Curious about online education and learning new stuff, I decided to attend several online courses at the start of the year. The former, a MOOC in Content Strategy provided by Coursera.org; the latter, a six-month course in Digital Marketing, Squared Online, provided by Google. One experience in the bag and the other one under way, I’m starting to see the merits of online education – and exactly what you need to put in to get it right.
I’ll start with the good news. Online education can help you:
- learn stuff that has interested you in a while – and dig into subjects you wouldn’t normally consider. A quick look at the Coursera.org offering after completing the Content course – and some interesting MOOCs in Finance suddenly seemed appealing and less intimidating than if I were to take them in a traditional class. I might take one, come July.
- acquire new ways and tools for learning – from watching weekly videos, contributing on forums, attending weekly online classes and hangouts with my team, to using tools that allowed us to share, review and see our work, the road of online education has been full of interesting stops and learning experiences.
- fit learning new things and acquiring new skills around your schedule; from this standpoint, online education complements traditional one quite well, as most of the time attending a course binds you to being in class at a certain time and place.
- meet, work and network with people from all around the place – from your tutors to peers to thought leaders in your field.
Now for the bad news – online education doesn’t rid you of the steps you need to make to get it right, a nagging trait it has retained from its more traditional counterpart. Here are some of them.
- Commitment. Without aiming to sound patronising, deciding to take an online course should go hand in hand with being committed to walk it through and make the time for it. Depending on the course you’re taking, you’ll really need those minimum 4-8 hours a week to attend lectures, go through resources, get involved in group work, complete the assignments, etc. If you don’t set the time aside, you may end up actually losing time on the course and also your money.
- Collaboration. Besides the time you set aside for individual study, it’s also important to work with your course peers or team. This enhances the course experience and the overall learning process. Depending on the course, it will sometimes also allow you to successfully complete group assignments, many times a prerequisite to making it over the finish line.
- Sharing. A commendable trait of online courses is that they rid you of the clutter sometimes seen in traditional ones and allow you to focus on the topic of interest. That makes everything you learn easy to apply and implement at work or on independent projects almost immediately. So if you’re looking for a way to make the most of – and validate what you’ve picked up in class, that’s probably the best place to begin.