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'Online Learning & Alternative Credentials Gain Stronger Credibility In The Job Market'

In an interview, Rick Levin, CEO, Coursera speaks about latest partnership with PwC and other corporate partnerships in India

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Coursera for Business is Coursera's first enterprise product for workforce development, designed to provide top-quality employee training and development at scale. We decided to take this step into the enterprise space because we know that a significant number of our learners are employees within companies; by working directly with those companies to offer career-relevant courses, we believe that we can accelerate progress toward our vision of a world in which anyone, anywhere can transform their life through access to education.

Although many companies already have learning platforms, we saw a gap in their ability to offer a solution that caters to employees at every level of an organization. Among platforms that do scale to all levels, few offer the same high quality opportunities that are typically provided in smaller executive programs. Coursera for Business will address that gap by giving companies access to curated online learning programs that draw on over 1400 courses from our 145 top university partners, and that are delivered through the robust online learning platform that we've developed over the past four years.

We've also developed a unique set of management tools for Coursera for Business, specifically designed to facilitate efficient learning across hundreds or even thousands of employees. These new tools include a robust analytics platform, which allows program managers to follow employees' courses progress and ensure that development programs have maximum impact, as well as centralized billing, group communication, single sign-on (SSO), and LMS integration.

The global corporate online learning market is large (about $31 billion), and growing quickly (at about 10 percent per year), as both companies and employees recognize the need for ongoing learning in today's fast-paced business environment. We've already heard strong interest in Coursera for Business from companies in the US, Europe and Asia, and our first customers include major global companies such as BNY Mellon, Boston Consulting Group, L'Oreal, and Axis Bank.

We are especially excited to continue to grow our partnerships in India. With 1.6 million registered learners, India is now Coursera's second-largest market (after the US) and one of our fastest-growing. We know that many of our learners in India are young, entrepreneurial professionals in their 20s and 30s, who are focused on gaining technical skills sought after by India's top employers; we believe that by partnering directly with those employers to offer high-quality, career-relevant content at scale, we can reach an even larger pool of learners, and enhance the positive impact that Coursera has on their lives.

In an interview, Rick Levin, CEO, Coursera spoke about latest partnership with PwC and other corporate partnerships in India.

Let us know more about your latest partnership with PwC and what will it strive to achieve?
Global professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) is collaborating with Coursera to create a series of courses designed around topics that address big global issues, drawing on the real-world knowledge and experience of PwC experts from around the globe from multiple disciplines. We're very excited about this collaboration.

PwC's first offering with Coursera is a five-course series on the topic of Data Analysis and Presentation Skills. This series (called a Specialization) draws on PwC's practical, real-world understanding of this increasingly important topic, and is focused on helping learners understand the role of data in today's business environment. Topics covered in the Specialization include understanding, filtering, and applying data to solve problems and make decisions, key tools and applications used in data analysis and presentation, and presentation techniques that get audiences engaged in and motivated by the story being told by the data.

What are your other corporate partnerships in India and what are the partnerships in pipeline?
As one of our first Coursera for Business customers, India's Axis Bank is working with Coursera to provide training for 12,000 employees in skills like leadership and data analytics. This partnership has been tremendously successful, and we're looking forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the leadership and employees of this forward-thinking organization.

Additionally, we recently announced a new partnership with IBM India. This partnership is a different, but very exciting model - IBM India will be sourcing high-potential entrepreneurs for their Global Entrepreneur program from the Full Stack Web Development Specialization on Coursera. We're thrilled to help IBM India provide this opportunity for Indian learners on Coursera.

We are seeing growing interest in corporate partnerships, in India and elsewhere, as online learning and alternative credentials gain stronger credibility in the job market. Coursera Certificates have now been ranked as the second most relevant and attractive certification on LinkedIn, and research shows that the vast majority of hiring managers are likely to consider micro-credentials, such as online certificates, in their hiring decisions. The percentage of companies that feel comfortable incorporating open online courses into their learning platforms is also growing quickly. Given these trends, we expect to be exploring a wide range of new partnerships in the coming year.

The concept of online learning is now a disrupter in the age of digital. What makes you a leader in the sector?
Coursera offers universal access to the world's best learning experience, and we do that in a way that allows our learners to achieve transformative life and career outcomes. Although we certainly have a number of strong competitors in this space, no one else is offering those three specific things - universal access, a really first-rate experience, and transformative outcomes - to the same degree that we are today.

