The cost of online courses

Not many have the time to sit in after-work classes in order to advance their career or learn something new. Luckily, in today’s technologically driven world, you don’t have to physically attend a class in order to learn.

Online courses are growing in popularity, with people being able to now study anything from computer coding, to how to become an estate agent. Overseas universities also offer courses, and sometimes even degrees online.

But, what is the true cost of an online course? And is it worth it? Moneybags journalist, Ashleigh Brown, finds out.

When speaking to people who have done online courses, the first thing they tell you is that it fits into their life styles.

“It’s convenient and with our current lives being so busy, being able to study in your own time makes life a whole lot easier,” says Claire Minnaar, an online business owner and course coordinator for G-School.co.za an online course to help women rediscover their raw sexuality.

Even though time is a big factor to consider when studying, there are also other things that you need to take into account. The price of the course is one of them, but what about the level of education you are going to receive?

It depends on what you want to achieve from the course. If you are just doing it in your spare time for fun, then perhaps having it accredited by a University is not as important. Here you may decide to tackle some free online courses. If, however, you are looking to further your career then doing an accredited course would be best.

Either way, you need to make sure you not only have money to pay for the course, but you also have the time, and resources (namely a computer and internet connection) to study online.

Making time

One of the major obstacles many face when it comes to studying after you have left school, or university is finding the time to do so.

With online courses you can do all the studying from the comfort of your bed.

“For someone doing an online course, the biggest factor is convenience – you can do it in your own time, at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home,” says Minnaar.

Minnaar adds that the main purpose of online courses is to allow you to do everything online and not attend seminars.

“But this very much comes down to the person or company providing the course,” says Minnaar.

However with the ability to work in your own time comes the need to be dedicated enough to stick to deadlines, and make sure you finish what you have started.

“[People] need to ensure that they spend sufficient time on the content and that they complete the program. Although they have the benefit of working at their own pace, if they never actually make the time to sit down and do it, it will never get done,” says AdaptToChange, a business dedicated helping business and people reach their potential.

Another perk to studying online, especially if you are shy, or more reserved, is that you can feel comfortable in your own space.

“For my particular course, it’s an online course on relationships and intimacy. Having this course online ensured that people who did the course could do it without any people present and didn’t have to worry about being shy or feeling awkward around others,” says Minnaar.

Money matters

Minnaar say that in some cases, taking an online course can be more affordable than paying to attend a workshop on a particular subject.

Besides the fact that most online courses do not cost the same as a university degree, you also save money as they have no transportation expenses.

“With online training you also save the cost related to the venue and the time it would take you to travel to the venue, which is why online training programs are often more affordable,” says AdaptToChange.

Individuals who have children also may study at home and save on the cost of child care.

“Short courses are easy to take, offer great advantages, and can teach you a number of unique skills,” says College SA.

Though, you have to weigh up what you are going to get out of the course versus how much you are paying for it.

For example, a web design course through GetSmarter is R10 800, for 10 weeks. Once the course is completed, and provided that you pass the course, you receive a certificate accredited by UCT.

However, Groupon is having a special at the moment, for a similar course, through e-careers for R1299, with no university accreditation and you study at your own pace.

Each course is structured differently, with very different price tags. Therefore it is important to know what you want to get out of the course, and what you are going to use it for.

How to find the perfect online course

South Africa has a host of online learning sites, most of which you have to pay for.

AcademicCourses.com has made a list of the 261 best courses in South Africa for 2015, and you can study anything from marketing and sales, to introductory mechanical engineering.

There is also GetSmarter, which is an e-learning company partnered with the University of Cape Town.

And of course, the University of South Africa (UNISA), and Damelin also offer online courses, both short and long.

However, if you can’t find the course you are looking for, or perhaps don’t want to pay the first time, there are sites such as Coursera, OpenCulture, and Open2Study which offer free courses from around the world.

These courses normally don’t offer any university accreditation, and you have to pay if you want a certificate.

But, if you want to try out your time management skills before you put your money on the line, then taking a free online course is the best option.

Moneybags’ thoughts

Online courses can be expensive, depending on what you choose to study, and who you study through. But, their convenience and easy access could make it all worth it.

Remember to factor loadshedding in when you sign up for a course. Charge your computer and have a spare internet dongle around so that you can study even if the lights go off.

Any form of education is worth the money spent. Courses and degrees if they pertain to your relevant field of work can help you grab that promotion, boost your salary, find a new job, or just help to broaden your knowledge base.

The fact that there are also a host of free online courses means that sometimes it really is a win-win situation, with you not even having to break the bank.

“In the end both options have their pros and cons, but it comes down to what works best for you as the individual,” says AdaptToChange.