Boost your skills via e-learning to enhance your career in Covid times

Online courses work as well as offline ones today, for those seeking a career shift or pay hike, or for those out of jobs

Namrata Kohli  |  New Delhi

If you want to make your career future proof and relevant to the times, just browse through the sea of in-demand certifications and courses at e-learning platforms. There is a near three-fold spike in the demand for business courses such as digital media management, stock trading, financial analysis and five-fold for tech courses in python, java, ethical hacking, data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, software development, a leading edtech platform reveals.

India has become the second largest market for e-learning, after the US. The online re-skilling and certification market is expected to reach Rs 9,381 crore by 2024, expanding at a CAGR of about 36.95 during the 2019-2024 period. People are turning to EdTech platforms for several reasons such as meaningful career transition, substantial pay hikes. While women hope to get back to work post sabbatical, out-of-job professionals seek to make their resumes attractive.

Says Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India: “In this day and age, skills are the new currency. People are learning new skills to future proof their careers and stay confident in these testing times.”

Udemy’s ‘Millennials at Work’ report says 73 per cent of them feel the need to have additional skills or advance training in their careers. A millennial is estimated to sign up for two courses a year on an average, and up to five in a lifetime.

What has driven the rush? Technopreneur Ritu Verma asserts Covid created the time she needed to learn skills she was keen to acquire. “Coronavirus has come uninvited. But it has thrown up an opportunity to channelise the extra time I now have, towards enhancing my understanding of data science.”

Coronavirus has, in fact, obliterated the scepticism surrounding e-learning, infusing the format with greater acceptance and mainstream appeal. The courses are feature-rich with exercises, Q&A with instructors, assessments, downloadable material and discussion forums that allow learners to engage with each other. There are live classes and recorded streaming.

People are also making more money during Covid times by opting for courses that industry demands today. Data from e-learning platform upGrad reveals that many professionals have had salary hikes of 15-44 per cent in their new jobs by upskilling in data analytics, machine learning and digital marketing.

Courses on offer

Prominent platforms in this space include Coursera, Udemy, edX, upGrad, Scaler, unAcademy, TalentSprint, Google Learning, Linked in Learning, Udacity, Code Academy, and Future Learn, among many others.

These sites are essentially marketplaces for learning and connect the best of faculty with learners. “One thing we have realised as a company is that we should not try to be command central while creating courses,” says Dr Santanu Paul, CEO & MD, TalentSprint, a tech centric e-learning platform. “We believe in Prac-ademics (practical academics) and so we co-create industry-relevant courses with top institutes. We recently tied up with ISC Bangalore for a digital healthcare programme.”

Many learners are finding the head space and time for fulfilling their dreams. Those aspiring for MBAs are getting a chance to do it. Within the MBA, priced anywhere from Rs 1-1.25 lakh to Rs 6-7 lakh, there is great demand for business analytics, marketing, strategy and general management. People have been undertaking specialised and intensive courses during the past two pandemic years. Says Phalgun Kompalli, co-founder, upGrad: “Technology, data, management and law are broadly the key buckets of focus right now. Someone who couldn’t clear CAT exams earlier, is now fulfilling his dream to pursue a world class MBA. So, if we can bring a Deakin MBA, a top-20 global online course, at a very affordable Indian price.”

A learner can define his career by planning his learning goals and constantly improving skills and certifications. Kompalli says 25-30 per cent of their learners come back to pursue higher credentials. So someone who did a six-month certificate programme from IIIT Bangalore, comes back later to do an Executive PG Program in data science, or even a Master’s in data science by studying for another 12 months.

In this digital age, it’s technology all the way and the demand is for tech savvy professionals, irrespective of the sector. Courses that intersect deep tech with specific industry sectors are getting popular, be it banking, finance or healthcare. Says Paul of TalentSprint, “Without giving up your domain expertise, you need to embrace technology very substantially, as the future of employment is exactly that–-a person who knows his domain extremely well but can use technology to make his job more efficient. There is no way we can have man-versus-machine, but (what we have is) man-with-machine. If you are really good at using technology to solve problems and have human-machine synergy, then you are a real winner.”

Paul cites the example of an e-legal committee formed by the Supreme court, which is actually AI in the practice of law. It does not mean that lawyers of the future have to know less law. They have to know law and technology both, to make their legal practice much more efficient.

Personal finance has made its own market as many people spend their time studying market efficiencies and investing in stocks. Besides, short courses on communication skills, collaboration and personal branding have gained traction. upskilling is not always professional. In the last year, Udemy has seen an increase of more than 200 per cent in its soft skill course enrollments in India alone. UpGrad Co-founder and MD Mayank Kumar says, “We find that soft skills are as important in today’s job market as hard skills.

We realise that it isn’t sufficient to give our learners training on coding, python, how to run a Facebook campaign etc. It’s equally important for them to know how to articulate and express themselves in an interview, or solve problems in a group. Our focus has shifted to coaching and mentoring as the ability to communicate can actually make or break your career.”

The investment is YOU

If you are looking for a substantial upgrade in qualifications and skills, these courses are most effective in the 100-150 hours of curriculum offered over a 6–9 month period. They are usually run as weekend classes which suit working professionals well. One should be ready to invest Rs 1-3 lakh or even Rs 4 lakh for a major upgrade in qualification. In the technology sector, Paul says, “A professional should be willing to invest the equivalent of 1-2 months’ income in career development once in three years. Technology evolves every 3-5 years, so you should budget to spend Rs 1-3 lakh once in three years.”

