Over the past several years, the importance of online courses has become quite clear. After all, virtual education arguably salvaged schooling during the pandemic, even though there were major adaptive pains for students. And though things have “opened up” again, the benefits of online courses remain apparent.
Of course, there are many who, after forcibly engaging in online learning, resent the experience. And, naturally, this makes sense. Too often, virtual learning failed to take into account the individual needs of students and learning styles. However, when taken willingly rather than compulsorily, online courses come in many various forms. And because they can cater to different learning needs, they exhibit a wide range of advantageous qualities. So, even if you’ve personally had a negative experience taking online courses, there’s reason to give them another chance.
The Major Benefits of Online Courses
1. Knowledge Is More Accessible than Ever
Virtual learning options provide a massive range of topics choose from. In fact, Udemy alone boasts over 185,000 courses, with many more being added each month. These span topics like drawing and guitar lessons to personal time management and business fundamentals. So, there’s no shortage of interesting and accessible information.
Because of the internet, knowledge is more available than ever before. In fact, there are over 8.5 billion google searches per day, each representing a quest for information. And that number keeps growing. Online courses are simply one way knowledgeable professionals collect and disseminate this information. So, in an age where knowledge is readily accessible and only a few clicks away, virtual courses are bound to flourish.
2. Plenty of Free Options Available
Of course, anyone who’s ever attended college knows that knowledge doesn’t come cheap. Students regularly spend tens of thousands of dollars to receive a premium education. And while this is somewhat necessary in some circumstances, some online options provide a cheaper alternative. Now, that’s not to say they can fully replace the experience of learning under a skilled professional. Because there’s a difference between factual knowledge and experiential knowledge. However, for someone looking to either brush up on an interesting topic or skill, free options abound.
For example, Coursera hosts a decent selection of free-to-take online courses. And although there’s no formal credit for completion at this price-level, there is a wealth of knowledge to obtain. So, whether you’re searching for online business courses, skill enhancement, or something else, there are plenty of free options. All you have to do is find them.
3. Premium content from qualified professionals
Naturally, because there are many different types of online courses, there are also various types of instructors. Admittedly, some might not have overwhelmingly positive credentials. However, others boast an immense amount of knowledge, experience, or both. For example, Harvard University offers a wealth of online courses free to the general public. And of course, with an established academic body as prestigious in name as Harvard, the professors are highly qualified. So, not only are there opportunities to work through premium content with professionals – there are affordable ways as well.
Fortunately, Harvard University is far from being the only organization to offer exceptional content. Stanford University, HubSpot Academy and many other recognizable organizations produce and host online courses specified to their niches. So, learners today have an astounding number ways to sit under some of the most renowned and qualified instructors.
4. Online Communities for Feedback
One of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic was the seeming loss of close and connected community. After all, groups who were used to meeting in-person no longer had the ability to continue gathering safely. So, in many cases, there was the imperative to either find virtual ways of meeting or cease gathering until allowed. However, the existence of online communities has roots much further back than the pandemic alone. Because many online course instructors have recognized the worth of online groups as a tool for further feedback and guidance.
Sometimes, this takes the form of online forums and other times, social pages on Facebook or other media platforms. For example, the Ultimate Drawing Course on Udemy strongly encourages students to join the Artist Inner Family Facebook group. There, they can post pictures of what they’ve created in order to receive constructive criticism and feedback from other members. Currently, the group boasts over 108,000 individuals, offering a wealth of opportunity for growth in a likeminded community.
Of course, there are plenty of other online courses which encourage membership in virtual communities. And participation in these groups can further help cement difficult subjects or speed up skill development.
5. Self-Paced Options for Hectic Schedules
If one thing rings true about modern society, it’s that there’s never a lack of things to do. Sometimes, they’re necessary tasks and other instances fall more into optional, personal interests. However, no matter where they end up on the scale, they all have the same effect of keeping people busy. And with such hectic schedules, it’s often difficult finding time to invest in learning. That’s why online courses can be such an immense help – typically, many are self-paced. That means they can be completed in a timeframe most efficient and convenient to the learner. So, rather than having to force learning into an impossible schedule, individuals can instead mold it to fit.
Unfortunately, some courses do require real-time participation. However, because of the proliferation of different options and providers, individuals can generally find something that works well. Furthermore, since some online courses have mostly audible components, students can even listen to them while performing other tasks. Ultimately, there are many ways to make online learning a priority without it eating into valuable time.
6. Learning new skills
Perhaps this benefit of online courses goes without saying – but it’s still worth mentioning. Hand-in-hand with so many other advantages, like the accessibility of knowledge, virtual learning streamlines discovering new skills. Of course, finding new interests can be short-lived or last a lifetime, but the importance is in continually learning. Because even the act of learning itself brings along many mental health benefits. With a variety of free courses on a massive range of topics available online, learning new skills is easily in-reach. So, there’s little reason not to look into something that could develop into a new passion.
