How do you keep learning and gaining new skills when you’re working full-time and don’t have easy access to local resources or training through your employer?
Given the rapid pace of change in today’s workplace and the increase in occupations impacted by automation, the question is hardly theoretical. Indeed, earning a university degree is no longer adequate preparation for sustaining one’s career over a lifetime. We’ve reached a critical juncture in our global economy where everyone needs to embrace lifelong learning and take initiative for upskilling themselves—but not everyone knows where to go for that type of education.
For more and more Indians, the answer has been to go online. My company, Udemy, typically sees the strongest demand in areas with young populations with growing technical economies, which describes India to a tee. We currently have almost a thousand India-based instructors teaching more than 3,300 courses, and more than a million Indian students are enrolled in our courses (a figure that’s more than doubled over the past year).
These include students like Harsh Raj, 27, of Bhubaneswar, who took sales and marketing courses so he could move into a different field of work; Vivekanand Avasarala, 33, of Mumbai, who supplemented his logistics/finance degree with courses in algorithms, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence; and Amer Deep Gurung, 36, of Pune, who’s been working in IT for more than a dozen years but needs to keep up with new technologies and frameworks like AngularJS.
Overcome barriers of time and space
We’re actually just at the beginning of seeing the potential impact of online learning in India, but the demand is clearly there. By extending access beyond physical classrooms, online learning can help mitigate the need, expense, and logistical complications of in-person training and maximize use of existing educational resources.
Moreover, online learning does a better job connecting students to the most relevant and sought-after skills for today’s workplace, especially India’s hot tech startup scene. In India, entrepreneurship skills are among the fastest-growing courses by enrollment on Udemy, while core technical skills such as web development and programming are the most popular categories overall.
Whether hoping to launch a startup or work for one, Indian professionals don’t necessarily have the time, money, or desire to return to full-time education. Online learning fills the gaps in someone’s skill set with actionable knowledge that can be applied as soon as it’s gained. That’s a huge selling point for working adults who aren’t interested in theory and prefer to dive directly into the instruction that will help them reach their career goals quickly.
Tailored learning experiences
Another aspect of online learning that’s appealing to busy workers is its convenience and flexibility. Courses on Udemy are self-paced and available on demand, including via mobile device so students can turn a long commute or airport delay into productive learning time. That’s important for those who can only fit upskilling into small breaks during the day or longer night and weekend sessions. On Udemy, students are free to start in the middle of a course, start a new course without finishing the last one, etc., to craft the online learning experience that best fits their needs—whether that’s learning a very specific action like how to make a pivot table in Excel or a complete introduction to programming with Python. Perhaps best of all, course material is delivered in video format, which is how most of us prefer to consume content these days, and can be paused and replayed whenever the student likes.
Closing the skill gap
Career success in a global and highly technical economy depends on both access to learning and self-motivation. In the US, we’re seeing a growing ambition gap: many people can now access affordable online resources to learn the skills needed for today’s workforce, but not all possess an inner drive to spur them into action. In India, it’s the opposite: many people have the personal ambition, but too few have access to the education resources.
With online learning companies like Udemy, anyone with a mobile device or internet connection can take the initiative to pursue a better life by acquiring the practical skills they need to achieve their goals. The potential for online learning is immense, especially when you think of traditionally disenfranchised groups (including girls and women in many parts of the world). We couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities for online learning in India.