As most businesses struggle to stay afloat amid the Covid-19 pandemic, companies operating in the edtech sector have reportedly been peaking. While some online course providers like upGrad have reported a massive surge in learners, others including Vedantu and Edvizo have successfully raised funds in these uncertain times.
These developments have led to an outpouring of online courses across a range of subjects, targeted at professionals as well as students looking to enter the workforce. Intended to foster a habit of e-learning among people, many of these courses are also being provided for free. But with so many programs on offer, how do people choose one that is not only good, but also meets all their learning requirements?
Sign up for your weekly dose of what's up in emerging technology.
Here’s a short guide that will help you decide the right course for you: –
Identify Missing Skillsets
The pace at which technology is progressing demands that all professionals – regardless of the industry or space they operate in – actively seek to upskill themselves. And there can be no better way to pursue this path than taking up relevant courses online and implementing the lessons learned at the workplace. While there may be many skills you may want to develop, a good way to prioritise them would be to think deeply about those that will benefit your career.
Akhil Shahani, MD of The Shahani Group recommends an easy way to identify these skills, “The first step is to view job portals to determine the job you are targeting and the skills needed to qualify for it. Following this, search for online courses that help you develop those skills.”
Once you have identified the areas where you need to upskill – or even reskill – it will be easier for you to keep yourself motivated to complete the course. While the pull of self-paced online courses has attracted working professionals in droves, students looking to enter a deeply altered world, which school and college curriculum have been unable to factor in, have also begun to recognise the value of such courses.
“Any professional looking to upskill to jump to a higher level in their existing career, or to explore new opportunities, should always evaluate pros and cons and have clear consensus about what is the outcome expected from any online program,” says Krishna Kumar, Founder & CEO, Simplilearn. “Sometimes, the course may match all their preferences, but may not equip them for real-time job scenarios, or once they start pursuing the course, they realise that it would have been better to have a classroom/instructor-led training and real-time projects to understand the concepts better,” he adds.
Explore Websites Of Online Course Providers
While popular online course providers like Coursera, Udemy and Simplilearn continue to offer relevant courses in partnership with top companies and universities, many more niche companies providing similar services have emerged in the last few years. From school curriculum to competitive test preparation to professional certifications, there is much to explore.
Depending on the subject or topic you want to pursue, there are many websites that offer extensive learning opportunities. Just by gauging the breadth of their offerings – number of learners on the platform, courses provided, etc. – you will get a good understanding of their reach, and their advantages (and disadvantages). Although this exercise will help you shortlist some of these websites, you need to look deeper to understand which one you could benefit from.
After identifying the gaps in your skillsets and shortlisting websites of online course providers, your next step should be to thoroughly examine the course descriptions given next to the programs that interest you. Above all, it will help you understand what you will have learned by the end of the course. It will also give you a window into who the course is aimed at – if it is an advanced course, you will know at this stage itself that taking an intermediate-level course on the same subject will be a better fit for you.
Furthermore, good syllabus alone is not an indicator of a comprehensive curriculum. Additionally, you also need to factor in details like affiliated institutions, teaching faculty, methods used and the degree of flexibility it affords learners. Taken cumulatively, it will help you understand if the program can deliver on its promises, and whether it can truly enhance your capabilities and augment your career:
Reputed Institute: Many online course providers have teamed up with reputed institutes like Harvard, MIT, IIM, etc., promising an effective and rich pedagogy to learners. Thus, keeping a note of the university the course is affiliated with, and thereafter, reviewing and figuring out its credibility is crucial before you sign up.
“Choosing a program that is affiliated with renowned institutions, or that have received accreditations from national or international bodies is critical,” says Arjun Mohan, India-CEO of upGrad. “The core lies in your choice of the institution that will provide quality education and placement opportunities for a stable career ahead,” he adds.
Teaching Faculty: Designing a course curriculum in collaboration with a reputed institute may provide access to top academicians, but what could further enhance your learning is lessons from industry experts as well. While it is a good idea to check the credentials and qualifications of the university professors teaching the course, do make a mental note if they are leveraging insights from industry practitioners into their module as well.
“One of the criteria that I would use to choose a course is faculty background,” says Srinivasa Addepalli, CEO of GlobalGyan Academy of Management Education. “Professionals looking to upskill must ensure that they are learning from someone who is experienced in the application of those skills. The facilitator must bring expertise as well as a practical context,” he adds.
Teaching Methodology: Even if the above points check out, do not choose a course before evaluating the methods in which it is disseminated. Do you prefer video lessons that take recourse to visuals over simple podcasts? If so, you may want to keep an eye out for relevant courses. Some programs also provide live and interactive classes to keep learners engaged. What learning techniques would you prefer?
Flexibility Offered: With many of these courses taken up on the side, those that provide the flexibility of being self-paced and offer on-demand lessons have become important. Just by gauging the time, you would need to complete the course and will allow you to understand if you can realistically opt for live classes instead. Also, check if assignment deadlines are flexible, if the course includes peer interaction as well as one-on-one mentorship.
Online Reviews: While all of the above points should help you give a direction on what course to choose from, going over reviews and testimonials left by other learners will help you understand if you have been misled by any of the offerings listed. It could also shed a spotlight on aspects of the course that you may have missed.
Set A Suitable Budget
As mentioned above, while some courses are being offered for free during the Covid-19 pandemic, most of these may be providing only fundamentals on a given subject, or only a part of the entire course for free or for a subsidised rate. If you truly want to make the most of online offerings, it will be a good idea to set aside a budget for courses that are not only good, but will also give you a certification at the end of the course. Understand that a small investment today could lead to greater rewards tomorrow.
Once you have identified the skillsets you need to develop, the steps that you need to follow in order to choose the ideal course is the easier part. Being mindful of certain factors (listed above) will allow you to shortlist the best program that fits your time and budget.