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How data sciences enable life-long learning

Goutam Das     April 5, 2019

Today, corporates often talk of 'life-long learning'. Just the college degree isn't enough- the future of work is about up-skilling every few years. Over the last few years, companies helping people become life-long learners have started up. While some create the content themselves, others curate it. One company that has built a next-generation enterprise learning product is Degreed. The company connects employees in an enterprise to learning resources such as courses, videos, articles, books, and podcasts among others; it assesses the skills one has and those that would be required for a chosen domain.

Business Today recently spoke to Chris McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of Degreed, to understand how the company curates content and measures skills. Turns out, technology and data play a crucial role.    

"We collate the history of what an employee did in the company or outside. We collect every data point we can find about an individual- it can be in the human resources systems, the learning management systems, the spreadsheets. Also, what they do in their spare time and which device is used for learning", McCarthy says. "We can then identify the gaps in his portfolio. We pull the learning material in and make it a personalised experience. It says this is what you have to learn, here is what you might be interested in, here is what people like you have also learnt", he adds.

This is similar in some ways to Amazon's recommendation engine many of us are familiar with- because you read book X, you might be interested in book Y.

If an employee wants to graduate to being a product manager in a company, Degreed identifies the skills required. There is a target skill level and the employee's skill level. "I can see how I stack-up. We have data sciences underpinning every recommendation so we can say these are the contents that are popular among product managers," McCarthy says.   

HR heads, the CEO says, often want to know what's going on in their industry and how they could better train employees. Degreed can use data from its 300-odd customers to draw conclusions and build skills graphs around what skills are popular and what is in-demand. This could help companies make smart decisions.

"There are four different ways we assess the skills. The first is self-assessment by the employee, which takes a minute. The second is asking the boss or a manager for an assessment, which takes a few more minutes. Then there is a 20-minute version and an eight-hour version. It is based on how rigorous you want to get", McCarthy says. 

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