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If a pro does a short machine learning or artificial intelligence program on Coursera to augment my existing skills, it makes sense. However, will a learner really benefit from an online bachelor’s or master’s program? Can he/she get a job?

There are more opportunities to learn, get good jobs, be in positions of influence, and provide for your family and community than ever before. A young person today has unlimited access to education, no matter where they live or how old they are. That wasn’t the case five years ago.

It is important to ensure that we, as platform owners, are able to convert learning opportunities into economic opportunities. Anyone can access learning these days, but if you live in a community with no jobs, you can learn all sorts of things from Stanford, but it won’t be of any use. The pandemic has enabled 1.6 billion people to learn online. On the other hand, companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook are hiring remote workers who don’t necessarily live next door to an office. So you can study what you want and live where you want. When you have knowledge and skills that you can access online, you can access jobs your parents never had access to.

How are you helping to create this Economic Plus learning opportunity?

It’s not just the type of content that matters, but also the credentials. For this reason, we spend a lot of time with top universities and companies, knowing that their brands signal quality and have more attractive credentials. We rely on quality content and references and try to find them in career-related areas such as business, technology and data. In terms of access to learning, we make sure everything runs on the desktop. On mobile, any learner can download the courses and watch them offline, even if they don’t have an internet connection. We have developed our courses to a V-Pat standard, which is an accessibility standard for people who cannot hear or see well.

We have focused on entry-level certificates. We started Google IT certification in 2018. The world is changing and displacing many jobs, but also creating many new ones. Some of the jobs created are also available to people who do not have a college degree or background in that particular field. One example is IT support. It turns out you can provide IT support without a college degree or prior experience. You can learn the skills online. In 2018, Google launched the four-course Google IT Support Professional Certificate series. Around 700,000 people have registered to date. Of these, 60% have no college degree, while 50% come from underrepresented groups. We also work with Google to find companies interested in hiring IT support staff and we match graduates with those companies. We have around 150 companies on board. We cannot promise a job or an interview, but if you complete the course we can tell you that you have the skills that companies are looking for.

We also realized that for some people, a professional certificate will be an honorarium for a college degree. Some of our university partners (University of London, North Eastern University, University of North Texas) have announced that they will award academic credit towards college degrees to anyone who completes the certificate course. We call these “degree paths”. We think this will turn things around and many young people will start with a professional degree, get a job and while working get an online degree. You don’t have to take out loans or let your parents cash out their life savings. It also opens up more career opportunities.

We also offer IBM Data Science Personal Certificate, IBM Data Analyst Personal Certificate, Google Data Analytics, Facebook Marketing Analyst Personal Certificate and Salesforce Development Representative Personal Certificate. We have worked with the American Council of Education to provide entry level certificate credit recognition. We are doing the same in India.

How many people would have gotten jobs through these certificate programs?

Upon completion of these courses, we conduct a learner impact study and over 80% say it has had a positive impact on their careers. Over 2.2 million people have enrolled in these certificate programs.

Cheryl Tenny

"Thinker. Food advocate. Incurable coffee enthusiast. Communicator. Proud student. Zombie buff. Tv fanatic. Extreme troublemaker."

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