‘Learning’ to Succeed in a Dynamic World

Reskilling and upskilling have become part of every corporate learning and employee development program. Companies are investing in new learning technologies to ensure their employees remain relevant in the new digital era. Online learning platforms too are contributing to this corporate learning movement and have revolutionized the way learning is being consumed - on demand, on the go, and in a piecemeal manner.

We present to you an interview with Thirumala Arohi, VP of Education, Training and Assessment at Infosys, Raghav Gupta, Director of India & APAC at Coursera, and Ishan Gupta, Managing Director at Udacity on the future trends in learning.

Large corporates are building a new generation of learning and development infrastructure to support the training and reskilling needs of their employees in a digitally disruptive world. How is Infosys responding to this phenomenon? How are online learning platforms complementing these learning initiatives?

THIRUMALA AROHI - INFOSYS: Infosys has always been at the forefront of creating a culture of lifelong learning. We are further transforming workplace learning through our digital platforms. Our employee training and competency development programs employ an interesting blend of classroom, virtual, macro and micro learning.

Our digital platforms offer learning that is available seamlessly to the learner anytime, anywhere and on any device. We make learning relevant by providing curated content that is contextual and dynamic. We make it fun through social learning and gamification. We offer round the clock expert guidance. Above all, we make it matter through telemetry and statistics, to help learners track their progress and reach their daily learning goals.

We developed our next-gen learning platform imbibing these learning principles and launched it for our employees in April 2018. Using these digital platforms, we are able to train approximately 14,000 employees at the Global Education Center (GEC) at Mysore and offer 1,500 courses in continuous education that include more than 75 courses in emerging technologies and about 250 self-learning programs that are available on demand.

RAGHAV GUPTA - COURSERA: We are a platform that connects the world’s best educators and employers to bring life-transforming learning and credentials to people around the world. There are various components to how we deliver on that goal - a learner is looking for top quality content, delivered through the best learning experience, aimed at developing specific competencies that culminate in credentials that employers recognize - if all is addressed well, it produces better career outcomes. We are focused on engaging across all these aspects of the learner value chain.

Our enterprise channel is on a rapid growth curve, growing at the rate of 300% YoY. In less than two years since the launch of Coursera for Business, we have acquired more than 1,000 customers worldwide, including more than 60 in the Fortune 500. We see this channel as integral to our mission, helping employers around the world manage their workforce transformation goals.

We are increasingly seeing companies becoming educators themselves. With industry-relevant skills being crucial, Coursera works with companies like Google, Intel, IBM, and PWC to create career-aligned content that teaches relevant in-demand technologies and business skills. Our platform helps these companies develop a talent and developer ecosystem that is crucial to their business.

ISHAN GUPTA - UDACITY: Udacity offers practical, hands-on experience through its courses to ensure its graduates are industry ready. Led by Sebastian Thrun - popularly known as the “Father of Self Driving Car Technology”, we engage with technology innovators like Google, AT&T, Amazon, etc. to ensure that our curriculum is relevant.

We cater to every kind of learner through online and immersive learning experiences. We are also at the forefront of providing courses around the technologies of tomorrow like machine learning, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and self-driving or flying cars.

We play a key role in upskilling corporate employees. Recognizing the unique requirements of large organizations like Infosys, Udacity offers courses in a hybrid learning model, of which the Infosys Connect Program for upskilling employees in self-driving car technology, is one example.

Udacity offers scholarships in partnership with corporates, such as the Udacity-Google and Udacity-Bertelsmann scholarships, to enable students from different social and financial backgrounds to make careers in the field of technology.

What are the game changers in terms of strategy and approach that organizations/online learning platforms should adopt to deliver learning using new technologies like AR, VR and adaptive systems that effectively meet the ever evolving need of learners?

THIRUMALA AROHI - INFOSYS: At Infosys we have adopted interesting methods to pique the learner’s curiosity and offer immersive learning experiences leveraging advancements in digital technology. Examples include:

  • A Flight Simulator for participants to work on near real life problems in a ‘safe’ environment
  • Adaptive Learning powered by strong machine learning algorithms that understand employees’ learning patterns, assessment results, production experience and manager feedback to provide proactive insights into learning that motivate learners to continue and complete their program
  • A virtual assistant (chatbot) that acts as a guide answering queries and actively recommends relevant courses for the learner
  • The organizational knowledge ecosystem is enriched with documented employee learning, visual concepts and real project details showcasing application of technologies and skills
  • The Future of Education project conceptualizes the future classroom experience as enhanced and amplified by the power of artificial intelligence and mixed/augmented reality

RAGHAV GUPTA- COURSERA: Our learning strategy includes:

