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Do Free Online Courses Help Your Career?

Pursuing an ongoing education gives you a necessary edge in this changing world. It can increase your value to your employer, opening you up to promotions or saving you from layoffs and cutbacks. It can also increase your marketability in pursuing a new career path and competing against other candidates.
A laptop with a book, an apple and pencils on top of it.

The world is changing quickly. People who don’t keep up could be at risk for becoming outdated in their jobs. Today’s careers not only require knowledge of the job itself, but often other tasks such as computer skills and social media. In the past, staying educated cost a lot of money, but today, through massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other online educational tools, you can take courses for free from some of the nation’s top educational institutions such as MIT and Harvard.

Free online courses can help further your career in several ways:

They can increase your value to your employer. Free online courses can help you perform better at your job with greater knowledge and skills, offering more value at the same price and increasing your chances of retaining your job should cutbacks and layoffs occur. Further, it can increase your chances of getting a raise or promotion.

They meet continuing education requirements. Many jobs require that you learn about new trends and stay informed about what’s going on in your industry. For example, as an adoption social worker, I was required to have 15 hours of additional education every year regarding adoption and child welfare. If you have a job that requires continuing education, free online courses offer affordability and convenience toward meeting your requirements.

They increase your marketability. If you’re hoping for a promotion or want to land a better job, free courses can give you information and skills that appeal to employers and will help you better compete against other candidates.

While free online courses offer many benefits, there are some limitations.

  1. There may be few, if any, courses in your industry.
  2. Free courses may not offer degrees, certificates or educational credit that might be required for your job.
  3. Depending on your learning style, the format and delivery of the course may be a challenge.
  4. Limited teacher-student interaction may make it difficult to get additional support.

To take advantage of free online learning:

  1. Research course offerings. You can visit individual colleges online or check out sites like edX, that list courses from many colleges in one place.
  2. Go over the course information to make sure it meets your needs.
  3. Read the technological requirements to make sure you have the equipment and tools you need to complete the course.
  4. Read the prerequisites. Some classes may require previous knowledge in the course area.
  5. Check the dates and time of the course to make sure you can fit it in your schedule.
  6. Participate fully in the course. Many online courses offer live online seminars and discussion groups. These will enhance your learning and can also be a good way to network and get support.

Whether your career demands it or not, expanding your knowledge and skill set should be something you do regularly to increase your value and marketability in your job or home business. Expanding your knowledge and skill set also allows you to learn complementary skills to your job or get insights into other career paths you might be interested in pursuing.

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