Who would have thought that in just a matter of two years, education as a sector would completely flip and transform? Online learning has become a part of our daily lives with schools, universities, workplaces, and even vocational training centers going fully online. But the important question remains “Does online learning improve soft skills?”
Online courses are carefully designed to help students learn both technical (hard) and non-cognitive (soft) skills. These skills when combined boost a learner’s confidence and mold them to become better colleagues, employees, and leaders.
|Traditional Learning||Online Learning|
Peers & Faculty
|Straightforward & in-person||Restricted and requires effort via
forums, chat, and email
|Location||Fixed||Flexible as per learner’s convenience|
|Fixed||Some class timings might be fixed,
but the day’s schedule is flexible
|Learn from and with others||Self-motivated and proactive|
|Impact on Physical
& Mental Health
|Could have physical strain due
to commute, but good to
|Not following a schedule or being
proactive can result in feeling isolated
Online education does come with its own challenges. In a traditional setup, a lot of learning happens before, during, and after every classroom session. But in the online world, not only is this difficult to replicate, but it is also not as personal. How can we as learners then take concrete steps to bridge the gaps and make online learning equally or more effective?
Online learning has taken the world by storm. While concepts and hard skills are carefully curated as part of the course curriculum, soft skills are not given equal importance. There are a few simple and creative ways to enhance skills by creating room for new learning and growth, both professionally and personally. Here are the top three skills you will improve by learning online:
#1: Time Management and Organizational Skills
Most learners juggle a full-time job, personal lives, and an online course. If you are worried about taking up an online course due to the lack of time, just remember that it is a wonderful opportunity for you to work on two core soft skills i.e. time management and organizational skills.
Online classes can be of two types – self-paced or instructor-led. In a self-paced course, you can complete the course as per your bandwidth and availability. The onus lies fully on you to watch all the course material and submit the assignments. An instructor-led course, however, is a lot more interactive, follows a fixed schedule, and the faculty motivates you to complete the program and engage continuously.
Handy resources: You can plan your day around your course and build your daily schedule based on the type of course you have opted for. Multiple downloadable templates are available to help you build your schedule, or you could try an app like ToDoList. Another free tool is Google Keep. Check out how this organizational system works.
What successful learners do: If you plan your day right, you can save a lot of time during online education. There is no need to worry about commuting, traffic, library or research hours, burnout due to the hustle and bustle, and a lot more.
You can chalk out your entire schedule, include your class and study time including homework, assignments, and group projects and have a wonderful work-study-life balance.
#2: Communication and Networking
While all online courses are designed to be engaging, crisp, and interactive, the responsibility to communicate and build a network finally rests on the learners’ shoulders. Both extroverted and introverted professionals can communicate successfully in an online environment if they make a concerted effort to work on these soft skills.
Participate in group discussions on course forums, type in your inputs during the session, raise your hand and share your thoughts confidently, get your point across in simple, clear, and structured sentences as there might be students from all parts of the globe.
Communicating and networking online is new to most students, so go ahead and make the best of your course. Don’t forget to listen and respond when others are pitching in their points. These skills will help you stand out in the workplace as well during team calls, presentations, and project reviews. Do not forget to add your faculty and peers on LinkedIn.
Handy resources: Check with your faculty and avail all the resources like access to chat groups, forums, student email IDs, and LinkedIn profiles. You can also take up the initiative to set up a discussion forum for your class. Find out how?
What successful learners do: Actively participate in conversations related to their area of interest and expertise on forums like Quora, Reddit, and BlurtIt. Learning never stops! Also, don’t forget to follow the right hashtags on LinkedIn and Twitter to get appropriate posts, updates, and news from your field of interest.
#3: Motivation and Adaptability
Each of us is motivated by a different set of goals, dreams, and aspirations. As a learner, even before you take up an online course, you need to understand what drives you to learn, persevere, and achieve. Discovering this and listing it out will help you push yourself and go over and beyond.
You can easily lose track of time or get busy with your day job during online learning. A strong sense of motivation will help you get back on track and systematically complete the course. Get a course buddy, someone who can motivate you, and someone who you can push when they need your support!
Have a dedicated work and learning space in your home, create a timetable that works best for you and constantly remind yourself why you embarked on this journey. Motivating yourself and being adaptable to change are strong soft skills that books cannot teach. However, these skills will help you achieve your goals, succeed professionally, and move up the career ladder.
Handy resources: Setting up a positive learning environment at home is the first step. It will motivate you to sit, focus, engage and learn. Check out this blog to know how you can do this in a jiffy. Break your day into smaller chunks and take breaks often.
What successful learners do: Online learning can become monotonous if you don’t have a wholesome routine. Successful lifelong learners have routines that could include things like play, family time, meditation, sleep, nutritious food, and music. Here are some apps that can help you focus and feel motivated.
If you wish to boost your career with the right set of skills, both hard and soft, then check out the online courses offered by Emeritus in partnership with some of the world’s best universities.
By Manasa Ramakrishnan