Are Online Courses Worth It? Everything You Need to Know (2024)

Education is arguably the fundamental gateway to success by means of knowledge and skills transfer. With global institutions now offering an array of online courses and programmes, it offers ambitious people new opportunities to expand their knowledge and expertise, thus making them more employable in South Africa’s competitive workforce. Likewise, specialised online courses are designed to provide you with very specific skills that can assist your career growth in a particular area that interests you.

What is the difference between campus, distance and online study?

There are differences between each of these learning models. Some major differences between these forms of study are the pacing of lessons and the level of interaction between instructors and students.

  • Distance learning – This form of education is not conducted in real-time. It requires little to no interaction between instructors and students.
  • Campus study – The on-campus approach is a stronger face-to-face facilitation in which a strict timetable is followed with the lesson for that specific period which is covered by both the facilitator and student who need to be at a venue on campus in order to receive interaction and support.
  • Online study – The method of study typically associated with online courses and programmes relies on a higher level of interaction than distance study, with a teaching style which is a bit similar to a traditional classroom setting – but without the actual classroom! Online study is facilitated by offering the student a range of resources that serve to assist them throughout their learning journey.

MANCOSA students have the decision making power to choose the most appropriate mode of study. Both distance and online study modes offer a flexible, convenient and alternative to a traditional on-campus course. The recommended best way forward is to weigh out all the advantages and disadvantages of the study options before deciding on the best option for your career needs.

Benefits of an online course

Online Higher Education Certificates are specifically designed to be vocationally driven, allowing a student to enter the job market faster and with a very specific skill set. As we embrace technology and the 4th Industrial revolution, employers focus on graduates that have the necessary skills in conjunction with the appropriate qualification. These skills are computer literacy, efficient time management, critical thinking, leadership along with flexibility and mobility.

We can then categorise some of the benefits of our online courses which are suitable in building towards the necessary skill set required for your career of choice. This includes:

  • Cost saving
  • Flexibility, Convenience, and Time Savings
  • More Effective Learning
  • Mobility
  • Easy Accessibility
  • Information Retention

Are online courses worth it?

The right online course is definitely worth it but you would be wise to be cautious in choosing a course. There are a number of online courses available currently. Several training providers are jumping on the bandwagon to make online courses and programmes available, and unfortunately some have little to no academic value Therefore, prospective learners need to be cautious in choosing an online course. Before one embarks on registering for an online course, we suggest conducting some personal research on the service provider.

Prospective learners should:

  • Choose a desired course
  • Research the various service providers who have the course available
  • Consider the reputation of the service provider
  • Look at reviews and affiliations
  • Research the quality of facilitators or support staff
  • Understand the module breakdown and identify if it is benchmarked against other similar courses
  • Choose a service provider who is technologically advanced

Contextualise your online course – why do you want to study?

If you know what you want to achieve then your decision is an easy one. Online courses can prove worthwhile if properly contextualised. There are four different areas in which one could identify suitable courses based on what you wish to achieve.

  • Courses aligned to professional development: These courses are linked to specific professions and are often offered by professional bodies and ties up with Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  • Courses to improve skills (new learners): Individuals fresh out of school or university are new to the job market. Since they have little to no experience of the workplace, they add value to their skills set by understanding the basic business requirements such as business etiquette, report writing, communication skills and time management.
  • Courses to improve skills (advanced learners): These individuals are already within the organisational sector. They seek to improve skills in their current workspaces and their future development.
  • Courses to improve hobbies: Learners have an opportunity to learn new skills which they enjoy on a personal level, such as floral arrangements or make-up application. Some of them use these skills to catapult their entrepreneurial careers.

Research shows shift to virtual learning in higher education

A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School highlights the preference of learners to study via online courses. The trend is relative to the times we live in and the receptiveness to multigenerational workforces as well as technological trends brought forth by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Taking into consideration the shift towards the GIG economy, learners want to be multi-skilled to take on different work tasks. Online courses make this possible.

The decision to include an online course as part of a resume or future job applications is entirely up to the leader. However, cognisance needs to be taken of the following:

  • An overkill of all online courses are not a necessity on a CV
  • Add technically specific courses to relevant jobs only
  • Add courses that will enhance the profile for a specific job
Are Online Courses Worth It? Everything You Need to Know (2)

Is it better to get an online course certificate or a degree?

