Having been born in the books age and brought up in the internet era, I have seen the best of both worlds. While school, college and universities have their own charm, there is no denying that online courses and e-learning for professionals and adults is picking pace like never before. I have been an avid learner all my life, which perhaps led me to trying out multiple online courses (MOOCs) and university certifications online from websites like Coursera, edX, Udemy and more. Based on my experience and changing circumstances, I have tried to present my version of what I feel are the benefits of e-learning and online courses in today’s time.
6 Benefits and Advantages of Online Learning Courses
1. Why opt for Online Learning Courses (MOOCs)?
1. MOOCs are inexpensive. Education is becoming global and free. Make use of it.
2. Online courses are created by faculty who are usually experts at that topic. You will get a capsule of the most important and relevant knowledge about the topic. Not just that, these courses are revised regularly and you will get access to the latest case studies or developments in a topic.
3. Career change and growth is easier when you have such a plethora of learning resources at your disposal. Want to take up a job in your own industry but in another country? Learn a language. Want to keep yourself abreast about the new developments in your area of work? If it’s a trend, some course must have covered it. Always dreamt of choosing a particular career? Do a course to learn and try your hand at it part time before you take the leap. Denied promotion because of your lack of some non technical skill? There is a course tailor-made just for you!
4. Finally the reason why I am an online learning addict- to satiate my inner curiosity. We grow only as long as we remain curious and we continue learning. Learning is fun. It evokes a childlike sense of achievement in us leading to an increase in our overall happiness.
2. How much time do Online Courses take?
Usually the time is mentioned on the course page, for example, 6 weeks: 2 hours week. However, my personal experience is that most MOOCs can be completed in 50% and many a times 30% of the time mentioned. The reason is that these courses form a sort of Dummies guides. If you are joining a course because you want to learn more about a topic you already somewhat know, it
will take only a fraction of time for you to do it. Another factor determining directly proportionate to the speed at which you complete a course is how interested you are in a course.
3. How should you pace a course?
The courses are spread over 4 to 8 weeks usually. The style that works best for me is back to back learning. I start when the final week is on and on a weekend, go through the entire course at a go. I feel the retention is much better because you get the essence of the entire course in one to four consecutive sittings. It also helps that other participants have done their research, others have rated their comments as useful and I am able to pounce on the completely baked learning like a lazy parasite. Most courses aren’t “heavy”, so it’s a good strategy to follow.
4. Are discussion boards useful?
It depends on the course. If you are learning something that is purely download worthy and requires you to practice on your own, then discussion boards are honestly a waste of precious time. However, a lot of courses such as essay or fictional writing call for peer reviewing and peer learning through assignments. In such cases, the lead educators do not have time to go through individual assignments. In such cases, you should definitely invest time into going through the discussion board topics to get your work rated as well as to get an idea of how your work ranks in relation to other submissions.
5. Are paid certificates worth it?
To be honest, naaah. In today’s world, firms (at least the ones who fall in the category of dream employers) are increasingly hiring people based on their skills and ability to apply their knowledge in real-time work problems. They devote sufficient time and energy to develop tasks or tests on creating tests that calibrate your levels of competence against other applicants and the industry average in general. If you have the knowledge, it will show- with or without a certificate. If you don’t, that would show as well.
Another reason why I discourage paying for certificates is because for most of the MOOCs you get a certificate from the particular university and to get it, you don’t exactly need to submit an assignment or go through a test and employers are aware of the differences between a full time course, a part time course and an online course and they treat online course certifications with a pinch of salt.
The only reason I would encourage you to purchase a certificate is if you are a student and a certificate of completion from the course would give you a reduction in your credits.
6. How many online courses can you digest?
I love to sign up for abstract courses that I am interested in simply to learn. 70% of these courses are topics I am interested in while 30% are hard wired skill development courses that I am going to apply in my work life. I would say that if I do a serious course where I am trying to learn a skill, I can only handle one course a week. As for the courses that satisfy my curiosity, as a working professional, I am able to do maximum of 3 related courses per week.