If you find yourself interested in learning something new, whether out of curiosity or necessity, then you’ve probably considered learning online, but the quality and quantity of online resources can vary greatly depending on the topic. Not every critical detail you need to know can be reliably found on Google or Youtube.
For this reason, a lot of formal, systematic learning is made available to the modern student via online programs. How do you know if taking an online course is the right choice? Here are some points to consider.
What are your goals?
As with any major undertaking, you should be clear about your end goals when you consider the effort of pursuing an online program. If you are looking to unlock new job opportunities in a specific industry, then a certified online program makes sense, especially if you have time constraints due to your current occupation.
For example, if you’d like to enter a legal services profession due to its high growth prospects, but don’t have the time to enter law school, taking online paralegal degrees is a great way to bridge the gap and get started in the industry. If possible, do some more research to find out if graduates are satisfied and finding good employment in your chosen field.
However, not all prospective students are seeking new employment or relocation opportunities. Sometimes you just need specific knowledge or gain familiarity with a field of study that would be useful in your current job. Learning through in-depth and time-consuming course work might not be a sensible investment in that case – instead, you could find free or premium tutorials to learn what you need.
What resources do you have?
Online students will have access to varying levels of resources, both in terms of time and money. You could be a young student looking to pursue multiple courses in your spare time, without getting into more debt than necessary. Or you might be an experienced employee needing extra learning to advance or change careers – in that case, money might not be a problem, but time constraints could be a factor.
Online programs afford a certain level of flexibility and convenience for all students. They do vary in cost; top schools may offer more expensive online programs. The workload can also be heavier than you’d expect – course activities might need to be completed in a specific time, including giving and receiving peer feedback, requiring constant access to the internet. Again, research the course you have in mind, and look at student reviews to get a better idea of how well it might fit in with your current resources.
What kind of student are you?
Knowing yourself in the role of a student will go a long way toward determining the effectiveness of a given learning method. We all have our preferred learning styles; depending on the model, research shows as many as seven or eight. Some people learn better through visual input, others auditory, yet another learning style involves physical or kinesthetic activity.
Social inclinations and your ability for self-motivation can play a significant role too. Do you find it easier to meet deadlines and engage in lessons when in an actual classroom setting, interacting with fellow students and with your instructor reminding everyone of deadlines? If you can push yourself harder when working independently, then online studies may be a better fit.
When you take your continued education into your hands, you can decide what’s best. Consider your needs and resources, and how you respond, to make the most of your time and effort invested.