Google, Coursera Take Training to Enterprises

New training tools are designed to help companies manage their employee development programs.

AT ONE TIME, educators thought that online education eventually would push traditional face-to-face education out of the market. While few industry watchers believe that conventional universities will disappear, many expect that, as the online market continues to grow, business schools will see a diminishing market for the short-term training options they have to offer.

In just the past year, two giants in educational technology—Coursera and Google—have launched new tools designed to help businesses at all stages provide self-paced employee training. These products could be a sign of things to come in how businesses manage their employee development programs.

In August 2016, MOOC platform Coursera launched Coursera for Business, which delivers a portfolio of more than 1,800 MOOCs directly to enterprises. Companies that subscribe to the site as part of enterprise-wide learning and development programs can provide their employees access to educational content created by 150 universities on topics such as business, data science, computer science, leadership, technology, and personal development.

While MOOCs themselves are free to the public, Coursera for Business seems to be a next step for Coursera, as it continues to develop its revenue model. Pricing options start at US$100 per course per person; per-user cost scales down as more employees take more courses. For that cost, employees can earn stackable certificates to demonstrate competencies. At the same time, employers can use on-board analytics to track how many employees enroll in and complete courses, earn certifications, and respond to invitations to pursue training in particular topics.

Recently, Coursera announced an uptick in European firms adopting the platform, including organizations such as Air France KLM, Booking.com, and Telenor. Global cosmetic company L’Oréal is using Coursera for Business as part of its larger development strategy, says Laurent Reich, the company’s governance and digital learning director.

“Our goal is to touch 100 percent of L’Oréal’s employees every year,” says Reich in a Coursera blog post announcing the launch of the training tool. “We aim for 50 percent of an employee’s development time to happen through digital or self-directed learning.”

A second training option new to the market is Google India’s Digital Unlocked, which aims to provide India’s more than 51 million micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) access to training in digital technologies.

Digital Unlocked’s online training includes a set of 90 free self-paced video tutorials, set in an Indian context, at g.co/digitalunlocked. Certified by Google, the Indian School of Business, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce in Industry (FICCI), tutorials cover topics such as building a web presence, driving online growth, and reaching customers over mobile and video.

Because so many MSMEs in India do not use the Internet, training will be offered offline, at 5,000 workshops in 40 Indian cities, as well as online and on mobile devices. Face-to-face workshops will be delivered in partnership with the FICCI over the next three years.

In conjunction with Digital Unlocked, Google has launched Primer, a free interactive mobile app offering weekly lessons in digital marketing skills. Lessons are delivered in English and Hindi, and Google soon plans to offer versions of the app in the Indian languages of Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi. Google also unveiled another tool for MSMEs called My Business Website, an online website builder, which will be available in English and nine Indian languages.

According to “Impact of Internet and Digitization on SMBs [small and medium businesses] in India,” a joint research study Google has conducted with KPMG, 68 percent of the MSMEs in India currently are not using online tools to run their businesses. The research found that if these businesses increased their use of digital tools, they could increase their contributions to India’s GDP by 10 percent, accounting for up to 48 percent by 2020. It also found that SMBs that are “digitally engaged” see their profits grow twice as fast as those that remain offline.

Tools that make online business training affordable and accessible promise to have significant impact not only on the training market, but also on the larger global economy, according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. At an event in New Delhi, he called the Internet an “engine of growth” for India.

“Today, anyone can become an entrepreneur, a developer, or a creator, but it is important that they have the right tools and skills to digitize,” Pichai said. “We believe it is important for us to invest in training and equipping these individuals and small businesses to accelerate their journey of growth.”