5 Reasons to Take Online Courses

Online Courses reduced size

I used to think that the internet was for funny cat videos, Facebook, Wikipedia and not much else, but trust me, there are some useful things to do (and learn) on the internet. The options are endless, from the basics of HTML and WordPress (or Photoshop), Physics and Astronomy, Microbiology and Forensic Science to Photography and Financial Planning. Online Courses are fast becoming a cheaper, easier and in some cases a better option than taking a university course.

The Lowdown

You have a variety of different options and things to take into consideration when it comes to looking for online courses:

  • Free courses
  • Paid for courses
  • Time sensitive courses and modules
  • Self-paced courses and modules
  • Courses which give you a certificate/ diploma once completed
  • Courses which do not give you a certificate once completed

There are obviously pros and cons to each option. Have a look at why you should consider taking an online course.

1. Online Courses are flexible with time

Perhaps you’re one of the thousands of students who has already gone to University and obtained your degree, only to discover afterwards where your real passions lie. Fortunately you no longer have to go back to University and study for another four years to get the degree you wanted all along!

With online courses you can often sign up and begin at any time. Many of the courses are self-paced, which means that you can take as long (or as short) as you like to finish the course. It is however important to note that this is not the case with all online courses. Some courses are time sensitive and require you to complete the course or module in a certain amount of time. Figure out what works best for you! This is great news for students who are currently studying and are just hoping to gain a new skill set such as photography or graphic design.

2. Online courses are often cheaper

Let’s face it, very few people can actually afford to spend up to a hundred thousand rand every year for University fees making online courses a real contender in the education business. While not every course is free, the majority of the courses come at a fraction of the cost of University fees. Many of the courses come with the same accreditation that a University degree comes with (we’ll get into this in a moment!). You’ll also be taught by industry experts in a fashion which is often more hands-on than sitting in a lecture venue for 45 minutes every day. With online learning, just like at University, you get out what you put in, with the added benefit of being able to stay in your pj’s or sit at your favourite coffee shop while you learn!

3. Technology makes learning more fun!

Doing a course online means that you have all the technology we love and appreciate at your fingertips to help you get the best learning experience you can. From interactive videos, to quizzes, to hands-on practical assignments, online learning is far more exciting than your lecturer fiddling around with an overhead projector for 45 minutes!

Online educators are motivated to get you the results you desire, since often it is their own reputation which is on the line. The courses are designed in a way which is results driven, helping you to develop real skills which you can put to use in half the time it would take you to learn these skills at a University.

4. Your options are endless

When doing a course online, you often don’t have to worry about having done certain subjects in matric. The sheer amount and variety of courses available will blow your mind! Everything from learning a new language, the basics of nutrition, Midwifery, Psychology to Marine and Antarctic Science, is available in the form of online courses.

Online courses also give you the option of taking interesting courses which can make you a more attractive candidate to future employers. For example, a course on conflict management, could be useful in corporate environments. This highlights an important positive aspect of online courses. If you already have a degree, you have the option to add weight to your CV by taking a few relevant online courses. You can also improve your knowledge in a particular field by taking a few more relevant courses in your field. For example, a journalist may want to take an online course in travel writing or writing for the web, whereas a geologist may want to take a course on Mining Engineering.

5. You are not isolated

While you may not be able to meet your classmates face-to-face before a test to share your concerns and study notes, you still have to option to discuss the online course with other people who are also taking the course. Most courses provide a forum for discussion and you can contact people who are members of the course or website. Often the lectures are available for discussion via Skype or online.


1. Credentials and Qualifications

Does the person offering the course, have the credentials to teach this course? There is no use taking a course on “how to get published” by someone who has never had a single thing published! See where I’m going with this? Accredited courses will have an introduction from the teacher/s who will explain why they have the expertise in order to teach that course.

Look out for licences and other marks of legitimacy. You may also want to take into consideration whether or not the course offers credits which can be transferred to a University, and what weight these credits hold. Find out whether you will receive a diploma afterwards, or whether you’ll simply have a certificate of proof that you have done the course. Be aware that sometimes you’ll need to pay for this certificate.

Look into how each course is evaluated so that there are no surprise expenses at the end. For example, are there quizzes and assignments which are available online or do you need to write a test at a venue?

2. Refund Policy

This is a big one! Especially if you’re going to be paying for a course. There should be a period of time in which you can get your money back if you no longer intend to do the course, or you find the course is in fact not what you hoped. Make sure that you know what you are paying for, before you make the payment so that you do not waste money on something which is not what you wanted.

3. Reviews and Testimonials

Read up on what other students who have taken the course have to say about it. This way you can get an honest opinion on whether this course is worth taking. Accredited courses and sites make these reviews freely available in order to give an honest opinion about the courses available. In most cases you can also see how many people have signed up for that particular course.

4. Start by looking through MOOCS

If you’re feeling a little nervous about the process of finding an online course, start by looking through the MOOCS list (Massive Open Online Courses list).  The courses on the MOOCS list are all free, which is a good place to start! Start by trying a few courses to see if online learning will work for you, and then move onto the paid courses a little later.

Online learning is certainly not for everyone. People who live far out of big city centres or who do not enjoy big crowds may find online learning more useful than others. However, online courses do dictate that you would need to have an internet connection, which not everybody has!

-Shirley Erasmus (Article here)