Coursera’s Skills Benchmarking tool lets employers see how their employees are doing in courses and how their skills match up with competitors. A sample of how employers can track how employees are doing in their courses. (Image viam Coursera)


Companies that offer online courses to their staff have great benefits for everyone involved. Employees can expand their skill set, and the employer ensures their team is ready for anything. But just like choosing courses in college, knowing what to take, what companies should offer, and figuring out what skills employees are picking up is difficult. AI-powered learning tool Coursera plans to change this with their new feature called Skills Benchmarking.


The tool lets companies track their employees’ performance in the course offered, how their skills measure up to their competitors, and what courses they should offer in the future. With this data, companies can make sure employees are taking the proper classes, assess their ability, and even adjust class content in response to feedback. 


This feature is built on the company’s Skills Graph, which tracks a robust hierarchy of skills and matches them to the content on the platform as well as to the careers, companies, and industries that require them. Skills Benchmarking uses machine learning models that have been trained anonymized learning and assessment performance data from Coursera’s learner and content base to provide a summary of the company’s core capabilities and how they compare within a defined peer group.


“The Skills Benchmarking tool provides an invaluable opportunity to help us identify our best talent and understand how it compares to other leading organizations. The initial insights we’ve drawn from the tool will support future talent development solutions with a specific focus on innovation and digital transformation,” said Mariam Kakkar, Chief of Talent Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).


Coursera hopes that by addressing some of online learning’s biggest challenges, it’ll encourage more people and companies to sign up for training. They also want to track the benefits of its classes. Roughly a year and a half ago, their data-science team started to develop machine learning algorithms to map the 40,000 skills offered on the Coursera platform. They used natural language processing (NLP) to see how often instructors mentioned certain concepts during classes along with item response theory (IRT) to gauge learners’ abilities based on how well they do on quizzes and assignments.


It makes sense that companies want to make sure they’re getting the most out of online courses, but being able to track employees is kind of creepy. There’s already enough pressure as it is when taking courses, but knowing your employer can track how you’re doing and compare it to the competition adds even more stress. Just imagine if your parents could track your progress in school. This isn’t to say companies shouldn’t check in with how employees are doing with courses. Perhaps a better approach would be a traditional feedback system or just chatting with them about how things are going. Otherwise, this AI approach sounds like it’s going to be taken advantage of.


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