San Diego, Aug. 5, 2015 — Two research units at the University of California, San Diego are participating in a new program of the online learning network Coursera. The company today launched its Global Skills Initiative, bringing top companies and universities together to produce a set of courses, called Specializations, which teach a particular skill area that ends with a real-world capstone project.. The goal is to advance access to job-relevant skills around the world.
Two of the first three Specializations announced this week are being produced by UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute and the university’s San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). The courses are sponsored, respectively, by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated and a leading mobile technology provider, and Splunk, a leading provider of big-data software for real-time Operational Intelligence.
"The technical skill sets that students need to be competitive in the world today are changing at a breakneck pace," said Jeff Elman, UC San Diego's director of the Office for Online and Technology Enhanced Education. "We believe that online technology will permit us to be agile and responsive to students' needs for cutting-edge skills. The UC San Diego collaborations with Qualcomm and Splunk facilitated by Coursera will allow us to offer high quality, professionally-oriented Specializations that will benefit both the students in those courses, and those employers who need an increasingly sophisticated and highly-trained workforce."
The UC San Diego-produced courses will teach two hot topics in technology today:
The third Specialization announced this week by Coursera will teach the Essentials of Corporate Financial Analysis and Decision Making, available to enroll in now. The finance course is produced by the University of Melbourne and sponsored by BNY Mellon, a global investment firm.
Coursera is also working with yet-to-be-named universities on proposals to develop additional Specializations in three other areas: Security (in collaboration with Cisco), Investment Management (with UBS), and another course on Big Data (sponsored by Microsoft).
Each university in the Global Skills Initiative is responsible for the academic expertise, creation of course materials, and the overall learner experience for the new Specialization. Companies contribute by providing applied projects, guest lectures, case studies, and other materials that incorporate industry expertise into the course content. They also provide funding to the universities for content production costs.
Coursera's Global Skills Initiative was created to address the challenges of finding and developing top talent in today's fast-paced economy. According to a 2014 ManpowerGroup survey, 40 percent of employers in the U.S. and 36 percent of employers globally report difficulty filling jobs. The disconnect between what workers know and what skills they are hired for is a prevalent issue. Guided by Coursera's market research and analysis of global labor market trends, the Global Skills Initiative accelerates the feedback loop between employers and universities.
"The Global Skills Initiative brings together the knowledge of industry leaders and the world-class teaching and academic research of top universities to create highly applicable curricular material," said Rick Levin, CEO of Coursera. "These collaborations enable companies to grow the global pool of available talent in their respective industries, giving unprecedented numbers of high potential individuals the opportunity to develop job-relevant skills."
The result of these university-corporate collaborations is unprecedented open access for an unlimited number of learners to online courses directly applicable to today's fastest-growing careers. Participating companies also plan to use these Specializations to expand their hiring pools to top performers (with the consent of learners) and enhance their internal employee training.
The impact of the Global Skills Initiative will be truly international with over 70 percent of Coursera's 14 million registered learners already coming from outside of the U.S. and one third from emerging economies. Each Specialization developed as part of the Global Skills Initiative is expected to reach hundreds of thousands of people per year and will be translated into several languages, including Chinese, Spanish, and Portuguese.
According to a report in the Aug. 4 Wall Street Journal, the course subjects in the Global Skills Initiative reflect what the newspaper calls the “sweet spot” for Coursera, namely, that 61 percent of Coursera students come from business, computer science or data analysis – even though those topics only account for one-third of Coursera’s approximately 1,000 online courses.