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5 Must-Watch Sessions from Coursera Conference 2022


Our 10th annual Coursera Conference recently offered a unique opportunity for Coursera’s leadership team, representatives from our partner organizations, and more than 3,000 participants from all over the world to come together through a shared commitment to transforming lives through learning.

The event featured over 40 sessions that explored new opportunities for the future of learning and working in a digital world. Recordings for most of them can be watched on-demand under the session description on the agenda page of the event website.

We’ve already summarized the highlights. Now, in this article, we’d like to draw your attention to five sessions that stood out to us. 

1. Invest in the Best: Creating a Culture of Learning to Drive Competitive Advantage 

A culture of learning can be the difference between accelerating business outcomes and digital transformation or stagnation. However, this culture can often be challenging to build.

In this session, Jennie Drimmer, Senior Regional Sales Director at Coursera, and Bartosz Zieleźnik, Head of Online Learning at Prosus, discussed how they’ve adapted to the changing role of learning and development, their experiences with building a culture of learning, and how they’re investing in their workforce to maintain a competitive edge.

Here are a few of the main takeaways:

Why does establishing a culture of learning matter?

It’s an employee value proposition that you can use to attract people into your company. You also need to be able to create enough talent mobility within your workforce by supporting them with the correct learning interventions.

What’s important to realize is that a learning culture is not something you need in the distant future. It has to happen now because we’re at the core of the war for talent and internal mobility and the reskilling game that we want to launch within each company.

How do you build a culture of learning?

You need to sit down with the executive team and present a business case of why learning matters. If you build an AI department, for example, it doesn’t need to be massive to have a significant impact. Having these conversations to get the executive team on board is the easy bit. The hard part is leading by example. The way your executive team learns and uses your learning and development products will define how your learning culture lands within your population. 

Inspire the executive team with real stories. Every time you want to make a presentation about learning, come prepared with a first-hand account of someone who completed a course. It enhances your business case. Around 50% of your time should be spent educating the leadership team. Still, middle managers are critical to the success of establishing a learning culture that filters through to the whole organization.

Why is mid-level management so important?

It would be best if you legitimized learning within a person’s workday. You can achieve that by educating managers and telling them you’re very serious about learning, and asking them what space they want to create for their teams to thrive. 

We tend to look at the number of enrollments versus the number of completions, but sometimes the focus on quantity can be detrimental. So we started experimenting by asking our graduates about any tips and tricks they have for someone taking the same course. People come back with all sorts of insights: for example, blocking out the time to study regularly and aligning with their manager was key to their success. By getting managers on their side, you create a bunch of enablers who make this learning culture possible.

Watch the on-demand session on the Coursera Conference website.

2. Talent Champions: How IKEA and Genentech are Proving the Value of Workplace Learning

In this session, we explored how to make a case for learning within your organization. 

Jill Kenney, Director of Skills Transformation at Coursera, was joined by Cyril de Avellar, Learning & Development Leader at IKEA, and Roya Mirilavassani, Senior Trainer, CMG Leadership Development at Genentech, who shared how they’ve successfully made the business case for Coursera, and how their learning programs have provided organizational value.

Can you tell us about the learning programs you rolled out at your organizations?

Cyril de Avellar: We launched a learning hub and looked at ways to improve the use of this platform by approaching it from the perspective of a typical retailer: How do you increase retention and the average time users spend on the platform? We explored different ways of promoting the content and quickly realized that we had the best traction when we engaged learners to recommend their preferred content to other learners.

We introduced several activities, like a subscription that you can sign up for to receive a regular email recommending content on five specific areas aimed at different levels of expertise: data, engineering and technology, experience design, product management, and security. We also appoint platform ambassadors. Our most active learners host webinars and onboarding sessions with new co-workers and post ideas and suggestions about the learning program on Slack. And we run learning hackathons to support a specific team in learning new skills together. All these activities are the key to keeping up the active engagement of our learners. 

