By: Tanja Gardner
Why Keep Learning?
There's no doubting that adult education is a huge industry nowadays. With the job market growing ever more competitive, and employees being expected to continually develop themselves professionally (whatever their profession), 'lifelong learning' has become a necessity, rather than just an added bonus.
Failure to upskill can be the difference between getting the job of your dreams, and losing out to a slightly more qualified candidate - or simply being passed up yet again for a promotion.
Even for those outside of the workforce, education is the most reliable path to better relationships, a better financial situation, and better quality of life over all. Jim Rohn, America's foremost business philosopher, has been known to say that 'Formal education will make you a living - self education will make you a fortune!'
But what is it about internet education (or 'webucation') that makes it so popular? How do we know if online learning is right for us, or if we're better off signing up for face-to-face classes somewhere local?
Advantages of Learning Online
The most obvious advantage of online education is its sheer flexibility in terms of time. It allows you to study totally on your own timetable, around the many other commitments you already have in your life. You can study while working fulltime, while you're doing shiftwork or while caring for children or relatives. Whether you're at your best early in the morning or late in the evening, you can study at a time that suits you. You don't have to worry about catching tutors during their office hours, and courses are available to you 24/7, so you don't have to worry about fitting in with your lecturer's schedule.
Equally helpful is the geographical flexibility it gives you. Suddenly, transport logistics become a non-issue. You can study courses based in other cities - indeed in other countries. Travel costs like petrol and parking or public transport are a thing of the past; and you don't have to factor in travel time either (not to mention cutting out any rushing between classes if you're studying more than one at a time!)
Almost more important than logistics for many students, however, is the fact that online learning allows you to personalise your study. If you already know some of the material in the course syllabus, you don't need to wait for your fellow students to cover it before you move on to what *you* want to learn. If you're having difficulty understanding a particular concept, you can spend as much time on it as you want without feeling you're slowing your classmates down. You can find courses that are delivered in the medium *you* learn best in - whether that be audio, video, or the written word.
Online courses can be far more affordable than face-to-face classes as well. Fees are often lower; even before you factor in the lack of transport costs, parking, childcare fees, and any need to eat out. Most online courses will allow you to study totally at your own pace, so you can end up completing your course in far less time than it would take if you'd been attending weekly classes.
Is Online Education For Everyone?
The truth is that internet education won't suit everyone. For a start, you need to have a basic understanding of how to use a computer and connect to the internet, and not everyone does. However, the fact that you're reading this article online suggests you already have that understanding. You need to have regular Internet access - and it will be easier for you to study to your own timetable if you can connect to the 'Net at home, rather than at a friend's or a public library.
Just as for face-to-face classes (perhaps a little more so), you need to be organised and fairly self-motivated. You need to know exactly why you want to complete the course you enrol in, and really understand what difference passing it will make in your life. You need to be able to plan out when you're going to dedicate time to studying, and have the commitment to honour your plans.
If you know what you want to get out of online education, however, and you're willing to follow the study plans you set for yourself, 'webucation' can provide you with huge opportunities! It can reduce the logistical hassles of studying important courses, while providing you with a far more enjoyable, convenient and personalised learning experience. All this, and often at a price far less than face-to-face classes would cost you - it's no wonder Forbes magazine described internet education as "one of the biggest emerging trends of the decade".