jacoblund / Getty Images/iStockphoto

jacoblund / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Last year, as millions of kids turned on devices and journeyed into remote learning, the online education industry saw another trend emerge. Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) platforms boomed as adults, also stuck at home, started enrolling in courses and programs en masse. Classes that had always met in-person reached a larger audience by going online. The largest MOOC platform, Coursera, saw a 248% increase in enrollment year over year.

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Online classes have been good for Coursera, but are they good for you?

Heather Hamilton, founder of Resume Insider, sees the value of online classes for unemployed job seekers. Instead of applying to jobs all day, “[y]ou have to make room for other things like self-care and learning,” Hamilton said. “Online classes are a great opportunity to develop new skills that can be added to your resume. They also help you answer the interview question ‘How have you been spending your time since your last position?’”

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Many MOOC platforms such as EdX and Coursera allow you to audit a class for free (or opt-in to receive a verified certificate for a fee). The investment you make in an online class may not be about money, but of your time. Expect to spend at least two hours a week on coursework, maybe as many as eight.

Keep reading to see if it makes sense for your goals to invest time and money into an online class.

Last updated: Feb. 22, 2021

Afro Woman sitting at home and studying.

Afro Woman sitting at home and studying.

Job Search Resources

Seeking a new job? The career resources available on LinkedIn Learning are worth a look. Find hundreds of career-growth courses, ranging from 30-minute talks to multihour sessions, all included with a Premium Membership (starts at $29.99 per month).

From sprucing up your LinkedIn profile to updating your resume to rocking your next interview, career experts provide you with the tools to take the next step in your career.

Once you’ve found your dream job, LinkedIn Learning offers plenty of online classes that can help you grow, so long as you remain a Premium Member. Industry professionals contribute frequently which ensures the classes stay fresh and relevant.

Hamilton, a former recruiter, doesn’t recommend listing out online courses on your resume, but you can list hard skills to enhance your qualifications.

“Online courses aren’t yet recognized by recruiters as ‘education’ on a resume because there’s no impartial assessment or accreditation of most course offerings,” Hamilton said. “So the best way to represent your learning on your resume is to include your new skills in a skills list or integrate them into your position descriptions in the context of the work you have done.”

If your coursework leads to a certification, however, Hamilton recommends adding this to a “certifications” section of your resume.

See: Don’t Miss Out on 25 Careers With the Fastest-Rising Wages

man smiling looking at his laptop

man smiling looking at his laptop

Go High Tech

Google, Microsoft and other tech companies have recently boosted their efforts to offer free courses to help grow careers around the globe. Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate is geared toward those interested in pursuing an IT career and does not require a degree or prior experience in the field. According to Coursera, where the program is hosted, more than 500,000 have already enrolled.

In response to the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020, Microsoft announced an initiative to help 25 million people gain digital skills globally. It is currently offering free learning paths through LinkedIn Learning that help users gain skills in industries LinkedIn has found to have the most job openings, such as sales, IT support, project management and digital marketing.

Find Out: 94 Money-Making Skills You Can Learn in Less Than a Year

project management

project management

To PMP or Not To PMP

Project management crosses nearly all industries and continues to be a growing profession. While getting a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification isn’t necessarily a prerequisite, more and more open positions are listing the certification as a “nice to have.”

A PMP certification and the preparation to get certified is a relatively steep investment. PMP Boot camps (now offered virtually) can range from $2,000-$5,000. It will cost an additional $405-$555-plus to take the exam, which is known to be challenging. Regular coursework and renewals are then required to maintain the active certification.

PMP certification is ideal for someone who is passionate about project management. If you’re not confident about your career path, there are less expensive project management classes that you’ll find on LinkedIn Learning, Udemy and other online class platforms.

More: 5 Tech Skills Everyone Should Learn To Grow Their Career

man listening to the music while working on a computer.

man listening to the music while working on a computer.

Money Matters

Learning everything you can about your personal finances can truly pay dividends in years to come, and often young adults leave high school or college without much financial literacy.

Khan Academy offers a personal finance course in their Life Skills track that is a comfortable and relatable introduction to money concepts, such as budgeting and saving, interest and debt and investments. These quick videos, all free, are great for dipping your toes into the water.

Once you have a better understanding of financial literacy and want to take another step forward, find a class from accredited universities or schools. Coursera and edX have a variety of courses from universities around the globe.

Do your research, read reviews and beware of scams.

Read: The Biggest Salary Negotiation Mistakes You’re Making

woman taking online classes

woman taking online classes

Professional Development

If professional development training isn’t offered by your company, or you find what is available from your employer lacking, it might be time to look outside the office. If you’re an individual contributor seeking to transition to a management position, or a current manager looking to improve your game, leadership and business management courses can provide you with the tools to make that leap.

For instance, Harvard’s Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles class was one of the top 10 courses offered by edX from 2020, according to Class Central, an online course aggregator. The course is free to audit or pay $139 for a verified certificate.

Check with your employer to see if they will reimburse you for your learning expenses.

See: 20 Hot Jobs That Pay More Than $150,000

An adult woman does yoga and strength training exercises on a mat in her living room.

An adult woman does yoga and strength training exercises on a mat in her living room.

Treat Yourself

One of the greatest investments you can make is in yourself, and to that end, why not find a course that invests in your happiness?

Love watching HGTV? Find a course on interior design. Wish you could speak like an oenophile? Take a class on wine or winemaking. Still itching to write a novel? Writing classes are everywhere. Finding enjoyment outside of your career is just as important as finding enjoyment within.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Online Classes That Are Worth the Investment

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