Roya Mirilavassani: Coursera was the first big push for us to challenge the concept that learning can’t happen outside of the classroom. It’s been really well received, and we’ve expanded our program to complement what we do in-house to provide our employees with a wider breadth of opportunities. We’ve started to map them to our classes for anyone wanting to dig deeper into a specific area.

To increase engagement and enrollment in our platform, we introduced Learning Olympics that are held every year. The corresponding page features resources like the Coursera courses staff can enroll in for different topics. There’s a leaderboard, as we want to see who is accessing the most workshops and taking the most classes. 

We also do frequent marketing and use different channels to reach people. We send custom emails to registered users as well as newsletters. Within those communications, we highlight what’s coming out and the top courses that other folks are taking so that readers can see what they might want to register for.

Most engagement comes from word of mouth. Many folks will take a course and rave about it to their colleagues. Since we launched Coursera’s Leadership Academy (which covers 42 different SkillSets and 35 human skills), we’ve also had a lot of managers approach us, wanting to see how they can integrate it into their development plans.  

Watch the on-demand session on the Coursera Conference website.

3. The Voice of the Student: Perspectives on Skills, Employability, and Lifelong Learning

In this unique panel, student representatives from around the globe shared how they are preparing for new workforce realities and what support they expect from their institutions along their career journey. 

Today’s students are graduating into a new labor market where opportunities are emerging with increasing digital and human skills requirements. So it’s essential to understand how confident students are feeling – particularly given that recent data shows securing employment is an increasingly significant factor in how students decide where and what they’ll study. 

Samar Farah, Senior Skills Transformation Consultant EMEA at Coursera for Campus, was joined by Natalia Fernández Rosel (a third-year communications student at the Universidad Anáhuac Mayab in Mexico), Anna Kovács (a second-year business and management student at the faculty of Economics at the University of Szeged in Hungary), and Satyam Dubey (a third-year computer science student at the CSMSS Chh. Shahu College of Engineering in India). 

What role does gaining job-relevant skills play in your academic programs?

Natalia Fernández Rosel: Nowadays, students are not satisfied with only finishing their degrees. We want to do more and develop and learn new skills to apply for more and better job opportunities. So gaining additional practical experiences outside of the core curriculum, for example, through internships, has been really important. When we apply for jobs, we can show that we’ve already used specific skills in a professional environment.

Anna Kovács: My university organizes career fairs twice a year, giving us a great opportunity to connect and support our needs. The faculty also allows students to go on internships to allow us to gain real-world experience. And the university is also in partnership with Coursera, which enables students to broaden their horizons and accomplish courses for free. The advantage of online learning is that we can create our own schedules. Hybrid learning is the best way to go because it gives us the flexibility to work from anywhere. 

What should universities be doing better to support their students’ academic experiences and their preparation for the labor market? 

Satyam Dubey: The best thing students can do is become familiar with the environment they’re going to enter after graduation. It’d be amazing if universities could provide internships before graduation, not just in the final year but also in the second and third year, for at least a month. That would help students understand the particular skill sets they are going to need and how prepared they are already. Universities should also focus more on practical rather than theoretical subjects because practical skills help us gain the required knowledge so much faster.

Natalie Fernández Rosel: University teachers need to listen to us. A lot of students have great creative ideas about workshops, masterclasses, and practical experiences that they want to gain. For example, I’d like to see universities create experiences involving people working in the fields we are studying. As students, we want to be connected to them so that we can ask questions.  

Watch the on-demand session on the Coursera Conference website.

4. Mind the Gap: Bridging the Skills Gap to Prepare Students for Industry 4.0

In this session, we heard from academic leaders about what universities can do to prepare their students with the skills needed for success in today’s job environment and bridge the skills gap with prospective employers.

Scott Shireman, Global Head of Coursera for Campus, was joined by Dr. Amber Wigmore Alvarez, Chief Talent Officer at Hired, and Dr. Mark Rosenbaum, Dean of the College of Business at Hawaii Pacific University.

What kind of skill gaps do you see in students?

