How to get ahead online

07/18/2013 3:09 PM

07/18/2013 3:09 PM

After a decade providing online training in the information technology field, Scott Skinger has seen what works and what doesn’t.

What works is when the coursework is created by professionals with real-world experience, the curriculum is focused on training that’s needed and current, and it’s presented in a clear and interesting way.

But Skinger, who leads a Chicago-based company called TrainSignal that specializes in Microsoft training among 200 courses, says the provider is only half of the career-improvement equation.

“In online training, it’s common for people to start strong the first week and then fade away,” he said. To reach the finish line, you need “motivated professionals who want to advance in their careers.”

IT workers, in particular, need to be lifelong learners. Skinger said people in the field often can’t find the time for a classroom-based course. But a self-paced, online format may open doors to the next job or promotion — provided the consumer starts with a goal and reaches it.

If a certain certification is required for an employer to hire or promote you, be sure to sign up for a course that teaches to that test. Understand how to take required certification exams in proctored environments. Otherwise, you may not get the full benefit of the time spent in online training.

IT may be the most dynamic field for online education because its professionals are comfortable with computer-based training. But online coursework is available across professions, and it can be a cost-effective way to fill education holes.

Be aware that online classes don’t necessarily replace classroom work. Many professions and employers value personal interaction that mimics the workplace. But self-guided online training can be a sound option no matter your career, provided you commit and follow through.

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