At the end of last year our friends over at FutureLearn did some research. They asked a nationally representative sample of 1,019 adults about their learning, jobs, careers and aspirations. Did they want to be dancers? Zookeepers? Accountants? Wigmakers? And more importantly, what was holding them back?
They found five key things were stopping people reaching their goals, and wanted to tell us just how online learning could help.
The biggest factor people gave as the reason for not achieving their career aspirations? 46% said age. People felt too young or too old to achieve a dream, frustrated by feelings of inexperience or having missed the boat.
But online learning can’t turn back (or forward) the clock, so what exactly can it do? For starters, it can neatly sidestep a lot of the circumstantial issues related to how old you are: the 16 year old with no spare cash can get top quality teaching in her room; the 40 year old too busy with work and family to take a course can learn at his own pace; and the 80 year old who can’t get out of the house easily can meet the professors in her living room. This means however old you are, you can pick up the skills you need, improve your CV and develop your passions (all things vital for career development), easily and cheaply.
And not only can learning online avoid circumstantial problems caused by age, it can also help lessen feelings of judgement - rather than walking into a physical classroom of people, where you might fear being judged for your age, you’re online, where only how you engage, discuss and learn matters. Age really does become just a number.
It makes the world go round, it doesn’t grow on trees, it talks, and it’s a big problem for people trying to achieve things. 45% of people said money had stopped them reaching their career goals. It’s pretty simple how online learning helps with that, with many online courses being free to enrol on.
Between work, school, cooking, sleeping, family, friends and trying to watch the latest Netflix show, it’s no wonder we’re all rushed off our feet. 30% of the people we asked felt they didn’t have time to achieve their career goals - after all, the formal training and qualifications usually required for career progress can be time-consuming. So how can people take steps towards their goals without having to give up everything fun? You can guess the answer.
Online learning can be done at your own pace, and is often split into manageable chunks. Gone are the days where you need to spend hours and hours poring over a colossal textbook. Online learning courses can use all sorts of ways to help you learn, including quick quizzes, discussions and videos that can all be done on your mobile on the go. You can fit learning new skills that can help improve your career, around your life.
28% of our sample gave confidence, or lack of it, as the reason for not reaching their career goals. A lack of confidence can be caused by many different things, including: worrying about a lack of knowledge, a fear of failure and feeling haunted by past mistakes.
It would be lying to say online learning is a miracle cure for these things, but it can certainly help in a few important ways. It can give you a solid foundation of knowledge, so you can feel more comfortable when talking about a subject.
It can also relieve social pressure – doing a course online means you can answer a question, practise your debating skills and form new ideas with thousands of fellow learners, all without having to stand up in front of a crowd.
5. Lack of Skills
The last hurdle people cited is a lack of skills - 23% of our sample said this was preventing them achieving their career goals.
Online learning comes into its own here. There are a huge range of skill-based free online courses on everything from improving your digital skills to learning how to manage people. Picking up and practising a skill can now be done anywhere, anytime - whoever you are, entirely for free.
Want to find your perfect online course? Start searching today and don’t let learning hold you back!
Jess Weeks is a Copywriter at FutureLearn - a provider of free online courses. Her favourite words are: lexicon, expunge and dunk. She’s not sure if raising an army of turtles can be considered a career dream.