Dr. Amber Wigmore Alvarez: At Hired, we analyze macro trends in the hiring and recruiting space. Let’s take a look at three now. For example, we see that students feel unprepared for jobs. A recent survey we conducted identified that one in three business school students think they lack the digital skills for employment in Industry 4.0. And almost nine out of every 10 students believe that skills such as data analytics and search engine marketing are now considered entry-level requirements. Also, 71% of talent believe that senior leaders poorly understand digital skills in Industry 4.0. 

The second trend is that skills needed in many roles have a shorter lifespan. We found a growing demand from employers and individuals for upskilling and reskilling to remain employable, and they want to do this on their own terms. 

The third trend is that students expect job-relevant skills in the core curriculum. When we asked students how they believe that their business schools could improve when it comes to helping them get a job, 65% said the integration of employment skills within the degree programs. 

What’s Coursera’s Career Academy?

Scott Shireman: We’ve just rolled out Career Academy to help universities prepare their students for in-demand digital jobs. Students using Career Academy will learn cutting-edge skills with no experience required. They’ll earn professional certificates from some of the world’s leading companies like Google, IBM, and Meta. They’ll have access to guided projects to help them master skills and the tools that will help them stand out from employers today. And it will allow them to explore the right career path and learn flexibly across web and mobile. 

As the first school to use Career Academy, what’s your experience been so far?

Dr. Mark Rosenbaum: Career Academy brings business education back to its historical, skill-focused origins. Our faculty can use Career Academy materials as a textbook, assignment, or optional reading. What is critical is that educators link our classes to career opportunities. The value proposition is enhanced as students are here to obtain meaningful skills. Career Academy especially helps us to stay current in fast-changing areas like cybersecurity, data analytics, and social media marketing because Career Academy’s partners are creating the content. 

In the future, I see Career Academy available to all of our students at any time, almost like a downloadable internship opportunity to engage in different career explorations. 

Watch the on-demand session on the Coursera Conference website.

5. Developing the Workforce at Scale: An Ecosystem Approach

What does it take to prepare millions of people for the economy of tomorrow? This is the fundamental challenge that this session’s panelists face every day. 

Kevin Mills, Vice President at Coursera for Government, was joined by Kenyatta Lovett, Managing Director for Higher Education at Educate Texas; Chris White, Deputy Commissioner for the New York State Department of Labor; and Hyejin Lee, Director at the South Korean Ministry of Education, to explore how to position talent and employers for success.

What are the key challenges and opportunities you’re facing in your region?

Chris White: Through our career center, we usually serve 500,000 people each year, but at the peak of the pandemic, it went up to more than 5 million. There are a lot of people in need, but it’s also a huge opportunity. People are now more interested in assistance and how to get to the next step in their careers. They are also paying more attention to workforce development. And there’s tremendous value in telling them about the deficits businesses say job seekers have and pointing them to specific Coursera courses that can help them learn those skill sets.

Kenyatta Lovett: The workforce shortage will be with us for a while, and it’s concerning that we don’t see participation in traditional education channels the way we used to. People now have to make distinct choices between entering the workforce or going into education. The rate of high school graduates in Texas that move on to college dropped down to 45%; in some regions, it’s as low as 35%. 

However, we’re now seeing a renewed understanding and appreciation for work-based learning experiences to make sure that employers can feed their talent pipeline as they need to. At the same time, we’re seeing growth around short-term and micro-credentials, which enable people—especially from disenfranchised backgrounds—to learn a new skill within just a few months to increase their career options. 

Hyejin Lee: In South Korea, the birth rates have been dropping rapidly, so it is very important to focus on the current workforce and equip them with the best possible education and training. We provide lifelong learning for everyone and, in 2015, launched an initiative with the help of partners like Coursera, to transition offline lectures online. We started with 27 classes and now have more than 1,300. In 2020, the need for online classes imploded because of the pandemic, and the number of students enrolled soared to about 960,000. 

We cover a variety of topics, especially new digital technologies like blockchain and machine learning, and focus on providing practical classes which are not offered by universities and also help students get hands-on experience offline. We are trying to become a matchmaker because there is a need for specific skills and people want to learn them, so we are connecting them.

Watch the on-demand session on the Coursera Conference website.

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