Online Learning – Riding The Early Wave

Remember how scary the internet seemed 20 years ago?

This ad beautifully represents how we’ll reflect on online learning in 20 years or so. At the moment it’s a little bit daunting, it’s so different to how we were educated and we sneer and think there’s no way it’ll catch on. But those doubts will melt away over the coming years as the possibilities online learning presents us open up.

You can resist it all you like but the way we’re educating ourselves is shifting – dramatically. With each year that passes more and more avenues are opening up between the individual and a world of learning. Slowly but surely the barriers individuals are faced with when it comes to accessing information are being broken down and the potential for personal growth is skyrocketing.

You’re Front of the Class

Picture this – you walk into a packed lecture theatre, trudge up the stairs to the last seat left and realise there’s no hope of asking the lecturer anything – what is the point? With online learning, this scenario does not exist. Universities are catching on to the idea that traditional lectures are super boring and no one likes them, so they’re canning them. But online learning takes this a step further! Each person who takes a class online gets to sit at the front of the class, enjoying the full attention of their lecturer. If you miss something, just rewind the video and have another listen! Your tutor or lecturer might be on the other side of the world but online learning means you’re as good as sitting next to them! Imagine asking a Harvard Professor for help when you need it – it’s possible, if you sign up for one of the HarvardX programs that is. HarvardX takes the university’s prestigious classes, once only available to those able to afford it, and makes them available to anyone with computer access. Of the 1.3 million people who’ve signed up for HarvardX, two thirds of them live outside the United States but are still able to learn as if they were walking onto the Harvard campus every day. Access to this kind of learning was once a pipe-dream, but the fact that is now available so freely is a truly exciting idea.

Online Learning is, literally, Everywhere

Both employers and employees will agree that traditional workplace training needs a shake up. Time spent away from the office means more time later on to try and make up for it, there’s no denying it. No one argues the value of training and learning but let’s be honest – a lot of the time it’s inconvenient. Not with our new friend online learning though. Now your employees can jump on the computer and take a quick online course before they’ve even finished their morning coffee. Let’s be real here, learning new skills is not a simple endeavour. It’s a commitment of time and energy, but the way it’s being delivered online is making it look all the more attractive. The better news is that finding the specific knowledge you want your employees to have is getting easier as well. As more and more institutions add online courses and tutorials all you as an employer need to do is find it!

Limitless Topics and Institutions

The key to hunting aliens is to understand how life evolved on our own planet and then asses how those same principles can be applied in different solar systems or on other planets. Then we can begin to explore earth-like planets orbiting distant suns and attempt to detect life there.

How do I know this? Well it’s all knowledge that’s packed into Edinburgh University’s Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Coursera course. Yep, you can seriously learn how to hunt aliens online. After just five short weeks if you alien-hunt hard enough you can even earn a certification. How’s that for offering students an alternative! Universities are well and truly embracing the idea of earning tertiary qualifications online. Of course different levels of qualifications apply and you might not always be credited for your learning, but if personal growth is your aim, the world, and indeed the universe, is your oyster.

Real Outcomes

The amount of learning that is now available online offers an insane number of outcomes. From traditional tertiary qualifications right through to quirky niche courses, there are stories from across the globe from people whose lives have changed thanks to online learning. From the dad in Illinois who was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a counsellor after surviving a drug addiction, to the school in Falcon that was able to give it’s students an alternative to over-crowded classrooms, online learning has meant more and more people are becoming empowered to take their education and their goals into their own hands. Programs like Bill Gates’ Big History Project extend online learning into traditional educational settings and these settings are benefitting from the additional resources available to them. It’s the same with skills training in the workforce. Access to training is getting easier and easier and more employers are able to train their staff than ever before, which presents unlimited potential for the future.

What About You?

So now it’s time to ask yourself where you fit in all of this? Whether you’re the owner of a business looking to add to your staff’s skill set or you just fancy learning about aliens, you have to look at online learning as a very real and very accessible option now. I promise you it is as simple as typing a few words into Google. If you’re looking for something specific, go out and find it. It might seem scary – but just remember how scary the internet was all those years ago!

– Sophie