Guide Getting started with online learning

A guide to get you started with online courses

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  1. Carolyn
    Online education or e-Learning offers a world of fascinating subjects that can help you deepen your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic of interest, reach new careers, develop workplace skills and improve your employability. Online learning is not confined to higher education – you can pretty much study anything online. More and more students are using online courses to supplement their education from school age to university level and beyond.

    How MoocLab can help you

    With a huge range of online options available, it's important to research what's right for you. We’ll show you what these options are and help you make the right choices.

    Is Online Learning right for me?

    You will need to carefully consider the reasons for taking an online course rather than a campus-based one. It takes a lot of self-discipline and motivation to study a course online and you may be required to work without any face-to-face interaction with your teacher or classmates and often with little academic support.

    The following list of questions will help you decide if online learning is right for you:

    1. Do you have a clear educational goal?

    2. Are you good at managing your time?

    3. Are you self-disciplined?

    4. Are you good at working in isolation?

    5. Do you have few other work/life commitments at the moment?

    6. Are you able to schedule time to complete assignments without interference?

    7. Are you able to take responsibility for accomplishing your assignments?

    8. Do you have regular access to a computer and the Internet?


    If you answered yes to at least 5 of the above questions, then you are on the right track.

    Choosing an online course

    If you decide to study online, you will find there is a lot of variety in course types, course platforms, and costs, so research is very important.

    How to get started

    1. Choose a subject

    The important thing is to choose a subject you’re interested in and that will help you reach your goals.

    Establish what your goals are – maybe you want to find out about a subject purely because you’re interested in it, or you may want to deepen your understanding of a topic you are already studying. Or perhaps you want to develop your career by learning a specific skill needed for a job role.

    Check the course syllabuses or specifications which set out course content and requirements to see what topics will be covered and ensure they match your requirements.

    Explore jobsites and careers to see what skills are in demand in your field.

    2. Choose a type of online course

    Online courses come in numerous different formats which enable you to complete everything from academic qualifications to workplace training to learning a new hobby.

    If you are new to online learning, the best place to start is by exploring some of the free options. There are a considerable number of free courses and resources available on the internet that are of a very high standard. For an overview of your options, visit The Beginner’s Guide to e-Learning (I).

    3. Choose where to study

    Some students set their heart on a particular course provider or platform, while others just want to choose the course they like the sound of best. Either way is fine, but there are a few things to check first.

    Course providers and platforms offer different course formats and costs. Some online courses are accredited and offer recognised qualifications, others may not. Some will deliver courses using interactive study media, such as interactive videos, while others may be more text or tutorial based. Some will provide discussion forums, mentors and feedback, while others may take a more self-educating approach where the learner has little to no interaction with others. And of course, some courses are free of charge where others will incur a cost.

    To find out about the different free and low-cost online course providers, visit MoocLab’s independent reviews and ratings of Online Course Providers.

    Online Course Directories offer a good way to start your search for online courses. Course directories curate courses from different course providers and have been developed to provide learners with a variety of search tools helping you to filter through the large number of courses and course providers to find specific courses that meet your individual needs. MoocLab’s Guide Using Online Course Directories can help you with choosing the best Course Directory for your needs.

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