Are Online Courses Worth It? Everything You Need to Know

Education is arguably the fundamental gateway to success by means of knowledge and skills transfer. With global institutions now offering an array of online courses and programmes, it offers ambitious people new opportunities to expand their knowledge and expertise, thus making them more employable in South Africa’s competitive workforce. Likewise, specialised online courses are designed to provide you with very specific skills that can assist your career growth in a particular area that interests you.

What is the difference between campus, distance and online study?

There are differences between each of these learning models. Some major differences between these forms of study are the pacing of lessons and the level of interaction between instructors and students.

  • Distance learning – This form of education is not conducted in real-time. It requires little to no interaction between instructors and students.
  • Campus study – The on-campus approach is a stronger face-to-face facilitation in which a strict timetable is followed with the lesson for that specific period which is covered by both the facilitator and student who need to be at a venue on campus in order to receive interaction and support.
  • Online study – The method of study typically associated with online courses and programmes relies on a higher level of interaction than distance study, with a teaching style which is a bit similar to a traditional classroom setting – but without the actual classroom! Online study is facilitated by offering the student a range of resources that serve to assist them throughout their learning journey.

MANCOSA students have the decision making power to choose the most appropriate mode of study. Both distance and online study modes offer a flexible, convenient and alternative to a traditional on-campus course. The recommended best way forward is to weigh out all the advantages and disadvantages of the study options before deciding on the best option for your career needs.

Are Online Courses Worth It? Everything You Need to Know

Benefits of an online course

Online Higher Education Certificates are specifically designed to be vocationally driven, allowing a student to enter the job market faster and with a very specific skill set. As we embrace technology and the 4th Industrial revolution, employers focus on graduates that have the necessary skills in conjunction with the appropriate qualification. These skills are computer literacy, efficient time management, critical thinking, leadership along with flexibility and mobility.

We can then categorise some of the benefits of our online courses which are suitable in building towards the necessary skill set required for your career of choice. This includes:

  • Cost saving
  • Flexibility, Convenience, and Time Savings
  • More Effective Learning
  • Mobility
  • Easy Accessibility
  • Information Retention

Are online courses worth it?

The right online course is definitely worth it but you would be wise to be cautious in choosing a course. There are a number of online courses available currently. Several training providers are jumping on the bandwagon to make online courses and programmes available, and unfortunately some have little to no academic value Therefore, prospective learners need to be cautious in choosing an online course. Before one embarks on registering for an online course, we suggest conducting some personal research on the service provider.

Prospective learners should:

  • Choose a desired course
  • Research the various service providers who have the course available
  • Consider the reputation of the service provider
  • Look at reviews and affiliations
  • Research the quality of facilitators or support staff
  • Understand the module breakdown and identify if it is benchmarked against other similar courses
  • Choose a service provider who is technologically advanced

Contextualise your online course – why do you want to study?

If you know what you want to achieve then your decision is an easy one. Online courses can prove worthwhile if properly contextualised. There are four different areas in which one could identify suitable courses based on what you wish to achieve.

  • Courses aligned to professional development: These courses are linked to specific professions and are often offered by professional bodies and ties up with Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  • Courses to improve skills (new learners): Individuals fresh out of school or university are new to the job market. Since they have little to no experience of the workplace, they add value to their skills set by understanding the basic business requirements such as business etiquette, report writing, communication skills and time management.
  • Courses to improve skills (advanced learners): These individuals are already within the organisational sector. They seek to improve skills in their current workspaces and their future development.
  • Courses to improve hobbies: Learners have an opportunity to learn new skills which they enjoy on a personal level, such as floral arrangements or make-up application. Some of them use these skills to catapult their entrepreneurial careers.

Research shows shift to virtual learning in higher education

recent study conducted by Harvard Business School highlights the preference of learners to study via online courses. The trend is relative to the times we live in and the receptiveness to multigenerational workforces as well as technological trends brought forth by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Taking into consideration the shift towards the GIG economy, learners want to be multi-skilled to take on different work tasks. Online courses make this possible.

The decision to include an online course as part of a resume or future job applications is entirely up to the leader. However, cognisance needs to be taken of the following:

  • An overkill of all online courses are not a necessity on a CV
  • Add technically specific courses to relevant jobs only
  • Add courses that will enhance the profile for a specific job
Working student studying online
Working student studying online

Is it better to get an online course certificate or a degree?

A degree should be a baseline qualification, as it creates greater opportunities for promotions, higher pay rates and global exposure while an online course helps you acquire a specific skill set in a relatively short space of time. With the varying socio-economic conditions that are so prevalent in South Africa, affordability to complete degrees are not always possible for learners. Fortunately, education service providers such as MANCOSA offer different options which make a higher education qualification, accessible to more people, especially the options to study part-time while occupied in full time employment.

Large corporates often partner with education institutions for graduate recruitment programmes which gives learners a wealth of opportunities whether they are full- or part-time. These industries focus on graduates as they will have a sound educational foundation and, with a directed training programme, these graduates can be shaped to progress further within the organization.

Although online courses add value to a skills set, it is advisable to complete a basic degree and enhance your skills set thereafter with online courses. With the flexibility in place for a blended learning approach, learners must take full advantage of these opportunities to develop themselves with a formal qualification.

What types of online courses can I study?

MANCOSA has a wide range of Higher Certificate Online Courses which will add value to a learner’s profile. These courses will augment a CV for future employment or enhance current employment and skills. Some of our recommended courses are:

  • Project Management: is an important skill required by various organisations to manage a number of fundamental and complex projects
  • Human Resources: offers learners insight into the basic human resource functions in organisations

These can be completed within a short space of time and are offered fully online. For job seekers, these qualifications will present an opportunity to enter organisation at a foundation level, allowing them to build a skills set and adequate experience to move up the ranks. Employees who display high levels of energy, initiative and a willingness to learn are often offered an opportunity to further their studies, which are sometimes financially supported by the organisation.

Study online courses with MANCOSA

While competition for limited workspaces increase, and a reliance on technology and AI are fast becoming a reality, individuals need to focus on a concerted effort to constantly upskill themselves. There are a number of ways currently available and with such a focus on online platforms which have significantly increased in recent times, many people have turned to online courses to give them the competitive edge. Find an online course that suits your personal career development with MANCOSA or contact us to speak to a consultant who can advise you about your options.

AuthorsDr Aradhana Ramnund-Mansingh and Ms Nikita Reddy