The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption (edX)

The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption is a free online MOOC Course, Offered by Online Learning Campus – World Bank Group via edX.

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The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption Course Overview

Only MOOC to explore the 2019 World Development Report (WDR) and a workforce of the future. Learn how A.I., automation, advanced technologies, and new businesses are changing the world. Workers of the future will need new sets of skills to compete. Recent advances in technology are changing how we live, communicate and do business, disrupting traditional industries and redefining the employee-employer relationship.

Thousands of routine and low-skill jobs will be eliminated by automation, A.I., and digital hyper-connectivity. However, these same advances present new opportunities, like:

  • New job creation
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved delivery of public services

The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption online course by edX emphasizes the urgency of developing human capital in meeting the challenges of the coming decades. Developing countries will need to take rapid action to invest in their people as innovation continues to accelerate. Themes in the course include artificial intelligence, the gig economy, the world of work, the future of work, the labor market, policymakers, new technologies, the digital economy, jobs of the future, machine learning, and the labor force.

Skills-based example:

Participants will learn through Ted-like talks, podcasts, readings, interactive quizzes, and scenario-based exercises. They will also have an opportunity to share and dialogue with peers and experts including practitioners, government officials, academic and private sectors. This course will introduce students to forward-thinking approaches that will build the new skill sets required in the 21st Century, including:

  • critical analysis
  • problem-solving
  • “soft skills” like teamwork and empathy

What you’ll learn

  1. Factors behind the changing nature of work
  2. Which new sets of skills are required for future workforces
  3. Human Capital Index and its methodology
  4. Social assistance programs and insurance schemes
  5. Policy measures available to governments

Course Syllabus

Week 1 – Changing Nature of Work

This module focuses on understanding the factors at play in the changing nature of work. It introduces participants to new technologies that are transforming day-to-day life, new types of automation, and new types of businesses, including firms that operate through digital platforms that enable them to scale rapidly without vertically integrating.

It will show how the demand for low-skilled labor is decreasing as Artificial Intelligence and new production methods take root. Learners will be able to describe and discuss the main issues and challenges that workers of today face.

Week 2 – Human Capital: A New Framework

This module introduces the World Bank’s new human capital index, highlighting the links between investments in health and education and the productivity of future workers. Making the most of this evolving economic opportunity will depend on prioritizing the development of individual capacity.

This module emphasizes the importance of building skills that are increasingly important in labor markets while also exploring the dangers of leaving workers in informal sectors.

Week 3 – Lifelong Learning: From Birth to Retirement

This module highlights the fact that despite historically low poverty rates and growing life expectancies, the dangers that remain, especially to children under 5, pose a significant risk to development.

Poor health care and nutrition at this critical stage of child development, especially during the “first 1000 days” from conception, lead to decreased cognitive function that lasts into adulthood. Subpar primary schools often don’t ensure basic literacy. Youth employment programs fail to effectively prepare young people transitioning into the workforce. This module explores programs from pre-natal care to youth employment.

Week 4 – Returns to Work & Social Protection

Skills development does not end in school. Module 4 examines those new required skills that will necessitate a lifelong approach to learning for today’s workers. Innovative pedagogy, technology platforms, and linkages between industry and schools are enabling developing countries to train huge numbers of workers, including older ones, in new capabilities.

The module also demonstrates how productivity gains can be made by advancing three priority areas: decreasing informality in the economy, removing blockages to women in the workplace, and enhancing training for Agricultural workers. This module looks in-depth at social programs that address these ends.

Week 5 – Investing in Social Inclusion

This final module focuses on the new social contracts required to provide for larger investments in human capital and more universal social protection programs. It discusses several new ways of protecting people, including a societal minimum that provides support independent of employment; expanding overall coverage that prioritizes the neediest people in society; placing community health workers on the government’s payroll; a universal basic income; enhanced social assistance, and insurance systems that reduce the burden of risk management on labor regulation. The module ends by illustrating methods for financing such programs.


  • Federica Saliola
  • Aart Kraay
  • Truman G. Packard
  • Shwetlena Sabarwal
  • Shu Yu, Ugo Gentilini
  • Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep
  • Sheila Jagannathan
  • Brendan McNulty

Additional information

Course Delivery


Course Efforts

3-5 Hours/week

Course Enrollment


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Course Length

5 Weeks

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Course Subtitles

Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish

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