In the age of COVID-19, we are all faced with the question of how to fill our free time. Many of us are taking up new hobbies; others are working on getting fit. Yet others are taking online courses in the hope of learning a new skill, boosting their resumé, or deepening their knowledge of a particular area. With a multitude of platforms, we are faced with the (difficult) decision of what courses to choose, out of easily several thousand. Here are my two cents’ worth on how to choose:
You need to decide how much time you really have and what you’re looking to gain. Ask yourself how much time you really have. Be realistic: if you only have three hours to spare, you should probably stick to one class. Then ask yourself what you really expect to get out of the class. Are you looking to develop a new skill? Do you want to learn something that may help you professionally? Or is it merely a topic of interest, which may have nothing to do with your skill set or your resumé?
Choose your platform — and keep your preferred language in mind. The best known platform is Coursera, which gives participants access to thousands of classes, some taught by one of the world’s top universities. There are also EdX and FutureLearn. Most of the classes are taught in English, but there are some exceptions. Many countries have their own online learning platforms: Ukraine, for example, has www.prometheus.org.ua. If you’re not comfortable with English as a language of instruction, check out your national sites — and remember that many have courses for learners of English! Also remember that there are sites with courses on a particular subject, such as BangBangEducation, which only offers design courses — in Russian. Search for subject-specific platforms as well!)
Most importantly, consider the quality of the course. With the multitude of platforms (and the sheer number of courses offered by them), it’s easy to get lost — and to even make the wrong choice if you’re not careful! Not all classes are high-quality, so exercise caution to avoid disappointment. Keep the following things in mind:
Ultimately, good instruction is what makes the biggest difference. Check out your instructor: do they have sufficient qualifications to be teaching your class? Or is it a hobby project for them? Do a little snooping around. Does the class have good reviews? Will the instructor answer your questions outside scheduled periods? Does your instructor have previous experience teaching online? Just because someone has taught face-to-face for years does not mean that they can effectively teach students online.
Does your instructor have experience in leading discussions and conducting an interactive class? Or do they just like to lecture? In the age of online learning, consider how important it is for instructors to engage their students. Read reviews carefully: what do students say about their teaching style? Do they feel like there was room for discussion? (If you know someone who has taken this class before, ask them what they think!)
Once you’ve gone through these steps, you should have a fairly good idea of whether or not you’ve chosen the right course. We wish you the best of luck in your online learning!