Online courses are tempting prospects to many professionals who are eager to improve their qualifications, boost their earning potential and update their knowledge and skill. Online education is accessible and flexible, and almost everyone can fit a class or two into their schedule without seriously sacrificing time at work or with family. Still, there is no guarantee that online courses will do anything to advance a student’s career — it is the sole responsibility of the student to understand how to leverage online education for success.
Fortunately, you can gain career success from online education if you prepare properly. These simple strategies should help you get the benefits you need from your next online course:
Understand the Different Levels of Online Education
A single cooking class offered by your local parks and recreation department is never going to provide you with the same level of mastery in the kitchen as a degree program in culinary arts from the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. The same logic holds true with online education: You should be careful to select a level of the program that suits your needs and interests. There are essentially three categories of online learning, all of which offer advantages and disadvantages to different students:
- Individual classes. You can find single classes that cover basic topics. Though individual classes tend to be exceedingly affordable (even free) and take up only a few hours of your time at most, the limited time you spend in class will reduce the amount of information you retain. Generally, individual classes are excellent for introductions to niche subjects in your field, but they are not ideal for any in-depth learning.
- Short courses. Many top universities offer online short courses, which can involve a few weeks or months of weekly classes. The major benefit of short courses is the chance to dive deep into certain topics, which means you can finish the course with a thorough understanding of the available material. Some short courses offer certifications, which can serve as credentials to boost your career.
- Degree programs. Online degree programs are by far the most time- and energy-intensive of your online education options. To earn a degree online, you will need to commit to years of study. On one hand, a degree provides you with an expert level of understanding in a particular field; on the other hand, degree programs can distract you from your career and put you into student debt.
Find Courses Directly Related to Your Career
If you are curious by nature, you might be intrigued by any number of subjects available to you through online education. However, you are more likely to benefit from your online education if you enroll in courses that provide you with knowledge and skills you can use during your career. You are more likely to connect with the information provided in career-related courses because you likely have some experience in the field already. What’s more, you can apply the information immediately as you learn it, ensuring that your investment in online education pays off.
Take Online Education Seriously
Many students struggle to engage with online education. Some feel the need to be physically in a classroom to acquire a receptive attitude; others need the direct supervision of professors to pay attention and focus on coursework. Regardless, plenty of students drop out of online education or fail to improve their knowledge and skill because they are not taking their courses seriously.
With online education, you are fully responsible for logging into your eLearning platform, watching lectures, participating with classmates, and completing assignments. It is imperative that you recognize this accountability early and develop the determination to benefit from your online studies. Some ways you might commit more fully to your online education include:
- Prioritizing classes. Though you might be able to watch lectures and complete assignments within a time window, you should put engaging with your coursework above other responsibilities.
- Schedule study time. It might help to make a regular space in your schedule for studying. Then, friends, family, and work colleagues know when you will be busy with your online education.
- Eliminate distractions. You should participate in your online courses in an environment that facilitates learning: no television or music, no loud housemates, and no social media. If necessary, you can find a quiet and studious space in your local library.
Professionals have much to gain from online education — when they select the right courses and maintain the right attitude, of course. You can use online learning to improve your career as long as you set your expectations and prepare properly.