Article: India's AI boom fuels Coursera's growth: An interview with Karine Allouche

Learning & Development

India's AI boom fuels Coursera's growth: An interview with Karine Allouche

India's tech-savvy workforce is fuelling a surge in Coursera learners, with AI skills skyrocketing. Coursera enterprise head Karine discusses this learning boom and how AI is reshaping the future of work, in an exclusive interview.
India's AI boom fuels Coursera's growth: An interview with Karine Allouche

Coursera has witnessed a remarkable surge in learner participation across India over the past decade. The country is Coursera's second-largest market with 24.6 million registered learners. In April 2024, India surpassed all of Europe in terms of the total number of learners on the platform.

A heavy focus on artificial intelligence skills has emerged from India's learning trends. The platform has been seeing enrollment in GenAI courses soar every single minute among learners in the country.

To find out more on this, we spoke with Karine Allouche, Coursera's Global Vice President of Enterprise. Reporting to CEO Jeff Maggioncalda, Karine drives sales, customer success, and solution consulting, advancing Coursera's mission to empower organizations through innovative learning solutions.

Allouche dives deep into the factors driving India's AI learning revolution, explores the challenges and opportunities presented by the skills gap, and reveals how Coursera, a platform boasting 148 million registered learners worldwide, is empowering individuals and businesses to thrive in the AI-powered future.

Here are the edited excerpts.

India now tops Coursera learners. What's fueling this surge in online education access and skill development?

I believe it's not just a universal secret, but an "India secret." India's tech-savvy population, widespread English proficiency, and a strong desire for personal and professional growth have been key factors. There is a palpable eagerness in India to consume content, learn new skills, and continuously upskill.

India's workforce is highly motivated to find jobs, and once they do, companies are heavily invested in retaining and upskilling their employees. This is driven by a collective goal, as echoed by your Prime Minister, to prepare not just for India but for the world.

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We've seen unique initiatives from Indian companies. For example, Reliance has extended Coursera access not just to their employees but also to their broader network, creating incredible momentum in the market. This combination of a motivated learner base and committed corporate partners has significantly contributed to our success in India.

Can you elaborate on the specific size and nature of the AI skills gap in India? What data or insights does Coursera have on this issue?

Rather than viewing it as an AI skills gap, I see it as an AI skills development opportunity. AI is revolutionising every role, providing new opportunities and necessitating a shift in how individuals approach their jobs. Whether through automation or enhancing creativity, AI impacts all job functions.

Globally, we see immense interest in AI education. AI-related content is the most sought-after on Coursera. The first step is for people to understand that AI is part of the solution, not the problem. It's about becoming comfortable with AI. For instance, our "Generative AI for Everyone" and "Google AI Essentials" courses are highly popular. In 2024, we have four learners enrolling in a Generative AI course every minute globally, with a significant portion from India—one person per minute in India alone.

The interest and adoption rates in India are impressive. Major organisations like L&T are rolling out Generative AI Academies for their teams. Similarly, PwC is training all its partners on AI applications. 

India is experiencing over 20% year-over-year growth in learner enrolment on Coursera, not just in urban areas but significantly in rural regions too, where mobile internet connectivity is improving. 

How does Coursera connect businesses, universities, and governments to create a future-proof workforce that employers can easily find and hire from? 

We're playing the role of a facilitator in this ecosystem. For instance, in Odisha, we worked with local universities and the state government when Accenture decided to open a new office there. This created a need for new skills, and we facilitated the collaboration between the organisation, the state, and the universities to address this gap.

We work closely with campuses to prepare students for the workforce and with businesses to upskill their current employees. We also engage with governments to help shape educational initiatives that align with industry needs.

One of our key initiatives in India is our campus hiring partnership. Through this, we help businesses connect with students who have been trained in emerging skills. A notable partnership is with Unstop, which aims to engage and recruit students directly from campuses.

Looking ahead, how will AI continue to evolve and shape personalised learning experiences? Can you share examples of how Coursera uses AI to personalise learning for Indian learners?

With the advent of AI, we're seeing significant advancements in personalised learning. One of our earliest innovations was the AI-powered coach, a 24/7 tutor that supports learners by explaining concepts.  

Another significant development is the use of machine learning for translation. We have translated over 4,400 courses and 55 certifications into 21 languages, achieving this in a fraction of the time it would traditionally take. This has led to an 85% improvement in course completion rates when learners can study in their local language. This feature is particularly relevant in India, where linguistic diversity is vast.

We also focus on creating relevant and contextualised learning experiences. Through our Course Builder tool, we can rapidly develop customised courses that align with the values and environments of specific institutions, whether they are government bodies, campuses, or businesses.  

What's your take on how online learning platforms are contributing to the globalisation of talent and the rise of skills-based hiring?

From my perspective, what struck me, particularly in India post-COVID is the significant rise in remote workers, making India home to one of the largest remote worker populations globally, exceeding 4.6 million. This shift enables Indian professionals to work for employers both within India and internationally. What's compelling about platforms like Coursera is their ability to cater to skills that are in demand not just locally but on a global scale.

In India, for instance, cybersecurity courses rank as the top choice, globally ranking second. These courses are crucial in tech and data security, fields where remote work is prominent. 

Beyond technical skills, Coursera emphasises leadership and interpersonal skills critical for remote work settings. For example, courses like UC Davis' on managing international teams are popular, highlighting the platform's role in preparing learners for multicultural work environments.

What are your predictions on how AI will continue to transform the education sector in India over the next few years? 

AI's impact on education is profound and ongoing. Firstly, the demand for personalised learning experiences will only intensify. Individuals will increasingly expect tailored educational paths that meet their unique needs, and we are committed to scaling personalised learning solutions to meet this demand.  

Secondly, the need for upskilling and reskilling will grow exponentially. With estimates suggesting that over 60% of job tasks will be affected by AI, the urgency to equip individuals with relevant skills is paramount. This responsibility extends beyond corporations; governments and educational institutions must also invest in fostering a dynamic learning environment. At Coursera, we are dedicated to supporting this ecosystem through partnerships with academic institutions.  

How is Coursera planning to adapt its platform and course offerings to stay ahead of these trends in AI and the future of work?

I believe the future of work is about upskilling existing roles as automation takes on more routine tasks, pushing individuals to enhance their creativity and productivity. There's also a noticeable surge in demand for skills related to sustainability, driven by regulatory mandates and stakeholder expectations.

Recently, in workshops based on insights from our "Gen AI as a Thought Partner" course, developed with our CEO, we've identified critical skills for the future workforce. These include advanced data interpretation due to increased data generation, heightened interpersonal skills essential for multicultural teamwork, and refined critical and creative thinking abilities.

These human resilience skills will be pivotal as we navigate the AI-driven future.

Tell me about Coursera’s internal learning strategy. How are you using your own platform for employee learning?  

We've transitioned away from traditional classrooms. We innovate with our online courses, converting them into interactive workshops. Recently, we convened a group of 60 both in-person and via Zoom to delve deep into our organisation's critical Gen AI skill set—something we consider foundational among our top priorities.

Coursera operates as a learning organisation, empowering our teams to self-direct their learning journeys across a wide array of topics. Within five months, 74% of our teams actively participated in the Gen AI Academy, dedicating substantial time to mastering crucial Gen AI concepts—an initiative critical to our strategic readiness.

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Topics: Learning & Development, Skilling, #Artificial Intelligence, #Future of Work

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