Online training offers an incredibly diverse range of solutions, from new hire on-boarding and internal employee development pathways to on-demand consumer-facing courses, free boot camps, and even university degrees that can be completed without ever setting foot in a classroom. Current technology has put unprecedented resources at the fingertips of learners around the world.
As it happens, the popularity and accessibility of both paid and free online training have expanded alongside one another. Technological advances have allowed subject matter experts to turn their knowledge into courses that can be sold on online learning marketplaces like Teachable and Coursera. While it would seem that the popularization of paid online training would be a step in the wrong direction, it actually has a net democratizing effect in that it serves populations that might not otherwise have had any interest or found any value in such training.
In the UK, The Knowledge Academy focuses on professional training courses to help learners across the world upgrade their skills and improve their qualifications to meet career goals. Other business models are based on subscription services to platforms like Lynda.com that grant access to massive archives of learning materials, opening up the possibility of truly incorporating continuous learning into your lifestyle. And given the millennial love for knowledge, there’s a clear and eager market for these courses. A subscriber could work their way through course after course at their own pace and as interests and needs dictate for an accessible price.
Another sector provides customized online training to meet the needs of corporate clients. HR departments are scrambling to incorporate online learning materials into new hire processes and employee development programmes. This is starting to make it more feasible to hire for personality and culture fit, and upgrade employee skills on the job, rather than requiring them to make the time and financial investment to have required qualifications ahead of time, solving the skills gap while offering more opportunity to employees. Even these business-oriented services are becoming more open, with the rise of smart systems that can be user-configured to create custom video and learning materials without the intervention of a paid professional.
Getting the most attention are the entirely free online training programs. Prospective students still need to invest the time and energy to learn, but tuition is no longer a barrier to gaining the skills necessary to upgrade your career, qualify for valuable jobs, and even study for higher academic qualifications. Free online training might take the form of coding boot camps like Free Code Camp with a combination of study, hands-on practice, and portfolio-enhancing projects. Dedicated students can put in the time and come out on the other end qualified to launch a rewarding career.
Traditional academic qualifications are now available online, from primary school through to post-graduate studies. In particular, the MOOC university programmes have been controversial but popular, offering introductory and higher-level university subjects for free to as many students as care to put in the time. While this democratisation of education is praiseworthy, traditional school formats remain the norm in many places.
Another aspect of online training’s accessibility is when it comes to those with barriers to traditional learning besides the financial. Vision-impaired students now have access to digital text-to-voice programs and podcast-based learning. Mobility-impaired students can study online from a location that fits their needs without the frustration or barrier of making their way into a traditional classroom setting. Students with physical, cognitive or emotional challenges can learn at their own pace and in a way that suits their unique needs.
Parents, caregivers, and those living in remote locations are another group that are much better served by online training than traditional formats. Studies can take place after children have gone down for a nap or to bed, and they also make advanced education and training accessible to those who would otherwise face long commutes or have to relocate.
Finally, online training is creating the opportunity for people in countries where equivalent education is not provided or is not accessible by the average person. While English-language training is the most widely available, digital tools and platforms are making it easier to access and translate learning materials from anywhere with internet access.
Online training courses provide opportunities for education at every socioeconomic level and for all ages, around the world. They can provide academic qualifications, technical and hands-on skills, and both career and recreational learning abilities. The current generation of online training reduces barriers of both ability and location to democratise knowledge and equip people to learn at their own speed, in their own way, to change their lives for the better.