  • Curated learning programs - Our in-house subject matter experts help enterprises design courses that align with their organization's priorities. Coursera uses big data extensively to study millions of learner interactions to continually improve our platform
  • Strategic customer success management - Our customer success team is the go-to partner for companies to roll out and sustain high-impact learning programs
  • Guided learning experience - Inspired by pedagogical best practices, Coursera developed progress tracking and planning features that increase the likelihood of successful course completion by 10%
  • Flexible sessions - Coursera is the only platform to offer courses with “flexible sessions” that provide learners with enough options to help them complete their learning
  • Personalized Learning - We are experimenting with new personalized learning technology, an example being a feature called in-browser coding that allows instructors to embed coding assignments on the Coursera website, thus doing away with the need for learners to set up their own coding environment on their computer
  • Assessments - We have invested heavily in technology to solve assessment problems that include scaling peer reviews to automatic grading, and interactive feedback

ISHAN GUPTA - UDACITY: We are driven not by academic interest but the passion to provide learning that offers an economic opportunity and meets the industry demand for employee skills.

We offer short term online courses in a "learn by doing" model and make effective use of technology in creating hands-on experiences. We are highly focused on creating data science-driven adaptive systems to promote student engagement.

Some of the initiatives that we believe will revolutionize the way people learn are:

  • Udacity Universe, is a massive shared simulation environment where students develop and coordinate self-driving and self-flying vehicles to tackle the world’s most complex mobility challenges. They are encouraged to explore solutions to solve complex real life challenges through collaboration. In this virtual world, students move beyond single-vehicle autonomy, and start exploring systems thinking, fleet management, and smart city planning.
  • KUKA Udacity Robot Learning Lab at KIT, which offers an unprecedented opportunity to gain real-world robotics experience with simulation and coding opportunity on a real robot.

What are the key themes around which reskilling is required for employees to keep pace with digital disruption? What do you think are the future skills that different industries will demand as they go forward in their digital transformations?

THIRUMALA AROHI - INFOSYS: Emerging technologies, evolving business needs and changing talent demographics are some of the forces disrupting and changing the talent needs of our industry today. Understanding this scenario, Infosys has segmented its skills portfolio into three horizons and has invested in 10 strategic themes to cover 27 business areas like AI, 3D printing, robotics, Blockchain and cybersecurity automation

The modern enterprise landscape is complex with several development APIs, Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) and framework layers encompassed in one application which has to be delivered in an agile mode. This requires a developer to be familiar with various technologies. We, at Infosys have recognized this trend and created Technology Stacks offerings, which are a study of a combination of several technologies and are available on our digital platforms in a blended learning mode.

Today’s global work environment includes people from different cultures. To address the diversity, we rolled out an immersive training and development program enabling our employees with multilingual skills and cultural sensitivity to appreciate diverse perspectives and collaborate with clients through culture based interventions. We also launched a targeted program to enhance employee creativity and are one of the largest corporate adopters of a renewed Design Thinking training program that has reached more than 160,000 employees.

RAGHAV GUPTA - COURSERA: Over the past years, we have witnessed an uptake of high quality, flexible, career-relevant online courses. Maximum growth was seen in technology courses, which constituted 70% of the 10 most popular courses. Coursera for Business, an enterprise platform for workforce development and corporate training, has seen a high demand for courses in machine learning, deep learning, and data science. The enterprise platform has noted an increase in enrollments for courses like leadership, Design Thinking and operations strategy and execution that help enterprises develop a future-ready workforce.

Popular business oriented courses featured a mix of courses on financial markets, Design Thinking for innovation, and marketing in the digital world along with successful negotiation and introduction to public speaking. We believe that along with tech and business skills, soft skills have increasingly become valuable, and courses like speaking and presenting, critical thinking, leadership, team management, Design Thinking, and writing will see greater traction.

ISHAN GUPTA - UDACITY: Demand for skill would depend on the function performed by an employee and the company he or she works for. As digital transformation is largely being driven by the prospect of integrating technology like AI and automation into existing business processes and verticals, being adept at machine learning and deep learning algorithms are likely to hold one in good stead. One can help one’s organization adopt these technologies into the functions they perform. There is already an increasing demand for machine learning specialists, programmers, and technicians. According to Indeed.com, there has been a five-fold increase in AI-related jobs in the recent past.

As the penetration of these technologies into the market increases, there will be a demand for experience and skills in deploying these technologies. Big data and IoT solutions are perhaps the most popular new technologies today, though cutting-edge applications such as Blockchain, self-driving cars, flying drones, robots, and so forth are expected to follow in the near future.