US

Treasure online

January 12, 2018
By Tooba Ghani

Saman was a brilliant student so she immediately landed a job in a software company after her graduation....

E-LEARNING

Saman was a brilliant student so she immediately landed a job in a software company after her graduation. Within few months, she earned herself an important place in the company. The boss would trust her with important software development projects, and everyone would consult her for tough mathematical solutions; she was at the top of her game! She has been working as a software engineer in the company for five years. But now, things aren’t the way they used to be. She notices all the advanced projects are given to other colleagues, especially to the newcomers, while the most basic ones are forwarded to her. Saman hardly gets a chance to be part of teams sent to meet delegates, attend conferences, and work on mega projects across the country; all she is made to do is handle endless piles of mathematical analysis. This exhausts her!

Farhan spends his entire day taking classes, checking notebooks, designing lesson plans, attending meetings with principals and dealing with annoying students. He knows his subject well; the problem is his poor English. It is embarrassing for him when other people, including his own students, pinpoint grammatical errors in his language. Sometimes he tries studying grammar at night, but nothing seems to make sense. He even considered studying English in a language institute, but he never gets time for that.

It seems Saman’s ultimate goal after completing her studies was to secure a lucrative job. She got carried away by her initial successes at work and didn’t realize she wasn’t expanding her knowledge and acquiring fresh perspective. And Farhan, who knows where he lacks, is struggling to find out time and a good place to improve his language skills. We all face such professional crisis at some point in life; we must learn how to deal with it. The solution is to become a self-learner!

Laptop and smartphone take up huge amount of our time, right? Let’s bring them in for some serious work. Online learning has always fascinated people striving to become self-learners for life; but students, especially in our part of the world, are reluctant to join online courses either because they find them costly or too complicated.

While on my journey to becoming a self-learner, I realized how little we know about online learning resources that are extremely learner-friendly and offers the best e-learning experience. These are treasure sites for all those interested in learning on the go.

FutureLearn

People are naturally attracted to free stuff. When I found this massive open online course (MOOC) learning platform, I quickly signed up because it said, “Browse free online courses”. I was then completely blown away by the wide range of interesting online courses for free on FutureLearn. For example, An Introduction to Screenwriting, Begin Robotics, Short Film in Language teaching, Volunteering with refugees, Improve your Intercultural Competence, The Science of Nutrition are just few courses that caught my eye.

The other amazing thing is the courses offered here are from top universities and specialist organizations from around the world; around 109 UK and international universities (University of Glasgow, The Open University, Lancaster University, Durham University) and non-university partners (British Council, International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, Accenture, European Space Agency, etc.) are educating millions of learners on FutureLearn.

Now let’s talk about the learning experience. As soon as you join a course, you will be asked to introduce yourself and mention why you decided to join the course so that you stay motivated from the very beginning. And you will also come across courses that aren’t self-paced, which means you have to complete them in a certain period of time.

Every course is divided into easy steps and the course outline and material are always accessible; you will listen to audios, watch amusing videos, read interesting articles and researches, and solve quizzes, and get to discuss ideas with other learners and educators in the comment section. The progress of the learner is tracked, and in case a learner falls behind or procrastinates, he/she is sent email every week telling them, “Don’t give up on this course!”

You also meet the lead educators in a video in the second step of the course. If you keep up with the course’s timing, you will get a chance to meet educators in live Facebook sessions where they interact with students and solve their course-related problems; you will also discover closed groups of learners within social media. I discovered one while taking a course Exploring English Language and Culture and now I share my work on the group and get feedback from serious language learners from around the world. How awesome is that!

But to get a certificate for completing the course successfully, you will have to pay a certain amount. So don’t let this bother you because learning is what matters; you don’t carry certificates and degrees all the time.

edX

If you are unable to perform well at work, discover what needs to be learned and turn it into your strength. edX can be a starting point.

On edX, most of the programmes and courses are free and run by renowned universities like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Berkeley University of California, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, etc. You can learn about new advancements in the field of Supply Chain Management or Quantitative Biology, discover new Marketing analytics, or familiarize yourself with new emerging fields like Simulation Neuroscience, Sustainable Food Security, etc.

And it’s ok if you want to join a course that interests you even if it’s not work-related; I recently joined the course Women Have Always Worked: The U.S. Experience 1700 - 1920 out of fascination and now I am hooked. Since I don’t have to worry about killer exams and blood-curdling assignments, learning is a lot more fun. You can download lecture videos and reading material to access them offline; if you find it difficult to follow native speakers of English, you can find the transcription of the spoken discourse running along while they speak. And if the course doesn’t suits you, leave whenever you want.

Coursera, Udemy, Skillshare

Founded by Stanford professors, Coursera offers free and mostly paid online courses, specialization, and degrees in a variety of subject. It has more than 28 million registered users and more than 2,000 exciting courses taught by University of Michigan, Standford University, The University of Tokyo, Yale University, etc.

Udemy is not just for learners, but also for those interested in teaching. It provides tools that help users design courses and earn money through them. Udemy offers 55, 000 courses on its platform, but unlike FutureLearn and edX, it’s not free.

On Skillshare, you can find and connect with people who share your passion. Since Skillshare believe in learnig by doing, they encourage learners to engage in activities and complete projects during the course. You also stay ahead in the competitive job market with classes taught by experts on emerging trends and topics.

Saman has taken up two online courses and now feels more optimistic about her career goals. Soon she will be applying for a job in Malaysia.

Farhan is grateful for being part of the online community of language learners who help each other learn English in a more interactive way. Now, he worries less and learns more.

Additional information by S.G