In the year 2020, the Novel COVID-19 pandemic prompted a spike in digital communication, interactions and services. The global community deepened its appreciation for the functions of technology and its infinite potential to revolutionize everyday business operations; and daily activities. And what also became apparent, in 2020, was the increase in the promotion of e-learning.
I realized for some time that technology began to morph the education system. Through digital education (all online educational practices), teachers and students have access to a digital toolbox full of engaging technological gadgets, digital textbooks and e-material, and online courses.
How serious is it?
“In fall 2017, there were 6,651,536 students enrolled in any distance education courses at degree-granting post-secondary institutions.”(Source: National Center for Education Statistics)
There are thousands of online courses available for you to enhance your academic portfolio. If you have never done an online course before, the concept of online learning may be a bit foreign to you. I know, because, it was strange for me.
I decided to give you a “heads up” to help you prepare for a new version of learning. There’s no need to be nervous or sceptical, be excited.
Here is a list of important things, like a starter kit of sorts, that you need to know, or have, before you begin to explore online learning.
So let’s begin.
#1: Be clear about what you want to do
Of course this comes first, right?
Do you need to get a specialized certificate for a another position at work? Perhaps you just want to learn a new skill (for personal development). Maybe you need to enhance your profile for your LinkedIn platform. And what about those of you trying to make a career change, but you just don’t have the time to go to “school”.
Well, whatever your reason for considering an online certification, you need to know how much potential it has to bring value to your worth and how suitable it is to your goals. Simply ask yourself, “Where, and how, does this fit into my life’s plans?”
Your “Why?” must be clear. Or you’ll just be wasting time and money.
#2 Be comfortable with online payments
Once it’s online, that’s where you pay. Pretty much all online courses require that you make your payments using a credit card – whether prepaid or secured. Payments are usually accepted directly from your credit card and, can at times, be further filtered through online payment platforms such as PayPal or Stripe.
Online payments are simple, but a word of caution. NEVER save your payment credentials on any device. Digital security must be a foremost priority!
#3 Check the offer out completely.
Firstly, consideration is how the course itself is being offered.
Generally, online courses are offered by cycle or one-off purchases. They promise unlimited access to the material once you’ve confirmed enrollment or purchase.
So, firstly check out whether the course you’re set your eyes on is either a one time purchase, like courses in Udemy, or by cycle, like Coursera? I’ve found that there is flexibility in both options, but for courses I don’t plan to start soon (especially those I catch a promotional offer for), I tend to buy the course and come to it when I have the time.
Another consideration is, what does the completion certificate look like? Well, using the examples of Udemy and Coursera:
Udemy’s certificates look something like this:
And Coursera’s Certificates look something like this:
If you aren’t comfortable with the amount of information the former provides, you may want to use online institutions that frame their certificates like the second. But take note, both have verification codes that validate the school and the authenticity of the course; located at the bottom right or left corner of the certificate.
You should also consider are whether the courses are a part of a series or just a specialized subject. You’d find, however, that they are either presented in groupings e.g. Students who purchased “Course A” also purchased “Course B”, or as a specialization e.g. my Search Engine Optimization Fundamentals course was the second of a six part SEO specialization that ends with a Capstone project.
For either option, the course you choose can be used as a stand-alone certification!
Then, you must find out if the certificate can be sent to you via hard-copy. This is important for those of you that require original certificates to apply for jobs or new positions where the employer asks for such. If you can use the printed online version, however, then you can forgo that cost.
#4 How is the course validated?
To understand this point, these are some examples of questions you should ask:
- Is the course is being administered by the known professional through an online institution (see the Udemy Certificate)?
- Is the course being hosted by Professors through a credible university (see the Coursera certificate)?
- Is the course being offered solely by a professional under their business/enterprise?
Each of these would impact how you view the certificate’s validity. That is completely subjective.
#5 Is the course up-to-date?
Let me tell you. Everyday something in the world changes.
Ergo, even non-trending courses would have had to be upgraded to make the discipline remain relevant. So please, check to see if there are more recent versions of the courses you wish to enroll in. Yes, some content may be evergreen, but (as an example ) even Microsoft Excel would have had updated some functions or added new ones when Office versions changed.
There you have it. There are more, but I think these are specifically important for the distance learning newbies.
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