'Log in & learn' enrolments see monster jump in India

(This story originally appeared in on Sep 19, 2020)

MUMBAI: The Enter key on the touchpad was never deemed so powerful. The once-casual click has become the gateway to lecture halls for millions of students and workers in India whose learning was disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Universities have integrated online platforms into their curricula and asked students, whether in Kota or Kharagpur, to log into lectures being streamed from America or Africa.

For learners, the shift was sudden, but numbers suggest, remote learning has spread in no time. Little wonder then that, Coursera added over 3.6 million learners in India since March compared to 1.4 million in all of 2019, EdX doubled its learner base to 3.2 million and LinkedIn reported an increase of 245% in the number of hours spent on learning from July 2019 to June 2020, compared to the same period a year before.

India’s own MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on the Swayam platform also saw an increase in traffic as the All India Council for Technical Education asked colleges and universities to permit credit transfers to the extent of 20% in every semester to online courses.

The pandemic also saw some shifts in learning preference. Indians who were largely opting for courses in computer science and data analysis started looking at the large course catalogue to join other interesting classrooms. “Enrollment in public health content increased by 4,386% year-on-year from India. Over the past few months, Coursera launched seven Covid-19 related courses. In fact, since going live on May 10, Johns Hopkins University course ‘Covid-19 Contact Tracing’ already has 579,000+ enrollments, making it the most popular course launched on Coursera in 2020 so far. And with 53600+ enrollments, it’s the 2nd most popular in India,” said Raghav Gupta, managing director, India and APAC, Coursera.

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The trend was similar elsewhere. “Harvard and EdX, launched a free online course designed to train frontline medical professionals to operate the mechanical ventilators needed to treat Covid-19 patients. The first month saw 1 million learners sign up to take the course online. Also, we saw a steep surge in completion rates, both for the audit and certification tracks,” said Amit Goyal, edX head, India and South East Asia. The course was put together quickly for frontline workers, as the makers believed that while a lot of doctors gain experience on looking after ventilated patients during their residencies, these are usually rather brief.

At the same time, LinkedIn reported that job postings for both Python and Program Management, very popular skills, went down during Covid (comparing March-June vs. the previous 5 months), not unexpected given the broader economic trends. “The work environment is evolving at a fast pace, and organizations are prioritizing reskilling their workforce to stay in business. While hard skills such as Python will always be in demand, professionals are striving to achieve skills diversity – and transferable skills and soft skills such as time management, communication, and strategic thinking have become necessities in today’s remote workplace. Companies will value people with soft skills and the ability to evolve equally in this challenging environment,” said Ruchee Anand, Director, LinkedIn Talent and Learning Solutions, India.

Entering a classroom by logging in from the safety of their homes came with several other benefits: learning at one’s own pace, piecing a modular degree together, attending classes from around the world and accessing blue-chip faculty and upskilling to be more employable or productive. That may accelerate the pace in years to come.

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