By Melany Hallam
Years ago, when I worked in continuing education, pretty much every program we offered was available only in the classroom. Students and administrators alike used to be a bit suspicious of the legitimacy of an online course compared with face-to-face learning.
Things have changed a lot since then, and that’s great news for us here in Powell River. We don’t have the luxury of a huge range of education and training choices as they do down in the Lower Mainland, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get where we want to go right here at home.
For example, let’s take a look at that long list of server jobs that have been advertised all summer. Many of these positions require FoodSafe or Serving it Right. These two certificates aren’t offered on demand here in town, but you can get them online from the comfort of your own home computer. If you don’t have a computer, there are several places where you can use public access machines, such as the library, the Community Resource Centre, Vancouver Island University (for testing) or here at Career Link.
If you don’t have all of the requirements for a job, don’t let that stop you. There are often ways that you can work on your qualifications via the internet.
Here’s another example. Most office jobs nowadays require a lot of software skills. When I started working as a federal government employee, I still occasionally used a typewriter (gasp!) Now, some employers want you to maintain the company website, create brochures using desktop publishing software, keep up their social media presence and do some of the office bookkeeping to boot – all this as part of a receptionist position! Answering the phone is now quite a long ways down the list of duties.
If you’re just starting out, you likely know how to do some of this stuff already, but perhaps not all of it. If you’re changing careers or haven’t worked in a long time, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the list of software requirements. Fear not! You can get whatever you need (or at least the basics) online. There are all kinds of video tutorials available on Lynda.com with free access through the Powell River Library here (you need a library card to login).
There are also hundreds of free courses offered by mainstream post secondary institutions through websites such as Coursera, edX, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) or Udacity. These organizations offer unrestricted participation in any course of your choice, with the option of paying for a completion certificate. Besides the conventional ways of teaching, such as lectures, videos and reading material, MOOCs also give you a chance to take part in online chats and forums with other students. Topics range from accounting to zoology. The first MOOC that really took off was offered by Stanford University five years ago, called an “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”. It had approximately 1.6 million students participating from 190 countries! Really, the possibilities are endless.
I do love the idea of all of this learning on demand, but I know how difficult it can be to stick to an online course and finish it. There’s all kinds of advice out there on how to schedule your time and go through all of the lessons week by week. But here’s a thought: do you really need to finish an online course to get what you need? Why not just take it for free and cherry pick portions of it, learning only the specific skills you may be lacking – kind of like an expanded version of YouTubing for instructional videos on fixing your fridge or changing a car tire…
Now let’s think now about how all this online learning affects your job search here in Powell River. Is there a position that you’d love to apply for but don’t have the qualifications? You may be able to get them online. Here’s our list of some of the certificates available via the internet. Or come in to Career Link to talk to a counsellor about your options – we can help get you there!
Here’s some further reading and information:
- BC high school courses online, http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/ways-to-learn/online-and-self-paced-learning
- An article on “How to use a MOOC to advance your career”, https://hbr.org/2016/07/3-ways-to-use-moocs-to-advance-your-career
- Online courses at Vancouver Island University Powell River Campus, https://pr.viu.ca/calendar/online.asp