Are Online Courses Worth It?

By BrainStation August 6, 2019

Online education is making digital skills training more accessible than ever before, offering professionals of all levels a convenient path to career and personal development. But, some people may still be skeptical of online education, particularly of courses that use a “learn at your own pace” model. Completion rates for these types of online courses tend to hover between 0.5 percent to 10 percent, which is not very convincing.

Despite that, there is a growing body of evidence to support online learning. For example, a recent survey of 1,000 online student learners found that: 91 percent said it improved their professional life, 90 percent claimed it made them a more confident leader, and 93 percent said it improved their resume. 

An even larger survey, featuring 52,000 respondents, found that 60 percent developed skills they were using in a new position, with 40 percent claiming it improved their candidacy for a new job. 

Clearly, online education can have an impact. That said, not all online courses are made the same. Here are some questions to ask when choosing an online certificate course.

“Are the instructors experienced and currently working in the industry?”

If you ever had a great high school teacher, you know the impact they can have on your understanding and appreciation for a subject. The same is true in the online space, where the caliber of instructors can make a tangible difference. As Bill Gates said, “Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.”

This is one of the reasons why BrainStation launched Online Live, which gives professionals the chance to learn from industry experts through real-time, interactive lectures in an engaging, online classroom. It’s important to us that Instructors are currently working in the field so that they can update the curriculum on a daily basis and ensure that students are learning the very latest techniques and tools. 

Of course, not all online courses will be live. This question, however, is still valid. Who is teaching this course? To get the most out of it, you will want to be taught by industry professionals who are up-to-date on the latest trends and also deeply experienced in the field. 

“How agile is the curriculum?”

Make sure to read the course package closely. Does it cover everything you’re looking to learn? What will you learn and how will you learn it?

It’s also important to look at how the curriculum is updated. One of the challenges in online instruction is not being fully aware of when content has been updated – the last thing you want to do is commit to studying something that is out of date. Ensuring that something is up to the minute (or at least updated on a regular basis) is the first step in making sure you’re not wasting your time. 

BrainStation, for example, works with industry leaders from the most innovative organizations in the world to develop and update course content on a daily basis, ensuring students are always learning the latest and most relevant tools and techniques. 

“How flexible is the course schedule?”

You have work, school, friends, and a to-do list as long as your arm. There isn’t much value in an online course if you can’t find one that fits your schedule. The trick is giving yourself the time you’ll need to truly succeed. 

Schools that offer lectures in multiple time zones helps create flexibility for professionals and entire teams to work remotely and access premium digital skills training.

“Is there a live-lecture option?”

As we mentioned above, the live element is hard to discount when you’re thinking of online education.  According to Researchers at SUNY Albany, “attendance” was the single most important predictor of high grades, beating out SAT scores, high school GPAs, study skills or habits. The difference-maker was that they benefited from regular face time with a subject matter expert.

When instructors are not available to answer questions, students struggle, which can lead to dropping out. In fact, one study found that one of the primary causes of MOOC dropout was the lack of instructor support provided when the course becomes challenging.

As Harman Singh, Founder of WizIQ, explained, “The real problem is when you get stuck, no matter how motivated you are, you can’t get through a concept. I need an instructor, a teacher, to help me get through some tough subjects.” 

This is one of the reasons why Online Live has been such a tremendous success. With world-class Instructors broadcasting industry-leading content out of our learning studios, Online Live has resulted in more than 100,000 hours of live learning for thousands of professionals across 50 cities and 27 states, provinces, and territories across North America.

“Are they using cutting-edge technology to support your learning?” 

If you were applying to study at a university or college, you would most likely go to visit their campus, wouldn’t you? The same is true in the online learning space – you want your online classroom to be as intuitive, seamless, and interactive as possible. 

Online Live, for example, is powered by Synapse, our unique, proprietary learning management system, which allows students to attend live lectures, interact with your Instructor and peers in real-time, and access additional training materials. Synapse is the world’s first data-driven learning management system, and it is constantly evolving and refining its user experience. 

The goal was for the platform to be a seamless extension of the learning experience at BrainStation’s campuses, putting an emphasis on collaboration and connectivity.