Working from home has become increasingly popular in recent years. If you don’t need to be on-site or want to avoid the commute and distractions of the office, it can be a very productive way of working. The ability to work from home has also become a necessity for many as the current Coronavirus situation imposes restrictions on peoples’ movements.
Distance learning courses once came with a stigma – a course from the Open University didn’t necessarily hold the same kudos as a BA (Hons) from a ‘red brick’ institution. Thankfully, times are changing; digital innovation has given rise to a host of different learning tools, whether it’s a YouTube tutorial or interactive gaming-style courses, all the way through to PhD level qualifications. Today, the flexibility of online courses makes it easier for people to access a wide range of subject matter and commit to a programme of continuous personal and professional development.
For many, online learning remains unchartered water. So we’ve put together some answers to frequently asked questions around the topic of online learning.
What are the advantages of learning online?
Online courses make training accessible to more people. They offer the flexibility to study when and where the learners choose. It creates a level playing field for people working long shifts and irregular patterns; those with childcare or caring commitments and people living in more remote areas. Now, everyone has the chance to improve their skills, knowledge and prospects. Even sat around the pool on holiday!
The cost is also a key consideration: online learning represents good value for money. When you explore the savings in travel, accommodation and material costs, it can be a much more affordable way of earning those qualifications.
How does the online experience differ from the classroom?
Online and classroom courses are certainly different, but it is not a case of one being better than the other; both have their pros and cons. Unlike classroom-based courses distance learning allows you to study online at any time you wish. It means that you don’t miss those urgent calls, meetings and site visits that inevitably arise the moment you want to be incommunicado – simply pick up where you left off safe in the knowledge that you haven’t missed a thing – everything works around your schedule.
You do, however, lose the interaction between fellow learners and the trainer. With distance learning, the social and discussion-focused side of classroom study is sacrificed for the convenience and saving of online learning. Video conferencing and chat functions can be an excellent way to bridge this gap but if social interaction is an element you particularly enjoy, consider whether online learning is right for you.
How do I know if a course is right for me, or if I am right for it?
When you’re researching training courses – whether that be online or classroom – the questions you need to ask yourself are the same: ‘what do I want to get out of the training?’ Is it simply a desire to understand a specific subject or skill? Do you need to collect CPD points for a professional association? Or, are you looking for a more in-depth learning experience? The answers to those questions will inform your training delivery choice. If you’re still unsure, reach out to the training provider who will be able to advise you.
Do qualifications from online courses have the same kudos as their classroom counterparts?
An accredited qualification has the same value whether obtained in classroom or online – the learner will have had to meet the various learning objectives and assessment criteria in order to achieve the qualification. Ask whether the course is underpinned by a bona fide awarding body or professional association. You put in the hard work to achieve the qualification, so you want it to be recognised.
How do I get the most out of an online course?
Maintaining motivation is key. Depending on the length of the course, it’s advisable to map out a realistic study plan before you start. Work out deadlines and submission dates and then plan into your week study periods that fit with work and home life.
There can be a temptation with shorter online programmes to rush through and get it completed quickly, rather than extending your reading to sources outside of the course material. With any course you get out what you put in.
We are all guilty of using devices with multiple screens and applications open at any one time. Training is important and it is a commitment, so stick to your plan. Close Facebook, shutdown email, put the phone on silent, switch on the kettle and focus on the subject. Online training can be like reading a good book – once you get hooked you won’t want to stop.
Finally, be wary there are a lot of training providers proclaiming to offer online options. Do your due diligence and, if possible, speak to people that have completed courses, read or watch testimonials to understand the level of support provided on their learning journey. Whether you choose online or the classroom, the most important thing is to continue to learn. It is good for you, your employer, clients and the industry.
By Angus Darroch-Warren, Linx International Group