A degree should be a baseline qualification, as it creates greater opportunities for promotions, higher pay rates and global exposure while an online course helps you acquire a specific skill set in a relatively short space of time. With the varying socio-economic conditions that are so prevalent in South Africa, affordability to complete degrees are not always possible for learners. Fortunately, education service providers such as MANCOSA offer different options which make a higher education qualification, accessible to more people, especially the options to study part-time while occupied in full time employment.

Large corporates often partner with education institutions for graduate recruitment programmes which gives learners a wealth of opportunities whether they are full- or part-time. These industries focus on graduates as they will have a sound educational foundation and, with a directed training programme, these graduates can be shaped to progress further within the organization.

Although online courses add value to a skills set, it is advisable to complete a basic degree and enhance your skills set thereafter with online courses. With the flexibility in place for a blended learning approach, learners must take full advantage of these opportunities to develop themselves with a formal qualification.

What types of online courses can I study?

MANCOSA has a wide range of Higher Certificate Online Courses which will add value to a learner’s profile. These courses will augment a CV for future employment or enhance current employment and skills. Some of our recommended courses are:

  • Project Management: is an important skill required by various organisations to manage a number of fundamental and complex projects
  • Human Resources: offers learners insight into the basic human resource functions in organisations

These can be completed within a short space of time and are offered fully online. For job seekers, these qualifications will present an opportunity to enter organisation at a foundation level, allowing them to build a skills set and adequate experience to move up the ranks. Employees who display high levels of energy, initiative and a willingness to learn are often offered an opportunity to further their studies, which are sometimes financially supported by the organisation.

Study online courses with MANCOSA

While competition for limited workspaces increase, and a reliance on technology and AI are fast becoming a reality, individuals need to focus on a concerted effort to constantly upskill themselves. There are a number of ways currently available and with such a focus on online platforms which have significantly increased in recent times, many people have turned to online courses to give them the competitive edge. Find an online course that suits your personal career development with MANCOSA or contact us to speak to a consultant who can advise you about your options.

Authors: Dr Aradhana Ramnund-Mansingh and Ms Nikita Reddy

Are Online Courses Worth It? Everything You Need to Know (2024)


What is important to complete an online course successfully? ›

Along with the time you set aside to complete assignments, it's also suggested to have a set time to look over the tasks for every one of your classes so that you can set up an agenda for each week. In doing this, you won't mistakenly forget to turn something in.

What is most likely to be the key difference between a fully online course and a MOOC? ›

The lecturer engagement, feedback, assessments and qualifications in formal online courses mean they have course fees attached, whereas MOOCs are freely available to anyone who is able to access them.

How do you measure the success of an online course? ›

Performance goals tracking is a great tool for measuring the effectiveness of your online course. You can compare the performance of your learners before and after taking your online course. You need to know about your learners' different learning styles and capabilities because comparing them with others in general.

Are online courses worth anything? ›

Aside from the obvious benefits, online courses also carry a number of additional uses that could be helpful for the student from both a professional and personal standpoint. Online courses are useful as a way to: Display your willingness to learn. Widen your skillset.

What are the benefits of online learning? ›

Advantages of Online Learning
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Reduced Costs. ...
  • More Free Time. ...
  • Increased Course Variety. ...
  • Career Advancement Opportunities. ...
  • Increased Collaboration. ...
  • Personalized Education. ...
  • Enhanced Time Management Skills.

What are the 10 benefits of online classes? ›

What are the Benefits of Online Classes for Students?
  • The “Home” Advantage. Digital learning has made learning interesting and fun for students. ...
  • Escape the Traffic. ...
  • Saves your Time and Money. ...
  • Best Online Guidance. ...
  • Instant Doubt Resolution. ...
  • Increased Convenience and Flexibility. ...
  • Enhances Self-Discipline. ...
  • Optimises focus.

What are the challenges and benefits of Massive Open Online Courses? ›

MOOCs can have the benefit of:

from a philosophical perspective, turning higher education into a public good, by allowing anyone to enroll in the courses. MOOCs give an opportunity to connect openly on a global scale, with global learners. The ability to experiment with pedagogical methods on a vast scale.

