Considering an Online Course? Smart Advice for Busy Professionals


Ambitious professionals looking to climb up the corporate ladder are often well-served by advanced degrees on their CVs. Time and financial constraints, however, mean that online courses are a much better and safer bet for them than courses requiring physical attendance.

In essence undertaking an online course sounds great. You continue being in your job and acquire new skills that will bolster your career. You study at your convenience and save time and hassle commuting to a college. A win-win.

The execution, however, is not as straightforward.

Professionals in full-time employment face a number of challenges when studying for their degrees online. In this post we look at how to overcome them so that you are able to extract the most out of your time and money invested in your online program.

Choose Your Online Course Wisely

Choose something you have enthusiasm and a clear use for. That will make it easier for you to stick to your schedule.

Don’t rush to sign up for an online MBA course just because everybody you know is doing it. You need to know how exactly an MBA will help you, and even then, which specific specialization will serve your purpose the best. Are you interested in pursuing an MBA with a specialization in marketing? Maybe an MBA in analytics is more in line with your strengths. Evaluate your options before you jump in.

The following generally serves well when choosing an online course to pursue:

    • See if the course you’re taking is accredited. Accreditation isn’t everything, and in some cases, it won’t be possible to choose an accredited course, but all other things being equal it’s often best to go with accredited offerings.
    • If you are opting for a non-university course, look at those that are provided by professional trainers who run good-looking websites that also work well. A website is the window into a training provider’s world, and the way the site looks and works will often reflect the organization behind it.
    • Choose training providers that offer a range of courses that allow you to progress through a curriculum.
    • The courses you consider have to be relevant to your career so far, your strengths, and also to your future plans.

Any degree to work for you should serve a specific purpose. You should have a clear idea in your mind about the benefits to be gained from it and how you will implement the skills going forward. Can you see yourself negotiating a pay raise with your boss on the strength of your course?

The next very important consideration is that of time. Even though online courses do not require as much investment of time as physical courses, they do, nevertheless, require you to invest some of your time on a consistent basis to be of any use to you.

Honestly evaluate the number of hours you can commit to your studies each week. And then there will be writing assignments or giving exams. Don’t forget about them.

Create a Committed Schedule for Your Studies

It’s easy to underestimate your study requirements in an online course. The unhurried pace and the non-intrusive nature of an online program lulls one into thinking they’ve got more time than they actually do.

The absence of a classroom environment and the pressure of attending regular lectures can also lead one to slip into a non-serious mode towards their studies.

To combat this, and to save yourself unnecessary anxiety as the submission deadline/exam date nears, create a committed schedule for your studies right from the start. The day you get to know of your subjects, lecture schedules, assignment submission and exam dates, create a rough timetable for you to handle all your work smoothly.

Depending on your workload you could study every other day or three days a week. The important thing is to be realistic about how long it will take you to achieve your academic goals keeping your full-time job, and your personal and social life in mind.

It feels great to be a student again, but with a full-time job on your plate already, it could quickly get too much for you to handle if you don’t plan for it well.

Extract All You Can out of Tech

If you don’t mind studying on the go, awesome! We all lose many precious minutes here and there getting through our day. Sometimes we lose 10 minutes in the morning waiting for our coffee, a few minutes at lunch, another few minutes waiting for our train, etc. All these can add up to make a tidy difference.

If you have your smartphone or tablet on you all the time, you can convert these otherwise lost minutes into something useful.

To give you an example, say you have an essay to write on ‘How Social Media Is Impacting Train Travel’. Don’t wait till the time you have absolutely nothing to do and sit down in front of your computer all ready to tackle the topic in one go. Keep thinking about the subject material as you go through your day. Run relevant searches when you get a few moments to yourself, or when you are waiting for your order to arrive. Save useful pages to Evernote for later reference. Jot down your thoughts in that app itself. If you do this for a week, and by the time the weekend arrives and you finally get the time to sit down to pen a proper write-up, you will already be more than a few pages in.

Even better, don’t wait for the weekend at all. Pull up an Office document on your tablet itself and start jotting down your thoughts as they occur to you. Even a scattered 15-20 minutes a day will keep you on track to meeting your deadlines.

Join a Social Group

A classroom environment keeps one on their toes. In the absence of such an environment it’s easy to drift away and sometimes even forget entirely that you have a course to attend to.

If your university offers online social support for its students, consider signing up for it. It helps to be connected with people who are undertaking similar courses. It will keep you in touch with your studies and also let you share with them your problems or challenges related to the course material.

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