Online Learning; Why Bother?

Updated: Apr 26

Let’s face it; there are a lot of articles and YouTube videos that state the many advantages, and all-too-many disadvantages, with online learning. Well, I’m not going to give you that. What I'm going to talk about is how practical it really is; did the expert's promise really turn out to be the case for me? And therefore, will it be the same for you?

First, let’s attack a question; what is 'Online Learning'? What form have I come to understand that it takes?

When I thought of the idea ‘learning online’ things like face-to-face lectures; long lists of attachments; a voice with a slide (where you can hear the click of the mouse in the background); and sometimes even someone on the screen who’s pacing through all of the information, thinking you understand everything they’re saying. This isn’t exactly what I got.

My first course was Music Composition 1 on an online forum called Udemy. It only cost me thirteen euro. And I was truly surprised with what I got. The lecturer was better than I had imagined, starting at the very basics, not assuming anything. What you knew is what he taught you, and nothing more. In my view, that’s a good place to start. Then I had access to hours of lectures, tons of resources, and tons of quizzes. Who doesn’t like a quiz? (Sigh)

Then, reality hit; I still had to study. And the more material given to me, the more I had to study. So I literally just paid thirteen euro to study. Especially when some of the information is just rote learning. So what now? I burned out, and didn’t touch Udemy for months. Right now I’d rather be in a classroom, at least everyone’s burning together.

Stick with me.

Studying is just something you have to accept. Somewhere inside a part of me thought taking an online course would mean I wouldn’t have to study. Wrong. What if I told you I’ve actually had an over all great experience. Well you’re really doubting me now, right? To tell the truth – I did. But fundamentally, I had to understand one thing; online learning isn’t just limited to lectures and endless amounts of attachments in the Lecturer’s ‘Resources’ box that we all hate.

Online learning is done by all of the articles you read. Learning is done on all of the YouTube educational channels, which don’t simply just feature slides and a voice. Generally these people put a serious amount of time and effort into their channels and courses, purely because they want to do it. From my experience, all of the articles, online classes, YouTube videos are done because the person doing it believes in its powers. As do I.

So where did I benefit? Why the sudden change in attitude? Now I get to study/work how I want to, when I want to, why I want to. The only reason I was participating in online courses was because I wanted to learn something. And there’s the beauty. I’m there, on that web page (reading that research paper, or apart of that course) because I want to be there. Not because I’ve been told to be there. That thirteen euro came out of my voluntary pocket after all.

Once I understood that - I was off. I returned to Udemy, and poof, I loved it. I haven’t learned so much in such short space of time, no burning this time. It was absolutely great. Now I can hit the piano, compose, write, orchestrate and talk the basic German all at the same time.

Learning online meant that I had a library bigger than any other other in the world – Google. There’s almost an infinite amount of knowledge there. You just have to get into the habit of asking it a question. I never went to college in this school year, having completed my Leaving Certificate Exams. Many online forums have allowed me to continue studying throughout the year, in a structured, efficient and adequate way. Combining that with books, articles, YouTube lectures, and conversations with people who know what they’re talking about, you get a phenomenal amount of learning and experience – more than I have yet gotten in a class room.

I can’t imagine the benefits I’ll get if I couple all of the online courses with University studies.

I have to make it clear, I’m not saying that online learning is a good substitute for University - not yet anyway (although, I believe it will be in the future[1]). However it’s proven (for me) to be an amazing method of getting a head start, and even deepening knowledge in certain areas of study.

So as a nineteen year old, preparing to go to college, here is where I benefit from online learning: I got to choose the hours I did a day, generally an hour a day per topic. Then I got to choose how much information to take away and when to return. Using the Resources, I got to look at the lecture sheets and prepare before having sat the lecture, so that it’s not the first time I came across the information. I then coupled this with Active Recall, Interleaved Practice, Mental Modeling, Mnemonics, and other proven study methods.

Are there downfalls that I’ve experienced with online learning? Most definitely.

I have found that there are often gaps in the learning, which need to be filled in, which is best done so by taking lessons, or if your lucky enough to be in college. Before I began taking piano lessons, I took a selection online. But I was making all kinds of wonderful mistakes that I wasn't unaware off, which only cleared up in the lessons I began to take later on. However, due to the online lessons, and therefore the early exposure of learning an instrument, I excelled far quicker than I would have otherwise done.

To summarize in one sentence, I think it’s hugely beneficial to engage in online courses, but I suspect that it’s benefits are maximized if you’re also attending a School, University, or taking one-to-one lessons.


Don't forget to subscribe guys. Any comments, send them in! Let me know what you're thinking. Do you agree? do you disagree? What's your experience? Whatever it is, I'd love to hear it.

Jack, at Interconnected.

[1]: In relation to online learning and the future, here's an interesting ted talk:


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