What are the pros and cons of MOOC? ›

The resources are also accessible without any cost through a search engine like Google, Yahoo, etc. MOOCs have the biggest advantage in that students can access them without any cost.
Disadvantages Of MOOCs
  • High attrition rates. ...
  • Not meant for students with disabilities. ...
  • No special attention. ...
  • Unable to pay attention.
5 Dec 2020

Do you consider massive online course helpful to people? ›

During MOOC, participants also expanded their knowledge base and in that way they created possibilities for rerun of MOOC on a higher level. In that way, a participant can attend the same course after a couple of years and then will upgrade his knowledge. This attribute makes MOOC an instrument for lifelong learning.

How do you know if a course is effective? ›

In order to best measure the impact of your courses, you should test learners prior to and after taking the course, so you'll have a benchmark for comparing students' achievement of the desired learning outcomes. This level seeks to measure the transference of course knowledge into the workforce or student body.

What is course effectiveness? ›

Course effectiveness is defined by students' motivation and satisfaction or their grades. Some studies report more satisfaction and motivation in online courses, rather than face-to-face (F2F) courses. Online learning is more or less as effective as F2F learning in regard to grades.

What is the effectiveness of distance education? ›

Distance Learning appears significantly positive effects on Curriculum Instruction in Learning Effectiveness; 2. Distance Learning presents notably positive effects on Technological Media in Learning Effectiveness; 3.

Do online courses actually work? ›

Some students do as well in online courses as in in-person courses, some may actually do better, but, on average, students do worse in the online setting, and this is particularly true for students with weaker academic backgrounds.

Do employers care about online certificates? ›

We're here to set the record straight: An online degree holds just as much weight as a traditional degree. In fact, data shows that most employers don't even differentiate between the two types of degrees.

Do free courses look good on CV? ›

As a strong potential candidate, it's your job to help them reach the right conclusion. When you graduate, your CV will need to showcase that you have actively considered your future career. An excellent way to do that is to use your time now to undertake different free courses which will help you boost your CV.

Why online education is the future? ›

Online education enables the teacher and the student to set their own learning pace, and there's the added flexibility of setting a schedule that fits everyone's agenda. As a result, using an online educational platform allows for a better balance of work and studies, so there's no need to give anything up.

Why do students prefer online learning? ›

Because online courses give students full control over their own learning, students are able to work at their own speed. Generally students work faster than they would do otherwise and take in more information.

How do students feel about online learning? ›

A follow-up survey of students' experiences suggests that online students had trouble concentrating on their coursework and felt less connected to both their peers and instructors relative to their in-person peers. Cacault et al. (2021) also use an RCT to assess the effects of online lectures in a Swiss university.

What are the negatives of online learning? ›

Ten Disadvantages of Online Courses
  • Online courses require more time than on-campus classes. ...
  • Online courses make it easier to procrastinate. ...
  • Online courses require good time-management skills. ...
  • Online courses may create a sense of isolation. ...
  • Online courses allow you to be more independent.

What is the disadvantage of online class? ›


While online classes can actually be quite social in nature, the fact is that you're still usually completing them physically on your own. This can be a major disadvantage – especially for students that already spend a lot of time by themselves at home.

How massive open online courses affect education? ›

MOOCs have significantly impact higher education through effective communication with values (t ​= ​14.98, p ​≤ ​0.001) and explained 0.63 per cent of Effective communication.

How are these sites beneficial to students? ›

Students can use the internet for searching for their study relevant materials, assignments, quizzes, presentations, all study relevant materials available on the internet. Not only students but teachers also get help from the internet.

What is massive open online courses in your own words? ›

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a free web-based distance learning program that is designed for large numbers of geographically dispersed students. A MOOC may be patterned on a college or university course or be less structured.

What are the benefits of free online courses? ›

Pros of MOOCs and Free Courses Generally
  • It's free. A big advantage of taking a free online course is that you don't have to pay tuition fees. ...
  • Control what you study. ...
  • Mix and match. ...
  • Demonstrate genuine interest in a topic. ...
  • You don't gain a recognised qualification. ...
  • It's harder to study consistently.
11 May 2022

What are the disadvantages of learning from MOOC? ›

The Disadvantages of MOOCs:
  • Can't provide for personalized courseware and attention from a tutor.
  • It is difficult to keep track of students' assignments and involvement.
  • Learners with disabilities and a poor Internet connection can't use MOOCs.
  • Language can be a barrier while offering MOOCs.
22 Feb 2022

What happens to a user after completing a MOOC? ›

If you finish a MOOC with a passing grade, you may earn a certificate of completion. Sometimes, the certificate is free. But more often, you have to pay for it.

