With many people working from home, self-isolating or having been furloughed by their employer, face-to-face learning has been put on hold. However, many are using this extra time as an opportunity to build on existing skillsets or acquire new skills by signing up for online learning.
How does online learning differ from face-to-face training?
We’re all used to the classroom setting with its mixture of presentations and group exercises, but the lockdown has forced training providers to think differently about how they deliver courses. Many have turned to online tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams which allow groups to attend virtual classes, learn new skills, share knowledge and collaborate – all while working from home.
What are the benefits of online learning?
- More flexibility: if you’re still in work, you can fit your learning around your schedule. Many courses can be completed at your own pace so, if you struggle for time during the day, you can pick up your learning in the evening.
- Learn self-discipline: without someone to guide you, learning online can help you to develop your own time management skills and motivation.
- Greater choice of study topics: online course providers offer a wider range of topics than specialist training providers, so it’s easier to find something which is relevant, or which interests you.
- It helps your wellbeing: devoting this time to personal development can be beneficial to your wellbeing, giving you a way to cope in these uncertain times.
- It’s cheaper: classroom-based courses can be quite expensive, whereas there are many free courses available online. If you’re looking for something to add to your CV, you may need to pay for a certification which is recognised by your industry, so check the course description.
What should think about before signing up to an online course?
Decide what you want to learn
The increased demand for online learning has boosted the popularity of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses - with many now offering free courses and resources.
If you’re looking to explore some ideas, Open Learn from the Open University includes a searchable database of free courses which take between 1 and 100 hours to complete. Coursera also offer a wide range of paid and free learning, from short courses to postgraduate qualifications.
Other sites offer specific courses, such as languages. For example, Duolingo and Babbellet you decide how fluent you want to become, with payment plans to suit your budget. And Futurelearn has a range of free digital skills courses.
Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to check reviews from other people who have completed the course before you commit.
Decide how you want to learn
There are different ways to access courses, so it’s important to find a way which suits you.
If you’re looking for a short, focused professional course check out webinars from organisations in your sector. Interaction between attendees is limited, so if you want to be able to discuss the content in real time you might be better off with a group session run via Zoom or Teams.
Create a learning plan with a clear aim, and outcome
Once you’ve selected your subject, create a learning plan with a timetable. Structuring your learning will help, especially if you’re easily distracted. Break your learning into manageable sections with deadlines. This is known as the ‘chunking’ method and will help you stay on track and achieve your end goal of learning something new.
Try to treat the course as if it was something you had to attend in person. Make sure you contribute and complete any assignments or homework you’re given.
And finally, finding a way to share your thoughts and ideas with others on your course, either through online forums or video conferencing, will help you to stay focused and get the most from your online learning experience.
Published on 13 May 2020