Picture the scene:
It’s still almost dark outside. The rain is pelting against your bedroom window. You know you have to get out of bed for class, but your toes curl in anticipation of the cold. You flick the light switch on groggily, reach for your dressing gown, and think: if only I could stay in bed today.
Or how about this:
It’s a glorious, spring-in-your-step, whistle-as-you-walk sunny day. Everyone lucky enough to be free is heading to the park – but you, sadly, are not one of them. As you look wistfully at the tiny sliver of blue sky you can glimpse from your lecture hall, you think: if only I didn’t have to be stuck in here today.
Well, what if you didn’t have to be? What if you could take a class from your cosy bed or that nice little patch of sunlit grass, AND learn 500% faster than you usually do in a classroom?
You can – with online learning.
IBM found that online learners mastered a massive 5 times more material than those in a traditional face-to-face setting in the same space of time.
Plus, learning online has been estimated to increase your retention rate to between 25% and 60%, compared to the paltry 8 to 10% retention rate for face-to-face teaching.
This is because you can learn when you’re feeling the most alert, and go back over the material as needed – no more missing half of WWI because you were staring out the window. Online, you can repeat the lesson until it’s physically impossible for you to forget the horrors of trench foot. What a time to be alive.
So how do you start learning online?
There are a lot of online courses out there. It’s vital to assess what you want and need before you pick one. Do you need a certification, or just the knowledge itself? Would you prefer total independence and flexibility or someone checking up on your progress frequently? How much are you willing or able to pay?
If you want to get a new qualification comparable to what you’d get in a college or university, you should take an accredited online course in your chosen field.
Make sure it’s certified by a professional and respected awarding body. If you’re in the UK you can check if an awarding body is recognised here; in the USA, you can find information here; if you’re elsewhere, a quick google of ‘your industry + awarding body’ should give you what you need to know.
Read reviews of the learning provider on a site like TrustPilot to make sure you’re going to get the quality you deserve.
Many online learning providers have courses which result in the same qualification but differ in delivery. Here are some useful questions to ask before you make a choice:
- Is the course 100% online or are there workshops/lectures you have to attend, and if so are they near you?
- Is the delivery completely flexible (ie. written information, slideshows, pre-recorded videos) or do you have to be available at certain times, for example for live webinars?
- How much help will you get from tutors or mentors, and how qualified or experienced are they?
- How many practice tests or mock exams will you complete before sitting the real thing?
- What’s included in the course price? Materials? Exams? Membership of the appropriate awarding bodies?
- Are your exams arranged for you, or do you have to arrange them yourself?
- Is there a suitable exam venue near you?
- Is there a time limit on how long you can take to complete the course?
Take your time finding the right course and you’ll avoid running into any nasty surprises once you’re too far down the road to turn back.
With rising education costs (and the statistics for online learning looking so appealing – seriously, five-times-faster learning equals so much more free time), it’s no wonder that 35 million people are learning online.
The only question now is – when will you be one of them?