What is the benefits of massive open online content to the students? ›

The benefits of massive open online courses are varied - bite sized, flexible and an affordable way to study on the go. Some courses allow for dynamic development of study material, useful for projects close to your interests.

How will MOOCs change the future education? ›

As well as opening up access, MOOCs may also have a role to play in improving universities' delivery of course materials, and ability to track the effectiveness of different teaching methods.

How is it changing or influencing education at present? ›

MOOC providers are investing in instructional design and development so as to improve the efficacy and quality of the learning experience for learners, showcasing the difference design can make to the quality of learning. By doing so, they are showing faculty and students what a high quality course can look like.

How do you assess online classes? ›

How Do You Evaluate Students Online?
  1. Online quizzes.
  2. Essay questions.
  3. Drag-and-drop activities.
  4. Online interviews.
  5. Dialogue simulations.
  6. Online polls.
  7. Game-type activities.
  8. Peer evaluation and review.
29 May 2022

How does distance learning affect the academic performance of students? ›

How distance learning can improve student performance. Evidence to date seems to show that the best types of distance learning can improve how students learn and what they learn and deliver high-quality learning experiences. Students learn how to research, manage their time, learn independently, and problem-solve.

Is distance learning effective How does it affect your performance as a student? ›

Distance learning reveals remarkably positive effects on Curriculum Management in Learning Effectiveness; and, 4. demographic variables appear notable effects on the correlations between Distance Learning and Learning Effectiveness.

What is the role of technology in distance learning? ›

Technology is providing a positive impact on delivery mechanisms employed in distance education at the university level. Some institutions are incorporating distance education as a way to extend the classroom.

What are the most useful online courses to take? ›

Top Trending Online Courses
  • Data Science. ...
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. ...
  • Big Data. ...
  • Business Intelligence. ...
  • Cloud Computing. ...
  • Project Management. ...
  • Software Development. ...
  • Full-stack development.
6 Oct 2022

How many hours should you spend on an online class? ›

You should plan to devote a minimum of three hours per week per credit, plus an additional hour per class each week to review materials. For instance, for a three-credit online course, you will need nine hours of study time and one hour of review time each week.

Do people get jobs from Coursera? ›

Yes, if you have the means. The certifications might not have the best recognition, but the skills you gain can be of enormous advantage to your career—even recruiters will agree with that much.

Which online course certificate is valuable in world? ›

Top Online Courses To Look Out for
  • Master Of Science In Machine Learning And AI.
  • PG Diploma In Data Science.
  • PG Diploma In Machine Learning And AI.
  • Post Graduate Diploma In Management (PGDM)
  • PG Program In Management (PGPM)
  • Executive Program In Blockchain Technology Management.
  • Product Management Certification Program.
22 Sept 2022

Are Coursera certifications taken seriously? ›

If you get a Coursera certificate, you can put it on your resume to show off your skills. Because Coursera is so well known and respected, these certifications are also respected and acknowledged. This is possibly the biggest bonus to use Coursera to further your education from home.

What courses do employers look for? ›

Here are some ones that you can impress employers with, even a basic working knowledge:
  • Data analysis. Data and business analysis have become essential across just about every industry. ...
  • UX design. ...
  • Cloud computing. ...
  • Project management. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Teamwork.
4 Jan 2021

Can you get a job with free online courses? ›

Landing a Job with an Online Course

The answer is yes. Online courses are most likely to land you a job faster than a traditionally achieved qualification. This is because they can be finished quicker and are mostly designed to improve your skillset, making you workplace ready.

What is the easiest certification to get? ›

Easy certifications to obtain
  • First aid certifications. ...
  • Project management certifications. ...
  • Software certifications. ...
  • Government certifications. ...
  • Notary public certification. ...
  • Forklift operator license. ...
  • Computer programming certifications. ...
  • Marketing certifications.

How do you complete a course successfully? ›

Once your online courses are underway, here are ten things you can do to be successful.
  1. Stay connected. ...
  2. Reach out. ...
  3. Interact with your classmates. ...
  4. Stay disciplined. ...
  5. Plan your time. ...
  6. Maintain a workspace. ...
  7. Think ahead, prepare for the unexpected, and don't give up. ...
  8. Be patient.