There are shorter courses that may cost anything from Rs 700 to Rs 7,000 and then there are many free courses. All come with ratings to help users choose their desired course and instructor.

Are online courses more reasonable than offline programmes? Kumar of upGrad does some arithmetic on this. “When you enroll for an offline programme, you lose two years of your income generating capability. So on a salary of Rs 8 lakh, you end up losing Rs 16 lakh over two years, while spending Rs 10 lakh on an MBA. In all, you are actually spending Rs 25-30 lakh in order to move your pay from Rs 8 lakh to Rs 16 lakh. Compare that to an upGrad level course where the typical hike is about Rs 5 lakh. You join at Rs 8 lakh salary, you don’t lose any income for two years and end up getting a 50 per cent hike that takes you to, say, Rs 12 lakh. For an investment of Rs 3 lakh, you got Rs 5 lakh as an outcome as compared to a Rs-8 lakh outcome on an investment of Rs 30 lakh in an offline programme. Of course, the value proposition has to be rigorous and as you are expected to spend 10-15 hours a week.”

Women in pandemic

There are many ways in which women can use e-learning platforms for career advancement. Says Paul, “The pandemic has accelerated careers for women, not so much for returning women but definitely for the young lot. A new pathway has opened up for young women from Tier-2 and 3 towns with colleges offering long-term coding bootcamps and women engineering programmes run with top organisations such as Google.” The idea is to seek high potential women from second-rung towns and grade B colleges, catch them young and put them in a different curriculum altogether.

Some women who had taken a break for higher education or personal reasons are making a comeback post sabbatical, after subscribing to these courses. Take the case of Sonia who at a young age could not complete her higher education due to financial constraints. She had to start working early but had this burning desire to be more specialised in her field. She pursued a machine learning course with upGrad and is now an Assistant Vice President at an IT firm.

Certain e-learning platforms such as Scaler have special schemes to upskill women and enhance female participation in India’s tech workforce. The Scaler Include programme, priced at Rs 2.5 lakh and conducted over 9-12 months, is a one-of-its-kind career accelerator that offer scholarships, dedicated mentoring support, and placement assistance to women. The scholarship is sponsored by startups and tech companies.

Have the right mindset

Online is never easy and calls for great self-discipline. Kumar of upGrad says these courses are all about rigour and hard work. “It is not a walk in the park and is certainly not going to be Netflix and chill.” Being committed to the process of learning is very important from the learner’s standpoint to achieve the long-term goals. Also, one should feel and act like a student in a classroom. Says Kompalli, “I have observed many working professionals assuming they are consumers of a product and have consumer rights. They often argue with the faculty or the university about deadlines, or the structure of a test. In education, if you are trying to optimise for instant gratification, you won’t get long-term results.”

On the corporate side, better hiring processes and more innovative recruitment protocols can help both companies and the professional. Employers need to move beyond IIT degrees on the CV and consider other attributes as well. Says one industry insider: “When you can hire everyone online, interview everyone online, and get work done by employees online, how does it matter whether your employee studied offline or online? If he has devoted 15 hours a week, he should be at par.”

Table: Some of the sought-after courses from different EdTech platforms:

Domain Course Duration Price (Rs)
Data Science upGrad-Executive PG Programme in Data Science with University Partner IIIT-Bangalore 12 months 2,85,000
Artificial Intelligence Talent Sprint-Advanced Certification Programme AI Financial Markets 6 months, starting Aug 8, 2021 3,00,000
Finance edX-MicroMasters Programme in Finance 1 year 3 months, 10-14 hours a week 1,48,271
Law upGrad-LL. M. in Corporate & Financial Law Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) 12 months 3,00,000
Technology upGrad-Executive PG Programme in Software Development IIIT-Bangalore 12 months 2,25,000

Software Development

upGrad-MSc. in Computer Science from UK’s Liverpool John Moores University

12 hrs/week, 19 months

3,75,000 incl taxes
Blockchain edX-Professional Certificate in Blockchain Fundamentals, University of California 3 months, 3 hours per week 13,048
Network and Security Udemy-Learn Ethical Hacking from Scratch 15 hours on-demand video 8,640

Cloud Computing

Coursera-Cloud Architecture with Google Cloud Professional Certificate Approx 3 months to complete

Suggested pace of 6 hours per week

3,595 per month to continue learning after trial ends
Cryptocurrency Udemy-Cryptocurrency Investment Course 2021 11 hours 8,640

Machine Learning

Coursera-Deep Learning Specialisation

Approx 5 months to complete, Suggested pace of 7 hours a week 3,595 per month to continue learning after trial ends
Digital Marketing Udemy-The Complete Digital Marketing Course 22.5 hours on-demand video, 38 articles, 10 downloadable resources 8,640

Computer Science

edX-Professional Certificate in Computer Science for Web Programming, by Harvard University

6 months, 6-14 hours per week



upGrad-Master of Business Administration (MBA) with University partner Liverpool Business School, MBA (Global) with Deakin Business School and Advanced Certificate in Digital Marketing and Communication (cost varies as per specialisation) MICA Ahmedabad

6.5 to 18 months 1,03,454-5,70,000

Source: Market Research

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