For decades, education was relegated to stifling classrooms with blackboards and uncomfortable desks. Today, students of all ages and experience levels have far more options.
Writing for Inc magazine, author and business expert Joe Nemo calls online learning “the $107 billion industry that nobody’s talking about.” He goes on to note that “teaching sells,” which further cements our belief that the e-learning industry will only continue to grow.
The only question is this: Will you become a part of it?
Whether as a teacher or as a student, you have the chance to impact lives, contribute to a growing industry, and share your expertise with others. Online learning can benefit all parties involved in myriad ways.
What Is Online Learning?
Online learning is an educational medium that allows students to participate in online courses via the internet. They don’t need to visit lecture halls or classrooms, and they can choose to learn whatever they want from the comfort of their own homes. Online learning is also a way for subject-matter experts to pass on their knowledge in a gratifying way.
For some, online learning means getting a degree through a university or college. As of 2014, nearly 6 million students were enrolled in at least one distance learning course through a major educational institution. But that’s just the tip of the e-learning iceberg.
Anyone can create an online course, not only to educate their audiences but also to generate income.
You don’t need a doctoral-level degree to teach other people your skills, and you don’t have to possess a household name to gain traction in the online learning market.
Are there disadvantages to online learning? A few. Some people thrive in classroom environments, and they prefer to get their education in the traditional sense. Students who spend too much time isolated from their peers can get lonely.
However, that’s the beauty of the online learning industry. Just because you take an online course doesn’t mean you can’t pursue other educational endeavors. In fact, a well-rounded education is just what distance learning provides.
Advantages of Online Learning
Online education comes in so many shapes and sizes that you could never take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, even if you lived three lifetimes. People offer courses on just about every subject under the sun, which means you can broaden your horizons whenever you have an internet connection.
Just as the internet has given every person a voice, it has also given everyone a platform. No matter your background, you can take an online course to improve your skill set in a specific area, or you can design one to pass on your own knowledge.
But what are the specific advantages of online learning? Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits.
Freedom To Learn Whatever You Want
Physical classrooms have certain limitations.
- Budget: They can’t hire professionals to teach every subject under the sun, so they have to pare down their curricula to meet the heaviest demand.
- Staffing: Schools must constantly hire new staff to address turnover, and they sometimes must cut staffing as well as courses to meet financial incentives.
- Syllabi: Most college, university, and continuing education courses must follow a specific syllabus that might leave out information that students want to learn.
- Interest: Physical schools can’t offer a class just because one person wants to learn the subject. If interest wanes, they cut the class.
Online learning tears down all of these barriers because it creates room for education to flourish. You can find online courses on just about any subject you can imagine. Plus, if you can’t find a course that interest you, online platforms give you the chance to create a course yourself.
The internet has created in people an insatiable appetite for information. However, freely available information doesn’t always go into enough depth. Distance learning bridges the chasm between free information and specialized learning for which students will gladly pay.
Additionally, it removes any personal barriers that might stop people from learning. Subjects that carry cultural connotations or taboos, for instance, don’t lend themselves to in-person learning. Students can pursue subjects that interest them without fear of judgment or reprisal.
1. Comfort of Learning From Your Own Home
Some days, you don’t want to leave the house. It’s understandable. Work becomes too stressful, friends become too demanding, and your body needs a rest.
If you pursue online learning, you can continue your coursework without getting dressed or stepping foot outside.
Learners can also study new subjects from coffee shops, doctor’s office waiting rooms, subway compartments, and anywhere else thanks to mobile technology. People who love to travel can continue learning even when their jet-setting instincts land them on the other side of the world.
Online learning gives students the option to learn in whatever setting nourishes them most. Some people can’t concentrate without absolute silence. Others need to listen to music or surround themselves with activity to stay motivated.
2. Bonus Points for Your Resume
Job hunters who want to give their resumes a little extra rocket fuel can also benefit from online learning. Searching for a job can feel like a full-time commitment, so you might not have time to visit a local college campus or community course.