How will you make time successfully complete course? ›

manage time over in order to successfully complete an online course:
  • Make the course a priority. ...
  • Take the course with a friend or colleague. ...
  • Set aside one hour a day to work on the course. ...
  • Make a study plan. ...
  • Make a calendar or schedule. ...
  • Get rid of distractors. ...
  • Set goals and incentives.
4 May 2015

How do I complete a course online? ›

6 Tips To Successfully Complete An Online Program
  1. Tip 1 – Set smaller goals. Goals, goals, goals… ...
  2. Tip 2 – Set up a timetable. Just having goals is not enough. ...
  3. Tip 3 – Find a study buddy. Think about how you'll be accountable for your studying? ...
  4. Tip 6 – Take care of your health.
29 Mar 2018

How do you finish a course? ›

  1. Have a WHY: Understand your motivation for taking the course. ...
  2. Don't spend too much time choosing your course: ...
  3. Spend your time studying, not just thinking about it: ...
  4. Make it a habit: ...
  5. Time management: ...
  6. Organize your work space: ...
  7. Think of the small steps and break it down: ...
  8. Rewards for small achievements:
5 Jul 2022

How do you survive online classes? ›

Here are some of their valuable tips to help you make the most out of your online learning experience.
  1. Assess yourself as a student. Not all students are the same when it comes to learning. ...
  2. Stick to a schedule. ...
  3. Take necessary breaks. ...
  4. Make a to-do list that works for you. ...
  5. Make the most of your resources.
10 Sept 2020

Which is the best online course platform? ›

List of the Best Online Course Platforms
  • Thinkific.
  • LearnWorlds.
  • Teachable.
  • Podia.
  • Kajabi.
  • LearnDash.
  • Ruzuku.
  • WizIQ.
24 Sept 2022

What online courses sell best? ›

The most in-demand online courses right now are in the following course categories:
  • Blockchain and Crypto.
  • Trading.
  • Video Production.
  • Graphic Design.
  • Photography.
  • Arts & Crafts.
  • Health and Fitness.
  • Personal Development.
13 Oct 2022

How many online classes should I take working full time? ›

If you are trying to work Full time, off-campus and take courses, then you should take only two courses per semester and then take one to two courses in the college's summer session. You need to check with the college to see what classes are offered over the summer.

How do you manage yourself in an online class? ›

Time Management Tips for Online Students
  1. Plan ahead. Your hectic schedule, combined with daily distractions, can easily get in the way of finishing tasks. ...
  2. Don't multitask. ...
  3. Set up your virtual office. ...
  4. Block out distractions. ...
  5. Reward yourself. ...
  6. Create a balance. ...
  7. Get a good night's sleep.
28 Apr 2020

How do I balance online classes if I work full time? ›

5 tips for successfully balancing working and going to school online
  1. Communicate with loved ones. ...
  2. Make a schedule and stick to it. ...
  3. Leave space for self-care and rest. ...
  4. Take advantage of student support services. ...
  5. Collaborate with your employer.

How fast can I finish an online course? ›

The length of online classes varies. Some can be completed in as little as five weeks, while others take longer. On average, online courses last eight to nine weeks, especially those offered through universities.

Can online courses detect cheating? ›

The short answer is yes. Online exams can detect cheating. Authentication procedures, web monitoring, data forensics, and proctoring (just to name a few) make it hard for examinees to get away with cheating.

Are Coursera certificates worth it? ›

Are Coursera Certificates worth it? On the whole, yes. If you're seeking promotion, looking for a career change, or the skills you are learning are highly sought after, then a Coursera Certificate does have value and is definitely worth the investment. Coursera partners and course providers are world class.

How can I study effectively at home? ›

Download and save a copy of the flyer.
  1. Establish a Routine. ...
  2. Have a Dedicated Study Area. ...
  3. Take Notes for Online Classes. ...
  4. Keep a Routine for Physical Activity. ...
  5. Don't Forget Your Social Time. ...
  6. Create a Study Plan and Share It with Others. ...
  7. Eat Well, Sleep Well. ...
  8. Avoid Multitasking.

How can I get my Coursera certificate in one day? ›

Yes, if you have subscribed and successfully passed the course, you will receive a verified certificate as soon as you complete the course. Please note, though, that if there are any peer-graded assignments, you will have to wait for your assignment to be graded in order to complete the course.

Why do they call it finishing school? ›

The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the education, with classes primarily on deportment and etiquette, with academic subjects secondary.

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