7. Gaining Access to Different Perspectives
One important aspect of personal growth is the ability to see things from a perspective different from one’s own. Whether that means better understanding a separate culture, faith, lifestyle or other area. Of course, it isn’t possible to fully comprehend another person’s experience, because we don’t have that first-hand knowledge. However, online courses can help provide a stronger basis for recognizing different perspectives. For example, a Harvard course studying world religions will almost undoubtedly expose learners to ideas unlike those they already hold. Or alternatively, taking a sociology or anthropology course can help appreciate new customs and norms.
However, different perspectives aren’t limited only to matters of personal belief or culture. Because even a course on leadership or some other related subject could afford a person the chance to explore new insights. And whenever we open ourselves to the idea that we have much to learn, we stand to grow. Not necessarily because our own perspectives are wrong, but because we can more fully understand the human experience.
8. Greater Potential for Professional Networking
While some online courses are meant to be taken alone, there are others which still incorporate group dynamics. And in these instances, there is an increased potential for professional networking. For instance, online communities, as those already discussed, provide perfect ground for constructive discussion and information sharing. And because it’s all online, that means there’s no geographical limitation. An individual might as easily build a connection with someone a thousand miles away as with someone next door.
Since networking is an essential part of a professional career, anything that helps simplify the process is worthwhile. And there are many distinct ways online courses help put people together who otherwise might never have met. Naturally, stronger connections lead to better job opportunities, higher pay, and many other personal benefits. So, investing time and effort into building this sort of community is important, even if online.
9. Online Courses Inspire Lifelong Learning
The importance of lifelong learning has already been mentioned several times, but it’s worth parsing again. Beyond the health benefits and enjoyment individuals get from willful continuing education, there’s something inherently good about it. A mind which stagnates is one which, to an extent, seems less than ideal. Consciousness and the ability to learn are two distinctive aspects of the human journey. So, when a person determines to stand still mentally, it expresses a sort of arrogance less than admirable. The humility to admit that one has much more to learn, and that they still lack answers, is a hallmark of wisdom. And if online courses can help inspire this sort of lifelong process, then all the better.
Truly, few if any people actually stop learning throughout their lives. They simply don’t recognize the process of education. Because, naturally, it changes as we age. However, an important part of wanting to learn is recognizing things that are interesting to learn. And of course, this changes from person to person. But again, this highlights the need for accessible information and the ability to find new interests. So many of the aspects discussed thus far flow into each other. Information is more accessible than ever, which means people can find new interests. And naturally, when they find new interests, they’ll encounter new perspectives apart from their own. The process of lifelong learning is a holistic experience meant to engage many areas of a person’s mind.
10. Online Learning Builds Self-Discipline
Because many online course options are self-paced, they require an amount of self-discipline to complete. Particularly those which aren’t led by an instructor, grading papers and actively participating with students. Because, in these situations, learners are entirely responsible for structuring their learning. If they lack motivation entirely, then chances are they’ll never make it through the activity. However, those who truly want to finish well learn how to build self-discipline and stay the path. In a sense, this might also require an amount of personal integrity – doing what they should when no one is making them. So, online learning actually touches several beneficial areas of personal development and growth.
11. Learn from the Comfort of Home
Though sentiments about learning from home might now be far different than they were prior to the pandemic, there’s still an extent of comfort about it. When there’s no need to get dressed up and sit in a hard seat at a small desk, it’s easier to relax. So, being able to sit on a couch with a laptop while investing in continuing education is a prime benefit of online courses.
All in all, not much more needs to be said about this topic. Because most people are probably well-aware how learning in comfort is helpful. And since those reasons change from one individual to the next, it comes down to personal preference. The real benefit is being able to access online courses anywhere, whether at home or a coffee shop. Perhaps at the office or on the subway. They represent the current pinnacle of flexible education.
12. Time Flexibility for Work and Family
Speaking of flexibility, online courses make it easier to spend time with family or complete work tasks. Particularly if they’re self-paced, though not necessarily limited to those which are. For example, even a course which starts and stops at a specific time each week saves a person from having to commute. They can fit it into their overall schedule and still retain extra time. And because of this, there’s no reason to choose between continuing an education and keeping a job or starting a family.
Of course, there will likely still remain some amount of time requirement. But because it can be fitted around the other responsibilities, it settles comfortably.
13. Career Advancement Opportunities
Just as in everyday life, learning for a career is absolutely essential. Picture a doctor who hasn’t updated their knowledge of medicine since the 90s. Or perhaps a history teacher who slept through the most recent, groundbreaking world events. Failure to learn is an automatic strike against the professionalism and reputation of many individuals. However, willingness and striving to learn can have the opposite affect, propelling a career to new heights. A leading scientist on the edge of a groundbreaking discovery has better opportunity than a lab worker who does the bare minimum.
