Never stop learning

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 15 January 2018

For working professionals, virtual courses are a great way to augment their skills and improve their career. But not all educational portals cater to their needs and keep them motivated to complete the course

Founded by Ronnie Screwvala and Mayank Kumar, UpGrad, an online educational platform for working professionals, aims to build careers and upskill  individuals. We caught up with the duo, who were in town, to know more about it

For working professionals, virtual courses are a great way to augment their skills and improve their career. But not all educational portals cater to their needs and keep them motivated to complete the course.

UpGrad, an online higher education platform, stands out from the rest. It focusses on working professionals and provides industry relevant programmes to coach motivated individuals. The portal, which was started in July 2015 by Mayank Kumar and Ronnie Screwvala, offers detailed courses in Product Management, Data Analytics, Digital Marketing and Communication, Man and Entrepreneurship. It has managed to have 70,000 plus individuals experiencing UpGrad and its courses in the last two years. Some of the programmes introduced by the portal, are Upgrad- Start-up India Learning Program, Learning Week and Program Demos.

Both Mayank, an IITian, and Ronnie, a pioneer in the field of television, entertainment and media, never intended to replace education with the website. Their motto has been to provide meaningful education which will not just constantly motivate the students/ users to continue with their learning but also aim to give their career a new boost through dedicated mentors, trainings, etc.    

Tutor support and service
Mayank, who believes that the idea stemmed from making content accessible, wanted to bring something different to the table. “We wanted to make educational content accessible but never attempted to make education online which means it has to go much beyond the content and offer a strong hand-holding service. One has to be constantly reminded  to study, and in case of online, a student has to be told that s/he hasn’t logged in or taken the test. So, we ensure that there is tutor support and service for the students which many online programmes lack. In case you have a doubt, the online tutor is there to solve your query. Unlike other programmes, the assignments are in subjective form which leads to real learning. We have about 300 mentors, facilitators and academicians to give them a hand-holding experience to those learning with us.  If you look at the current set of online courses available, the rate of completion of programme is only 10 per cent. However, in our case, the completion rate is extremely high — it is around 90 per cent,” says Mayank.

To ensure that the students enrolled for the courses get a world class education and their certificate is widely accepted, UpGrad has faculty members from different institutions such as IIT, IIM, UC Berkley and Birla Institute. Besides, the experience of 30 entrepreneurs and industry guest speakers is infused into the learning and concept-introduction elements.

Promising to build a career for tomorrow and helping working professionals upskill themselves, the educational portal works along three broad components — learning specific aspects of different entrepreneurial concepts, experiencing these concepts by listening to industry experts talk about their challenges, and application of these concepts to real-life business needs. When asked if they are planning to expand the portal to provide education in regional languages, Ronnie says, “Right now the focus in not rural India, because there the issue is diverse and higher education is not just a single problem that they are facing. However, English is a widely accepted language and not just urban India, but people living in rural parts use English as a medium for education.”

Maximum participation from Pune
Talking about the popularity of the website and its reception in Pune, both co-founders say that among all the cities in the country, the maximum number of students that enroll with UpGrad are from Pune as it has a very young working crowd.

The duration of the courses, depending on the specialisation, vary from two months to a longer period. However, most of their courses and programmes are designed in a way that they offer complete learning and at the same time, students are not dissuaded to leave it.

“Currently, the biggest challenge that we face is of students not completing the programme. We are proving them with support from the mentors, teachers and experts who through online videos, tutorials and constant motivation, ensure that students take the tests, complete assignments and complete their course,” says Ronnie. The portal also helps with internships and placement facilities.
When asked if they plan to include courses on liberal arts — cooking, music, dance and so on, Mayank says that they want to work on courses and disciplines that have a demand in the market and can secure jobs. “Most of the students are already working professionals who are looking for growth, hence the courses and training help them create a better credibility for themselves. The courses are focussed on helping them get better employment in areas which have a demand,” adds Mayank.

With constant advancement in technology, it is evident that machines will gradually replace manpower. Ronnie says, “The change will not happen immediately, but yes, some professionals, especially IT professions, must be ready to embrace and excel at working with advanced technology, and we make sure we provide them with all that knowledge.”

Mayank says that the future is AI (artificial intelligence), hence this transformation is needed among those working in the field of technology.

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