The Rise of Online Learning (And Why It's Right For You)

Written by Marisol Dahl

From 2001 to 2011, the number of full-time college students rose 38%. In the same time, the number of people taking online courses rose to over six million. Just ten years ago, only about 13.5% of students were taking at least one online course. Now we’re talking 32%—one third of the college population.

It’s loud and clear: online learning is a force to reckon with. With their accessibility and competitive quality, online courses are allowing more and more people to continue their education and build new skills.

And it isn’t just colleges and universities that are offering online classes—we’re also seeing a rise in the quantity, quality, and affordability of unaffiliated courses, too. Groups like Treehouse and Fizzle offer subscribers tons of classes, support, and training in the fields of web development and business. Thought leaders like Shawn Achor and David Allen have put together entire online platforms to make their knowledge and techniques more accessible.

With more education opportunities at our fingertips, how do you know how or when to dive in? Is it better to go back to school full-time with a backpack and campus ID in hand, or will an online course suffice?

Online learning is here to stay, but how does it fit into your own life?

4 Signs It's Time to Take an Online Course

1. You’ve hit a ceiling with your current job and are ready to move up.

You’re great at your job—fantastic even. But something’s keeping you from jumping to that next level and significantly increasing your earning power. Is it your dexterity in technology? Lack of leadership training? Limited understanding of Facebook marketing?

Learning a new skill might just be your ticket to rev up your workplace performance and position yourself to take on more responsibility and projects. With hundreds of thousands of online courses out there starting at all levels of expertise, you can zero in on the exact skill you want to build without the added nonsense of college major requirements or re-learning the stuff you already know.

2. You’re just not that interested in adding to your student debt.

But then again, who is? With average undergraduate student debt now at $29,400 and average graduate student debt at $57,600, it’s no wonder people look to alternative learning methods. There are thousands of quality online courses out there for a fraction of the cost of a college class credit—many are completely free!

3. You can’t commit to a rigid class schedule.

Let’s be honest. Very few of us have the time, financial ability, or desire to leave our jobs. We want to keep learning, but not at the expense of cutting out time from our families, hobbies and other projects. Online courses are wonderfully flexible. Most are self-paced and location independent, so learning a new skill doesn’t require a complete pause on other things in your life. Also, going to class in your pajamas is pretty awesome.

4. You want to stay competitive in your field.

With a rapidly-changing job market and advances in technology, odds are there’s always going to be something new to master. Keeping up with it all through online courses is a great way to demonstrate competence and dedication to your employers and peers in your field.

Take Learning Into Your Own Hands

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level with online learning, we suggest starting with SkilledUp, an online course discovery platform built to help you gain new skills.

SkilledUp believes anyone can quickly learn something new and become more marketable to employers. SkilledUp curates the world of online learning by comparing courses across different sources and only focusing on the ones with high returns on investment. It has the largest collection of online courses all in one place, so searching for that perfect class is easy.

We’re proud to have a partner so dedicated to a quality online learning experience. SkilledUp allows users to browse course reviews and ratings to find that perfect match. Their new Trends & Insights section offers quality reporting on the trends, challenges, and innovations in education as it relates to workforce development.

SkilledUp’s ultimate vision is to transform education as we know it—how it’s delivered, how much it costs, and how quickly it helps you get to a career you love.

Exclusive Offer for Life After College Readers

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At just $10, you’ll get lifetime access to 28 lectures filled with job hunting facts and hacks. Learn more about this generous offer here.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments:

What new skill would you like the learn this month?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol is currently a Sociology and Education Studies major at Yale University. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. When not running around campus and catching up with her school reading, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading dystopian fiction, and trying out new recipes. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.