By Tom Vander Ark | Forbes

Enrolments are 10 times normal at edX: the non-profit open online course provider that started as a platform partnership between MIT and Harvard in 2012, and has emerged as the world’s largest learning platform.

“We have seen a significant uptick in traffic over the past months and we are hopeful that edX is serving as a resource to those impacted by the spread of the coronavirus,” said edX Founder and CEO Anant Agarwal.

Computer science offerings on edX, which include courses in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science, are up ninefold.

38% of learners said they want to learn something new and 25% wanted to upskill in their jobs.

In a survey by edX, 38% of learners said they want to learn something new and 25% wanted to upskill in their jobs. Another 16% were replacing other forms of schooling. Only 11% said they had been recently unemployed or furloughed.

Udemy is a video learning platform formed in 2010 and is home to over 150,000 online courses. In what turned out to be good timing, the company raised $75 million AUD in February (for a total of $336 million AUD). Course enrolments during the pandemic have increased by more than 425%, with an interesting mix of people upgrading tech skills and taking on passion projects.

The Udemy Neural Networks courses are up 61%, chatbot courses are up 60%, and a TensorFlow class is up 46%. Courses on professional skills are also hot: Growth Mindset (up 206%), Communication Skills (up 131%), and Innovation (up 98%).

Passion projects like Pilates (402% increase), Technical Drawing (920%), and Ukulele (292%) are keeping people active and healthy.

LinkedIn Learning traffic has tripled during the pandemic with an uptick in tech upskilling as well as courses on mindfulness and stress management.

Demand is sky high

While half of the economy remains comatose, cloud-computing related jobs remain in high demand. One Amazon manager said they see five open roles for every qualified applicant.

There will be 58 million jobs by 2022 in AI and machine, according to the World Economic Forum, but only 300,000 people are now qualified.

There will be 58 million jobs by 2022 in AI and machine, but only 300,000 people are now qualified.

In response to their own hiring needs as well as customer workforce challenges, Amazon developed AWS Educate. The asynchronous learning platform hosts modules on 14 cloud careers including web development, application developer, software engineer, machine learning, data scientist, cybersecurity specialist and cloud support engineer.

The reading level is appropriate for high school learners, but the concepts ladder up pretty quickly, requiring focused attention. While the content is available for anywhere anytime learning, Amazon sees better completion rates when it’s supported by an instructor.

For entry-level cloud computing jobs you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, but you do need industry certificates and evidence of quality work.

Infosys has a track record of hiring from community colleges and providing tech and team training as well as incentives for advanced degrees. IBM and other tech companies support P-TECH high schools that offer tech work experiences, enough college credit for an AA degree and employment opportunities.

Udacity recently announced a partnership with AWS to offer scholarships for top performers in the AWS Machine Learning Foundations Course to gain access to Udacity’s Machine Learning Engineer Nanodegree program. Students will work with different machine learning tools from AWS and receive hands-on experience.

Udacity is also working with Intel on a nanodegree for edge computing – it’s sort of the opposite of the cloud where computing and storing data is at the location it’s needed. This soon to be $1 trillion market is another example of the expanding career opportunities that come with frequent upskilling.

Lessons for high schools and community colleges

The tech learning space is shifting fast, with big implications for high schools and colleges.

An introduction to coding and computer science can be valuable for all learners. Going beyond an introduction to building pathways that reliably result in high wage employment is a dynamic challenge – both in identifying locally relevant skills and in staffing courses. Relying on a curriculum vendor for current content and staffing in traditional ways are no longer adequate solutions in many cases.

Tech pathways are shifting to employer-down (back-mapped from open jobs) rather than bottom-up (pick a degree and look for a job).

Tech pathways are shifting to employer-down (back-mapped from open jobs) rather than bottom-up (pick a degree and look for a job). They are increasingly inexpensive or debt-free, modular, asynchronous and credentialed. The pathways may include degrees, but that is becoming less important than verified skills and work product.

For 16-24 year old learners, the support of an instructor and cohort is typically beneficial. But with so many industry provided or sponsored learning pathways, high schools and colleges can rethink delivery with blended competency-based pathways that incorporate instructor, peer and mentor support. For this age group, successful work experiences can be as valuable as coursework – and some of those can be incorporated into credit and evidence records.

Pathway partnerships with employers and education providers (which are increasingly the same entity) are critical for high school and colleges to be able to offer relevant learning sequences that are modular, applied and competency-based.

Helping young people make informed choices between dynamic pathways, in ways that match interests and local opportunities, is becoming more important but more challenging. An industry advisory board can be helpful in localising and personalising guidance.

This article was written by Tom Vander Ark from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to
Note: Rachelle Dene Poth contributed research for this article.

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