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India has second-highest women learners for online courses in world: Study

For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from 23 per cent enrolments from women in 2019 to 32 per cent in 2021. Women’s enrolments in entry-level professional certificates have gone up from 22 per cent in 2019 to 30 per cent in 2021.

By: Education Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 17, 2021 9:36:44 am
coursera, it courses in coursera, women skills online education, coursera websiteWomen are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic. (Photo credit: pixabay.com/ representational image)

Women in India are learning online at higher rates compared to pre-pandemic, representing 44 per cent of new learners in 2021, up from 37 per cent in 2019. The Women and Skills Report by Coursera compares pre-pandemic enrolment and performance data with trends observed on the platform since the onset of the pandemic through June 2021.

With 4.8 million registered women learners, India ranks second worldwide for the highest number of registered women learners on Coursera.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 indicates that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in India, with the country ranking 28 ranks lower than in 2020. The reasons contributing to the widening gender gap include a decrease in women labour force participation rate to 22.3 per cent, women’s inadequate representation in technology and leadership, and a lagging female to male literacy ratio.

However, during this period, women increased their investment in learning new skills on Coursera despite the more difficult labour market conditions.

“Our research suggests that gender gaps in online learning narrowed during the pandemic, even as gender employment gaps widened,” said Jeff Maggioncalda, Coursera CEO. “We are encouraged by how women are embracing online learning to develop new skills that can help accelerate their return to work and promote economic mobility.”

Women are turning to online education at higher rates than pre-pandemic. India has 4.8 million registered women learners on Coursera, the second-highest of all 190 countries globally. In 2020, a peak of 44 per cent of new registered Indian learners was women, and the growth continues to sustain through 2021. Overall, 38 per cent of total learners in India today are women, up from 24 per cent in 2016. The median age of Indian women learners on Coursera is 27, four years younger than the global median age of 31.

In India, the share of overall course enrolments from women increased from 26 per cent in 2019 to 36 per cent in 2021.

For STEM courses, the gender gap narrowed from 23 per cent enrolments from women in 2019 to 32 per cent in 2021. Women’s enrolments in entry-level professional certificates have gone up from 22 per cent in 2019 to 30 per cent in 2021. These certificates, from industry leaders such as Google, IBM, and Facebook, are designed to prepare learners without a college degree or technology experience for a wide range of high-demand digital jobs.

Top skills among Indian women show a balanced investment in human and digital skills. Four out of the top five skills are STEM skills, like computer programming (2M enrolments from Indian women), machine learning (1.9 M), probability and statistics (1.8M) and theoretical computer science (1.6M). The top 10 skills from the past year also include critical business and personal development skills, like communication (1.5M), leadership and management (1.1M) and entrepreneurship (1M).

Top courses teach job-relevant skills, including Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python) from the University of Michigan, Machine Learning from Stanford University, English for Career Development from the University of Pennsylvania and Financial Markets from Yale University.

Mobile is an incredibly powerful tool ensuring flexibility in learning. Sixty-two per cent of women learners (as compared to 48 per cent globally) in India access Coursera on mobile devices, one of the highest worldwide. Other factors contributing to enrolment increases from women include adding practice quizzes before challenging assessments, listing most common mistakes for peer-reviewed assignments, and distributing assessments throughout a course.

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