Opinion | Broaden your horizons with online classes

By Josh Beylinson, Staff Columnist

When Pitt transitioned to online classes this past spring, many students didn’t like the change and were turned off of the idea of online learning. But online classes aren’t as bad as they might seem — many seminars and “master classes” are available for free, and even the ones that cost money are much cheaper than any class through Pitt.

During my time at Pitt, I didn’t start to explore the world of online classes until last spring semester was over, and I found myself with nothing to do during quarantine. Sure, it was fun to have no responsibilities for a few weeks, but after that, it got old very quickly.

That’s when I started taking online classes outside Pitt.

Although these classes aren’t for credit, many offer certificates at the end which you can put on your resume. They also allow students to explore and learn about subjects that they would not have been able to if they just focused on their major.

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I started taking online classes because I had an internship over the summer that was in a different field than what I was originally planning on going into. When I went into college, I was originally planning on going to law school after graduation. This internship was in digital marketing, and I accepted it because I was unable to find other internships within government or law.

Since I didn’t have much to do over quarantine, I decided to take online classes outside Pitt in digital marketing to better prepare myself for my internship. After taking a couple free courses online that introduced me to the field, I found it to be much more interesting than I originally thought. Once my internship started, I liked it even more, and it made me decide to change my career path to digital marketing.

Even if someone doesn’t have an internship lined up like I did, online classes can still be highly beneficial to any student with free time. Not only are online classes much cheaper than classes through Pitt, but they also allow students to go at their own pace throughout the course. While some online classes are offered through other universities, many of them are low-cost and offered by companies to train or teach people within a certain industry. For example, the classes I found were through a private company.

Along with this, it’s important for students to explore their interests outside of their majors. Not only will this allow them to broaden the scope of their knowledge, but it will also allow them to apply that knowledge to their own field. Many other disciplines have valuable knowledge that can be used in creative ways.

For example, learning about keyword research while taking digital marketing classes has helped me a lot when I’m researching for an article I want to write. Keyword research is important because it allows me to learn about what people are searching on search engines, so I know what topics are popular at the moment. I’ve also learned how to write concisely, how to tell a story and how to get straight to the point. There are so many ways to apply knowledge from other fields to your work. Along with that, any certificates you gain from these classes can be used to distinguish yourself from other people in your major.

By learning about other fields, you learn more about what you’re interested in and are able to  look at internship or job opportunities that you hadn’t considered before. Many students don’t get a chance to explore all their interests in high school, and it’s impossible to know what you want to do with your life until you truly try it. There are online classes for anything you can think of there are dozens of free classes out there that can help you just with your writing alone.

Taking online classes doesn’t only have to be for academic subjects or professional skills, either. Online classes also cover a variety of hobbies and life skills such as cooking and drawing. Many channels on YouTube teach these skills as well, but for a more in-depth experience and classes taught by known professionals, there are even better options such as Masterclass. These classes are inexpensive and are taught by some of the best people in their respective fields.

This year we are also dealing with the unprecedented consequences of COVID-19. Many students won’t be able to engage in as many extracurricular activities and will have more time on their hands than they usually do. Online classes are a great way to fill your time as you can complete them from the comfort of your home.

To make the most out of your time in college, take online classes outside Pitt. Since we aren’t able to do nearly as much around campus because of COVID-19, take this time to learn as much as you can.

Josh is a junior, and a fellow at CAMERA on Campus. He writes primarily about domestic and international politics. Contact him at [email protected].edu.