As the internet continues to evolve and become an important part of our everyday lives, it is no wonder more and more people are using it as an opportunity to learn and develop skills. In fact, you can learn just about anything online. From college classes, continuing education, and even learning new hobbies or personal interests, with a little searching you can find something that suits your needs.

If you haven’t enrolled in an online course before, you may be a little reluctant. Maybe you’re used to learning in an environment where a teacher or instructor is right there with you. You’re probably wondering how your specific questions will be answered, how your progress is monitored, and what happens when you need support.

These are all reasonable concerns for someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to learn online yet. Trying something new isn’t always easy. Oftentimes there is a learning curve that comes with taking online courses. Should this dissuade you from exploring the exciting opportunities of online learning? Definitely not. Many people adapt quickly. They may even end up preferring online courses compared to more traditional educational settings.

Are you interested in learning more about online courses? Ready for the convenience of using your computer to learn when and where you want? Use this guide to get a better understanding of online courses.

What is an Online Course?

Simply put, an online course is an opportunity to learn using your web browser or smartphone. There are several types of online courses (which will be discussed later) and their formats vary. Most online courses offer directed learning where educational information is presented as articles, videos, presentations, or even live seminars. In addition, there is usually a form of communication making it an interactive experience. This can include emails, messaging, or discussion formats.

Online courses offer several advantages including:

  • The ability to learn at your own speed. People learn differently. While some absorb information quickly, others like to take their time to make sure they know the facts and details. Many online courses are self-directed, so you can move on to the next section when you feel comfortable.
  • Completing courses around your busy schedule. Professionals, parents, and even younger people often have hectic schedules where devoting one large chunk of the day to learning something is next to impossible. Online courses allow you to access information anytime of the day or night.
  • Accessing the courses from anywhere you can get an internet connection. Do you like learning in the comfort of your home? Maybe you find being surrounded by others in a nice coffee shop mentally stimulating. And of course, there are some that love the idea of learning on a sandy beach as the tide comes in. Online courses allow you to learn where you want. No more dealing with overcrowded parking lots or rush hour traffic.
  • Reviewing different sections of the course to retain knowledge. Ever left a class where you just didn’t grasp what the instructor was talking about? You took notes, asked questions, but it just didn’t click. Most online courses allow you to review previous segments at any time so you can make sure you understand whatever concept challenges you.
  • May be less expensive than traditional learning settings. College can be very, very expensive. Even taking a class at the local community college for your personal development can cost you hundreds of dollars. Some online courses are free or relatively inexpensive due to the low overhead costs.
  • The ability to learn just about anything. As you probably know, the internet gives us access to nearly unlimited information with just a few keystrokes. If simple articles and search results don’t give you the knowledge you desire, an online course may be the next step. Want to learn another language? How to knit? Develop your professional skills? Complete a college course? There’s an online course for just about anyone.

Types of Online Courses

College Credit Courses

In the not so distant past, online college courses were considered inferior to traditional brick and mortar schools. Today, that’s not the case. In fact, many colleges offer online courses or hybrid courses (some time in the classroom and the rest online) as part of their curriculum options. When choosing college credit online courses, make sure you do your research. Choose an accredited school with courses fitting your learning needs.

Professional Development Courses

With the workforce constantly evolving due to new types of jobs and advances in technology, college graduates often find the need to learn more to excel in their careers. Online courses usually operate around your busy schedule so you can continue learning while still earning a paycheck. In fact, what you learn during an online course may make that paycheck a little nicer.

Continuing Education

Similar to professional development courses, continuing education allows a person to acquire more knowledge about their chosen profession. For some careers, continuing education is required to maintain professional certifications. In the past, some had to attend expensive conferences or seminars to fulfill their certification requirements. Now, getting continuing education is as easy and affordable as ever.

Personal Development Courses

Some people have a lifelong love of learning. They are curious by nature and find great joy in learning new skills, developing interests, or exploring hobbies. Online courses are perfect for these individuals! In fact, some companies offer a subscription service so a person has access to several online courses at their leisure.

Online Courses….What to Expect

In most cases, the first step to accessing an online course is registering for it. During the registration process you may have to pay all or part of the fees. Once registered, you might have immediate access to the course. From there, you can learn at your own pace, do the assignments, and take any necessary tests. As you complete the course objectives, you are generally rewarded with a certificate or other documentation that you completed the course.

Not every course works this way. For example, if your online course includes live webinars, you may have to wait until the webinar airs. For these courses, you have real-time access to your instructor as well as fellow students willing to give support, input, and tools for learning.

Online Course Options

The following are some popular options for online courses and online learning:

Ready to Learn? Find an Online Course Today

Are you ready to get started completing college courses, improving your income, and learning valuable personal and professional skills? It’s easier than ever to enroll and take an online course. In fact, you can probably find one today. Don’t let the stigmas of the past couple decades keep you from embracing online learning.