How To Choose The Right Self-Paced Course? - FocusU

How To Choose The Right Self-Paced Course?

Melissa is the Design Director at a large communications firm, based in Australia. She is aiming for a senior position in her organisation and hence, is trying to pick up skills which will help enhance her creativity. During this online search, she remembers having previously done a course with an organisation (let’s call it ABC), reputed in the space of innovation and design thinking. She revisits their website to see if they have some courses which could match her interest. As it turns out, they did indeed! She is thrilled by the prospect and immediate;KY reaches out to her manager and the Learning & Development Team. She takes the necessary approvals to get the course sponsored and enrolls for the same. The course is due to start in a week’s time and the prospect leaves her with a content smile : the certification would be a good addition to her leadership journey.

Half way across the world, Graham is looking for something very similar but for a completely different purpose. He is the founder and director of a Design Thinking company headquartered in Netherlands. There is a large client engagement coming up, where Graham has to lead a large multi-functional team to redesign a service. His business partner suggests him to do a course on leading a creative team, offered by ABC. Without wasting any time, Graham searches for the website and finds the course he wants. He is delighted to find that the objectives match his requirements to a T and gets himself enrolled, immediately. Scheduled to start in a week, it aligns perfectly with the client engagement.

Melissa and Graham don’t know it yet, but their paths will cross in a week from now, on a creative leadership course designed by experts at ABC.

The Pandemic has forced organisations to move most of their workforce to remote teams. With professional and personal lives clashing, individuals have been forced to redesign their lives.  How they work, their routines and also their home-based workspaces – everything has been turned around. However, it has also given back to the employees, control of many things. This is especially true in the case of learning and development options. With the need for more flexibility, learners prefer to opt for self paced courses. This allows them to manage their job expectations well, by allowing them the freedom to learn at their own sweet time, sometimes even at 1 in the morning. While online learning had always been around, this Pandemic has accelerated the shift, so much so, that several EdTech companies have registered unprecedented growth rates, during this very period. For example, with worldwide stay-at-home advisories and lockdowns, course enrolments across the entire Udemy platform increased by more than 425% and consumption across Udemy for Business surged by a whopping 90%!

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So, if you are someone trying to decide if you should opt a self-paced course spread out across several weeks, how do you go about it? Here are some questions you could consider :

What Is Your Objective?

Easier said than done, this one requires your proper attention. Before you enroll yourself and invest that money or convince your organization to sponsor for it, be very clear on the objective. Without a clear goal, you will lose motivation very soon. One of the ailments of self-paced courses is its abysmal completion rates. Learners are often not committed because the goal is not strong enough. Here are some objectives you may consider :

Will it help you develop a skill which is in demand in your domain?

– Will it help you acquire more customers?

– Will it help you progress in your leadership journey?

– Will it make you feel more fulfilled at work?

– Will it add a feather to your cap?

– Is the course certified by a known institution which will add value to you resume?

While Melissa is clearly taking up the course to further her career in her organization, Graham is taking it to help him drive a client engagement.

Will You Benefit From Social Learning?

One of the greatest benefits of self-paced courses is the ability to connect with a global community of motivated peers. Not only do they share your passion for the subject, but they are also working on very similar problems that you can learn from. Here are some points to consider :

Does the course allow you to review peer submissions and receive peer feedback on your submission?

– Is there an open forum where there are important questions being asked, openly?

– Does the course and the facilitator encourage these conversations?

– Can you reach out to the Facilitator or your peers if you have more questions or need feedback?

Melissa and Graham will be benefitting from hundreds of design and innovation professionals who have joined this course to work on different design problem statements.

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Are You Looking To Develop Long Term Habits?

Since most self-paced courses are spread across weeks or months, they contribute to building habits. Even though many may drop off midway — the ones who stay committed benefit deeply through opportunities for practice and nudges.

Why and how does this work?

The answer lies in the concept of neuroplasticity of the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. We are able to learn new things because of our brain’s plasticity. Unfortunately, we lose these skills pretty fast if we don’t strengthen the brain cells through practice.

With a self-paced course, you have the opportunity to practice your skills in the flow of work. And this is extremely important. Let’s take Graham’s example. The progress of the course is aligned to his client engagement. Fortunately, each learning objective aligns well with the journey of the engagement. So, he leverages the tools and the templates provided in the course to drive the engagement and arrive at high quality outcomes. In a live course, this is simply not possible. Of course, learners can bring live projects to a course, but there is no way to keep executing it as it happens, in the flow of work.

Join the conversation by sharing what you feel are critical questions to ask, before enrolling in a self-paced course.

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