Coursera, the online learning platform and one of the pioneers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), announced Friday another round of free access to its 3,800-course catalogue. The initiative - called the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative - is aimed at workers in the U.S. and around the world who find themselves out of work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the company’s website, federal, state, and local government agencies serving the unemployed can sign up until September 30, 2020, and those individuals who enroll by that date will have until the end of the year to complete the courses. Illinois, Arizona, and Oklahoma, in addition to the governments of Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, Malaysia, Panama, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan are the first entities to make the initiative available. Over the next few weeks, it is anticipated that more U.S. states and countries will take up the offer on behalf of their citizens.
Through this initiative, governments will be able to connect unemployed workers with immediate job-relevant online learning. The Coursera courses span a wide range, with many covering topics in high-demand areas such as technology, data science and a variety of business content. Participants will also be able - without additional charge - to earn professional certificates, signifying they have completed the courses.
Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera’s CEO, said “Coursera, along with its community of partners, is ready to serve the millions of workers who have lost their jobs and are going to have a hard time returning in a slow economy. We are honored to help U.S. states and countries around the world in their efforts to alleviate the impact on communities hardest hit by the pandemic.”
In March, as COVID-19 was spreading into a pandemic, disrupting the education of more than 1.5 billion students, Coursera announced its Coronavirus Response Initiative, providing pandemic-impacted universities with free access to the Coursera course catalogue through Coursera for Campus.
Universities could sign up and give their enrolled students access to Coursera’s vast inventory of courses and specializations. Enrollments will continue until July 31, 2020, after which month-to-month extensions may be available. Coursera reports that after just six weeks, 475,000 displaced students from around the world had enrolled in 1.1 million courses.
In April, Coursera followed up with the launch of CourseMatch, a machine learning solution that automatically matches Coursera courses to on-campus courses at colleges and universities across the globe. CourseMatch relies on natural language processing techniques to find the semantic similarity between Coursera and institutional courses — returning up to 5 courses on Coursera for each on-campus course along with a relevance score.
For their part, government officials welcomed the news that their unemployed workers had a chance to acquire new skills that could enable them to rejoin the workforce.“The partnership with Coursera... will help currently unemployed Oklahomans further their career paths and ready them to re-enter the workforce with new, valuable skills,” said Oklahoma Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell. “As we work to revive our economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, partnerships like this will help diversify our economy and create innovative opportunities for businesses and employees alike.”
With more than 26 million Americans now filing first-time unemployment claims because of the pandemic, the newest Coursera outreach offers a possible lifeline to out-of-work individuals who need re-training and re-skilling but who lack the financial resources to pay any additional educational costs. How large the uptake on the offer will be over the next few weeks will be interesting to monitor.