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Who Takes Online Classes? Not Just College Students

Jan 24, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 2 Comments

Online learning is often associated with online degree programs: two-to-four-year programs at accredited colleges where students can earn an Associate’s, Bachelor’s or post-graduate degree.  But what if you don’t need a degree—you just need to learn a specific skill? There are plenty of online classes students can enroll in individually, without having to pay the high costs of a college course or go through the entire degree process.  Online learning isn’t just for college students; here are a few others who can benefit.

People looking for personal enrichment

People who have interests in a subject outside of work often take classes in that subject for fun and enjoyment.  The online learning format is particularly suited to people with full-time jobs and family responsibilities, who ordinarily wouldn’t get time to take these classes in a traditional setting. 

Common personal enrichment classes cover topics such as music and poetry; religion and spirituality; self-improvement; do-it-yourself projects, and more.


Taking a class online can be particularly helpful for people who are starting their own businesses.  If you want to start selling your product online but don’t have the skills to design your own website, for example, you could either hire a designer—which can cost thousands to design an e-commerce website—or you can teach yourself web design by taking online classes for a few hundred dollars.  Online classes help entrepreneurs fill in the gaps and learn skills they need to take their businesses to the next level.

People looking to improve their resumes

Many people use online courses to add credentials to their resumes.   There are many different online certification programs available, in everything from IT certifications to online marketing.  These certification programs can help your resume stand out in a crowd or qualify you for a job or promotion.

Companies interested in training employees

Online education is a low-cost and flexible way for companies to educate their employees in important workplace issues.  It can cost less to put employees through online training programs than it does to bring in outside consultants; and the flexibility of online classes ensures that students can learn without taking time out from work. 

Classes of interest to companies might include sales training, management training, sexual harassment awareness, business communication, and Six Sigma.

People interested in switching careers

Online classes allow students to prepare for a career change or look into a new career before making a decision to switch.  For working adults in full-time jobs, it can be difficult to take classes in preparation for a career switch in a traditional classroom. 

There are many online classes geared toward introducing or qualifying students for specific career changes; these include small business, restaurant management, paralegal training, medical transcription certificate, and education.

Home-schoolers and their parents

Home-schooled children often use distance education to supplement what they learn at home, with classes in grammar and reading, math, history, and other subjects. 

Online classes can also be useful to parents who are home-schooling their children, however.  Distance education courses for parents of home-schoolers include classes on teaching strategies and childhood development.

Students enrolled in traditional schools

Even students in traditional high schools and colleges may need supplemental online courses.  Students enrolled in high schools that don’t have the resources to offer a course in web design, creative writing, or Dutch language can find classes online that fit around their school and extracurricular schedules.  College students may find they need a brush-up in essay writing, and students in any traditional class might choose to take online classes that explain the topics introduced there in more depth.

People who want to learn a specific skill

Anyone interested in learning a specific skill for a do-it-yourself project can pick up valuable training through online classes.  Students can learn about computer hardware and engineering to build their own computers; study real estate finance to get ready to buy their first property; or take classes in personal finance to learn how to make wiser investments and prepare for the future.

Online classes are more useful than you’d think.  Whether you need extra certifications or job training; are interested in switching careers or starting your own business; or want to learn a specific skill for fun or profit; there’s sure to be an online class out there that can teach you what you need to know.




eugesounds Over a year ago

Online classes are designed to reach people of all demographics - some of the fastest growing demographics to make use of distance ed. are adults and seniors.

Kevin Mills Over a year ago

Thanks for the article. It's really got me thinking about what kind of subjects are offered online.

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