Upskilling: Online Courses vs...

Upskilling: Online Courses vs Traditional Education

by Meghan Brown
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

The modern workforce is always changing, and at an ever-faster rate.  New technologies, new processes, and new ideas are changing what our work entails, and what jobs are available.  New jobs are coming into existence that need workers to have new skills and knowledge—and if you want these jobs, you have to develop these in-demand skills.

Maybe your job is changing and to succeed you’ll need to learn something new.  Or maybe you want to get promoted, or to one day change careers into a different field, but need some new skills in order to get there.

What is Upskilling?

You will naturally accumulate knowledge and experience while working in your chosen career, but upskilling differs in that it involved a more deliberate pursuit of new or improved skills.  This is accomplished through taking internal or external training courses, participating in mentorship programs, completing certifications, and more.  Upskilling can focus on improving the technical skills needed for your job, or improving your soft skills such as communication, leadership, and problem solving.

There are lots of personal benefits to upskilling, including increasing your competitiveness in the job market, achieving a promotion or new position, or simply for the joy of self-improvement.  The more skills you have, the more valuable you are to your workplace, and the more successful you’ll be in your career.

Once you determine which skills you want to build on, you need to find out the best way to gain this knowledge.  Luckily, there are plenty of education options for people looking to upskill, available both as online courses and via traditional educational classroom settings.  Depending on the skills you’re pursuing, and the way you learn best, will determine whether online courses or traditional courses will be the best option for you.  Availability will also play a factor, as some skills are better taught hands-on in a classroom while others are perfectly suitable for remote learning, and vice versa.

Online Education and Training

Online education (also called remote learning) offers a number of benefits, but may not be suitable for every student.  Most online courses offer flexible schedules and on-demand access to materials, which makes it easy for you to study around your other work or family obligations.  However, this also means that students are responsible for managing their own time and study schedule, ensuring they watch recordings, read materials, and complete assignments with minimal supervision or reminders.

Signing on for an online course also requires you to have access to the appropriate computer hardware or other digital devices – typically a tablet or laptop/desktop computer.  If you don’t own these, you’ll need to ensure you can borrow one or have access through a library or school.  Often if your online course is offered through a college or university, you will be able to use campus computer labs – but having to physically go to campus rather defeats the purpose of taking an online course.

Another benefit of online education is that you can take courses offered from anywhere.  Many colleges and universities offer online courses either alone or as part of a program.  There are also plenty of open options such as EdX, Coursera, MasterClass, and more.

Traditional Education and Training

The other option for upskilling is through more traditional classroom-based learning, where you attend a class physically to learn from a teacher and work directly with your peers.  For skills that are best learned with hands-on experience, an in-person course will likely serve you best.  These courses also ensure you have direct access to the teacher or trainer to ask any questions you have, engage in discussion, and get them to show you how to do something if you’re having trouble.

Many people learn best in a traditional education environment because they prefer having scheduled class times, structured schedules for readings and assignments, and face-to-face interactions.  Attending courses in person at a trade school, college, or university also means you have access to the campus resources such as study groups, academic counsellors, libraries, labs, and other facilities.

Upskill To Your Heart’s Content

Regardless of whether you learn best online or in a classroom, there are plenty of upskilling courses available.  If your company offers training courses, take them whenever possible.  If you are pursuing some upskilling on your own initiative, do your research to find out what is available through colleges, universities, trade schools, or online educational platforms, and choose the learning style that works for you.

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