An educator and researcher who developed education technology shared the secrets of online learning success with us.
Many people have found themselves with little time after the ” Great Resignation“. While this may provide some relief from the daily grind of life, most people will have to return to work. This period can be a time for reflection and the opportunity to start a new career.
How do you make this transition? Even if you intend to return to your previous field, how can you demonstrate that you are up-to-date with the trends and changes that affected all industries during the pandemic. These questions have been answered traditionally by going back to school. This route is prohibitively expensive because of the rising tuition costs in recent decades and the time commitment required for traditional degree programs.
Short online courses in technology, business and other areas are the answer. These courses, offered by providers like Udemy, Coursera and edX, have grown in popularity over the past 10 years. Approximately 75% of learners who took them report gaining job benefits. As an researcher and practitioner , I also study the behavior that makes online learners successful. These are the four most important actions that have been proven to help online learners get the best out of an online course.
- IDENTIFY THE GOAL
A clear goal is a prerequisite to completing a course and earning a certificate. One goal could be to improve job performance, learn new skills, gain knowledge on a topic, advance in an existing job or acquire a new one.
My study of more than 4,000 learners who took an online course on business topics revealed that learners who signed up with the intent to improve their job performance, start their own business or get a new position were more likely to enjoy career benefits , compared to those who only wanted to learn about the topic.
2. REWATCH VIDEOS & RETAKE TESTS
I found that learning habits associated with persistence, such as watching more videos and retaking exams, were more strongly linked to perceived career benefits than social behavior like postings, comments, views, or grades.
The same study found that grades do not correlate with whether or not someone gains career benefits, as long as they pass the course. This is why it’s important to keep trying again. A challenging course may be more beneficial than one that a learner can navigate easily. Companies that have successfully implemented complex digital systems are taking stock of their investments and trying to figure out how they can optimize them. These are the challenges they face and how to overcome them.
3. FINISH THE COURSE
Short courses can be as short as four to five weeks in length, and require less than three hours per week. Learners who take online courses are more likely to learn something new, improve their performance, get promoted, or to start a business. To let potential employers know that they successfully completed the course, they can obtain a digital certificate or badge.
4. CHOOSE THE BRAND YOU WANT
Currently, I am conducting a larger study to determine if hiring managers believe that non-degree credentials, such as certificates from online courses, improve a candidate’s resume, especially if they don’t have any work experience in that field.
The reputation of the institution offering the course is more important than the credential it confers – for example, a badge or a certificate. My survey of hiring managers, which has not yet been published, revealed that most prefer credit-bearing certificates from for profit institutions to nondegree credentials.
These courses are offered by many well-respected, highly academically selective companies and universities. It is easy to learn data analysis from IBM, strategy from Darden and machine-learning from Stanford. There are many other topics available from top schools such as Python, computer science and robotics. The chances of hiring managers recognizing the name of the institution offering the course are high if they recognize it.
Although short online courses may not have lived up to the hype ten years ago about how they would disrupt higher education, they are helping millions across the globe to explore new fields and gain skills that will help them advance in their careers.