Technology will definitely destroy jobs, and whether it creates jobs will depend on the degree to which skills and talents can be upgraded to take advantage of technology, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda told ET in an interview at the Global Business Summit.
He said he had seen greater urgency, interest, and attention focused on upskilling and education in India than in any other country. Edited excerpts:
How does the future of education look?
The future of education is dynamic. Coursera was started in 2012 by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, both Stanford professors, by putting one of their courses online, and a hundred thousand people came.
Once the two found a great demand to learn, they went to other universities who joined in. The more universities came to Coursera, the more people came to Coursera. Now we have 30 million people and 150 universities, including Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and Duke.
I think at least in respect of higher education the MOOCs (massive open online courses) will continue to explode because they are so accessible. We have four degrees online on Coursera, and classes with 400-500 people. This can scale up to thousands of people.
In higher education, you will continue to see a very broad range of courses offered at a very low cost or free to get the basic skills. The high credential degrees will now start coming online at a much lower cost than before.
How is India placed to deal with the accelerated pace of technological change?
I think it’s a race. McKinsey did a study recently and looked at every job function and every activity associated with that job function; every technology and the ability of the technology to replicate or automate that job function. They looked at it by country. They found 51% of jobs activities currently performed in India can be automated using today’s technology.
They did it across many developed countries, and India was the second highest on the list, next only to Japan. At least according to that study, there is a real risk that if jobs don’t change and remain repetitive, those are likely to get automated.
On the other hand, I have seen greater urgency, interest and attention focused on upskilling and education in India than in any other country. Whether the demographic dividend of young people turns into a great benefit or a great challenge, is going to be based on how fast can the people doing those routine jobs learn new skills for tomorrow’s jobs.
I have talked to CEOs of many big companies; they are all focused on this, and with urgency. Will technology be a job creator or job destroyer? It will definitely destroy jobs and whether it creates jobs will depend on the degree to which the skills and the talents can be upgraded to take advantage of technology.
Are India’s top universities and institutes trailing in adapting to the online ecosystem? How can they contribute to upskilling?
The good news is that in the time India might be falling behind, there is a model emerging how to do it. We are starting to get a sense of what it will look like. We currently have 2,000 students on Coursera earning degrees, and this is in a live virtual classroom with integrated videos, with hundreds of students around the world having live seminars.
In the next two-three weeks, we are going to announce many more degrees. When IITs and IIMs are ready to do it, there will be a well tested model in place to deploy.
With the composition of workforce turning fluid in the gig economy, where is the upskilling opportunity for Coursera?
Essentially, we try to figure out who has a learning need that we might be able to meet. I do think there is a risk for many current full-time employees who have jobs for some time that they get displaced either by automation or by a more talented skilled person and that might be a younger person.
I see many companies almost creating gig economies inside their company first. Even if you still have your job you are going to have to start figuring out how to get skilled up to stay relevant within the company. If not, you might lose your job. Then you will enter gig economy outside the company.
If you do not develop those skills, you won’t be able to participate in the gig economy inside or outside your companies. The good news is technology is enabling learning, even advanced degrees.
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