Published: 07th April 2020
Here's how Coursera is filling the gap in the education sector by providing online courses for free during lockdown
Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera tells us how the edtech platform is offering courses for free to institutes amid the Coronavirus lockdown
The lockdown appears to be sending a lot of learners Coursera's way. Coursera, one of the world’s largest online learning platforms, is offering free access to its course catalogue for impacted universities and colleges through the Coursera for Campus platform to make higher education accessible to students and professionals during the global COVID-19 pandemic. With this, universities can get access to 3,800 courses and 400 specialisations from the world’s best institutes at no cost till July 31, 2020. "Out of the 1900 queries we received, more than 920 have signed up and we have activated access for over 502 of them. Symbiosis Institute of Technology, World University of Design, BML Munjal University, National Rail and Transportation Institute, NMAM Institute of Technology, etc. are a few to list who are taking the lead to respond to the crisis," says Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India and APAC, Coursera.
We spoke to him to know more about what courses are on offer, how the EdTech sector is currently booming and what possibly could be the future of online education in India and worldwide.
Here's what transpired:
Do you think online learning could be the future of education in India and worldwide?
The technological advancements are encouraging learners and enterprises to upskill themselves and be job-ready in the near future. Universities are leveraging the rapidly advancing technology and scouring for partners to work in collaboration to improve the existing content and deliver lifelong learning. Online learning is helping individuals gain access to lifelong learning, high-quality and relevant education. In view of the current situation, what started as a short term response to a crisis will likely become an enduring digital transformation of higher education.
The EdTech sector is booming currently with everyone shifting to online, doesn't that increase competition?
Coursera plays a pivotal role in building the workforce for the future, helping individuals and businesses with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow in an environment of accelerated change. Coursera is also providing learners access to the best content, most recognised credentials, and a world-class learning experience. Coursera partners with universities that are ranked among the top 200 globally, every course on Coursera is taught by the best instructors from these universities. We are also working with companies like Google, Intel, and IBM to create content that is relevant in today’s dynamic job scenario to teach the most relevant technologies and business skills. This takes the learners one step forward to be future-ready and equipped with relevant industry skills.
As there are other similar players in the sector, how is Coursera different?
From a technology point-of-view, Coursera has built a platform with the latest technology and features to make the online learning experience truly engaging. In our Degree offering, students have access to live video sessions with instructors, Slack integration for communication with peers and instructors, and remotely proctored exams. The mobile app has over 70 per cent students from the Degree offering who submit their assignments and watch video lectures. We are constantly adding more offline features to facilitate on-the-go learning. We are constantly upgrading our platform and using emerging technologies to better the learning experience for our learners.
In addition to this, Coursera has now become a part of the global COVID-19 education coalition organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) — what does this mean for Coursera? What will be the role?
According to a UNESCO report, over 1.5 billion students around the world are affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic as campuses are being shut around the world. As a response to this, UNESCO has collaborated with organisations to mitigate the impact of the closure of educational institutions. The objective of the global education coalition between UNESCO and other industry players is to help countries in mobilising resources and implementing innovative solutions to provide education remotely. Our recent response to the COVID-19 pandemic aligns with UNESCO’s goals and ambitions.
How will this pandemic affect learning and education? What impact do you think it will have on institutes, online learning platforms?
The spread of COVID-19 has forced many educational institutions across the globe to close campuses. India has over 37 million students enrolled in higher education across thousands of universities and colleges. An interruption in the delivery of education could cause long term disruption. It tragically illustrates the need for higher ed institutions to build a technological backbone and digital competency to weather this crisis and to enter a new era of teaching and learning in a digital world. Though challenging, it is going to be a period of forced experimentation for universities around the world — akin to what we witnessed during the Y2K crisis that compelled institutions to upgrade their technical infrastructure. The pandemic requires universities to rapidly offer online learning to their students. Fortunately, technology and content are available to help universities transition to online quickly and with high-quality. The current challenging situation will accelerate the growth of online education in the country.
Coursera says learners can get access to 3,800 courses and over 400 specialisations from the world’s best institutes at no cost. What kind of courses are on offer?
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Coursera has offered free access to its catalogue through Coursera for Campus platform. Universities and colleges can sign up to provide their students access to 3800 courses and 400 specialisations that feature content from eleven domains like Data Science, Technology, Business, Health, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, including courses in high-demand fields like AI, Automation, programming, machine learning, deep learning etc. Many new learners have turned to Coursera at this particularly challenging time. Overall registrations in March 2020 are up by 271 per cent, and enrollments by 224 per cent compared to March 2019. Courses like Science of Well Being and Science Matters: Let’s Talk about COVID-19, ranks among ten most popular courses in India since March 1, illustrates that people are seeking information and knowledge to navigate through these tough times.
After this is over, what future plans does Coursera have?
We have plans to develop new ways to deliver our course curricula and support people. In the coming years, we intend to focus on: Curating and launching career-relevant courses for learners and professionals tailored to their needs. This includes additional courses, specialisations, and Master’s degrees to help learners. We will continue engaging with the workforce development initiatives with governments and companies through our Coursera for Business and Coursera for Government offerings.