Coursera is giving unemployed workers free access to 90% of the site


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Coursera; Alyssa Powell/Business Insider


Coursera, a popular online learning platform, has launched a Workforce Recovery Initiative that gives unemployed workers access to 90% of its catalog of courses and certificate programs through government agencies and community colleges for zero cost to either one. Ideally, it’ll help unemployed workers re-skill and re-enter the workforce. 

How it works

Through the program, unemployed workers will get free access to over 3,800 courses from universities such as Duke and Yale and from companies such as IBM and Google. Students can access individual courses, Job Paths (collections of courses that prepare them for roles such as Business Analyst or Cloud Architect), and professional certificate programs that can all help demonstrate their aptitude to future employers. 

Leah Belsky, Coursera’s Chief Enterprise Officer and formerly a member of Obama’s Technology Policy Committee, told Business Insider the program has been adopted both domestically and internationally, from states like Oklahoma and Illinois to countries such as Costa Rica, Panama, Ukraine, Columbia, and Greece. 

“The first thing that we saw happening globally after the shutdown was the shutdown of education,” Belsky said. “And now the big reckoning we’re all having is how to support people who become unemployed during this time.” 

Coursera’s offerings are already workforce-ready by design. Enterprise helps colleges integrate more career-related coursework into their curriculum and uses feedback from its network of Fortune 500 companies, along with third-party job market research, to design much of what it offers. The company creates the courses — and pairs them with expert instructors — to teach students the skills they’ll ideally need to fill the jobs of the future.

Previously, Coursera’s Enterprise arm has also helped up-skill and re-skill workforces in countries such as Egypt and Pakistan to empower unemployed youth.  

According to Belsky, the Workforce Recovery Initiative may help facilitate a pathway into more stable careers in the future. “Significantly, a lot of the jobs that [unemployed workers] left are not necessarily going to exist when the economy comes roaring back to life.”

Federal, state, and local governments can sign up until September 30, 2020, and newly enrolled learners will have through December 31, 2020 to complete their courses.

What courses are offered

The new initiative gives unemployed workers access to 90% of Coursera’s catalog for free. Among the courses available are those that can take beginners from unrelated fields and make them ready for entry-level roles in another, like tech. 

The Google IT Support Professional Certificate is designed specifically for underrepresented and nontraditional learners — many of whom may not have a college degree — and prepares them for one of the hundreds of thousands of entry-level IT positions with a good median salary. The program focuses on hard technical skills, as well as soft skills like customer service. It even delves into difficult but essential traits like grit and resilience. 

Another example is the COVID-19 Contact Tracing course designed by Johns Hopkins that prepares learners to become one of the expected 6,400 to 17,000 Contact Tracers in New York alone. Through Bloomberg Philanthropies, that course — which takes only six hours to complete — is completely free for anyone to take. 

The courses themselves are relatively accessible. They’re self-paced, are occasionally offered in multiple languages (though English is the vast majority), there’s no need to install any software to complete guided projects, and they can be accessed via web, mobile device, or by download. 

See more Coursera classes available, including their 23 most popular online courses

What can I do as an individual?

You can still enroll in classes through Coursera by checking the full course catalog here. It’s not covered by the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative, but you can audit courses for free or pay a relatively low ($39-$79 on average) price for full access and a certificate of completion. If cost is still a concern, you can apply for financial aid for many courses. And anyone at all can enroll in 100 Coursera courses for free — both job-related and not — until December 31 here. 

If you plan to take many online classes this year, and they’re covered by Coursera Plus, you may want to look into the Coursera annual membership ($399/year) to save money in the longterm. 

Other initiatives from Coursera

This isn’t the only program of its kind that Coursera is offering to support recovery and skill development throughout the pandemic. The site is giving students with a .edu email access to 90% of its site until September 30, 2020 to empower remote learning, especially as students try to gain valuable experience and skills at the same time many internships are being canceled. 

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