What Online Courses are Professionals Taking?

By Denton Zhou | Updated August 11, 2017 (Originally Published July 31, 2017)

In this series, we explore how professionals like you can use online courses.

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In an earlier post, we discussed how and why professionals like you are using online courses to grow their careers.

In this section, we explore a few kinds of courses you might take to give you an idea of what’s available.

Career development courses

There’s a modern trend among workers. More frequently, professionals are jumping from one employer to another, often in search of greener pastures and better pay. So prevalent is this trend that of the millennials that Gallup surveyed, 93% said they left an employer the last time they changed roles.

That’s led many professionals to seek out career development courses. Once aimed squarely at new graduates and first-time job seekers, these courses coach skills like resume writing, networking, interviewing, and salary negotiation. If you’re looking for new opportunities but haven’t interviewed in a while, look into these courses to help you brush up on these valuable skills.

IT and Data, not just for IT and Data professionals

Technology hasn’t only taken over the workplace. It’s morphed and evolved over time. To stay ahead of the curve, professionals use online courses to learn how to put technology to use in a way that makes their work easier and more effective.

Popular online courses in this segment teach you how to use software programs and tools like Excel, SQL, and Tableau. Others focus on teaching you how to build your own tools by showing you how to use programming languages like Python and Java. Yet, others help you learn CAD software.

Finding out which tools you can learn to set yourself from your peers and learning them can give you a distinct edge in an ever digitizing workplace. 

Learning industry best practices

Leading businesses and organizations are also getting involved with online courses.

Organizations like Microsoft, the Linux Foundation, IBM, and Scala’s founding laboratory, have individually developed courses that teach learners not only the ins and outs of their products, but also the best ways to put them to use in the workplace. These best practices benefit both the professionals who take them and the businesses that employ them because almost always, they create more efficient outputs and workflows.

When they’re not creating their own online courses, these leaders are contributing to universities and schools that enrich the learning experience. Airbnb, Lyft, AT&T, Facebook, and many others have generously shared real case studies and troves of their own data. Their contributions create richer lectures, assignments, and projects, and give learners a unique opportunity to tackle challenges based on real-world examples.

It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Organizations and companies that contribute to online courses create new customers for their products and develop a more skilled talent pool from which they can hire. Learners and professionals get to stay abreast of skills and knowledge that factor into their success.

Business skills that put you ahead

Business and leadership skills are increasingly important to career builders, even those who don’t necessarily intend on becoming a manager or executive. That’s because they teach skills that, mastered, make you a more desirable worker.

In a bid to spread their influence and promote their programs globally, leading universities and business schools like Penn (Wharton), Yale, Stanford, and University of Virginia (Darden) have created exceptional online courses that teach valuable management and business skills.

Those that deal with management and organizational leadership are especially in high demand. They teach the art and science of soft skills like communication, conflict management, and decision making, skills that are ever critical to any workplace. Taking steps to master them—and they’re extraordinarily difficult to gain mastery over—could very well set you apart from your peers as you become a leader, mentor, and role model to those around you in your organization.

Other popular business courses give you the big picture of how your organization stays afloat or grows as a whole. Understanding which inputs make your organization more successful can change the way you think about your function and the tasks that matter. There are hundreds of online courses, thankfully, that deal with these matters. You’ll find them in subjects like accounting, finance, marketing, corporate policy, strategy, and operations.

Courses for STEM professionals

Earlier online courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) approached topics either at the introductory level or in an (overly) academic fashion. More often than not, they were designed and marketed to existing students, not working professionals.

That’s changing.

Today’s STEM courses focus more on advanced topics that straddle the cutting edge. Students and professionals alike have more opportunities to learn from leaders in highly specialized fields than ever before. One reason for this is because universities and institutions increasingly see online courses as an opportunity to establish their reputation and disseminate their research.

If you work in a STEM field, you’ll find a growing number of courses in fields as esoteric as bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, photovoltaic technologies, and quantum computing.

Discover more

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but we hope this gives you a better idea of the kinds of online courses available to you.

You’re invited to use OpenCourser’s search tools to find more courses. Remember, you can also save courses you’re interested in to get more recommendations on similar courses.

Best of luck learning!

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