The allure of online education is undeniable—low-cost learning wherever you are, whenever you’d like.
But then there’s the downside. That nagging statistic that you keep seeing: 90% of the people who sign up for online classes don’t complete them! (In fact, the real stats, from higher education researchers, technically show that 93% of students won’t finish.)
There are as many reasons for that dropout rate as there are courses you’ve already quit. But knowing what those reasons are can help you choose the right program next time—and finish it, too!
Reason #1: It’s Too Boring
Your Pinterest feed is full of fabulous fonts, spectacular photography, and gorgeous color palettes, but you signed up for “The Fundamentals of Accounting” or Physics 101?! Even if you think you should be learning these things, you’re going to be struggling to keep yourself interested.
Go for what you’re excited about, whether that’s web design or digital photography. Your passion will take you a whole lot farther than trying to force yourself to study something just because it sounds practical or sophisticated.
Reason #2: It’s Too Unstructured
You might be truly excited about the course, but if the lessons are just dozens of low-quality, disjointed recordings of a rambling professor and the only assignment to read his 300-page textbook, you’ll soon find yourself scrolling through your Twitter feed when you should be listening to lectures. (Remember college?)
Look for classes with daily lessons (bonus points for different kinds—videos, interactive exercises, personal projects) and a detailed syllabus. With your learning clearly structured into small chunks, you’ll stay on track and actually be able to fit your class into your busy schedule.
Reason #3: It’s Too Lonely
A big part of what’s made MOOCs (massive open online courses) such a phenomena is the “massive” part—i.e., classes with tens of thousands of students. But, as revolutionary as that is, where does it leave you? Usually feeling like you’re all alone at your laptop and wondering who to turn to for help.
Find a course that offers an active—and friendly!—student community and personal contact with your instructors. That can include forums where you can share your work and cool resources, live video chats with your classmates and teachers, email support, webinars with experts in the field, and so on. At Skillcrush, for example, students join a Mightybell circle where they can chat with each other, ask questions to get live responses, and more. Having an actual person to turn to when you have questions, want feedback, or just need a dose of “You can do it!” makes all the difference when you’re learning remotely.
Reason #4: It’s Too Unofficial
Even if you’re not looking to earn a master’s degree online, you probably would like to have evidence of all the work you’ve put into your ongoing education—whether it’s to show HR so you can get reimbursed for the class or to impress future freelance clients. Unfortunately, most classes can’t promise any proof that you took part.
Search LinkedIn to see if people reference the class you are considering taking in their professional profiles. As an example, more than 100 people on LinkedIn include Skillcrush in the education section of their profiles, and hundreds more include references to Skillcrush classes in their overview, hobbies, and projects section. Another easy idea is to ask before you sign up if you’ll be getting a certificate of completion when you finish the course. And, if you’ll be job hunting afterward, get ahead of the competition by keeping your eye out for a program that offers personalized letters of recommendation.
Reason #5: It’s Too Useless
As much as you love learning, what you really need from an online class is skills that you can use to get a raise or maybe even a brand-new career. So, hours upon hours of abstract theory or weeks of reading outdated info won’t get you far in the real world.
Keep it real! Enroll in a program that teaches both what you need to know and how to use that knowledge. You’ll walk away with a portfolio of your work and projects that prove you have what it takes—exactly what future employers or clients are looking for!
Photo of computer courtesy of Shutterstock.
Adda is CEO and co-founder of Skillcrush, an interactive tech-learning platform with friendly instructors, an active student community, and laser focus on helping you achieve your career goals with technology. With her self-taught tech skills, she has built sites for the New York Times and MTV, and her work has been featured in the BBC, Fast Company, NBC, and Mashable. When Adda isn't developing or teaching on Skillcrush, she enjoys falling into Internet rabbit holes.More from this Author