7 Questions With a Bold Innovator Featuring Adarsh Lathika

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In recent years, committed, innovative educators have explored incorporating online learning into their existing curricula.

Adarsh Lathika is one of these changemakers. His passion for engineering and management has guided his work as part of the Manipal Global Education Services (MaGE) core team for over a decade. In this role, he has partnered with university leaders to implement various strategic programs—including Coursera for Campus

With Adarsh’s leadership, the universities under the Manipal Education Framework (Manipal) saw course enrollments on Coursera increase over threefold from 71,000 to more than 250,000 in just two years. To get more students excited about Coursera, Adarsh and his team launched the Coursera for Campus Ambassador Program that engaged students as agents of change.

In this first installment of Coursera’s Bold Innovators blog post series, we talked to Adarsh about launching the program and his team’s plans for the future.

Q1. Welcome, Adarsh – Our readers would love to learn more about your journey with Coursera and how you encouraged student adoption of online learning.

From the start, we knew that getting more students excited about online learning would require fresh approaches. To create a culture of transdisciplinary learning, we partnered with Coursera to offer a broad-based learning experience.

When we started with Coursera for Campus, we needed students to feel excited about the program. With internal champions, we could personally encourage students to explore the full benefits of Coursera’s content. Assembling our internal champions meant aligning students, faculty members, and the university’s leadership. Deep, cross-functional collaboration was the foundation of our Coursera for Campus Ambassador Program. 

Searching for our dynamic campus ambassadors, we conducted written tests and phone interviews to find candidates with strong communication skills. Ultimately, we recruited 99 campus ambassadors with the talent and drive to create awareness about the benefits Coursera brings to learners. 

Peer-to-peer engagement is vital, but we also wanted faculty champions to support students’ onboarding into the program, so we reached out to Deans and department heads to promote Coursera. With students, faculty, and departmental leadership fully excited about Coursera, we saw strong results right from its first year. Manipal’s Coursera for Campus program is among Coursera’s top three programs globally in terms of enrollments and learning hours.

Q2. With a program that involved multiple stakeholders, how did you navigate the complex cycle of change management?

We’re proud to be the first university to adopt Coursera for Campus back in 2018. But we know that any big change, however positive, comes with challenges. Just as any successful journey starts one step at a time, we designed the Manipal – Coursera Campus Ambassador Program in phases. Our first step in change management involved boosting Coursera usage rates among students. 

Phase 1: Creating Awareness

In our first year, we focused on enrollment. Each ambassador knew our core goal: Every student should be able to enroll in the program easily and complete at least one course. We empowered our ambassadors with clear descriptions of their tasks and well-articulated KPIs, as they worked with communities of around 150 to 200 learners. Ambassadors were tasked with sharing the advantages of Coursera in their classes, freshmen introduction sessions, webinars, and student clubs. We gauged ‘ambassadors’ success by measuring KPIs against various milestones in the online dashboard, and made updates as we discovered new effective approaches. 

To build momentum as enrollments started increasing, we began the #LearnASkill campaign. Though we launched the campaign during summer break, it sparked massive engagement. We maintained a #LearnASkill leaderboard and offered prizes and certificates to inspire healthy competition among participating students – some students completed up to 100 courses.

Phase 2: Making Coursera a Learning Habit

Energized by the success of Phase 1, we moved the Coursera for Campus Ambassador Program into Phase 2. Here, we worked to sustain our learners’ enthusiasm for the program. 

We understood that students would want to know about the benefits of continuing with more courses after completing the initial requirements. Encouraging students to reach the next level with their learning prompted us to start the #ShowYourSkill competition. #ShowYourSkill went one step beyond course completions, compelling learners to show off their newly acquired skills.  

As we analyzed students’ learning patterns, we worked with Coursera to curate specific course recommendations. Through our campus ambassadors and student clubs, we shared these course curations to make learning a habit.

To help students understand how these courses would fast-track their careers, we connected them with alumni who were Coursera learners. After hearing the personal experiences of the alumni, students deepened their investments in learning through Coursera. 

