Online school

Are Online Courses Right for Your Professional Development?

Online courses offer an alternative way to reach new career goals, without taking on any of the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt currently held by American students.

The fall 2015 semester found 13 million students in the U.S. working to obtain four-year degrees in various fields, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Online courses offer an alternative way to reach new career goals, without taking on any of the $1.2 trillion in student loan debt currently held by American students.

But are online courses right for you? How do you know which ones are worth a second look?

In 2012, the educators behind some of the most prestigious universities in the country banded together to launch edX, an online repository of courses from recognizable names like Harvard University, MIT, and Stanford. These MOOCs (massive open online courses) are free for anyone with an Internet connection—some classes even offer the option of verified certificates upon completion.

“With more than 110 global partners, we are proud to count the world’s leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions as our members,” the edX site states. “Our students come from every country in the world. Whether you are interested in computer science, languages, engineering, psychology, writing, electronics, biology, or marketing, we have the course for you!”

There were 520 self-paced courses offered by edX at the time of publication, with topics ranging from “Cultural Geography of the World” to “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture.”

View the full course catalog or sign up for classes at the edX website

Udemy is another great resource for those looking to fine-tune existing skills. By February 2017, the site had exceeded 15 million registered users and now offers more than 45,000 courses that can be accessed from your laptop or mobile device. Free courses are available, but the majority of content does require a fee (from $10 to $250).

“Udemy is a company whose mission is grounded in helping anyone learn anything. Our courses are all available on-demand so that students around the globe can learn at their own pace and on their own time,” Udemy CEO Dennis Yang told The Huffington Post. “The best teachers aren’t always found in a traditional classroom.”

Users who want to refresh existing business skills can search by topic to find courses on salary negotiation, social media writing, advanced Excel, stress management, and even “The Science of Happiness: Hacks and Skills to Flourish.” View available courses at the Udemy website

WINiT membership is free, and members have access to online educational resources in the WINiT Classroom, which features archived webinars developed to meet the career needs of our members (check out “Becoming Marketable and Maintaining Marketability”) as well as master classes on topics from the 2015 WINiT Summit.

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