What is the Future of Online Education?


Think of the job you have now and imagine losing interest in it. I love writing, but for the sake of this example, let’s say, I’m already on the brink of giving up. I’m 24 years old, turning 25 in a couple of months, and I want to start fresh. Do something different. But at this age, enrolling in a college to earn a new degree is impractical, both money-wise and time-wise. That leads me to consider online education as part of my learning.

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Very few people talk about this issue for the sake of keeping appearances, but everyone will encounter it at one point. Including you, no matter how much you love your job right now.

Why do people want to start fresh?

  • There will come a time when people will start hating the job they are doing, no matter how much they loved it.
  • The skill they provide is no longer needed by the world, obsolete skills like mastery of Windows XP, mobile Flash development, and many more.
  • Financial stability

Starting from Scratch

I take my hat off to people who follow their hearts, especially those who take huge risks to follow their dreams. Take Liz Biegle-Bryant‘s story. Back in November 2012 she was laid off from her job. At 55, and without a college degree, things didn’t look good to her. But she discovered her passion for coding and pursued it with Codecademy, a free online learning platform.

Liz Beigle-Bryan’ts story is something everyone who wants a fresh start dreams of. And there’s a simple formula for that: determination and courage to take on a new path.

Reddit user kidOrdinary posted on /r/learnprogramming almost two months ago saying,

Seeking guidance. 25yo, starting from scratch with little means and no education, but committed and determined to embrace the process of learning…While I would prefer getting a CS degree, I really don’t have the means and the proper time (work is shifting schedule and is graveyard shift) to do that right now. I’m not going to let that restrict me though.

This is a familiar story, and I am certain that many of our readers are self-taught web designers and developers with a totally different field of training. And to state the obvious, part of the reason why they read blogs like 1stwebdesigner is to learn something new.

The comedy and slice of life of the movie “Internship” depicted a sad reality in just five seconds when Vince Vaughn typed in “jobs for people with few skills”.


It is really a big problem to not have any usable skill at all, but with today’s technology, anyone can pick up a lot of skills to learn. There is programming, designing, marketing, and many more.

This section in a nutshell:

  • Starting fresh at any age is no longer a dream. You can go from a 30-year-old accountant to a graphic designer in just a few weeks.
  • There are literally thousands of free online resources and tools that can help you learn the skills you want at your own pace, even when you have a full-time job.
  • “People with few skills” kind of people no longer exist because of the Internet.

Standard Education and Online Education

People learn differently from one another, at different speeds and with different techniques. This is something that standard education models do not cater to. There is a deadline to everything, and some learners tend to get left behind as the course moves forward. But with education done online, learners can study at their own pace.

Advantages of Online Learning

  • For the most part, it’s free.
  • Students and employees can study at their own pace.
  • It’s accessible anywhere
  • It can land you a job, if you know where to look. Hint: The Internet.

The number of people who enroll on online courses, sadly, has a large number of dropout rates as compared to traditional education. One study revealed that MIT and Harvard online courses had a dropout rate of 95%. Still, the dropout rate depends on which course it is and what method of computation was used, which I will not delve deeper into to avoid boring you.

What this dropout rate suggests is that while there are materials readily available online through blogs, online libraries, bootcamps ,and massive open online courses (MOOCs), studying alone is not enough of a motivation.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

  • Many employers will not take your application seriously, especially big companies.
  • Landing on a Fortune 500 company is near impossible with an online degree.
  • Dropout rate for online courses is terribly high, which might be directly caused by the absence of a teacher who can act as a motivator.

I maintain that formal education still matters a lot, and will remain so for several years. A simple way to look at this is by learning how to play the piano with the help of online tutorials alone. By the end of the week, it is already possible to play an entire song. But what about music theory or reading notes and composing a simple lullaby?

While these are readily available online for studying, the richness of experienced people’s knowledge in music schools is invaluable and not readily available online. The same goes for IT, where colleges teach the ethics of the information technology industry.

Advantages of Traditional Education

  • Experienced and wise professors with vision are there to teach and help you. They can keep you stay motivated.
  • The weight of a college or university degree is still heavier.
  • Connecting with important people in the industry is easier, with all the seminars and conferences organized by schools.

Disadvantages of Traditional Education

  • The system is not flexible to cater the varying needs of students.
  • It takes at least three years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
  • Tuition fee is expensive, depending on the school.
  • Curriculum is tailored for a specific industry and doesn’t offer much flexibility.

