A Chat with Anand Chopra-McGowan, General Manager, UK & Europe at Online Learning Platform: Emeritus

Emeritus is a global education provider committed to making high-quality adult education effective, accessible and affordable. Our approach combines the access and affordability of the internet with a more structured and supportive classroom environment.

We prepare people for the skills they need now and for the jobs of the future, in collaboration with more than 60 world-class universities across the globe. Our short online courses, degree programs, professional certificates, and senior executive programmes help individuals learn new skills and transform their lives, companies and organisations.

Since 2015, we’ve supported 250,000+ students across 80 different countries and now we are excited to bring our new approach to lifelong learning to the UK and democratise access to the world’s best universities, from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London to institutions such as MIT and Harvard.

Our courses are often delivered by working alongside companies who want to upskill their workforce, so we’re specialising in topics such as sustainability leadership, artificial intelligence, coding, and data science. Giving employees routes to grow their role internally is both a powerful retention and attraction tool. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, employees at companies with internal mobility stay almost two times longer.
Emeritus | Online Courses and More – Learn. From the world's best.

Why was Emeritus founded and what problem were you looking to solve?

Emeritus supports today’s vital need to upskill and reskill the global workforce across all sectors. Given the changing nature of the skills needed to succeed in today’s world, professional education is critical for both employees and employers. Today, a professional will often hold seven jobs throughout their career. New skills like data science, design thinking and digital transformation are in demand.

According to the World Economic Forum, such upskilling efforts have the potential to create 5.3 million net new jobs by 2030. Additionally, by 2025, half of all employees around the world will require reskilling.

Individuals looking to learn new skills through professional education traditionally only had access to two ineffective approaches: either enroll in an in-person course that’s expensive and exclusive, or sign up for an online one and muster the motivation to sit through endless videos. We knew there was a better way.

That’s why Emeritus pioneered the Small Private Online Courses (SPOC) model, designed to succeed where the traditional MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) with long course lengths, low effectiveness and completion rates, have been failing students. Instead, the SPOC model brings the more structured, supportive and personalised element of the classroom experience to the online world, giving thousands of people, wherever they are located in the world, access to high-quality learning and world class faculty.

What role can tech-powered learning play in the upskilling agenda?

Online learning lies at the very heart of our capacity to upskill. What sets SPOCs apart from the vast majority of other online course formats is the unparalleled access they offer to the world’s most eminent faculties, meaning Emeritus learners benefit from personalised courses, mentoring and career counselling.

Better still, our online courses are structured so that learners participate in cohorts of their peers to foster collaboration, networking and peer support, – driving our staggering completion rate of 94%, compared to the average MOOC completion rate of 1 in 3. Our cohort-based approach combines digital elements like video and interactive peer-to-peer exercises with discussions and lectures (live, recorded, or both). Put simply, SPOCs are key to the future success of the global upskilling movement. And, very importantly, they offer a resume-building credential.


How has adult education evolved during the pandemic?

While we were operating our online model before the pandemic, the age of remote working brings with it remarkable opportunities that need to be seized on a global scale – learners aren’t bound by geographical location, and can access the best education the world has to offer from wherever they may be. That is to say, Emeritus learners can live and work in Bradford, for instance, while studying full time at world-class universities such as MIT or the University of Cambridge.

Our model is particularly well suited to supporting employees during hybrid working, since physical distance is no longer a barrier for education. We’ve seen demand for online skills-building soar – in the last 12 months, we have grown rapidly around the globe with more than 100% year-on-year growth.

How can online learning help close the existing skills gap in the UK?

We’re passionate about closing the skills gaps that prevent people from reaching their full potential, and research has shown that the UK has particularly low levels of qualification with higher technical skills, with only 10% of adults in the UK having one of these as their highest level of qualification.

With tens of thousands of vacancies caused by skills shortages across the country, employers have said that the biggest barrier to meeting their skills needs through adult education and training is that funding is not available or that such training is prohibitively expensive. With 1.5 million jobs at high risk of automation, these challenges will only increase in the years ahead. With the digital future hurtling towards us and ambitious net-zero targets to be met, it’s vital that the UK workforce is armed with an arsenal of skills that prepares the country for the jobs of the future.

Accessibility and affordability have for too long been barriers to reskilling and upskilling for the world’s workforce. At Emeritus, we believe strongly in the need to democratise education – our courses are designed to be accessible for all. Our current UK partnerships and courses are addressing the UK skills gap, and are delivered by the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, London Business School and the University of Manchester with more to come.

For instance, we recently announced a new 13-week Sustainability Leadership Executive Education programme in partnership with Imperial College London, launching in February 2022. It will equip business leaders and decision-makers with the crucial skills, knowledge and capabilities to better align their organisations to meet global climate change goals.

Or take our new course launching next year: a Professional Certificate in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence delivered by Imperial Business School. The 25-week programme will launch on 27 January 2022 and marries advanced technical expertise and the business acumen needed to launch or develop a career in these future-facing fields. It’s through online courses like these that we can upskill ourselves for jobs of the future, future proof our businesses and invest in our employees.