Let me unpack each of those value propositions a little more. First of all, we are committed to universal access, which means that we want everyone, everywhere to benefit from the content we offer on our platform. We maintain a robust Financial Aid program, which has supported well over 200,000 learners who cannot afford to pay for Course Certificates. We've also worked hard to make our entire course experience accessible through our mobile app, and to build a web experience that loads and functions smoothly even over lower-bandwidth connections.

Secondly, we're committed to offering the world's best learning experience - that includes both the world's best educational content, and the world's best platform for online learning. On the content side, we partner with more than 145 top-tier universities and educational institutions (including Yale, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan) to create online courses that are of the same quality and rigor as those offered to their on-campus students. We also believe that our learners should have access to the same breadth of content that they'd find in a university course catalog - so we've worked with our partners to develop content in dozens of topic areas, from arts and humanities, to business leadership, to data science and programming.

On the platform side, we provide an in-course experience that's flexible, but scaffolded, with learning supported by videos, assessments, and rich community interaction. Learners work toward weekly deadlines, but can shift their schedules if they fall behind. We allow instructors to develop quizzes and programming assignments in a variety of formats, with the option to give learners real-time customized feedback. We were also one of the first open online learning platforms to provide support for peer review, which facilitates creative and open-ended assignments in large online courses. And we're continually iterating on our platform as we improve our understanding of what works for our diverse learner population.

Finally, we see evidence that we are realizing our vision of transforming lives. Our first Learner Outcomes Survey, published last year in Harvard Business Review, found that 87% of people who complete Coursera courses with the intention of advancing their careers report some kind of benefit and 33% report a tangible benefit like a new job, pay raise, or promotion.

How many Indian universities (including names) have you partnered with or are planning to partner with?
The Indian School of Business (ISB) is our first university partner in India. ISB is recognized around the world for their innovation and leadership in business education, as well as for expertise in a wide variety of subjects.

In November 2014, we launched ISB's first course, "A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment," which has reached hundreds of thousands of learners and received exceptional learner ratings. ISB has also recently launched a course sequence (Specialization) on the topic of Financial Markets and Investment Strategy. The diversity of these two initial offerings is a testament to the depth of ISB's programs, and we are excited to share these outstanding courses with our global learner audience.

The course structure dynamics in India are unique to the country. Do you plan on to diversify in terms of what you offer according to Indian specificities?

All of the courses on our platform target a global audience, and we are committed to providing an outstanding experience for learners everywhere, including in India.

We're currently working to make the content on our platform even more relevant and effective for Indian learners by collaborating with local universities such as the Indian School of Business, and with local organizations such as Axis Bank. We're also excited to share Indian perspectives with our global audience through a variety of courses created by these and other partners, such as a new course on The Importance of India that we recently launched as a part of the U.S. Department of State's Passport to India Initiative.

How far have you progressed with your penetration in India?
India is a very important and exciting market for us. Our Indian learner population has grown by about 75% in just the past year, to 1.6 million total registered learners, which makes India both our second-largest market (after the US) and one of our fastest-growing.

The most active online learners in India are young, entrepreneurial professionals in their 20s and 30s. These learners tend to be most focused on gaining technical skills that are sought after by India's top employers, and we're excited to expand our offerings for this learner population by working with our partners to provide more courses in high-demand areas like computer science and data science.

Kindly let us know about how Coursera can facilitate blended learning.
Many of our partners are already using Coursera to facilitate a blended learning approach to on-campus education. Under this approach, on-campus students watch lectures online on the Coursera platform prior to coming to class, and then use in-person classroom time for more interactive learning exercises and in-depth group discussions. In some cases, students may complete some or all of their assignments and exams online, as well. This model gives instructors more flexibility in how they use classroom time, and can greatly enhance student engagement and outcomes.

We're very excited about the potential of blended learning, and we're working with our partners to make the blended learning model even easier to implement. For example, we've recently added new tools that allow on-campus instructors to more easily track their students' progress and activity on our platform, along with dedicated forums and communication tools for on-campus groups. We'll continue to refine these and other features based on our partners' needs in this area.