In the newest episode of Recode Decode, Coursera President and co-founder Daphne Koller suggested that the digital economy of today requires more than a traditional college degree, suggesting that education should last throughout a person’s lifetime.
“The things you learned in college 15 years ago are no longer the skills that you need for your next job,” Koller said. “Millennials today are expected to change jobs something like every three years. The job that they need next is going to have a completely different skill set than the job that they previously had.”
Koller did note that Coursera is not an institution that teaches those skills to students. Rather, she said it partners with over 100 colleges and universities around the world to offer specific classes. Prospective students have the ability to look at various videos and discussions within the courses for free, or pay a fee in return for graded assignments and certificates, reports Eric Johnson for Recode.
She went on to say that Coursera does not intend for the schools it works with to go out of business, but rather, to allow them to reach more students and protect them from other sources of free information that can be found online that may not offer the same level of education to readers. She added that the goal of the company is to increase opportunities for students across the globe and to offer students of all ages the chance to increase pre-existing skill sets or learn new skills altogether.
Since its original launch in 2012, Coursera has raised close to $150 million in funding and has 145 partners on six continents, including the American Museum of National History, Brown University, the University of Geneva, and the University of Edinburgh.
Koller noted that the company at first had difficulty getting universities to partner with them because many had been doing business successfully in one particular way for so long, so she said it was hard to get them to think differently.
“A number realised there was a massive change coming in online and digital technologies that were going to really impact the way education as delivered. They decided they wanted to be leading that movement and be able to shape it, rather than watching the train go by,” she said.
According to Koller, around 20 million people have signed up on Coursera, 600,000 of which are in the UK. Around 60% of these UK users are between the ages of 20 and 35, using Coursera in an effort to increase job skills and make themselves more desirable to employers.
Koller said the company is seeing a jump in the number of students looking to increase their skills pertaining to handling data, which includes data-oriented thinking and business analytics.
She added that soft skills, while sometimes overlooked, are also important, saying that the world is changing and concrete skills that are valued today may not be necessary tomorrow. However, the ability to formulate a problem, work in a team, accept responsibility and be flexible while on the job are all skills that will be needed and valued in the workplace for quite some time.