Online courses are a fast growing phenomena of the 21st century. According to the Babson Survey of Online Learning 2015, one in every four university students is enrolled in an online course. In Australia, IBIS World Trends reveals that online learning is a booming industry, showing an annual growth rate of 8.7%.
So what exactly are online courses and what makes them so popular? An online learning environment provides a virtual classroom for students. Just as you log into Gmail or Facebook using your web browser, students use their web browsers to log into their course’s online Learning Management System (LMS). Once logged in, the student has access to their learning materials – videos, text, interactive activities and more. The LMS manages the student’s experience, delivering each part of the curriculum as the student is ready for it. Students also do their assessments online, and many courses also have online discussion boards where students can interact with their classmates.
Online courses can be beneficial to a whole range of people. People can kickstart a career in a new field, working professionals can undertake online courses to upgrade their skills, and business owners can develop new skills to give their business the winning edge. Online courses are an easy, low cost method to explore alternate career options and explore new career pathways.
There are certain misconceptions surrounding online study. Sometimes people feel that online study leads to overdependence on technology. If your Internet wi-fi fails, you can’t study! But this rarely happens in today’s technology age. Modern gadgets are stable and long lasting, and Australia has one of the best Internet infrastructures in the world. Moreover online learning is flexible enough to accommodate minor delays.
Another confusion is around the topic of accreditation. Many people feel that online courses are not recognized by standard Government bodies and are a waste of money. While there are many non-accreditted courses out there, there are also a lot which are fully recognized under the Australian Qualification Framework, ranging from undergraduate through to a graduate and even post doctorate level. Before opting in for an online course, always check for accreditation of the provider. Make sure the leading standards authority of your chosen profession recognizes the course. All legal providers will have this information displayed prominently on their homepage.
Students also feel that they can’t afford online study due to upfront payment or inability to access Government Fee Support. Again, this is not true! As accredited courses, online learning enjoys all the fee support of traditional learning. You can study first and pay later using study loans and other study assist facilities.
One of the biggest fears of online learning is the absence of a learning community. People fear that they lack the motivation to study alone. They prefer face-to-face contact with teachers and want their questions answered immediately. They want regular feedback on their assignments and want to discuss material with other students. All of this is actually possible in a good online learning environment!
Leading online course providers ensure you have regular one-on-one meetings with your tutors. They use web conference technology and forums to create environments that support peer interactions and group discussions. Personal consultations and real time email support with expert teachers means you can bring the learning environment into your own home.
And what about being overwhelmed with technology? Sometimes people fear that they will be too confused and not know where to find the relevant course material. Good online courses should guide you through the content and provide you with orientation material to help you get comfortable with their website. Also good courses have great user interfaces, as simple and elegant as Facebook or Gmail. If you can use these two platforms, you can easily take an online course!
Still not convinced about the advantages of taking an Online Course? Here are 4 reasons why online courses are here to stay!
Online courses allow you to learn at your own time. You can work your day job, look after your children or work different shifts. You are not tied down or limited by traditional college schedules. You can study at night after the kids are asleep or in the early morning before going to work. You can also study from anywhere that has internet access, whether it’s your bedroom or a cafe.
Online courses often operate outside of the normal semester timetables as well. The Left Bank, for example, has monthly intakes throughout the year. And if you are particularly busy one week, you have the flexibility to pick up more of the work the following week. But it is important to remember that accredited online courses still have deadlines which you need to meet. In fact, if you are really diligent, online courses are flexible enough that you can accelerate your learning to complete the course in a shorter period of time.
New Learning Opportunities
Online courses offer you a variety of non-traditional learning opportunities. You can take a course in Social Media Marketing and start a freelancing side gig while working your regular job. You can do a course in Search Engine Marketing and enhance your resume as a Marketing Student. Or you can take a Diploma of Business (specialising in Digital Marketing) and start a new career after a long maternity break!
Online learning offers a plethora of new opportunities in finance, teaching, medicine and every other profession you can think of!
Reduce Study Costs
Yes, that’s right – you actually save money if you study online. Traditional study has a whole bunch of associated costs – ranging from travel and gas to accommodation and food costs if you need to relocate to a place far from home. Online study has no extra cost – except the cost of your internet charges. We are sure you spend that money to watch those Netflix videos anyway! In fact, you can easily take up freelance work, part time jobs or internships and earn money while you study. You can also get some real world job experience, do a side project and enhance your resume, instead of being stuck in a university class all day!
Access to Leading Industry Experts
Good online course providers generally hire leading experts to design and run their classes. After all, they have to build reputation and they can only do so on the strength of their staff! Moreover, many experienced professionals love sharing the secrets of their trade with newbie students from the comfort of their own home. Online courses give you access to your own super mentor network, a network that you can return to for advice and support throughout your career.
Clearly, online learning is an invaluable opportunity for everyone who wants to get ahead in the digital age. Are you ready to embrace the online learning lifestyle?
Guest blog by Alex Brown of Gowning Street www.gowningstreet.com.au – Gowning Street are specialists in low cost Graduation Gowns and Regalia for private colleges and university graduations in Australia.