Whether to occupy their time or to obtain new skills, tens of millions of people joined Coursera during the pandemic.
When a couple of Stanford professors founded Coursera in 2012, they promised to democratize access to higher education by making courses from prestigious colleges available online. Nearly a decade later, many of us were thrust into the world of online education by the pandemic. Tens of millions of new users joined Coursera’s platform, some just looking for lectures to occupy their time, others seeking new skills in areas like machine learning and data science.
I spoke with Jeff Maggioncalda, the chief executive of Coursera. He told me that states like New York and Tennessee have also paid the company to provide free courses for unemployed residents. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Jeff Maggioncalda: Governments have realized that online re-scaling programs have a speed and scale and cost effectiveness that is just not really matchable. One of the exciting things after a year of seeing really growing inequality and many women dropping out of the labor force to take care of kids who can’t go to school, what we’ve been seeing on Coursera is the percentage of enrollments, especially in STEM courses, from women, has gone up from about 33% to 47%. Almost 50/50. So women are actually turning more to online learning. And as we think about the future of work, for states who are thinking about reskilling, being able to get your citizens access to jobs that maybe aren’t in your state is going to be much more possible with remote work.