We also invited faculty to discover the possibilities through Coursera via online sessions and emails. As more faculty adopted Coursera, we saw a significant spike in student engagement. With student interest on the rise, we streamlined the campus ambassador program to 30 team members. 

Q3. What processes did you put into place to ensure the long-term success of Coursera for Campus at Manipal?

To keep ourselves organized, we created a dashboard to track our activities as we developed the program:  

  • Email IDs of participants
  • License status
  • Number of courses completed
  • Percentage of courses completed
  • Number of people who completed the course, and several other details
KPIs and campus ambassador leaderboard statistics

Initially, we saw around 20-25% of students complete courses. Soon, that rate reached 60%. As the team leader, I shared this data monthly with the campus ambassadors. Over two years, we also onboarded faculty champions in disciplines ranging from IT to Pharmacy,  driving further adoption among students.   

Q4. Can you share any anecdotes or stories that convey the impact of the Campus Ambassador Program?

Our students and faculty have heartwarming stories about their success with Coursera. One story from a learner, Urvashi Pathak, particularly stands out:

Coursera was a great help during the pandemic in 2020. I took the opportunity to enroll in several courses to upskill and improve my knowledge base. I am currently working for an IoT and Automation company. The courses I took from Coursera were related to my job and provided me with a very detailed understanding of the IoT domain, which further enabled me to apply this knowledge in my workplace. 

Ramaprasad Poojary, a faculty member at SOEIT MAHE Dubai, also has high praise for Coursera: 

In my opinion, Coursera is one of the best initiatives by Manipal Global. As a faculty member of SOEIT MAHE Dubai, it helped me update my technical skills in machine learning. It also helped me guide students during their project work and other courses. I have subscribed for three consecutive years and recently completed a specialization in ML using TensorFlow on Google Cloud. All five courses under this specialization were well designed.

These powerful testimonies emphasize how Coursera empowers our students and faculty.

Q5. The Campus Ambassador program was undoubtedly a tremendous success. What have been some of your personal learnings from the program, and how do you envision the growth of the program from here?

Through the Coursera for Campus Ambassador Program, we discovered so much about the minds of our young learners. Using informal platforms, such as WhatsApp groups, we gained answers to essential questions: How are our students learning? Why are they learning? What do they need to improve their learning? 

With our new knowledge, we could better answer platform- and course-related queries, which increased exponentially toward the end of a semester. Some of our insights contributed to new Coursera product features, such as adding course ID in grade reports, including certificate URLs in usage reports, and removing share options for peer assignments.

The Coursera for Campus Ambassador Program is now an integrated part of Manipal’s action plan, which is highly outcome-driven. 

Q6. Do you have any recommendations for fellow educators trying to promote the adoption of Coursera at their universities?

As educators, we’re usually asking our students questions to help them learn and grow. When we implemented Coursera for Campus at Manipal, we posed some fundamental questions to ourselves. These questions are highly relevant to all institutions: 

  • What are you trying to achieve with Coursera?
  • What will be the benefits for your learners? What problems are you trying to address?
  • Which metrics will you track, and how often will you review them?
  • How can stakeholders such as students, alumni, and faculty serve as driving forces in this program? How can you customize your approach to meet each stakeholder’s unique needs? 

Reflecting on these questions can help educators create successful roadmaps for developing learner programs through Coursera for Campus. 

Q7. Based on your experience, how do online courses and platforms like Coursera help prepare students for their professional life? 

Technology has been changing how we live for the last 25 years, and the pace of change has accelerated with the advent of smart technologies. In the job market, new graduates will compete not only against their classmates but also with graduates from the rest of the world. The skills and competencies they need will continue to change throughout their careers. In such a fluid state, the fundamentals remain important.  Along with soft skills, an understanding of how to learn continuously, and the ability to work with those from other cultures.

Ensuring our learners have the skills and competencies to compete in the global workforce is our responsibility as educators. With Coursera, we’ve given our learners access to knowledge that prepares them to succeed in a world where evolving technology changes the ways we live every day. 

Online learning through Coursera for Campus helps students learn from content developed by the brightest minds in industry and academia, and empowers them to be future leaders and innovators in the global workforce.

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