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We've spent 100s of hours reviewing online courses & elearning platforms to bring you the best
How to get started learning online?
There are over 200 online course platform providers offering over 1,000,000 courses and the list is growing by the day.
The world of elearning can seem overwhelming at first but take it step by step and you will be in your dream job or holding court at dinner parties in no time.
First decide what you want to study
Then it is just a matter of how far you want to go
One of the first big questions to answer is whether what you want to learn is suited to elearning and online classes. If you are looking to learn dance, then no amount of watching videos will help. Because as the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
A basic rule is if what you want to learn involves physical activity or mastering manual tools then elearning is probably best used in support of real-world apprentice style studying.
You can get a lot of help online with learning to drive, mastering the guitar or becoming a better public speaker but until you practise your skills in the real world your progress will always be limited.
Discover the best way to learn online
The best online classes offer the structure and support required for you to learn new skills. The worst are just a waste of time and money.
We are here to help you make the right choice.
The key is knowing where to look
How do online classes work?
Generally, you will access your online classes through dedicated Online Course Providers who have specially designed elearning platforms.
An online class normally contains a series of videos that will walk you through the topic at hand. To assist you in your path to learning the teacher of the course will often provide documentation and email support to help you fully grasp the subject and the teachings.
In many courses, you will have quizzes and exams to measure your progression. It is becoming more common to receive a certificate at the end of the course. These certificates often cost money and have a mixed impact on job searches. Check out our post on online certificates to learn more.
Teacher & peer support is a big part of elearning. The best platforms enable and encourage peers to support each other as they learn through forums and discussion boards.
Since online classes are available to anyone with an internet connection you will often be accompanied by hundreds or thousands of people on your elearning journey. The best online course providers have strong student discussion boards, forums and class reviews to help you on your way.
Are online classes free?
The most common way is to pay a Monthly Subscription to the platform owner and that gives you access to as many courses as you can handle
There are many Free courses available online
Most online course providers will offer some mix of Free and Paid classes
A great tip is that most of these platforms will offer a free trial. It is a very good idea to try a few on for size before you commit to one for your learning journey.
Elearning is moving beyond relying on students learning by watching short videos. Online course providers are beginning to offer longer form content. This longer form content comes under many names but they are similar to an Accreditation programme or even a Degree.
Even though you can get an entire degree online it is very important that you do your research before signing up. In the online world, there is less scrutiny on what is being called a Degree. Some are little more than a series of videos being strung together with an exam at the end.
Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google are also offering training programmes aimed at teaching you the skills required to get a job.
If you are not sure which is the best online course provider you can read our reviews to find out which is the best one for you.
Surfing the online wave
Elearning has definitely matured and the online class platforms that we review and discuss here at The School Bell offer a lot more than an uploaded video of a lecture.
Now there is AI and huge student communities to help you gain new skills.
One of the best things about online course providers is that they provide you with predefined steps that you move through to achieve your goal.
Youtube is a great place to find out how to do almost anything. However, the videos tend to be focused on entertainment or quick walkthroughs.
The educators do not need to worry about fighting with cat videos for your attention. Well, not from a learning perspective at least.
What is elearning?
For many people, a quick browse through Youtube and some popular blogs will be enough to scratch their elearning itch. If you are looking for something a little more serious then The School Bell is here to help.
If you want to find out more about "MOOCs" or online classes in general then keep reading. If you have a specific course provider in mind like Coursera, Udemy or Lynda then check out our Platform Reviews page.
Elearning is a simple concept to get your head around. Like most things when it has the letter "e" in front of it they took something that people used to do offline and put it online. Articles, How To's, Lectures, Courses and even degrees that use to exist in book and classrooms are now available online for anyone to access.
Looking for something specific?
The more specific the skill or knowledge you wish to attain the easier it is to pick a provider. It is also more likely that you can learn it for free using Youtube, blogs and helpful websites.
For example, if you want to learn to shoot in low light on an iphone X then Google is your best friend.
This form of learning can only take you so far. If you want to learn about how to become a professional photographer then consider a professional course provider like Coursera
Once you get through the eGates of your new school then you will find a platform that is designed to teach you new skills and provide you with a broad understanding of a topic. Maintaining the motivation and drive can tough, check out our hints and tips for how to get the most out of each course.
When did Online Learning begin?
It might surprise you to learn that people have been learning online for decades.
If you are old enough to remember the first problem solving and Encyclopaedia games you will be pleased with how far we have come since then. It will surprise absolutely no one that the initial attempts from elearning providers were not very good. Mainly because internet connections were slow and processors lacked power.
It could also be that people were too focused on discovering the next big thing in terrible haircuts to worry about digital self-improvement.
Despite the early setbacks, computer-based "elearning" grew quickly. People were attracted by the easy access to information and the ability to learn at their own.
The real change, the thing that took online learning mainstream came around 2005. This was videos.
Online Learning was starting to break free from being just long pages of text or blocky Question and Answer games.
In the early 21st century many people saw a chance to take advantage of this revolution and the MOOC was born, graduated online when the internet became a widespread relatively speedy thing that could handle videos in the early '00s.
Rise of the MOOC
MOOC is a rather odd term and its meaning has changed and expanded over the years. for websites that offer a wide array of online courses and classes.
MOOC = Massive Open Online Course
The internet and the ever-increasing memory & bandwidth that both teachers and students have had access to has meant that elearning is definitely here to stay. Streaming lectures, saving Ted talks, getting instant feedback on a piece of code or poetry from across the globe is mighty addictive once you get going.
If you have not already taken the plunge the time to start elearning is now!