Admittedly, these are all silly and lighthearted examples. But the premise stands. If one hopes to excel in their career, they need to invest time and effort into learning. And since the flexibility of online courses makes this possible in line with a busy schedule, they can make keeping up far easier.
14. Online Courses Point to Helpful Resources
Many online courses do not themselves rely solely on their own resources. Instead, they include file shares or toolboxes with helpful articles, videos, websites, and other assets. So, in taking online courses, learners not only gain new insights and information. They often come away with various resources they can then employ in continuing to hone important skills. Of course, they could attempt pulling together resources on their own without the aid of an online course in order to strengthen these areas. However, since courses are often put together by professionals, it’s a more expedient way of growing a premium tool set with quality content.
15. Learn without Fear of Failure
Admittedly, this benefit of online courses is primarily applicable with free courses or ones which don’t require a passing score. Because if someone pays a large amount for a university course and then fails it, they’ve wasted money. However, when given the option of learning without the fear of failing, individuals spend less time worrying only about passing a test. Contrastingly, they can invest more mental energy focusing on memorizing important information that lends itself toward skill enhancement. In simpler words, when there’s nothing to lose from failing an online course, the focus shifts from passing to learning. So, while this still only applies to some online courses, it does represent one potential benefit.
16. Investing in Tech-Related Skills
Naturally, in taking an online course, in individual simultaneously invests in their technological skills. Though the modern world is largely tech-driven, there are still many people without a good grasp on computer literacy. And with new advancements made regularly, this sort of requirement will only grow more important. Even a course dealing with a subject entirely unrelated to technology can help spur on better understanding. Because learners will at least have to interact with web navigation, login portals, and basic elements of a site or dashboard. So, in a sense, this might be more of a passive benefit – one which enhances naturally by virtue of the activity itself. But it is no less an important effect of online courses.
17. Long-Term Accessibility
Again, readers should note this might not apply to all online courses. However, many of the options available offer long-term access. For example, courses on Udemy require a one-time purchase. After that, they can be taken over and over again, however many times desired. This means that users can easily access information years later if they want a refresher. Or, if nothing else, they can still sort through the additional resources included with the tool box.
Other options, like VTR Learning’s professional development courses, give users a one-year time period to complete. Then, even after the expiration date, learners can access the material they made it through. So, this represents a sort of middle ground between indefinite accessibility and a hard cutoff date. Ultimately, it depends largely on the provider and type of course. However, many do afford some sort of long-term access which allows users to revisit information whenever necessary.
18. Develop Better Time-Management Skills
Much in the same vein as self-discipline, online courses easily require a heightened ability to manage time. Because if students are on a deadline to turn in work without constant oversight by a teacher, they must be personally conscious of such requirements. Alternatively, if courses themselves have a specific period of availability, learners must appropriately schedule their time in order to complete them.
However, even options without a specified time frame can help develop better time-management skills. For example, strongly self-motivated individuals might determine to finish taking a course by a specific date. And doing so requires a time-sensitive plan of completion. So, even as they develop self-motivation and discipline, online courses contribute to time-management abilities.
19. Less Environmental Impact (Sustainability)
Obviously, in taking online courses, there’s relatively little need to commute to a specific location. Because of this and the minimization of other resources, virtual options contribute to greater environmental sustainability. Arguably, the overall impact is far lower than in-person courses, because they use up less paper, space, fuel, and so on. And since courses viably last for years, instructors need only create them once. Of course, the list of reasons could go on, but the point is simple enough. Online courses are a long-lived, sustainable method for education.
20. Instant Access to Scoring Information
Again, with the general caveat that some course types don’t apply, virtual options typically provide instant access to scoring information. At least, if the assessment sections are objectively scored, they do. And because of this, learners don’t have to wait lengthy periods of time to understand how they’ve performed. Quite simply, they can check their scores, recognize areas of deficiency, and set out to improve. Moreover, because of this fast-track style of feedback, individuals have an expedited option for growing their knowledge. In an age which demands quick turnaround and results, online courses keep with the times and provide a method for doing so.
VTR Learning’s Online Courses for Business Professionals
There are demonstrably plenty of benefits in taking online courses, many of which haven’t been discussed. Ultimately, finding reason to take them comes down to personal preference and need. So, of course, they don’t always work out well for every individual. But if nothing else, it’s advisable to give virtual learning a chance.
VTR Learning does exactly that for business professionals or those who want to break into that world. Because we have several free courses available for members of different professional organizations like SHRM/HRCI, AICPA, and the American Payroll Association. So, if you’ve never thought to give online courses a go, there’s ample reason to try and no risk involved with our unique, business simulation courses.
Article written by Braden Norwood
Last updated March 23, 2023