I often receive emails from readers asking whether I think online courses are worth it.
For many careers, online courses cannot replace traditional college or university qualifications. However, the positives of taking an online course far outweigh the negatives. Taking an online course is an opportunity to learn something new or supplement existing knowledge.
So, if you're still in two minds, here are 12 reasons why you should start that online course you've had your eye on.
1. Gaps In Your Knowledge
The interactive nature of online courses lends itself to learning and appeals to all ages. Whether it be watching something being explained on a whiteboard or watching a practical demonstration, videos often provide more clarity than the written word. It's the reason why 'how-to' videos are so popular on YouTube.
Online courses needn't be expensive either. In fact, there is an extensive range of courses offered for free on platforms like the Khan Academy.
Many courses included interactive quizzes, puzzles and discussion forums to help students understand and retain key concepts. For their price, online courses are an excellent way to develop a greater understanding or gain a different perspective on a subject.
2. Control Your Timetable
Are you a morning person or an afternoon person? I do my best work in the morning. If I've slept well, I wake up feeling full of energy and can happily plough through my list of tasks for the day. However, by the evening, I struggle to focus on anything meaningful.
Many people are the opposite. They find it hard to get going in the morning but are much more productive in the afternoon; cracking on with things while the rest of us are on the wane. Science agrees with this phenomenon. Our body clocks are not homogeneous.
Most online courses are self-paced, allowing you to learn when you feel most productive. You are not tied to a predetermined weekly timetable. Take advantage of learning when it suits you. Get up an hour earlier each day and study, or put an hour in after the kids have gone to bed.
3. Stand Out From The Crowd
There is growing competition for jobs. More people are attending universities and achieving higher-education qualifications. Companies are also looking further afield to attract talent because people are willing to move county, state and sometimes even country, for the right job.
Consequently, employers are expecting more from potential employees. Taking courses, in addition to traditional education, demonstrates both willing and motivation, which can only be viewed as positive.
If an employer places an advert asking for an experienced college graduate, what are they likely to get? A stack of applications from experienced college graduates. How does that employer identify 4 or 5 candidates to interview?
Taking additional courses allows your CV to stand out from the crowd and can be the difference between getting an interview or not. It's a win-win for the employer. They get an employee that is both self-motivated and has a broader understanding of their chosen field.
4. Gloss Over A Weak Application
Just as further study can propel a CV to the top of the pile, it can also be used to hide weaknesses or gaps. Career advisers always recommend keeping a job application brief.
Employers have to sift through potentially hundreds of applications, so they're not interested in reading an essay. They want clear, concise, dot points. However, there is a big difference between an application that is succinct and one that lacks content.
If an application feels a bit lightweight, it is usually because the applicant lacks either qualifications or experience. Online courses can help in both of these situations. If you're fresh out of school, you'll undoubtedly lack expertise.
You can offset this by demonstrating your willingness to learn by taking on self-study. Similarly, online certificates from respected universities can be used to gloss over a lack of traditional qualifications.
Taking additional study through online courses demonstrates you've acknowledged a weakness in your development and taken steps to address it. This will be looked upon much more favourably than an application that simply doesn't hit the mark.
Graduate programs usually start by covering the basics to ensure all students are up to speed before moving forward. However, not all students are learning a subject for the first time. Rather than enrolling in a term or year-long program, online courses are more flexible.
Many online courses will allow you to take individual classes within a more extensive program. This targeted learning approach is useful for people looking to refresh their knowledge of a subject or application. Why enrol in an Art History courses when you're only interested in the lessons on Impressionism?
Online courses offer an efficient way of learning niche interests or subsets of a broader field of study.
6. No Degree Required
Many occupations do not require a university education. However, employers don't like to take risks on recruitment. They're much more likely to go with a candidate that ticks the most boxes on their application.
Employers prefer to have some proof that demonstrates an applicant's level of proficiency. Online courses are a measurable way of showing potential employers that you have acquired some level of knowledge, even if you don't have any traditional qualifications or don't need them for your chosen profession.
7. College Is Expensive
College is not cheap and, for some, it's financially out of reach. Don't let this deter you from your dreams.
Online courses are significantly less expensive than college degrees, and on platforms such as EdX and Coursera, they are provided by recognised, well-respected universities. By taking one of these courses, you are benefiting from the same lecturers and material that you would receive by attending in person.
While the certificate from an online course is not enough to replace a bachelors or masters degree, it shows willing. It might be enough to get you started in your chosen profession, from where you can earn money and save towards attending college formally.
8. Discover Your True Vocation
I had a friend at university who realised, after our first year of study, that he'd chosen the wrong course. He just didn't enjoy it enough to pursue it as a career. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. He'd put in a year's effort and paid the tuition fees but faced going back and starting anew.
Schools don't do a great job of preparing students for careers. They focus on ensuring kids leave with a level of education, rather than ensuring they pursue their dreams.
It's hard to choose a career if you have no experience and little exposure to what is involved.
Online courses can be a useful introduction to university degree programs and professions. In school, you study math but do you want to be an accountant, economist or an engineer? You might study English, but do you want to be a scriptwriter or a journalist?
Don't wait until university to find out if you've chosen the right path. Take a short online course to discover where your true vocation lies.
9. Learn From Your Mistakes
Online courses are a lot more forgiving than school or university. In most cases, if you fail an assignment or a test on an online course, you can resubmit or re-sit. It may require an extra fee and more of your time, but at least you're not stuck with a poor grade.
If you didn't quite get the grade you wanted at school or college, take an online course or two, and use them to show potential employers, you have what it takes.
10. Learn A Hobby, Not A Career
Studying and taking courses doesn't always have to be pursuing a career. It can be about broadening your social circle and your interests. There are online courses in almost all subjects.
As we grow older, our interests and lifestyle change. You might be interested in taking up blogging, horticulture or learn more about astrology and horoscopes. While Coursera and Edx are more focused on careers, platforms such as Udemy and Skillshare cater to a variety of niche interests and hobbies.
The success of online learning has encouraged enthusiasts to create courses on all sorts of topics. Udemy is a great place to find a new hobby.
11. Learn On The Go
The beauty of the internet is you can take it with you. You're not confined to a classroom, a campus or even a country. You can study and learn wherever you have an internet connection.
One of the best approaches to study is to immerse yourself in the subject. So why not take the opportunity to study while on vacation? Imagine taking this course on European paintings while visiting the famous art galleries of Europe.
12. Leading Professors From Leading Universities
Another benefit of being online is that universities from all over the world can publish courses.
Take your pick from Harvard, Yale, The London School of Economics and Sorbonne University in Paris. Listen to lectures from leading professors in their field, regardless of where they're based.
Online courses have a lot to offer and complement traditional learning institutions. Keep learning, expanding your horizons and go for that dream job you've always wanted!
Feature Image - StockSnap from Pixabay