How the online education revolution has made learning tech more accessibleAlex Sky
The possession of tech skills has never been more important than it is today – something which has left a lot of people feeling helpless and out of the loop.
Just as this situation has developed, however, it has become easier to get an education online. Studying like this makes it much easier to fit learning around work, childcare and other obligations, so that almost anybody can do it. If you don’t have the skills you need to meet life’s challenges or get the job you want, you can do something about it.
The importance of tech skills
It has been said that, for children, learning how to code is now as important as learning how to write and how to do basic math. Some will never need more than the basics, but being literate at that level gives them options and makes it far easier for them to take things a stage further, if they wish to, in adult life. They’ll certainly need to know how to operate a computer, use a keyboard and a touchpad or mouse, and manage simple IT – this is now essential for things as basic as paying tax, getting a driving license or managing your bank account. Increasingly, employers are starting to see tech skills as a basic requirement to the point where it’s difficult to get a job without them, even in a non-technical profession.
Options in online learning
The great thing about online learning is that there’s a huge variety of material out there, and much of it is free to access, so you can try things out before making any big commitments. If you have a reasonable basic tech education but there are a few things you’re not sure about, you may be able to find videos on YouTube designed to help. If you need to start from scratch or if you’re thinking of taking on a paid course and you want to go over the basics again first to refresh yourself, you can find great courses on free learning sites. You’ll also find lots of written guides to particular areas of tech on the web, such as guides to learning html and CSS. These can help you both with acquiring skills in the first place and with fining reference material once you’re actually using them.
Pursuing an online degree
Because they’re so modular, tech skills are the perfect subject for an online degree. Many universities now offer these. You can choose from studying with the most prestigious universities (expect o pay a bit more than elsewhere and be worked very hard) to studying with an institution celebrated for its achievements in a specific area. All these institutions offer a range of options in the field, from degrees focused on programming and acquiring software development skills to degrees focused on IT which are useful in almost any office environment. The Information Technology Associate Degree offered by the University of the Potomac is a great example of the kind of career-focused course that can expand your knowledge at the same time as providing a big boost for your resume.
Developing software skills
There’s a massive demand for coders and software developers in today’s marketplace, including in fields you might not expect. As well as enhancing your employment prospects, learning a programming language can enable you to freelance or do agency work. There are always companies looking for bespoke pieces of code, from office management tools to phone apps. A great way to get established in this area after learning a language is to contribute to open source projects. You won’t get paid for them but nobody else will directly profit from your work and you’ll be providing a useful service. If you do good work in developing a useful tool, you could get a great deal of attention, and because it shows that you’re committed and can see a project through, work like this looks fantastic on your resume.
Developing hardware skills
While software skills are becoming more common as they grow more useful and easier to obtain, hardware skills are still relatively thin on the ground – there’s far more demand for good hardware technicians than there is market capacity to meet that demand. Having a mixture of software and hardware skills can put you in a very strong position. Most employers can be tempted by somebody who is not only capable of managing computer systems day to day but can also identify and fix physical faults. This mix of skills could also help you access opportunities in data retrieval, which is always in demand.
Getting the most out of online learning
Some people make the mistake of thinking that an online course just involves a bit of reading on the Internet, or watching a few videos, and doesn’t involve a lot of work. Sad to say, it’s not that easy! There’s no need to be intimidated by the idea of learning to code because it is something that anyone can do, and your course will take you through it from as early a stage as you need, but you will need to put in the work. Find out how many hours are expected of you before you start and make sure that you can fit them into your schedule.
Whatever kind of course you take, remember that, if you’re struggling, you can find other resources elsewhere on the Internet to help you through it. You can get together on forums with other learners to ask questions and find other perspectives on things you’re uncertain about. Most formal courses will also have tutors available to help you.
Even if you’re starting from scratch and feeling behind the times, there’s nothing intrinsically more difficult about learning tech skills than there is about learning to cook or ride a bike. Once you’ve grasped a few simple principles you’ll find that the rest of the mystery unravels from there. With so many online resources at your disposal, it won’t be long before you’re able to handle technology with confidence.