The New Face of Education

The new face of education erases the stubborn limitations that the traditional system has. Where people are used to studying on the same pace as everyone else, with the dawn of Internet education, anyone can set a time and place for their learning. People learn at their own pace.

Free Libraries of Online Learning

  • Khan Academy – from math to science and humanities, also teaches programming.
  • Codecademy – focuses on teaching people how to program using PHP, Python, Ruby, HTML, CSS.
  • Code.org – an organization that teaches programming to children and anyone who wants to learn. Backed by industry-leading personalities like Bill Gates.
  • Udemy – has both free and paid courses about writing, design, development, SEO, languages, and more.

Note that I’ve included Khan Academy and Udemy here instead of labeling them as MOOCs because they work outside the university systems, even though they look similar. The main difference between MOOCs and Khan Academy’s operations is that MOOCs are backed up by real universities. Khan Academy and Udemy are backed by individuals or companies who are not connected to schools.


I like to call blogs the vigilantes of education since they create simple and dirty tips that anyone can use, tips that even schools don’t teach. They are like the Robin Hoods of the Internet, where these experts gather the knowledge they teach online from years of schooling or years of experience in the field, and in just one blog post they reveal everything.

Many reputable bloggers are truly experts in their fields, not just mere hobbyists, but people whose names are big even in the real world. And they blog because they want to teach people what they know, similar to what we do on 1stwebdesigner.

If you are interested in something, most likely there is a blog about it. I guarantee it.

Some points you need to keep in mind:

  • Blogs are great sources of quick and practical information.
  • Most industry-specific blogs have experts as authors who provide content for them.
  • Although the goals of educational blogs is to teach, they are still subject to misinformation.
  • They are not, in any way, replacement for higher learning.

Online Bootcamps

I absolutely love online courses, especially the free ones that will make anyone wonder how they make money. Most of the time, they don’t. Others offer rudimentary courses for free and advanced lessons for a fee.

  • Fizzle – training for people who want to start their own online business.
  • Mixergy – learn the secrets of successful entrepreneurs from the entrepreneurs themselves.
  • Team Tree House – teaches web design and development and how to be an entrepreneur.

The great thing about online bootcamps is that they offer extensive community support, both from the educators and learners. The teachers are individuals who are experts in their own industry. Learning what they know doesn’t take several months or years, but merely weeks.


For a more specialized learning, I highly recommend enrolling in online boot camps. The top ones have several industry leading experts that regularly publish new content and conduct webinars for additional learning.

Massive Open Online Courses

After doing some digging, I found out that people are still divided in their opinion about online universities, especially the for-profit ones. But there are actual universities that offer free courses online like Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and many more. These universities with long standing reputations are adapting to the Internet.


The main question about online universities is, do companies accept their certifications?

In theory, attending an online university is a great option since you will have more time for yourself. You can study anywhere you like, as long as you have the determination to do so.

Check out edX if you want to start learning.

How the Online World Affected Traditional Education?

My colleagues, along with my friends and acquaintances, will tell you in a heartbeat that their schooling helped very little. That what they currently know were either gained from studying online or through extra training provided by the companies they work for. Just in case you haven’t caught on yet, I speak strictly about degrees related to writing, web design and development, marketing, and anything that is related to the online world.

The Problem: The World is Changing; Schools Are Still Centuries Behind

This post is not meant to discredit the methods of schools when preparing their students for the real world. It’s purpose is to point out what can be improved by emphasizing the now-outdated methods.

I studied for sixteen years and spent five months as an intern, and in those five months I was trained in that company’s processes and the technology, which was great since I had no actual experience in the field. But not every hiring company is generous. The depressing reality is there are only few generous companies.

Ask anyone who has had at least three jobs in the past and you will know why they left. Another problem with companies who are hiring fresh graduates is that they require at least two years of experience. Straight out of school.

Did I study for sixteen years just to be faced with this horrific situation? This is not a geographic problem. Developed and developing nations have the same issues.

The industries are changing but the method by which we prepare people are more than outdated. Naturally, there is a human proclivity to bend the standards.

This, in turn, gave birth to open access information, a big name here is Wikipedia and the innumerable blogs that sprout daily. You can learn many things from the Internet if you know where to look.

What’s your take on this matter?



  1. Natália Rampon

    Really good article!
    I’m so into online education! More because I want to learn everything, from little random pieces of knowledge (ty, Wikipedia) to coding and PSing, and I don’t really have the money to pay for this.
    I already knew about most of those websites, but some I didn’t, so thank you for even more resources. :D