The Rise of Online Courses

Global Ed

Online courses and certifications are not new – they were popular even before remote became a way of life. But, as with almost everything else, the pandemic has tipped this one over too. With more than 2 billion people stuck at home due to the pandemic, enrollments for online courses have skyrocketed.

Here’s a look at the rise of online courses. We also look at some of the most popular courses across different online platforms.

What we’ll be seeing today

Online or offline – the ongoing debate

Online certifications have one primary advantage – accessibility. That, in itself, is what has made them popular. You can learn from anywhere.

But, here’s the thing – there is no replacement for a campus experience. So, it really should not be about either/or. Also, the choice between getting a college degree or settling for online certifications boils down to factors such as accessibility, financial ability, and time. If the person has enough time to go through college and has what it takes to gain in-depth knowledge within a particular field, then they should choose to get a degree, no doubt about that. However, when the time frame is tight and one needs to upskill themselves while in a work environment or in a situation that requires them to gain knowledge quickly, it is wise to get online certifications. While degrees can speak for themselves when it comes to creating a strong profile, certifications need to be backed up by relevant work and experience in that particular field of study.

Degrees focus on providing the required material and resources that can contribute to the all-round development of an individual. Peer-groups, expert lecturers, and other key players of a college act as positive reinforcers. Although online certifications cannot boast of any of these, they offer can highly-specialized training in a particular skill within a very short span of time.

A degree from college helps you develop into a well-rounded individual with expertise in certain areas, it helps you learn better and what you learn living on campus is something online education can never teach you.  Online courses and certifications, however, can act as skill enhancers that are best talen as add ons to degree programmes. As millennials prefer to customize programs to fit their requirements, online certifications are quickly becoming the most viable option.

Global education and the scope of online learning

The pandemic has contributed to the blurring of lines between online courses and online learning. While online courses have always been and will continue to cater to those with budgetary constraints and are looking to upskill themselves at a quicker pace, the pandemic has forced traditional institutions of higher education to switch to the online mode of teaching and learning. As we blaze through the “new normal”, many institutions have begun to offer online degrees. What’s more, many organizations have begun to overlook traditional degrees in favour of skills acquired through any means.

With technology making it easier for us to obtain knowledge, most start-ups have begun recruiting those with the relevant skills. Studies have shown that e-learning improves productivity and retention rates when compared to those that were taught in the traditional style. Also, universities across the globe have increasingly begun to accept e-learning and online mode of teaching. Such large-scale adoption of online teaching is set to change the way education will be perceived in the near future. Moreover, big corporations have resorted to using the online mode of education to train their employees, thereby cutting costs as well as reducing the time taken for training. Most employers now embrace online education, as it has been proven to be effective when it comes to imparting quality education within a short span of time.

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Not only does learning online help you learn new things that you have always wanted to learn, but they also help you to get additional skills that can act as an add-on to your work or existing knowledge. They can be used by both students as well as working professionals for either getting certifications or for upskilling themselves. There are many platforms that offer online courses for everyone.

The most popular courses across some of these platforms are discussed below.


The largest MOOC provider currently, Coursera has over 200 universities offering more than 4000 specialization courses. Some of the most popular courses on the platform for the year 2020 have been listed below.

This is the online version of a course offered at Yale University which focuses on improving one’s happiness and helps to build more productive personal habits. The course helps to incorporate wellness into one’s life.

This course helps to analyse COVID-19 and to understand how it spreads so that contact tracing may be made easier. The course also teaches students about the science of COVID-19, the infection period, incubation period, and how the disease spreads from person to person. This can help to keep the spread in check.

One of the most popular courses on Coursera for a few years, Machine Learning is a course offered by Stanford University. The course helps students to learn about effective machine learning techniques and will also help in understanding how these concepts can be implemented.

This course introduces the fundamentals of concepts of Python programming and helps students to understand different constructs such as syntax/semantics, data structures, and programming interfaces among others.

The course helps to understand various processes that are adopted by experts in various fields such as science, art, and other disciplines. Students are also taught how the human brain employs different learning modes so that the whole learning process can be improved.

Although these are the most popular courses on Coursera according to them, there are other courses that enjoy large-scale fame and have found a lot of takers. Some of them are listed below.

  • Google IT Support Professional Certificate
  • IBM Data Science Professional Certificate
  • Excel Skills for Business Specialization
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Deep Learning Specialization
  • Digital Marketing Specialization


Udemy is yet another popular MOOC platform that boasts of a large number of subscribers across courses from hundreds of disciplines. Udemy is also popular among students because of the low costs of courses. Some of the most followed courses on Udemy today are listed below.

Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world today. The course can be used by both beginners as well as experienced programmers, as it covers fundamentals and advanced concepts. With assignments and hands-on training, the course is one of the best when it comes to imparting quality education for all.

The course covers most of the concepts from the Machine Learning realm. From teaching basic mathematical concepts to providing a platform to simulate real-world scenarios, this course covers it all.

This course helps students to become familiar with the science of data analysis through the use of Power BI. The course helps in creating datasets, easy-to-make visualizations, data distribution, and analysis. The course is aimed at novices in the field of data analysis.

A continually updated program, this course helps students to develop models and assets using Blender. Blender is a platform that helps us to develop models that are platform-independent – that is, they can be shared to any platform. The course helps those who wish to develop games or design models for various platforms.

As the name suggests, this course covers topics ranging from fundamentals to advanced levels of using Microsoft Excel. It is an added advantage that the instructor is also a Microsoft Certified Trainer.


SkillShare is a platform that focuses on providing courses that help to improve creative skills. With a variety of courses that teach photography, visual arts, writing, and more, SkillShare is one of the few platforms that gives importance to developing creativity and imagination along with imparting practical knowledge. Some of the top courses available on SkillShare are listed below.

For Creative Writing

For Graphic Designing

For Animation

For Film and Video

The categories on SkillShare are also divided into Photography, UI/UX, Lifestyle, Marketing, Productivity, Web Development, Freelance, and Entrepreneurship among others.

Some of the other popular platforms include LinkedIn, Udacity, and EdX, among others. Due to the increasing popularity of online courses and the exponential growth of the e-learning industry, more and more platforms are set to be created in the coming years.

What can we expect?

With the global e-learning market set to hit USD 370 billion and the massive open online course (MOOC) market expected to touch USD 25 billion within this decade, the potential for online learning is at an all-time high. During the course of the pandemic, more and more students have started to prefer e-learning over the traditional way. Sixty million new users enrolled in online courses in the last year – a massive impact on the education sector.

Corporations too have switched to e-learning to train their employees rather than depend on the traditional chalk and board method. Technologies like AR and VR have already begun making in-roads into e-learning and these could help to improve the way people learn new things. A staggering 49% of students around the world stated that they had chosen an online course within the last year. This number is only set to increase over the next couple of years.

With more universities offering online education to students, it has now become a great way for students to learn if they are unable to travel to global ed destnations.

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