Coursera Global Skills Report identifies online learning trends

Coursera recently published the sixth edition of their Global Skills Report (opens in a new window) , which looks at various online learning trends from around the world for 2024. Coursera has an estimated 148 million online learners worldwide. What follows are six of the biggest findings.

AI is here

With ChatGPT’s release in 2022, AI’s development grew at a rapid pace as millions quickly adopted the technology. Course enrollments in GenAI on Coursera soared with most users seeking foundational skills. However, students throughout North America are enrolling in high numbers in more advanced courses. Another element fueling the rapid growth is initiatives to encourage AI literacy. Governments, businesses and higher education institutions have all made efforts to prepare for AI-ready economies, according to Coursera. Targeted government initiatives, such as India, are leading to more AI training and adoption. Meanwhile, 72 percent of U.S. CEOs say GenAI is a top investment priority.

Digital skills gap remains

Many job applicants currently lack the digital skills employers seek. Seventy percent of European businesses see a lack of digital skills as a major obstacle to investment according to Coursera. Now, more than 9 in 10 jobs require at least some level of digital proficiency, such as using a computer to email and create documents. Interestingly, learners across many regions are prioritizing human skills more than the digital skills that are in high demand.

A need for cybersecurity skills

One of the most pressing areas of need in the tech field is cybersecurity. An urgent need for cybersecurity skill development exists because of the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks and a growing talent shortage. In Europe, cybersecurity course enrollments declined five percent year-over-year, even though the region has been heavily impacted by cyberattacks. The growth in enrollment for cybersecurity skills is much lower than high-growth areas like cloud computing and data science.

Micro-credentials demand grows

Micro-credentials steadily grow in demand as learners view them as a rapid pathway to prepare for in-demand jobs according to Coursera. Some of these micro-credentials include Professional Certificates sought by employers to differentiate job seekers. It is estimated 60 percent of workers will require retraining by 2027, meaning the need for accessible learning pathways is more pressing than ever. Encouragingly, the most popular Professional Certificates are closely aligned with the top target roles learners are pursuing. These roles also have the highest number of job openings.

Online learning gender gap is better but disparities continue

The global gender gap in online learning has shown much improvement, but regional disparities persist. In North America and Europe, women experience strong barriers to equitable education and careers, but the gender gap of five percentage points is lower than almost anywhere else. The Asia Pacific region has a seven-percentage-point gap in gender parity. The Philippines and Thailand have achieved parity, probably due to effective educational reforms and STEM initiatives for girls and young women. Mexico and Colombia, too, have achieved gender parity in online learning. Women make up 51 percent of learners in Mexico and 50 percent of learners in Colombia. The Government of Mexico made efforts to increase careers for women in STEM, and Colombia made efforts to close the digital gender gap.

Emerging and foundational skills are in demand

All in all, most areas of the world are focusing on either emerging or foundational capabilities, although each region prioritizes different skills. In Europe and parts of Asia Pacific, students tend to focus on skills related to emerging technologies, such as financial technology (or FinTech), machine learning, algorithms, and artificial neural networks. At the same time, these areas are also seeing a prioritization in human skills like resilience and culture building. With all of this said, foundational skills remain critical, as they are equally important for a well-rounded skill set.

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