The Unbounded University: Bridging the Gap Between Education & Employment

The Unbounded University: Bridging the Gap Between Education & Employment

Over the last year, the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges for universities. As campuses shuttered around the globe, emergency response teams jumped into action by implementing “remote teaching” stopgaps to keep, at the peak of the pandemic, more than 1.6 billion students learning. 

Universities and colleges globally have refocused or will need to refocus on the following set of priorities critical to their success: student employability, cost management, technical capacity building, faculty development, and innovation. 

To help universities unlock the full potential of online learning, we today published The Unbounded University: Unlocking Opportunities through Online Learning. In this report, we use Coursera’s proprietary platform data to explore skill proficiency gaps between students and working professionals, propose a model for leveraging blended learning to bridge curriculum gaps, and highlight some of the long-term skill trends we’ve observed that are shaping higher education and lifelong learning. 

In the first section of the report, we examine gaps between skills university students have and skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce. Research suggests that recent economic volatility and rising unemployment caused by the pandemic has only intensified pressure on universities to equip students with in-demand skills. With greater transparency into existing workforce trends, universities can align curriculum with market demand to help ensure graduates are industry-ready. 

To shed light on this, we evaluated students’ business, technology, and data science skills across majors as well as the average time it would take each student to develop the skills needed to be job-ready for their intended careers. Our analysis uncovers the intended careers and skills needs of students across a total of nine majors, including: Biological Sciences, Business, Computer Science, Education, Engineering, Health Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences. 

Our data show that engineering students on the Coursera platform, for example, are most interested in becoming solutions engineers, electrical engineers, and mechanical engineers after graduation. These engineering professionals who learn on the Coursera platform have advanced skill proficiencies in statistical programming, leadership and management, and data analysis. 

The employability skills that engineering students are lacking and the average time needed to reach target proficiency

Engineering students learning on Coursera are trailing furthest behind in software engineering, statistical programming, and data management skills. Current engineering students learning on Coursera appear to be left unprepared in certain key digital skills. Our data shows that it would take an engineering student 48 days, or less than a semester on average, to close the software engineering gap.

According to our platform data, business students are most interested in becoming financial advisors, marketers, and management consultants. These business professionals who learn on Coursera have advanced skill proficiencies in leadership and management, statistical programming, and sales.

The employability skills that business students are lacking and the average time needed to reach target proficiency

To upskill, business students have opportunities to deepen expertise in critical technical skills, like software engineering, computer programming, and data visualization. According to our data, a business student could close the software engineering gap in 39 days—half a semester on average—and close the statistical programming gap in 19 days on average. 

Download the full report here for more insights about the Unbounded University and Coursera for Campus, including a skills proficiency analysis across all nine majors.