As someone with a college diploma or university degree, it can be tempting to think that your formal education will be enough to get you employed in Canada. However, with companies looking for employees with the most up-to-date and diverse skillset these days, it may no longer be enough to just present your past schooling experience. More and more professionals are looking to online education to gain valuable industry knowledge, upgrade their skills, and boost their résumés. In this article, we share three benefits of pursuing online education and a few great places to get started.
What Is Online Education?
For several years, all major universities have offered online education as a component of their traditional “in-class” degrees. As the popularity of these online offerings increased, many other online communities emerged to offer “massive open online courses” (MOOCs) that were available to everyone, and not just university students. A MOOC is an online course with unlimited participation. These courses are accessible from anywhere around the world. Traditional course materials such as lectures are combined with user forums and online support to encourage interaction among students. MOOCs were first developed in the early 2000s, and reached peak popularity in recent years.
So, what are the benefits of online learning?
- Online courses add value to your résumé: Whether you have years of experience or are just starting out in your career, online programs and courses look great on a résumé. Choosing to study online in your spare time shows employers that you are committed to learning, eager to gain more knowledge and skills, and willing to put in the effort to achieve your goals. As workplaces evolve with the digital economy, an investment in continuing your education can make you stand out in the best way possible to potential employers.
- Online courses are flexible: Most online courses are flexible in nature. This means that for the most part, you can study and complete the required coursework at your own pace. Online courses are a great option especially for busy professionals with work and family obligations. Course materials are accessible at any time, and you can decide when it makes the most sense to focus on your studies. Online courses are also flexible in terms of what you can study. There are endless options to explore: from accounting to computer programming to social media management. If a topic that you’ve never studied in a formal setting interests you, an online course can be the perfect introduction.
- Online courses are cost-effective: In addition to the variety of paid online education options available through traditional universities, there are also countless courses that you can explore at little to no cost. Respected universities, industry professionals, and specialist organizations all contribute content to these free courses because they fit into their broader mission of promoting the free flow of knowledge and exchange of ideas. Universities also offer free courses as a way to test out new course materials. In many cases, free courses are taught or facilitated by tenured faculty who can explore their broader areas of interest outside of their regular course catalogue and syllabus.
Where to Start
There are quite a few online education resources available; here are a just few you can explore:
- Coursera: Coursera is an educational technology company that works with universities and other educational organizations to offer courses online. Subjects covered include physics, engineering, social sciences, business, and computer sciences. You can also find courses on online marketing, digital media, and social media management. Coursera offers courses in a variety of languages including Arabic, Mandarin, Spanish, and French. All courses offered through Coursera are free, though students do have the option to pay a fee and gain access to enhanced features. Students can choose to complete one course, or complete a set of courses outlined by Coursera as a specialization.
- edX: edX is a MOOC provider that hosts university-level courses in a wide range of areas. Many courses are offered free of charge. edX was created by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012. More than 20 million students have taken courses online since then. Similar to traditional university courses, students on edX watch a weekly lecture or video presentation. They then complete a series of interactive exercises to apply what they have just learned. edX has recently launched high school courses, as well as professional education courses, including a partnership with Microsoft.
- ALISON: ALISON is an e-learning provider that was founded in 2007. It is the largest MOOC provider outside of the United States. ALISON has found a lot of success with students in India, and they continue to be the fastest growing segment of ALISON’s student body. Courses are offered in Spanish, English, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and a variety of other languages. One of the most popular diplomas on ALISON is the Advanced Diploma in Workforce Re-entry Skills. This course helps students identify a potential career path and understand how to run an effective job search, develop soft skills necessary for career success, and a variety of technical skills related to careers in a variety of fields.
Participating in online learning during your job search or even while you’re working can greatly improve your chances of career success. Online coursework can keep your skills sharp, your mind engaged, and show employers that you are goal-oriented, forward-thinking and proactive.
With free courses available for any topic at any level, there is no reason not to explore the benefits of online learning.