Plus, you can finish courses quickly, so you don’t have to wait to add them to your resume.
If you’re hoping to improve your resume, focus on courses that apply to your specific skill set or ideal job. You can also gain ancillary skills that might make you a more enticing candidate.
As an example, maybe you’re hoping to get a job as a structural engineer. Taking a course in the latest version of AutoCAD or even in data entry could cause hiring managers to give your resume a second glance. The effort shows that you care about advancing your skills. Even if the course is only tangentially related to your job description, the prospective employer knows you’re willing and able to learn new skills or knowledge.
3. Reduced Pressure
Let’s face it: Schools can create an obscenely competitive atmosphere. Professors often post grade-point averages and test results for all to see. Even if your classmates can’t identify you by your ID number, they know how they compare to the rest of the class.
Unfortunately, some students can’t handle the pressure of in-person classrooms. In an article for the American Psychological Association, Amy Novotney reveals that students have experienced an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
In fact, between 2012 and 2013, nearly 50 percent of students who answered a survey about pressure in the classroom admitted to seeking help from a counselor or therapist for mental health issues. Pressure can cause poor performance, apathy, and reduced knowledge absorption.
Online learning offers a completely different environment. While students can still interact with one another and with their instructors, they don’t have to face a competitive atmosphere every day. They can learn in a safe environment that encourages learning instead of competition.
4. Convenience and Flexibility
Between work, school, social obligations, and familial responsibilities, people have become far too over-scheduled. They can account for every minute of their day, from the moment they wake up until they finally return to bed.
Over-scheduling can cause similar consequences as pressure in a competitive school environment. If you don’t have time to decompress, relax, and enjoy life, you start resenting every activity in which you participate.
Make no mistake: You should take online classes seriously. They’re designed to help you improve or learn new skills, so you must give them your full attention.
However, they allow you to schedule your learning at your own convenience. Maybe you don’t have a spare minute in the morning or afternoon, but you can carve out an hour-long window each evening for your course.
Alternatively, maybe you need to split up your study sessions. While a physical course requires you to stay in the classroom for a set period of time, distance learning gives you more flexibility. You might study or review course materials for an hour in the morning, then again for another hour at night.
5. Reduced Education Costs
Scholastic achievement comes at a significant cost—at least, it does if you take the traditional route.
Did you know that a single course at the University of Chicago costs an average of $4,489? If you stick around to earn a four-year degree, you’ll pay an astonishing $188,556.
Online courses come at a much lower rate for a few reasons.
- Overhead: Teachers, professors, and instructors don’t have to pay for classroom space, student materials, building utilities, or the other overhead costs that come with running a physical educational institution.
- Diversity: You can choose an online course that fits your budget. When you’re stuck with one institution, you must select from its course catalog.
- Teachers: When you want to learn a language or how to do a craft, you don’t need a university-level instructor. People who have specialized experience might not work in academia, but they teach valuable courses at extremely low costs.
- Supplies: Online courses don’t require paper handouts, desks, chairs, paper, writing utensils, or any of the other supplies a physical classroom demands.
- Reuse: Teachers who create online courses can recycle the same content for future students. They don’t have to continue to physically administer the course over and over again.
If you save money on education, you can put it toward other expenses, whether you’re saving for your next vacation or planning to buy a home.
Plus, educators who create online courses don’t have to save up money to open their own programs. They can get started right away with the right online tools.
6. More Opportunities for Interaction
Colleges and universities might seem like social gathering places, but they actually create insular environments. You’re exposed to the same people every day on a campus, so you don’t have many opportunities to branch out in interactions.
Through an online course, you can meet people on the opposite side of the globe. Each interaction offers more opportunities for depth and growth as you explore your education and gain new skills.
You might connect with people you meet through social media and even in physical gatherings. If your course includes live webinars, live-streamed video, and similar media, you can also interact directly with fellow students and your instructor in real time.
7. Greater Ability to Concentrate
As mentioned above, you can take an online course in any environment you choose. Additionally, you can review your course material when you’re in the right frame of mind.
