Smart CEOs are becoming curators, not creators: Andrew Ng

The AI expert and Stanford professor speaks on how large Indian organisations are partnering his firm Coursera to upgrade employee skills

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Andrew Ng, Artificial Intelligence expert and Stanford professor, is co-founder of Coursera, which offers high-quality courses from 150 universities to about 30 million learners globally. He spoke to Forbes India during a recent visit to the country about how Coursera is helping learners in India. Edited excerpts:

Q. Could you give us a snapshot of Coursera?
For many years, I was interested in online education and making standard course material more accessible. Over six years, my students and I were prototyping and building different websites, and by 2011 we had figured out a formula to deliver high quality online education. Coursera started with my machine learning class while a friend was conducting a databases class. They drew about 100,000 students. Based on the success, I teamed up with another friend, Daphne Koller, to collaborate with other universities as well, not just Stanford.

Q. Many in India may not be able to afford these courses.

Financial aid is important. At some point, the company needs a revenue stream to keep it sustainable. We are committed to education, and proud that Coursera has always had a financial aid programme. We don’t share specific figures, but learners from India comprise a large number of recipients of financial aid on Coursera. After America, India is the largest market for Coursera by number of users, at 3 million, with about 60,000 new learners signing up every month.

Q. The Indian IT industry has a massive need for reskilling. Are you partnering with any of these companies?

Coursera has been working with many large Indian corporations. Over the last two years, it has offered a ‘for-business’ platform apart from working with companies on upskilling and reskilling employees. There are strong needs in specific industries due to the rapid changes in technology; the top two are the IT services sector and the banking and financial services industry.

We work with large companies such as Infosys and teach emerging technologies to experienced teams. Where there are fresh college graduates, Coursera trains them to be better equipped as entry-level recruits.

What has changed in the last 10 years is the rise of online digital content, so smart CEOs are realising that their job is to curate, not create. Compared to 10 years ago, the returns on investment on employee training are much higher. Large Indian organisations such as Axis Bank, Tata Communications and Bharti Airtel as well some governments have been engaging with Coursera.

Recently, we launched the Google IT support certification course for graduates, at the end of which the learner’s CV will be available for hiring companies as well.

(This story appears in the 13 April, 2018 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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