Courses offered online to boost your skills or knowledge in a particular field. Complete a course to round out your education, learn a new skill or help advance your career. The best online courses will do all three.
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Completing an online course can help you master a new skill, develop a new hobby or help your career without committing to a degree. Online learning can be easier to manage from home when you’re working or parenting — or both. Complete classes at times that work for you with 24/7 access to material, and study when your schedule allows — if midnight is the best time for you to be learning, then midnight it is.
Many online courses provide teacher support and offer a peer network to supplement learning. Most courses offer a chance for interaction with forums and discussion topics, plus your tutors are always available online to help. You could even make connections for future job prospects.
Finally, online courses tend to be cheaper than in-person courses. Without the overhead costs of classrooms, materials and expensive textbooks, you could pay significantly less than showing up to class.
How do I do well in my online course?
Prepare, plan and show up. The beauty of an online course is that there’s little pressure behind it.
It’s likely you’ve picked a course in an area you’re interested in, giving up your time and money. The work could actually be enjoyable.
If you are struggling, most classes offer assistance from a course coordinator who can help research the subject online. Or go online yourself and find a forum.
6 tips for success
Let your family and friends know that you’re committing to study so they don’t distract you.
Communicate with your professor or tutor regularly.
Stay on track by printing the course outline and highlighting the schedule so you know what to expect each week.
Set a schedule and stick to it. Allow a at least two nights a week to dedicate to your studies.
Post on the discussion board when you’re required — it could count towards participation.
Do all your readings and exercises as scheduled — don’t leave them until the last minute.
Can an online course help me choose a career?
If you’re struggling to decide which next for your career, ask yourself a few questions:
What are my skills? These can be knowledge from an education or degree, or soft skills like interpersonal and computer skills.
What’s most rewarding about my previous jobs? From superior customer service, helping people navigate difficult situations, or purely making money — whatever motivates you, gravitate toward those roles.
What pays enough for my lifestyle? As society shifts and the job market changes, keep an eye out for industries likely to stick around — and who’s hiring. Think about what the community needs or where people are spending their money.
How do online courses work?
This varies between courses and schools. Online courses give you credits that count towards your transcript in the same way a campus-based course would. Take a course totally online, or a course that splits its time between in-person classes and online. Students can access content, books, discussion boards, web pages and technology that the school provides.
Some courses are intensive, one-day sessions, while others allow you to complete over a number of weeks or months. Find out if the course you choose allows you to work at your own pace, or if it requires a deadline and online teacher interaction.
Do I get a certificate when I’m done?
It depends. Most courses will give you a badge or notice of completion at the end of the course to show that you completed it. If your course is for an official license or certification such as first aid, lean six sigma or to become a real estate agent, you’ll receive the appropriate certificate at the end of the course if you’ve sufficiently proven your attendance, passed any tests and final exams.
How do I compare online courses?
Subject. Determine the level and subject you’re interested in. And make sure you check the prerequisite. Don’t start a photography courses expecting to get Photoshop lessons. Find a Photoshop course instead.
Career. If you’re trying to boost your job skills, determine the classes that best meet your needs to set you apart.
Materials. Make sure you have the computer speed, printer or scanner that you need. Some classes may require you to purchase books — resources are often extra cost.
Program. Check out a few different websites that offer classes and look at reviews or ask questions on forums like Reddit. Or read up on your new skill or industry and look for recommendations.
Cost. Find out if the total cost of the course — books, certificate or anything else — is worth the outcome. A course that costs $100 to learn a new hobby is a good deal, and paying a few hundred is a good deal if it could improve your skills and advance you in your career.
What are the types of online courses?
University courses.Many universities offer courses online that follow its regular semesters, with assignments and exams with set due dates. These classes can count towards a degree or certificate, and provide you access to support and services the school offers.
Short courses. These usually involve an intro course to complete before committing to a more intensive one, or learning a new skill.
Business courses. Ideal for anyone who want to move into a more managerial role, or start their own business. Typically you’ll find courses in finance, management, real estate, marketing, sales, insurance, strategic planning and entrepreneurship.
Free courses. There’s nothing like getting something for free. The Internet is full of free courses, but choose carefully and do your research. Many bloggers offer a free course or ebook in return for signing up to a newsletter, while some websites like Codecademy have a strong reputation for quality, free classes. Some of the world’s top universities, such as Harvard and MIT offer free courses online.
What are the 10 most researched online courses?
Based on search tools, we’ve found the top ten online courses to include:
Photography. Courses can take you through all steps of the process: art direction, using a digital camera, post-production and more. Some courses may take you through the whole process, while other photography courses may focus on just one skill.
Nursing. Studying nursing online allows you to have as little disruption to your work or home life, while setting up to work in a secure industry.
Nutrition. Whether you’re looking to become a full-time nutritionist, or simply want to make more informed choices about your food, there are nutritionist courses for every level.
Programming. Learn the basics or more advanced skills from home. Programming classes can help you learn programming language and write your own programs.
Management. The art of managing people is a tricky one. Improving your management skills could impress future employers.
Accounting. Accounting is a vital part of any business, and learning the basics or advanced accounting can put you ahead of your field.
Beauty. Beauty courses will take you through a range of procedures, such as facial treatments, lash and brow treatments, waxing, nutrition and more.
First aid. Update your certification or take your first class, though it might be required for you to show up somewhere in person.
Interior Design. Whether you’re looking for a career change or simply decorating tips before a big renovation, there will be an interior design course for you.
Master of business administration (MBA). A popular one with senior management, qualifying for an MBA can help your career path.
Frequently asked questions
This depends on your course type and provider. Most providers ask for some kind of prior experience. For a diploma this may be the completion of high school, whereas for a master’s degree, you’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree.
If you’ve started a course and don’t like it, you could ask to withdraw, but it’s not likely you’ll get your money back. If it’s from a university, you could ask to transfer to another class that better meets you needs.
Consider how you work best, the hours you are most productive and if working on your own is best for you. When you’ve found a course that you like, reach out to the professors or course leaders about what to expect. Any information that you have ahead of time can help you to make the right choice.
If you study online then you will almost definitely need your own computer. It may be possible to use library or public computers, but this won’t offer you the flexibility.
Melanie Huddart joined Finder’s editorial team in 2017, helping to polish up content across niches that include home loans, share trading, shopping and travel. Melanie earned a BA in Specialized Honors English and a BEd from York University in Toronto, Canada. When she isn’t focused on making articles shine, you can find her hanging with her son and her dog, practicing yoga or searching for the next greatest beach.
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