If you’re worried about a friend in need, frustrated by a work problem, or sleep deprived from over-scheduling, you won’t get much benefit from an online course. Instead of forcing yourself to complete your homework or listen to a lecture, you can wait until you’re in a better head space.
Veteran online instructor Joe McCullough describes the best state of mind for learning as “one in which you feel positive, confident, resourceful and relaxed.” He goes on to note that negative emotions can have two negative consequences.
- Poor concentration. You’ll find your mind drifting to other things as you attempt to learn, and you’ll spend more time trying to absorb the information because of your distraction.
- Information recall. If you try to learn while in a poor frame of mind, you’ll struggle to remember what you learned at a later date. In other words, any time spent learning in a negative mindset is wasted.
To make the most of your learning experience, focus on online courses that allow you to set the environment and the timing.
8. Avoid the Dreaded Commute
If you already commute to work—and even if you don’t—adding drive time to your day can make learning a chore. Even if you’re just driving around the block to a community learning center, you have to factor in that time when considering the value of the course.
Online learning has no commute unless you count the time it takes to turn on your internet-connected device. In fact, you can fill up time that you would normally waste while learning.
For instance, you could listen to audio recordings of your course while doing the following:
- Cleaning and other chores
- Driving to any destination
- Flying for vacation or business travel
- Completing home maintenance
- Waiting in line at a store
- Working out at the gym
You get the best of both worlds with online learning.
9. Gain Greater Access to Expertise
The internet provides you with access to people of all types and experience levels. You can choose to learn from people you admire and respect instead of the people assigned to teach classes at a school.
You might even have a teaching hero who offers a course. Learning from the best can help you become more successful in future projects and efforts.
10. Study With Thousands of Students Worldwide
Sometimes your study partners matter just as much as your instructors. You can learn from fellow students as well as teachers in an online environment. You might compare notes, share insights, and even figure out ways to work together in the future.
The internet doesn’t separate people by city, county, state, or country borders. Your fellow students come from different cultures that you can come to understand and respect. The more you broaden your horizons, the more powerful the learning experience becomes.
11. Opportunities to Scale
Building a successful online course can lead to bigger and better things. If you’re a student, you might learn that you want to start your own online educational empire. Our #KajabiHeroes have become successful business owners from wildly diverse backgrounds and with completely different interests.
A scalable business model contributes to future success and ensures you won’t run out of ideas. You can continue to offer the same courses that built your success, but you can also build upon them to create new opportunities and meet new people.
As a student, you can continue to scale your education through multiple online courses. Many people take several courses simultaneously, while others work through one course at a time. You choose how (and when) you want to learn.
12. Expand Your Career Horizons
If the 2008 financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as guaranteed job security. An economic downturn can force you to change directions entirely or to step up your game.
You don’t want to get caught unaware. If you’re proactive about expanding your career possibilities, you don’t have to put your fate in the hands of the economy. Instead, you make your own success.
If you want to climb the corporate ladder, for example, you could take courses on leadership, management, economics, mind hacks, and more. When you think you might want to change careers, inexpensive online courses let you test the waters first. Does the material interest you? Could it sustain you through a career change?
13. Study at Your Own Pace
Everyone works and studies at his or her own pace. Some people pick up new information like magnets, while others need repetition to fully absorb new knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong with your learning style, but if you learn in the wrong environment, you’ll waste your time and money.
Fast learners often feel held back when they’re taking a course with slower learners. They want to jump forward with new information, but they’re forced to wait for their peers to catch up.
Meanwhile, slower learners feel undue pressure to catch up to other students. They feel embarrassed by their learning pace, which can affect mental health as well as academic success.
In an online learning environment, you set the pace. You’re not competing with anyone else, so you don’t have to feel pressured or held back.
14. Work While You Study
Most people can’t afford to take six months off work to learn a new skill. In fact, recent research shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.
