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What you need to know before you study online

Updated on March 25, 2016

Humble beginnings, unlimited potential

The world of online learning is in its infancy. But institutions in the business of education have come to realise its potential, and are trying hard to catch up. With internet having become the new reality of communication, with competition heating up than ever before, and with time turning out to be more scarce a commodity than what it ever was, it is tough to resist the pull of onlilne education, both for educational institutions as well as for students and employees who are keen on getting ahead with life.

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Is Online Learning right for you?

Not everyone is keen on upgrading to new knowledge. The brain is pretty much a processor that was made the year you were born. Fortunately, we do not need to go for a new brain with evolution in the external world - our brain cells are capable of upgrading through adaptation, and acquiring new knowledge. It is just a question of whether we are ready and willing to gear up to the change, the challenge, and the opportunity that it brings forth.

The ensuing list is not exhaustive, and individual circumstances vary. Here is a quick check to see if studying online is what you are after.

1. I have just started off on my career:
If you are looking for ways to fill the one or two pages in your Resume and are struggling for content that would make up a decent application, you may want to rethink if online learning is right for you (we'll see why that may be the case later). If you have completed school, and are thinking hard for your next career move, you should probably be looking to get hands-on, be it with further studies or with solid work experience.

2. I have 2 - 5 years of work experience. What next?
This is typically the kind of employee who is keen to get on with online studies. They have done one or a few certificate courses in their favourite or prospective stream of specialisation, have had decent work experience, and is inspired to make the next career move. "Is this the time to invest in my future?" "Why would I want to leave my job to study now?" "My career has just kicked off, and I'm loving it, but I should move ahead."

If you have any of these thoughts running in your mind, if you have the time and the commitment it takes, and if you have found a way to support yourself with an investment, you are in the bracket of "target market" for educational institutions.

3. I am an executive, and it's time to get going!
You have had significant experience at work, have completed your diploma and are determined to get your Bachelor's degree, or have a Bechelor's degree and have been toying with the idea of a Master's or Post Graduation for quite a while now. You know you are capable of much more than what you currently do at work, and you realise it takes further qualifications behind your name to make your manager or your prospective employer take notice. You know you certainly deserve better, and are willing to work for it in all earnestness. Welcome to the world of online education!

4. My job is fine, but how about a parallel career?
Technology and the knowledge-revolution have expanded possibilities in education and beyond. And it is not uncommon for professionals to branch out into more areas of specialisation than one. A professional photographer may want to get into webdesign; an artist could get a business degree; an accounts executive may start teaching online. For those who want to develop a parallel career other than one's own, online learning is a blessing indeed, where you could learn the tricks of a new trade with formal education that is recognised. And who knows, your parallel career could, one day, turn out to be your mainstream!

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Are you right for Online Learning?

This is the other side of the same coin that we tossed up. It doesn't really matter which bracket of the four categories mentioned that you actually belong to, if you are not ready for it yet. And this is broadly what "being ready for online studies" is all about:

1. Are you sure about what you want to study?
There are many instances where what you think you want need not necessarily be what you actually need. And education could often turn out to be one of them. The reason is that you would never know what is in-store till you actually go through the rigours of it. The title of a certificate, a diploma, a degree or a master's may sound glamorous, especially when you visualise it after your name, but to know what it really means completing it and whether you have the aptitude for the course that you sign up for, takes research. Do your research before you sign up for a course. And think about it objectively before you take the plunge.

2. Are your personal circumstances right for studies now?
It may not be the best decision to study just because you have nothing else to do; nor would it always be wise of you to enrol for a course, when your personal or family circumstances do not let you get settled in a routine yet. Do you have a personal milestone coming up, such as marriage or pregnancy? Do you envision travelling extensively in the near future? Are there problems that have not yet been dealt with and settled? Think! Many students withdraw, defer, or or struggle because they have not thought through their own personal circumstances before they decided to pursue their online degree or diploma.

3. Did you think online studies were easier than their conventional, real world counterparts?
It's not that online teaching institutions or Universities or other educational institutions promote their distance learning or online courses as being any easier than the regular courses or certificates. In fact, many of the virtual learning programmes these days are as rigorous, if not more, as compared with the regular programmes. And the trend would probably catch steam in the days to come as the line between virtual learning and regular on-campus courses grows even thinner. If you are not ready for the rigours of education, the assignments, assessments, additional reading and the academic projects, or if you thought of them lightly, you may want to wait just that bit longer till you got serious about your new venture.

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So, what's the verdict?

Well, that's your choice. And you make that choice after thorough thinking, introspection, and research. Online learning is a blessing for those who would want to stay on track with their careers, and serious about them, and are really motivated to break new grounds. You would look into your own personal circumstances, your job situation and prospects, your career aspirations and motivations, and your own opinion / attitude about onlline education.

There is no doubting the fact that the studying online will be the future and would be the preferred way for millions to educate / empower themselves in their careers. The question is, are you ready for it?

What is your attitude towards online learning?

When I compare online learning with on-campus education,

See results

Disclaimer

The author is a Trainer and Assessor, and is associated with online education. The article is meant for general information only and photos used are for illustration. This article does not intend to promote one or more providers of on-campus or onlline education in any way.

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