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Online courses have become viable alternatives for people unable to pay the prohibitive costs of higher education degrees or those needing to upgrade their job skill sets. The digital revolution has given us new ways of learning, imbibing and retaining knowledge.

A quick internet search will throw up many options from online academies such as edX, Coursera, Udemy and Khan Academy offering customized open-ended courses allowing flexibility and with prices ranging from zero to a few dollars. In 2017, the online learning market was worth $255-billion, a growth of nearly 200 percent from 2015, when it was worth $107 billion.

Innovations in the way education and technology adapt to each other are inevitable, but what should be kept in mind is the way this collaboration is utilized to impart knowledge. There is a glut of information out in the ether– an information overload. There are myriad “How to” listicles, YouTube videos, blogs, vlogs and articles on any subject under the sun.

But online learning comes with its own set of challenges. It is difficult to replicate the classroom teaching and learning experience in an online environment. The course curriculum needs to be informative and knowledge enhancing to keep the learners engaged and connected.

Online learning still has to overcome certain biases and skepticism despite the plethora of classes offered in LMS and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). A recent study estimates the average completion for MOOCs to be as low as 15 percent. The reason is that despite evolved edu-tech, the pedagogies are antiquated and limited to button mashing and easy hint-driven tests.

This is not to suggest that there are no takers for the online courses. The industry is still growing but what analysts suggest is that the way the information is disseminated should be changed. They believe that instead of offering information the courses should offer transformation, i.e. the courses should be tailored to offer results, the change that the learners are seeking.

A study by the Mayo Clinic found that millennials responded better to an education environment made up of collaboration, feedback, technology and mentorship.

This can be achieved by value addition, quality, gamification and engagement, and a focus on achievement.

Nicholas Kusmich, the world’s leading Facebook Advertising strategist, elaborates on the information glut that he suffered from. “For so long I was like an information-holic, and I have what I now call infobesity”, Kusmich explained. “I was literally going from event to event, conference to conference, podcast to podcast, book to book, and I was reading one or two books a week, thinking and tapping myself on the back, like look at all this progress you made when in reality I wasn’t making any progress. I was just filling my head with knowledge that I wasn’t even using.” Kusmich then decided to go on an information fast for a full year. Instead, he decided to apply what he had learned into his business and achieved tremendous results.

Online courses need to emphasise on application and gainful execution of knowledge imparted to succeed.

This article was written by the NUS community. If you would like to contribute your article, please get in touch.