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The future of staff training is getting employees to train themselves

Reuters/Francois Lenoir
  • Amy X. Wang
By Amy X. Wang


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Due to the woeful lack of corporate training available at most companies, the majority of employees seeking professional advancement are taking matters into their own hands by networking, taking classes, and doing research on their own.

But companies are quickly waking up to the fact that today’s workers don’t want to stay stagnant in their jobs, and according to a report from learning startup Degreed earlier this year, 61% of employees would happily spend multiple hours a week on professional training if they got some kind of credit from their employer.

It’s with this double-sided interest in mind that online education company Coursera is today launching Coursera for Business: a platform that companies can formally purchase for their employees to use and learn with.

Coursera for Business will look fairly similar to the normal Coursera site, and users can take classes and earn credentials (paid for by their employers) from more than a hundred universities, including name brands like Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, on topics ranging from chemistry to fashion merchandising.

Four companies—BNY Mellon, Boston Consulting Group, Axis Bank, and L’Oréal—are already signed up to offer the program to their employees. BNY is asking certain employees to go through Coursera classes (on data science, for example) as part of their on-boarding. And importantly, companies will be able to track employees’ progress.

“Corporate learning tends to be fragmented and the curriculums are inconsistent,” Coursera CEO Rick Levin tells Quartz. Referring to the more than 20 million users the platform has attracted in its four years of existence, he adds, “Where we have an extraordinary opportunity is to bring high-quality, rigorous content into the workplace.”

Yet Coursera is hardly the first education company to dig into the space. The corporate-learning market is burgeoning, and online corporate learning alone is expected to grow more than 10% a year, reaching close to $31 billion in 2020.

Professional services company LinkedIn bought education venture Lynda last year, and now that LinkedIn been acquired by Microsoft, there just might be a massive training-related product coming out of the software company soon—maybe even integrated into Microsoft’s other professional products, like the Office suite, themselves.

The pivoting of Coursera’s original mission toward corporate training is not likely to be missed by its peers in the MOOC (massive open online courses) industry, either. That means that in the near future, workers will finally have a lot more ways than one to build up their professional toolkit.

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