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5 Career Skills You Can Learn Online

See also: Employability Skills

The quality of an online education is rarely questioned anymore. The questions raised are usually about the lack of a “true” college experience and there being no opportunities to develop life and career skills.

However, once you examine the offerings of online classes, it becomes clear that all of the skills you would learn attending in person are also available to you in the online format.

Colleges have been at the forefront of using technology to improve learning. Not surprisingly, MIT started it by offering online materials in 2002. Since then, other schools have added online courses, and it is now possible to get a great education online, maybe even for free.

Online learning really took off in 2007 when Alison.com, the first provider of Massive Open Online Courses, was founded. MOOCs collect courses from different schools in one place to make it easier for to find what you want. After MOOCs, many other learning websites and programs were started, such as Khan Academy (2008), Duolingo (2011), Codecademy (2011), and Coursera (2012).

However, the real genius of online learning is the ability to learn a specific skill. Many of us find that our career is taking us in new directions, or that there are additional skills needed to advance. Sometimes, you might need to actually get a degree or advanced degree, but often just gaining the skill is enough. That is where the convenience of the many programs and websites really shine.

Here are five skills that you can learn online and will help you advance your career:

Lifelong Learning

Change is a constant. If you want to progress in your career, you need to be learning new skills.

Unfortunately, many of us decide when we get out of college that we are done with learning. So, we have to remember how to learn and study new subjects. Plus, because we are not in a regimented situation, we have to find ways to do it ourselves. We have to become autodidacts. Once you develop this skill, it will stay with you for the rest of your life, enriching your experiences, and maybe even helping your mind stay sharp into old age.

While in the past books where most people’s source of knowledge and information, we are now lucky enough to have the internet. Between MOOCs, Ted.com and iTunesU, it is easy to learn new subjects. Once you get started exploring these offerings, you will be amazed at the variety of information available.

See our page: Lifelong Learning for more.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is a skill that connects directly to lifelong learning.

Critical thinking, the skill of objectively analyzing and evaluating information to make a judgement or decision, is mandatory for self-education. It is also extremely helpful during this time of “fake news.” If you can critically review news stories, you will find that it becomes clear which stories are factual, opinion, or just gossip.

While a good logic or philosophy class will probably teach you at least something about critical thinking, there are classes and websites devoted to this subject. Exploring this topic will allow you to make clearer decisions at work and at home. Learn more at www.criticalthinking.org.

Effective Communication Skills

Being able to communicate effectively is important in all aspects of life, but especially so in your career.

Without the ability to clearly express your ideas to clients or fellow employees and your employers, your voice might never be heard. Communication in the workplace occurs both verbally and in writing. Both are skills you can develop online.

First, written skills. Most of the MOOC providers offer great writing courses, as well as several sites that are devoted to just writing, such as creativenonfiction.org and writers.com. Once you get the basic skills mastered, then it just becomes a matter of lots of practice.

Second, you have verbal communication, which is at the heart of every meeting and sales presentation. If your job requires you to participate in regular meetings, you will want to take a course like Alison.com’s Developing Effective Business Presentation Skills. It is a free course, but will teach you how to effectively organize presentations and give tips for speaking in front of groups.

If you are one the 75 percent of people who have anxiety or fear of public speaking, an online course may not give you enough practice to conquer your fear. Only regular speaking opportunities will effectively overcome this. One of the best ways to get consistent practice is Toastmasters International. Toastmasters has been around since 1924 and now has over 345,000 members in 142 countries. Most members attend regular meetings in person, but they have recently given clubs the option to allow members to attend remotely. This is a great way to get your speaking practice even when you are traveling or not close to an active club.

Technology

Another constant in today’s business environment is the need for technology skills.

No matter what your position you will need to be confident using computers. It might be only for email and team collaboration tools like Asana, Trello, or Slack, but it might also be using WordPress, or Dreamweaver to edit websites, or maybe even accounting software or apps for expense tracking. By learning new tech skills, you can be ready for anything your bosses throw at you. It will also give you the ability to talk to technology professionals intelligently, giving yourself an edge over less tech-savvy employees.

Depending upon your current position and career track there are a few areas you might want to focus on. It might also be a matter of personal interest. If, after working on your writing skills, you decide you want to start a personal blog, your next step would be to learn HTML and CSS or WordPress. Other areas to focus your efforts might include learning spreadsheets and how to create analytics reports, or maybe improve your knowledge of search engine optimization.

All of these skills can be learned online. The technology community has fully embraced the opportunity to extend the capabilities of the internet to learning. A great place to start for any of these skills is with a query in your favorite search engine. Many of the MOOCs will have classes, but there are a myriad of websites dedicated to teaching specific tech skills. For learning coding, you can use the interactive learning tools at Codecademy.com. Another option is KhanAcademy.com which uses mini lectures and online problems to teach coding as well as many other subjects. WordPress is easily learned from the official WordPress site. They have educational resources available for free on their site. Another good option for those who prefer learning with videos is wordpress.tv. The best place to start with SEO is Moz.com. Their blog and regularly published educational content will help you learn about the basics, for free.

Many people prefer to learn or at least get an overview of subjects by reading books. Unfortunately, most tech books can be expensive. They can also easily become outdated when new versions of software are released. A great alternative to trying to find up-to-date books in your local library is Safari Books Online. It is not a free service but for a monthly fee, much like Kindle Unlimited, you can read a certain number of books each month. It is a great way to get access to the most updated information in an online book format.

Learn a Language

With our economy becoming more global every day, learning a new language is always going to be a bonus to your career.

Not only will it open up opportunities to work in foreign markets, but learning a second language helps your brain in a couple of different ways.

First, it helps improve your memory, increases attention span, and reduces the risk of age-related decline.

Second, studies have shown that decisions made when thinking in your second language will be based on logic instead of emotion.

Online language learning has become very sophisticated. Gone are the days of just listening to cassettes and rote repetition. A great free option is Duolingo.com which uses gamification combined with an easy interface to teach you 19 different languages. Other great options include RosettaStone.com, Babbel.com and Openculture.com.

See our page: How to Master Any Foreign Language by Avoiding These Five Roadblocks for more.

Learning through the internet is extremely convenient. Gone are the days when you have to consider if you need a car to get to class, if housing will be available on campus, or how will you get home for the holidays. Now you can get a great education from your computer, in your own home.

For those of us past the college stage, but still thirsting for additional knowledge and skills, the internet is an even bigger boon. So much information is available for free or reasonably priced and accessible at times convenient to you. Every autodidact and career-minded person should explore the options of online learning.

About the Author


Valerie, originally a computer programmer, is just starting her new career as a writer. She loves the sun, her Australian Shepherd dog, and her husband. When she isn’t mountain biking, practicing her public speaking skills, or reading, she is writing about everything she has learned.

Follow her on twitter: @vkjocums

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