Apr 14, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Sure, you can earn a degree online.  But you can also learn that skill or take up that hobby that you’ve always wanted to try—all online.  Because online studies are so accessible and flexible, you have opportunities waiting for you right at your fingertips. 

Want to dip into a new language?  Photography?  Coding?  Knitting?  Juggling?  It’s all out there and you don’t need to be in a degree program to access it.  Let’s take a closer look at ways you can use online learning for your personal development.  


Arts: Photography, Music, Writing, Painting

1.  Photography

In a visual world, photography is more important than ever.  Online photography courses will arm you with the skills to enter this exciting field.  You’ll learn about shutter speed, ISO, aperture settings, and all things digital photography.  Consider online photography options and brighten your scope.   

2. Music

Most people love music—the beats, the rhythms, the journey.  If music is your thing, but you don’t want to earn a degree in it, just learn more about it, consider taking some online music courses.  You might listen to something you’ve never heard—and your whole world could blossom in a new way.

3. Writing

If you love to write—poetry, fiction, songs, essay—and want to write more, but aren’t sure where to start, an online writing course may be just the thing.  What’s really fun?  An online writing workshop.  Work with folks from half a world away to make your darlings even better.  Take a look at online writing options.  You won’t regret it.

4. Painting online?  You bet.  Watercolors, oils, acrylics, mixed media, the options are all there and waiting for you to explore.  Consider starting with an animation course and let your paintbrush walk you through the rest. 


Personal Budgeting

Never took a finance course in high school or college?  Finances a mess?  Take an online course in personal budgeting and learn the ins and outs of money management, credit cards, mortgages, checkbooks, debit cards, credit reports, and how to create a personal budget.  Educate yourself about retirement accounts, savings accounts, IRAs, money markets, and more.  Take the most practical online course—personal budgeting—and stop stressing about finances.  Consider Coursera’s options or check out the financial courses offered by The Skills Network.  Your wallet will thank you.   


World Languages

They’re more than just a requirement for a liberal arts degree—they’re a way of life, and an essential one.  Ç’est vrai! 

Learning a new language isn’t just for students in degree programs—they’re for everyone.  We’ve reported on some fun apps to get you started.  Now it’s time to explore your online course options for learning languages—many of which are free or close to it.   ¡Buen suerte!  Bellissimo.



Want to take those photographs to the next level?  It’s the nectar of every good photographer: photoshopping.  You can learn it by blindly doing it—or you can get some help by taking an online photoshopping course.  What will you learn?  Color.  Touch up.  Shading.  Cropping.  Brightness and contrast.  Curves and levels.  Saturation.  Layers.  You’ll enhance those photography skills, for sure.  Consider online photoshopping courses and breathe new life into your photographs. 



Ommmm.  Yes!  You can learn to meditate online.  Choose from meditation guides, select your images, sounds, and your preferred exercises.  Have an online meditation course guide you through the inhalations and exhalations of deep breathing to calm your body, mind, and spirit.  Once you have the skills from your online course, there yours forever.  The Coursera and Courses for Success catalogs have course options in meditation that might just hit that sweet spot.

If there’s something you’ve been dying to learn and you haven’t been sure how to learn it, check out an online course.  Remember: they’re not just for students in degree programs—they’re for you. 

Learn something new and fly!



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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