Online courses have become an important channel to gain skills, education and certification. Over the past decade, online courses have grown to cater diverse learning needs and reach out to students in all corners.
And that’s not surprising. Online courses offer some unique advantages. One of the most important advantages is that if you enroll for an online course, you can choose your own pace of learning. That is quite different from a physical classroom, where you are forced to go at the pace of the instructor.
Next, online courses permit you the benefit of choosing your own timings. For working professionals, this is a boon. They may go to the online course at whatever time they wish to. This means there’s no fear of missed classes or gaps in learning.
Finally, online courses offer you almost limitless revisions. If you didn’t understand a particular topic or a certain session, you can revisit it as often as you wish. There’s nothing to stop you revising and viewing lectures again and again until you’re fully confident you’ve grasped the subject.
With all these advantage, it’s important to know how to get the most out of online courses. With a little bit of discipline and planning, you can not only get the full worth of your fees but also substantially improve your current skill-sets. This enlarged skill-set will provide you a better career and growth opportunities in future.
Here are the 7 tips to make the most out of online courses:
1. Define your learning objectives
Internet and modern technology have opened up a virtually limitless ocean of knowledge from where you can learn. There is no limitation as to how much you can improve yourself.
But that also means a huge number of choices. And with a huge number of choices, it’s also easy to be confused about why you’d want to take a particular course. Hence the very first thing you should do is to set down your learning objectives.
This is how you do it. Let’s assume you’re aspiring to be a digital marketer. Ask yourself: what is the current level of your proficiency? If you think you’re a beginner, look for courses that are clearly marked ‘for beginners’. If you wish to learn only about LinkedIn or Instagram, there’s no point taking up a course in Facebook ads or Google PPC.
Defining your objectives helps you understand what to expect from the course and stay motivated right through the course.
2. Understand the course structure
Some courses can be finished in fewer than 7 hours. Others may take weeks or even extend well into months.
When you narrow down to a few course, check their requirements in detail. Does the course permit the kind of flexibility you want? Will there be a certification at the end of the course? Would you need to submit some assignments online?
Next, assess their difficulty level. In the American context, a course marked 101 is typically the easiest level of the course, while the one marked 201 and higher will be accordingly more intense. So if you take up Adobe Photoshop 101, you must know the course is meant for beginners, while Adobe Photoshop 301 would be for fairly advanced learners.
Finally, a very small number of course may require you to hold some university degrees. See if you’re eligible and whether you meet all the course requirements.
3. Explore the instructor’s competence
Online courses mostly have excellent instructors. However, don’t assume anything – understand how qualified an instructor is to teach a course.
There are a number of ways of understanding the competence of the instructor.
Firstly, the course might offer to let you view a free lesson before you sign up and pay fees. Don’t miss the free lesson – that’s a pretty neat way of finding out the level of the instructor firsthand. Second, see if there is a rating system of the instructor. If there is, look at her ratings and carefully read the accompanying remarks from those who have taken the course earlier. Go through her educational and professional background wherever possible.
After that, look at the way the course has been broken down. A good instructor will have a very detailed breakup of the course, while an instructor who’s not very organized will have a rather poorly constructed course outline.
4. Verify the course completion requirements
Some courses don’t have any completion requirements. Others require you to take one or more online quizzes in order to be qualified for some certification. Still others may have more detailed assessment practices.
Ask yourself what you are looking for. If learning is all you want, it’s ok even if you miss a quiz. If, on the other hand, you wish to use the certification to advance your career, you must ensure you will be able to meet those completion requirements.
You’d be in big trouble if you pay your fees first and later find out you won’t be able to meet certain requirements. It’s a good idea to check out everything in writing before you sign up.
5. Fix your learning schedule
Signing up for an online course is only half the success story. The other half is how much you respond with your schedule.
For that, you must be clear about your own schedule. Will you be able to devote the kind of time the course requires? Should you take a shorter course? Or, alternatively, if you think you will be able to cruise through easily, should you take up a more intensive course?
If you’re a full-time student at a school or university, you must plan well in advance when you will carve out time to view the videos of the online course or hear its podcasts. If, on the other hand, you’re a working professional, try and see whether your professional commitments and traveling will leave you with enough time.
The truth is most of us have enough time to take up online course. The challenge is to schedule smartly and carry on with self-discipline. But you can’t succeed without proper scheduling.
6. Join online communities to maintain your motivation
Depending upon how old the platform, the course or the instructor is, there are chances there will be an online community around the course. It could be a Facebook group or a LinkedIn group of students who have enrolled for the course and have learning requirements like yours.
Make sure you join such communities and be an active participant. There are three major advantages of joining such communities. Firstly, you can learn not only from the instructor but also from your fellow-students. Secondly, you can build a professional network of people with similar skills and background, a network that help you in your professional life.
Finally, joining an online community gives you strong support and motivation. There would be times where you are low on motivation or feel like quitting. Sharing your concerns with the community will help you tide over such challenges. That’s because the community members will share their own experiences and help you jump over the obstacles and put you back on track.
7. Develop self-discipline
Online courses are one of the best of ways of learning in the new age. However, there are challenges associated with online course, and one of them self-discipline.
Make sure you keep away from unnecessary distractions while learning. One of the distractions could be social media. When you sit down for your online course, turn off all the notifications and, if possible, turn off your mobile phone as well. Devoting an hour with full dedication can be worth ten hours of undedicated work. Use your time best.
These aren’t the only things you need to understand, but they are certainly some of the most important for your course to be a success. Feel free to add to this list.
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Mayank Batavia is an edupreneur since nearly 20 years and a freelance content writer and a blogger. He
also runs a technology blog www.almostism.com which deals with how technology impacts us. You can follow him on Twitter through his handle @MayankEmpower.
Note: This is a completely original written work. Not to be reproduced without written consent.