Online learning platforms: What Udacity, Pluralsight and Coursera offer UK IT

Here's what the major online learning platforms offer enterprises seeking to upskill their employees

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Online learning, or e-learning, has reached new heights in recent years, with an enormous range of courses now available at the click of a button.

The e-learning market is attractive for businesses as it provides a cost-effective opportunity to fuel growth in staff.

Figures from a research and markets report shows that e-learning is expected to grow to £249 billion ($325 billion) by 2025 worldwide.

Online learning offers something for all stripes, from programming to IT and developer skills.

There are plenty of platforms out there, but only a few offer enterprise-wide courses. Here, we'll examine the top options for UK enterprises, and take a closer look at the most popular courses.

Udacity:  What is it & how does it work?

Launched in 2012, Udacity is an educational platform that provides a wide range of courses, from those designed to enable people to break into tech careers to intermediate and more advanced training.

The platform partners with a range of technology firms, such as heavy-hitters like Facebook and Intel, to identify the various ways that tech is transforming industries, in order to better teach the essential skills that companies are actually looking for. You can expect to find online schools covering fields such as big data, AI, machine learning, software development, and cloud computing.

Most in-demand IT courses from Udacity

“The most popular programmes tend to be analytics-driven,” Gabe Dalporto, CEO at Udacity, tells Computerworld. “So that’s business analytics, AI and machine learning and then the second most popular would be like an intro to programming, where you learn Python and the front- and back-end software development skills.”

Although the courses the firm offers do not cater to individual industries, a large variety of sectors are covered in its roster of clients, including e-learners in sectors such as healthcare and financial services.

With so many large enterprises and traditional brick-and-mortar companies embarking on the 'digital transformation' process, there's an enormous hunger for upskilling at present.

“They [organisations] don’t have the analytic skill sets that are necessary to transform these industries and they can’t recruit them either, because there are just not enough of the people in the market,” Dalporto adds. “So they’re taking their internal employees and working with Udacity in our enterprise business to retrain people on [workplace of the future] analytics skills.”

For instance, in November 2019, Udacity identified data streaming as the most important skill in big data. It found that a rising number of data engineers rely on streaming to make sense of dynamic data, making it an in-demand skill for engineers.

The platform responded by offering a data streaming 'nanodegree' , a project and skills-based credential program, to upskill software engineers with the relevant knowledge to grow in their careers.

Udacity’s capabilities

Typically, online learning platforms tend to appeal more to recent university graduates and entry-level staff, says Dalporto.Although this can be a great place to start, particularly for people that are in search of a quick way to learn the necessary skills needed to break into an industry, on the other side of the scale are long-term employees who require new skills to remain significant in a transforming industry.

“What we’ve done is focused on delivering practitioner-level skills [such as software development and cloud computing], where we take high-demand career areas so we’re like a mile wide and a foot deep,” Dalporto says. “The way we do that is through project-based learning like human intervention.”

This means that technical experts are available online to answer queries that students may have, across the different courses.

Pluralsight: What is it & how does it work?

Pluralsight is a technology skills platform, which provides web development, on-demand training and IT certification that can be used by individuals and businesses to upskill teams.

All its courses are focused on technology and so users can expect everything from cloud computing to machine learning and AI.

Most in-demand IT courses from Pluralsight

Research conducted by Pluralsight in 2019 found that UK users of the platform were focused on developing C#, JavaScript and Python skills.

“Although these programming languages have been around for a long time, they continue to form the bedrock of many modern UK enterprises, powering everything from simple websites to complex databases and web applications. Clearly, there is a requirement for these skills – despite the growth of other programming languages,” Sean Farrington, SVP EMEA at Pluralsight, tells us.

For global business users, HTML5 was also one of the top in-demand skills for IT teams, with Python ranking fifth, highlighting the continued demand for traditional programming languages for enterprises around the world.

Pluralsight’s 2019 year in review cites Angular, Kubernetes, SQL and AWS Fundamentals as the most popular courses of 2019.

Pluralsight’s capabilities

Pluralsight provides enterprises with what it believes are the right courses to address the challenges of today for in-house skills development.

“We work closely with customers to identify their objectives and build an appropriate plan that tackles their specific skill development challenges as well as meet their overall technology strategies for the company,” Farrington says. “We then discuss the benefits of our Role IQ and Skill IQ services, which allow businesses to quantify their teams’ skill levels and map these against projects and client work.”

The Role IQ feature is designed to inform IT leaders of the specific skills required for different job roles, while Skill IQ allows employees to benchmark those skills against their peers to see how they can further develop.

Offering both a mobile- and web-based user interface, the platform can be accessed at any time to enable learners to focus on courses during their free time. This also gives learners ownership of their own development.

Coursera: What is it & how does it work?

An online learning platform which offers free and paid short courses, certifications and degrees, Coursera was launched in 2012 by Stanford University professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.

It offers a range of courses from top universities and organisations such as Google and IBM. All the course content on Coursera is created and published by its selection of 200-plus partners.

Most in-demand IT courses from Coursera

For Coursera’s UK customers’ top interests, “a lot of it is related to the skills of the future, which is digital transformation skills. And that means data, data science, technology, and then business, largely speaking,” says Shravan Goli, chief product officer at Coursera.

In addition, courses such as machine learning, programming, AI, data science and Google Cloud are high in demand, particularly in the European market.

According to Goli, its enterprise customers range from financial services to pharmaceuticals and aerospace, and it counts Airbus and Novartis among those using its platform. “I think every single industry and every single company has to invest in digital transformation and they recognise that if they don't, then they are not only able to develop, you know the workforce for the future, but also become the talent magnet,” he adds.

Similar to Pluralsight, Coursera recognised AWS Fundamentals, Kubernetes and AI as the top three tech skills of 2019. Relevant courses are available on the the platform.

Coursera’s capabilities

Coursera looks closely at technology trends to identify the skills that are in-demand for learners.

“It’s a combination of all of the data that’s happening through our platform and through our engagement, which then shows how we’re able to extract that idea around what essential skills are needed,” Goli says.

Coursera also provides hands-on learning in its 'labs' feature. Coursera Labs enables learners to build projects using any software application, with applied ‘side-by-side’ learning available with a technology expert.


Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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