lie in India?

Everyone remembers the dotcom boom of 1999; I clearly remember it because I was the CEO of a private company then. We had just closed our series E round, we were private and then 2000 came and wiped out so many companies. 

Many people who wrote about the dotcom bust said it was all a joke. But I think what Bill Gates once said is true; he said that we often overestimate a new technology's impact in the first three years but underestimate it in the next ten years. That's true for edtech as well. 

We don't know exactly how this is all going to shape up. When MOOCs launched ten years ago, we did not realise that there would be full online college degrees based on MOOCs or they would be available in universities as part of the curriculum. When it comes to online courses, they are going to be ups and downs. 

It also depends on how the world changes. When Covid happened, edtech companies did well. Now the world is opening up, and we are all adjusting. 

In the long term, the trends driving the need for edtech is a world that is moving faster because of digital, which means that people need to learn new technologies and new skills. Unless we think that the world is going to slow down, unless we believe suddenly talent is going to become more concentrated in one country, there is going to be more need for edtechs. 

Another promising thing I have seen during the pandemic is how edtech equalises opportunities. If you know the number of women enrolling online, it has grown through the roof and has not come down. 

Look at India; in 2019, 26 per cent of course enrolments were from women. The pandemic brought many people online, and the percentage of women enrolling from India continues to grow. 

Are people and businesses accepting of online degrees and certification courses?

We just did a survey of employers and students across the world–150 employers in every country. In India, when we asked whether a certification course by a candidate will increase his attractiveness for a job, 92 percent of employers said yes. 

But that doesn't mean they will not care about college degrees; it will be both. Someone who has a college degree and also has a certification course will stand a far better chance to be absorbed in a role than those who have either of the two. What a professional certificate can do, a college cannot; it is proof of the skills acquired by an individual. 

Also, 85 per cent of employers in India said they would prefer someone with a college degree and a certification course to take on board.

So, clearly, like the future of work is hybrid, the future of education and jobs is also hybrid.

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