Workplace skills courses on Coursera to count as part of degrees

Microcredentials designed by Google and IBM will add practical training in key roles to traditional academic offerings, says chief executive of edtech firm

October 27, 2023
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Students in Europe will be able to study industry-led microcredentials that can count for credit as part of their degrees after the edtech firm Coursera gained official validation for some of its courses.

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) has recognised courses supplied to Coursera by IBM and Google covering topics such as data analytics, UX design and cybersecurity.

Each are recommended to be worth between five and nine ECTS credits and can be taken as part of degree programmes at one of thousands of European universities that use this system under the Bologna Process, if an institution decides to accredit them. A total of 60 ECTS credits is equivalent to a full academic year.

Jeff Maggioncalda, the chief executive of Coursera, said the move would allow universities to introduce some workplace training alongside their traditional degree offerings.

“There has been a big narrative around higher education being detached from industry, not keeping up with the pace of change,” he said.

“We’re saying you can bring industry practitioners right into your classroom without having to hire any extra faculty. They are essentially guest lecturers who can supplement the awesome curricula universities already have.”

Mr Maggioncalda said the company intended eventually to take more of the 30 professional certificates it currently offered through the same process and was seeking to make similar moves in other parts of the world, including the US.

The courses designed by Google are taught by the company’s own analysts using video tutorials, readings, assessments and hands-on projects, and are being regularly updated as technology evolves. They are intended to train students with little prior knowledge for entry-level roles post-graduation, based on input from hiring managers about the skills businesses need.

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Although the courses might hypothetically be taken instead of other electives offered by a university, Mr Maggioncalda said, they would not displace the core curriculum and would probably appeal most to any student wishing to add a practical element to any degree programme.

Most universities were choosing to appoint professors to be on hand to help a cohort progress through their studies but, for the most part, students work through the course content in their own time online, eventually completing up to 200 hours of study.

Mr Maggioncalda said the fact that these courses would now count for credit would help to address low completion rates, an issue that has plagued online education since the emergence of the first massive open online courses (Moocs) in 2012.

He added that professional development was a natural evolution for companies such as Coursera, originally founded by Stanford University professors based upon the ideal of making elite-level university courses available to the masses.

“If you look at our business, one of the strongest drivers of growth is this professional certificate. This is what people want,” Mr Maggioncalda said.

“They are thinking ‘Hey, I don‘t like my current job’. There are jobs out there – software engineer, UX designer, project manager – that pay pretty well, are flexible, offer good career development and lots of people are deciding they want these high-paying jobs that have a future.

“On the consumer side, overwhelmingly, these certificates are the most popular thing we offer. What’s happening now is that schools are realising this is what people want, so let’s build them into a degree programme to make it more attractive to students and more relevant to employers.”

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Reader's comments (1)

It is the job of employers to provide the relevant skills not universities who do it at the expense of the public and the student. Universities provide education not training. Trying to keep up with the latest trends is a recipe for disaster for them.