While everyone around you is celebrating your achievement of graduating from college, for some graduates, the scramble to figure out your next move in this big world is only too real. To go to grad school or to go to the workforce is the question.
Should I stay home or should I go traveling? Have no fear. There’s a place for you outside the bubble of campus even if you haven’t figured it out just yet. After all, you didn’t just work your ass off for the past four years to tread lightly off of campus. Go big.
Instead of spending every day worrying what’s next, consider viewing the extra free time as an opportunity to learn a new skill or perfect an old one through online education. While a college degree provides a solid, theoretical groundwork, it’s not a bad idea to take an online course and continue building your skills while you reflect on your next steps after graduation.
Over the past five years, online learning has grown astronomically in popularity, so much so that it is predicted that by 2019 at least 50 percent of all classes will be delivered online. Sure, not every online platform will give you what you’re looking for; instead, figure out what each site has to offer before deciding on a course from said platform.
In order of least to most risky, here are three different online education platforms you should know about after college life.
Coursera, with over 24 million users, offers courses taught by the best of the best — the world’s top instructors at the world’s top universities. Arts and humanities, public health and computer science are just some of the subjects from which you can take a course.
A typical course is structured to include video-recorded lectures accompanied by weekly readings, peer-reviewed assignments and community discussion forums. In other words, it precisely follows a standard college course.
For anywhere between $29 – $99, you can learn a new skill or perfect an old one within four to six weeks and earn a course certificate, which you can boast about on your LinkedIn page and resume or curriculum vitae. You could take a business course from the Wharton School of Business, show it off on your resume and say, “Look, I studied at an Ivy League school.”
Building on top of stand-alone courses, Coursera offers Specializations, which are collections of courses that build skills in a specific field of study. As a young professional, Specializations allow you to hone in on specific skillsets, preparing you to face the professional world.
The platform is especially interesting since it is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree, even a master’s degree, exclusively online. One of the biggest perks of an online master’s program is cutting the expense of living on campus.
For example, a master’s degree in computer science at Arizona State University (ASU) would cost approximately $32,000 while the same degree from the same university online only costs $15,000. At the end of the day, Coursera allows you the opportunity to explore both academic and practical topics taught by members of academia.
Unlike Coursera, whose courses build a bridge between theoretical and practical concepts, Lynda.com offers highly specialized courses in categories such as 3D animation, business and photography.
Sample courses in photography, for instance, include silhouette photography, Photoshop CC 2018 essential training and portrait photography. Rather than charging a fee per course, the platform offers a monthly, $29.99, or annual, $24.99 per month, membership rate to access its over 10,000 courses.
Consistent to each large category, the “Topics,” “Software” and “Learning Paths” columns open up beside the large categories. The Topics section covers specific skills within the field, while the Software section deals with the programs you will find on a daily basis in the profession.
The Learning Paths column offers the intensive training, with over 20 hours of expert-created tutorials. The pathway also allows you to practice the trade, advancing ahead in your career, as the site claims.
With classes ranging anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours, these courses resemble lectures more than traditional college courses. Whether you’re on your daily commute or trying to kill spare time, Lynda.com courses are perfect for those who want to learn about a niche topic, but don’t have too much time on their hands.
Made by the people, for the people, Udemy is perhaps the most democratic of the three online platforms, yet also the riskiest. Topics range from “Teacher Training” to “Personal Development,” with a scope of anywhere between 2.5 – 15 hours.
While the instructors on the platform are knowledgeable people in the field, they are not necessarily experienced professors or experts. That being said, it’s important to err on the side of caution when treading the Udemy waters. So, why did I bother to mention this platform in the first place if the instructors are neither experts nor professors? The practicality of the courses, that’s why.
Truer for Udemy than the other platforms, it’s important to know what you want to learn. Continuing on with the language example, if you want to express yourself orally with ease in Spanish, a Udemy course or two and finding a Spanish buddy to practice with will serve you better than the traditional college language course.
If you’re looking to improve your written expression of Spanish, you’re better off with the traditional college course where grammar and vocabulary are emphasized.
Another perk about the site is the instructor option. If you happen to take a course and think that you could do a better job teaching the course than your instructor, you can sign up as an instructor and try your hand at the craft — an option you most certainly would not have at college unless you have your doctorate. Keep in mind that Udemy is a profit-sharing website — meaning a portion of your profits as an instructor goes to Udemy for hosting your courses.
Besides these three, there are a lot of other online learning platforms that have different features to offer. For example, an online courses platform called Bitdegree provides an opportunity to receive scholarships for taking particular courses. This feature is sponsored by various companies who seek to cover the basic skills needed for a specific job position. Later on, these companies can propose a job offer to the best-performing students.
Before deciding on which platform to take an online course, always remember what you want to learn and who you’re willing to learn it from. Keep in mind that there are a whole host of teachers out in the world who don’t hold a doctorate or teaching degree.
While Coursera, Lynda.com and Udemy offer only a short voyage into the online world of courses, these three platforms provide valuable content to quell your academic, niche or practical needs.