Courses and ‘universities’ which don’t need you to go to college
Life is sometimes difficult for a science nerd with too many opinions on all things humanities. Yes, that’s me. I unwittingly became a science nerd because “everyone studied engineering” in our times. But when I launched my career as a full-time writer and wanted to write about social issues, I realized I was probably a little under-qualified for it. I had no academic background in humanities and my opinions were merely based in personal context and common sense. It is one thing to shape one’s life decisions based on common sense, but to write extensive op-eds based on them? That was going to be tricky. Did that mean I’d need to go right back to college? That wasn’t an option; I had no time to waste. This is the story of how I discovered the wonder that is online education, no matter what your chosen field of study is and whether you are doing it out of interest or career aspirations.
In the course of my research, I discovered a plethora of online courses that had me questioning the very institution of college. I have been questioning it since the early 2000s when I first stepped into one but at least this time around, my questions were based on logic. Did you know that no matter what you want to study – science or humanities, marketing, finance or HR – the internet is a wonderful place for it? I don’t just mean forming opinions based on tweet threads and op-eds. I mean real, academic learning.
The last few years have seen an explosion in the online learning space, and I for one couldn’t be more thankful. It was about time too. Whether you want to ace technical skills to advance your career or switch to a new one; whether you want to be a better, more well-rounded manager and leader, or you just want to form informed opinions like I did, there is something for everyone in the online education space. There are several online portals that offer courses free of cost as well as at a nominal fee. Here are some of the best ones I discovered:
According to its website, “Every course on Coursera is taught by top instructors from the world’s best universities and educational institutions. Courses include recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums. When you complete a course, you’ll receive a sharable electronic course certificate.” The portal also offers specializations and university-recognized online degrees. Today, the site offers 2,000+ courses, over 180 specializations, almost 150 university partners, and four recognized degree courses, and has an astounding 25 million-strong user base.
Founded by the likes of MIT and Harvard, edX is yet another quality online education portal that offers courses from the world’s top universities to learners around the world. With over 90 global partners, edX continues to be governed by universities and institutes, and is by and large an open-source and not for profit website. Courses on edX include:
- MicroMasters or a series of master level career advancement and leadership courses created by top universities and recognized by companies. MicroMasters programs are credit-eligible, provide on-demand knowledge and may be applied to accelerate a Master’s degree.
- Professional certificates developed by industry leaders and top universities to enhance professional skills.
- XSeries includes courses designed by renowned subject matter experts and universities. They provide deep understanding of chosen subjects through a series of courses.
A Government of India initiative, Swayam aims to bridge the digital divide in education. It includes courses from high school all the way to post graduate level. Education bodies involved in developing the curriculum and delivering courses include names like National School of Open Learning, NCERT, IGNOU, IIM-Bangalore, UGC and more. Swayam courses are available free of cost. However for certification, learners must register for a nominal fee and successfully complete the course. At the end of each course, assessments are conducted and credits are then transferred to the learner’s education records.
Now for some courses that I found online that I thought were rather useful:
Want training in an up-and-coming programming language that promises potential in the near future? Missed engineering college lists but not the aspiration to become a coder? Find courses on portals like Code Academy and get started.
For the longest time, statistics was a niche space. But now, everyone needs a statistician, from marketing teams of FMCG brands to social networking brands like Twitter and Facebook. Upskill yourself in a cost- and time-efficient manner by signing up for a course on Online Stat Book and edX.
Digital marketing and online advertising
This is yet another domain that has exploded in recent times. Given the cost efficiency and targeted reach of this form of marketing, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. Considering the recentness of this entirely new domain, many major traditional marketing and communication courses have not included it in the curriculum. It would still help to pick up the basics in the form of institutionalized learning on online platforms like Digital Vidya.
This is not all. From psychology to sociology, features writing to personal essays, there is hardly a subject that you are deeply interested in or want to learn as part of your career development that is not available online.
Simply put, Google names of subjects and domains you are interested in or visit university websites to find relevant courses. Continuous learning in the new age is truly as simple as this!