Are you looking for a way to improve your career prospects, but don’t have the time to leave work and head back to school? In the past, situations like this would seriously limit employee aspirations across multiple industries. After all, as nice the idea of upskilling might be, the reality of working full-time always seems to get in the way.
These days, however, it is far more common for working professionals to earn additional qualifications. Whereas before they may have relied on night schools, correspondence courses or instructor-led company training, employees can now access hundreds of opportunities online in the form of ‘elearning’.
Online courses offer the distinct advantage of allowing users to access learning materials whenever it is convenient for them, whether this means reading assets on the commute to work, finishing exercises at home or simply watching a training video in-between meetings. Not only is this convenient, but making time for training can also demonstrate a healthy amount of initiative which employers will pick up on.
Remember, in each and every job you will ever have, you will get paid twice: once with your paycheck, and once in improving your future prospects. Let’s take a look at the different ways in which an online course can help to boost your career.
What do Online Courses Involve?
We are currently living through the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ thanks to the evolution of the internet. The digital revolution is global, with virtually everyone making use of advanced electronic devices for entertainment, work and, of course, learning.
‘Online courses’, as the name suggests, are education packages which can be accessed via the internet. Whether via a cloud-based platform, company intranet or an advanced learning management system (LMS), this is a much more convenient setup than having to buy weighty textbooks or attend classes that get in the way of nine-to-five schedules.
In the case of corporate training, online courses will often involve finely targeted learning assets designed help employees become productive and form the right habits as quickly as possible. Organizations may even utilize ‘bespoke elearning’ built around their unique structures and processes, allowing them to effectively onboard staff without being dragged down by anything irrelevant.
A key advantage of online courses is that they can suit virtually any employee, company or industry. Many popular topics such as enterprise architecture and IT governance are universally relevant, while more niche topics can help individuals to take steps towards more specific roles.
That being said, there are a number of ways to do online learning poorly. Certain providers simply treat it as the equivalent of turning physical documents into Powerpoint slides, which can cause learners to miss out on some of the most useful tools and perks which e-courses have to offer.
For example, ‘gamification’ involves delivering elearning content in a way that encourages and rewards learners through enjoyable learning exercises. Companies can create video game-like activities to make students enthusiastic about absorbing, retaining and sharing new information. The right exercises can even help to develop teamwork skills, with everyone sharing the satisfaction of achieving high scores.
Rich media is also a popular feature for online courses. Providers often utilize customized graphics, videos and audio-narratives to boost the appeal of their content, as well as keep students engaged through variety. Certain providers are also utilizing virtual reality simulations, not only making it easier to test employees with engaging scenarios but also taking advantage of their excitement at getting to use cutting-edge technology.
Top-tier elearning providers can even offer multi-device compatibility, allowing students in full-time careers to access course content from virtually anywhere. Certain content may also be downloaded so that learners can get things done without the need for an internet connection.
In short, there is a great deal that an online course can involve. As such, it is important to look at exactly what training materials and perks each of your options has on offer before deciding on which option will best suit you.
How can an Online Course Boost my Career?
Utilize downtime between jobs
The limbo between leaving a job and finding a new one can be stressful, especially when it seems to drag on for weeks, months or years. In order to ensure that you can make a good impression on potential employers, it is important to show that you are making the best possible use of your time – and what better way than by boosting your employability?
Taking an online course during the downtime between jobs will show that you are proactive. Better yet, you should have plenty of time to devote to your chosen course from day to day.
Remember, there is no need to let unemployment damage your future career. Instead, take it as an opportunity to boost your employment prospects (and potentially even your earning potential).
Increasing hireability with in-demand certification
In virtually every industry, there will always be qualifications which are highly sought after by employers. It could be that an IT qualification, combined with your experience, will enable you to apply for managerial roles in your chosen field. Alternatively, the industry itself may be changing, requiring you to replace outdated knowledge if you want to remain hireable. Many relatively new disciplines and frameworks are also relevant across multiple industries, such as TOGAF, ITIL and COBIT.
To make yourself more attractive to employers, a good first step will be to research your career goals. If there is a position which you want to obtain within the next few years, you should try to make a definitive list of the qualifications, as well as the amount of experience, required to obtain it.
While gaining your desired certifications may not be free, the potential benefits can far outweigh the costs. Keep this in mind when considering any free yet subpar courses, as the resulting qualifications will rarely be recognized by industry bodies.
Update existing knowledge
The worlds of business and technology are in a constant state of disruption, with new competitors and advancements requiring organizations to constantly adapt their capabilities. The same is true for employees: as information and disciplines become outdated, even valuable executives can soon start to see their earning potential diminish.
However, this does not make employees obsolete; not so long as they have the determination to change with the times. Flexible online courses can allow you to update your knowledge pieces at a time, ensuring that you are always aware of the most essential modern elements of your role. The initiative required to stay up to date, combined with your experience, could even end up making you a far more valuable candidate for promotion than overly-qualified yet completely green candidates.
One of the best ways to boost your career prospects regardless of your current job is to show eagerness to progress and stand out from the crowd. This can be a great way to build rapport with managers and senior colleagues, many of whom will be willing to offer advice, or perhaps even networking opportunities.
Given the potential value of upskilling ambitious internal talent for businesses, it is not uncommon for employees to ask managers for help in pursuing online courses. You may choose to research and communicate the benefits of a certain course to your employer, showing them how gaining a certification could impact their goals and profit margins. If this proves successful in practice, you may even be able to convince your employer to pay for further training down the line.
Return on investment
One of the key selling points for many online courses is that the initial purchase costs can be offset with huge potential financial rewards. For example, according to Payscale, the average salary for an IT enterprise architect certified in TOGAF 9 is $138,383 – well above the typical salary for the United States.
That being said, you should not expect to get this kind of potential boost without some investment on your part. While there are certainly free online courses available, they will often be subpar, with inadequate content and guidance for passing official examinations. Instead, it will be best to find a fully-accredited course provider for your chosen subject and bite the financial bullet. Remember, an investment of a few hundred dollars could lead to major payoffs down the line.
When taking online classes, you may assume that the social aspect of learning will be fairly minimal. In fact, taking courses online can actually open up a variety of social and networking opportunities, boosting your career prospects further by helping you to make contacts in your chosen field.
It may be that your course is blended, with a handful of instructor-led classes or team building exercises as part of the curriculum. This is particularly common for corporate training when new employees often learn alongside team members. However, even a fully digital course can utilize social elements, such as forum chats, group projects or even sharing capabilities for test scores.
So, be sure to socialize with your fellow students – they could be the key to your next career opportunity!
Apply what you learn
Many qualifications, particularly higher-tier industry qualifications, require more than just passed tests and completed coursework; you will also need a certain amount of experience applying the lessons in a real working environment.
As such, it can actually be conducive to your ideal job role to study while working full-time. Not only this, but being able to use what you learn in a familiar environment will also make it easier for you to retain key information.
Fit studying into a busy schedule
One of the key benefits of digital online courses, as opposed to classroom training, is that they are far easier to squeeze into busy schedules. Rather than having to take hours out of your working day at specific times, you can instead fit in shorter training segments whenever you have minutes to spare. This can be doubly advantageous for students who are already juggling work and family commitments.
Finding time to learn inside a busy schedule has become even easier in recent years due to increasing mobile accessibility. More and more online courses are being accessed via phone and tablet devices, which the majority of workers will already have on hand. The best providers also format content for different devices, and some may even provide free learning apps for users.
Interested in hearing about how our range of award-winning online courses can boost your career? Contact Good e-Learning today to find out more!