If you take online classes, you can study while you work. After you get home from the office, crack a book for an hour or two, then repeat the process the next day. Fit in studying times over your lunch break and on the weekends.
15. Acquire Information According to Your Learning Style
Although there is some controversy in the academic community over the subject of learning styles, there’s no argument that people absorb information in different ways.
Some people like to hear information. They process the data better that way, and they can remember the information for longer periods of time.
Visual learners like graphs, videos, photographs, and other things they can see. They respond to visual cues that help their brain work through problems and pick up new knowledge.
No matter how you learn best, you can find an online course to meet your needs. Visual learners, for instance, might want to consider a course that includes lots of video and graphic representations of data. If you learn better through listening, consider choosing a course that includes audio recordings and podcasts.
16. Expand Your Network
Above, we mentioned that one of the advantages of online learning lies in your ability to work with students all around the world. The benefits don’t stop after the course ends.
You might meet your next business partner or collaborator. Alternatively, you can connect with fellow students on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Endorse one another’s skills, serve as headhunters for each other when you learn of job opportunities, and continue to support one another in your respective careers.
17. Boost Your Brain
An active brain improves mental health, reduces the chances of developing dementia, and trains the mind to absorb information faster. When you continually challenge your brain, you keep it active and healthy, which can have long-term health and wellness benefits.
You can stimulate your brain in a number of different ways:
- Taking quizzes
- Working puzzles
- Watching educational television
- Reading books
- Acquiring new skills
Best of all, you can fulfill all of those activities through online courses. The more you stimulate your brain, the healthier you get.
18. Build Discipline and Accountability
Online courses can also help with personal development.
- Do you find yourself procrastinating when you should complete tasks on your to-do list?
- Have you ever given up on a goal because you failed to meet one objective?
- Can you remember a time when you failed to finish a task because you simply lost interest?
- Have you ever let down a colleague or superior because of poor discipline?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, online learning might help.
As you work through online courses, you learn to trust yourself as an accountability partner. You’re completing a goal because you want to gain benefits from it and because you’ve set yourself up for success.
19. Pursue a Hobby or Interest
Online courses aren’t all about high-level academia. In fact, many of them revolve around personal interests that build out students’ personal lives.
You could learn a new language or how to play the piano. You might discover your crafty side during a scrapbooking e-course or discover your inner shutterbug with a photography course.
Since online courses cost less than their physical counterparts, you don’t have to spring for as much of an investment. However, you still reap the rewards of learning something new, even if it has nothing to do with your job or career aspirations.
20. A Personalized Learning Experience
Think of online courses as self-directed education. Your instructor will help you build out a structure for each course, but you’re ultimately in charge of personalizing the experience to suit your needs and preferences.
Traditional Education Versus Online Learning
We’ve already compared traditional education and online learning in a few specific ways, but let’s look at a few more comparisons to better understand how online learning benefits the student.
There’s nothing wrong with traditional education. In fact, if you want a four-year degree or a graduate-level education, you should pursue it.
However, online learning opens up a new world of education. In fact, you can do both simultaneously, or wait until you finish your degree program to expand with distance learning.
Whatever the case, there are clear advantages of online learning that can’t exist in a physical classroom.
Use Kajabi to Create Your Own Online Course
If you’re thinking about creating an online course of your own, now’s the time. Kajabi offers a convenient 14-day free trial, so you can learn how this powerful platform works and start putting together your first course.
Not only will you share your knowledge with eager students, but you can also make money. In fact, you might even turn it into your full-time business.
The internet has created an environment that encourages learning, so why not take advantage of it? Distance education has existed for more than a decade now (and even longer before that, through extension courses).
Today, online platforms allow anyone to become a bona fide teacher, regardless of his or her background. Just as you can learn from people in your community, you can learn from instructors who have the experience and knowledge necessary to teach you new skills.
It’s time to abandon the notion that education only happens in classrooms and within ivy-draped walls. It happens every day, whether it means reading a book, exploring a new blog, or taking an online course. It’s time to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available to you.
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