New to online learning? Here’s what you need to know

With the rapid increase in technological developments and positive press, Australia’s eLearning industry has encountered expansive growth in recent years. On top of this, the workforce has placed greater importance onupskilling and lifelong learning – increasing demand for more accessible, flexible, and practical training.

Online learning offers such education, with the industry proven to have higher satisfaction rates, a more adaptable study experience, and even a “greener” environmental impact (online courses lead to an average of 90% less energy and 85% fewer C02 emissions per student, compared to “traditional” learning environments).

Our nation currently houses over 1,000 online education providers, with thousands of students enrolled each year.

If you’re looking to enter the world of eLearning for the first time, we cover the basics you need to know – and how AIICT can help.

Self-motivation and discipline are a must

With online learning comes the freedom of a studying anytime and anywhere that suits you best. However, this also comes with a great degree of responsibility attached; with no one setting your schedule or timetable for you, you are held solely accountable for your time management – on top of the quality and success of your assignments.

Being in control of their own education, this independence may actually boost some online students to study and work harder.

However, since those who undergo online learning are likely involved in other work or family commitments, it can be easy to fall prey to distractions.

As stated by Rahul Choudaha, the executive vice-president of StudyPortals: “The majority of students in these programs are adult learners; there’s a lot more going on in their lives… it could be a function of work, commute, family – all those things can disrupt, despite the good intentions of individuals.”

It’s therefore important to establish a strict (yet sustainable) study schedule for yourself as a online student. Some recommend using a weekly planner in order to make your study sessions a habit, as well as set up a quiet, productive workspace free of time-sinks and common distractions.

It can also be effective to break up assignments, rather than completing them in one sitting. Some students may choose to spread out an assessment over the course of a week – others may need a longer or shorter timespan to make the task more manageable.

Additionally, reward yourself with incentives after hitting certain goals. This could be an episode of your favourite show after finishing a paper, or a weekend out with friends once you’ve finished exams. These function as “motivators” to boost your drive and morale, helping you maintain consistency in your study schedule.

Online courses are just as challenging as traditional courses

With the great amount of flexibility it offers, many are quick to assume that online courses are the “easy” academic route – though this can’t be farther from the truth.

Since the leading eLearning providers of Australia are regulated and approved by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) – all online study programs must maintain a high level of academic standard, with courses providing nationally-recognised credentials.

This means that trusted online courses will typically have a similar workload to that of their traditional counterparts. Online students are likely required to complete the same amount of readings and assessments; and participate in just as much student or instructor-led discussions to achieve the qualification they’re after.

In fact, some may argue that online study requires far more effort to complete – since students are required to go an extra mile to establish a disciplined routine, along with maintaining consistent online contact with their peers.

Melanie Gibson, recruiter for the Sydney-based agency Keegan Adams, stated that an online qualification is seen as an “asset” among potential candidates, as it proves their capability of balancing their time and personal commitments with a clear career goal in mind.

Fortunately, most employers are currently aware of the substantial, qualified training that online education provides; with studies showing little discrimination between job candidates with online qualifications and those with traditional degrees. Many tend to view eLearning credentials as equal – if not greater – in value to that of a university qualification.

Learning outcomes are just as, if not more, effective

Research has shown that online students have the potential to learn more than those in traditional courses.

Conducted by IBM, a recent study of eLearning students showed that they could learn five times more material through their programs’ multimedia content – than those learning in face-to-face traditional courses.

The results were attributed to the flexibility of online courses, and thus, students’ ability to work at a pace or speed that works best for them. With full control over their studies, online learners can breeze through aspects of a course they feel most confident and comfortable with – while taking their time in other areas that require greater concentration.

Additionally, retention rates are found to be higher among online learners. U.S. statistics have shown the ability of online courses to increase retention rates from anywhere between 25% to 60%. Reasons for this could include their ability to better engage students (through their tailored, adaptive mode of learning), and reduced likelihood of their classes clashing with other personal or work-related commitments.

Student satisfaction has also risen in recent years, and are now at similar levels to that of face-to-face learning.

Finally, most education providers ensure that their courses are taught by industry experts in their respective fields. At the Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT), for example, all training is provided by experienced professionals of the IT sector, ensuring you receive the highest-quality instruction possible.

You’ll have plenty of opportunity to network and connect with other students

Since most online learners complete their courses from home, this mode of study is typically seen as an isolating experience.

However, plenty of eLearning providers have their own learning portal or intranet, providing students with interactive forums to connect and participate in course discussions. Some may even have communities on social media (such as Facebook groups) to further network and communicate with your peers of a specific course.

At AIICT, students are given 24/7 access to a platform known as “StudySpot” – an online hub that not only hosts their webinars and various learning materials, but provides discussion boards for connecting with classmates and instructors. This way, as remote as your learning may be, you’ll never have to feel “alone” in your educational journey.

Additionally, students can take the initiative to reach out to their peers through the wide range of social media and telecommunication tools now available.

Individuals can get to know their classmates even further (and possibly make lasting industry contacts) through connections via LinkedIn, Facebook, or other platforms. If you crave that face-to-face interaction, videoconferencing tools such as Skype or Zoom allow you to host online video discussions with multiple people.

It’s not uncommon to feel lonely in the online learning world; but with the various social technologies at your disposal, you can still build the connections and network you need for a memorable, meaningful study experience.

Looking to study online?

With its global success among current workers and high school graduates alike, online learning is here to stay. The medium allows for people to acquire the work-ready, industry skills they need – while remaining adaptive to their personal needs and schedule.

Aspiring ICT professionals can get the flexible, quality training they need through AIICT’s online courses. Students can delve into the fundamentals of cyber security, web development, or general information technology – while tailoring their studies according to work or other commitments. All courses culminate in nationally-recognised qualifications to boost your employability in an ever-competitive job market.

Kickstart your career in ICT today, and enquire with our experts on a course.