If you’ve been thinking about searching for a new job, you’re not alone. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report, 51 percent of U.S. employees are actively looking for a new position or watching for job openings. What are the reasons? Gallup’s survey results show career growth opportunities as well as better pay and benefits top the list.
However, while opportunities are increasingly plentiful—U.S. job openings hit a record high of 6.17 million in July—it can be difficult to improve your financial situation by securing a higher-paid position unless you’re up-to-date in your field and possess the skills most in-demand with current employers.
Fortunately, online courses offer everybody—from parents returning to the workforce, to retirees, to professionals grabbing for the next rung on the ladder—a chance to improve their resumes, prove their worth, and earn more money in the workplace.
RewardExpert spoke with Simon Nelson, CEO at FutureLearn, one of the world’s largest digital education platforms, about the organization’s history, course offerings, and online learning process.
Combining 50 Years of Distance Learning and Digital Storytelling Experience
Established in 2012 as an independent company by The Open University (OU), a public distance learning and research university in the U.K., FutureLearn’s first online course launched in 2013.
“MOOCs, or massive open online courses, were a growing movement in education,” Nelson explained, “so The OU wanted to bring its distance learning experience to the sector. Specifically, we wanted to focus on learning through conversation, and that’s how FutureLearn was created. We combined 50 years of experience of digital storytelling and distance learning.”
Nelson said the organization’s purpose is “to use design, technology, and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible, and flexible courses and qualifications that improve working lives.”
Since its launch, FutureLearn has grown into a community of almost 7 million learners who enjoy online courses from leading universities, companies, centers of research excellence, and specialist education providers across the world.
“Although we have a strong following in the U.K., around 73 percent of our learners are based in countries outside of the U.K.,” Nelson said. “We also have a high number of female learners on our platform—over 60 percent—which is something I’m particularly proud of.”
Courses to Help You Get Ahead in the Workplace
For 2017, FutureLearn has 1,400 course runs scheduled. Nelson said Healthcare and Psychology, Languages and Cultures, and Business and Management are the most popular study areas.
“Almost 70 percent of our learners are aged between 26 to 64, so prime working age, and half our learners are in full- or part-time work,” Nelson noted. “We’re seeing more and more learners embark on online learning to support their career progression and get ahead in the workplace.”
Current business-related courses are available covering topics such as digital leadership, digital marketing, open innovation, starting a business, intercultural communication, applications and interviews, time management, ethics, customer engagement, business finance, money management, and more.
Most courses require between six to ten weeks for completion—though there are some as short as two or three weeks—and include the opportunity to access the materials for free or upgrade to earn a Certificate of Achievement or Statement of Participation. Unlike many online education platforms, social learning is an important part of every course hosted on FutureLearn.
“We want learning to be as enjoyable to people as using social media,” Nelson explained. “Throughout their chosen course, learners are prompted to engage in conversation with others, exposing them to ideas and insights from across the globe. Learners’ conversations take place alongside the learning material, so that they are interacting with other learners and connecting with content, every step of the way.”
The Skills You Need to Change Careers
While previous job experience is certainly beneficial when trying to secure a higher-paying role, Nelson noted that most employers are looking for professionals who have proven they’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure they remain relevant within their field.
“Research we conducted with The OU and Parthenon EY shows that two-thirds of those doing short online courses are doing them for professional reasons. Over 75 percent believe there’s a link between the short course and their career advancement,” he said. “Short courses enable employees to equip themselves with the skills that are directly relevant to a specific job, meaning that employers are able to capitalize on their employees’ skills straight away.”
For those looking to make a change to an entirely new field, online courses can also be useful. “They give those who are changing jobs the opportunity to gain necessary skills to embark on a new role and feel that bit more confident the first day, or stand out to an employer in a job interview,” Nelson said.