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How to deal with ‘level up or go home’

  • Coursera hopes to provide a cushion for humans when AI job cuts start having a major impact on the global workforce
  • India is the second largest market for Coursera, both in terms of individual learners and enterprises

Benchmarking one’s skills is important today.
Benchmarking one’s skills is important today. (iStock)

While the possibility of Artificial Intelligence taking over human jobs is a common fear today, many experts believe AI will replace tasks, not jobs. A McKinsey Global Institute November 2017 report, Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: What The Future Of Work Will Mean For Jobs, Skills, And Wages , says that around half of paid work globally could theoretically be automated—although less than 5% of jobs consist of activities that can be fully automated. “However, in about 60% of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers," says the report.

Coursera, an online learning platform with 39 million registered users, is betting on this need for reskilling and reassessing skills. In India to launch its global skills benchmarking report, Shravan Goli, chief product officer and head of consumer revenue at Coursera, discussed the future of work with Lounge, and, interestingly, that some of the more popular courses on the platform are on wellness and achieving happiness. Edited excerpts:

What is skills benchmarking and why is it important?

There will be 300 million people entering the global workforce within the next decade, while, as per reports such as the McKinsey one, automation can displace upwards of 400 million jobs worldwide in the same period. This is where it becomes important for companies to know how their workforce stacks up, and provide opportunities to employees to enhance and upskill.

The goal of skills benchmarking is to provide a measurement of a company’s talent profile based on assessments on the Coursera platform across a range of skills, such as in business management, data science, etc. This allows companies to take various measures, like design learning programs and identifying highly skilled employees.

How does Coursera plan to help prepare the global workforce for future challenges?

The future of learning and the future of work are converging. The rate of technological change is very rapid now, which means people have to re-educate themselves constantly. Apart from offering 10,000 scholarships in India for technology, data science and business courses, which will allow learners to access a curated list of courses that will help them bridge gaps in skills and knowledge, we are also providing courses in IT support in collaboration with Google which will prepare beginners and those without formal degrees for an entry-level role in IT support.

Is this certification available in Indian languages?

No, as yet it is only available in English, though we are investigating the possibility of offering them in Indian languages. We are aware that this would be an important step for Indian users, and India is an important market for us—it is the second largest market for Coursera, both in terms of individual learners and enterprises—and there are 3.9 million learners on the platform from India. Around 85,000 learners sign up from India every month and we added one million new users from here in 2018.

What are the most popular courses here? Do Indian users only sign up for job-oriented courses or is there interest in history, the arts, humanities courses as well?

Well, it is true that most of the top 10 courses are linked to technology, machine learning and data science—but then one of the top 5 is our very popular course “Learning How To Learn" by the University of California, San Diego (the course trains students in learning techniques used by experts in subjects like art, music, literature and maths and talks about how the brain uses different learning modes, how it encapsulates or “chunks" information). Then we also have “The Science Of Well-Being" by Yale University—another very popular course. We see great interest among learners in India for courses on topics like parenting, wellness and mindfulness.

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