5 years of taking online education taught me this

5 years of taking online education taught me this
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

The first year I made this

In my first year, I discover online courses, but I didn’t see it as a way that can help me at the time.

I would only say to myself, this looks good but I don’t feel pressured to finish it, maybe someday, like when I am looking for a job I will have better reasons

As you may know, my way of thinking was not very mature, and it wasn’t because I was at school with so many hours and for me, it was not a big deal to finish.

The topics that interested me at the time were mainly programming and business. I enroll in 3 free udemy courses and paid for 3. I remember that I just completed 2 but because it was 2 hours or less, so no big deal.

As you may know, some Udemy Courses can get through 30 hours of content, and this makes it hard to finish. At the time I thought that more content meant that the course was better, but obviously, I was mistaken.

Finally, it is important to say that I just took courses from Spanish speakers instructors so as you may think, the offer was not very high back then.

Summary First Year

So some points I can figure it out was

  • Started looking for online courses and discovered a whole new industry
  • I didn’t take seriously any online course and my completion rate was not high
  • I have wrong ideas about the quality of the online course.


The second year, was the time that I started university. I said to myself that the competition would be higher so using online education could give me an advantage, especially in programming courses.

So I went through my content plan for my degree trying to analyze where I can study the topic ahead, to get ahead.

But things don’t go always as planned, and in the first months I began to have the same mistakes as my first year, but this time worse.

Because I expended more money on online courses and I didn’t finish nor see it.

Then I decided to try another platform and commit myself to spend money.

So I began to use Coursera and enrolled in a Specialization, every month you pay between 30 to 50$ and you stop paying once you finished the series of courses that are covered.

As you may know, I was tempted to not finish, but when I saw every month that Coursera was taking money out of my credit card, I say this is enough.

So for the first time, I committed myself, the specialization took me 4 months.

All of this while studying full time at university, so this also taught me to manage my time.

Last but not least, I think that the best improvement overall about this year was that I began to consume content in English.

Because Spanish is my native language and I live in Panama (Latinoamerica), English is not particularly necessary.

Also my whole specialization in Coursera was in English so this was no escape.

I recommend this to all the people who are looking for online education, sadly but true, the best content is in English.

Summary second year

So in recap, what this year taught me about online courses was this

  • Is easy to not take so seriously online education.
  • Is harder when you are studying full time because you need to pass that first.
  • Managing your time is key for online education.
  • One benefit is that you can decide your hours, the disadvantage is that is harder when you are doing many things.
  • If it is hard to concentrate and commit yourself you can try the method that I took, it was harsh but ultimately useful.
  • The method consists of paying money monthly and don’t stop before you completed the course.
  • This ultimately builds discipline and teaches you the basics to finish what you start.


Then the third year came, and I wasn’t prepared. I kind of get slow because I found out other ways, and university hit back with some of the hardest math courses I have ever taken.

This year was different in many ways, now that I knew I could finish I went back to my for some coding courses on web technologies.

These courses were 25+ hours each, so it was not easy to complete as you know.

Also were Udemy courses, so there was no motivation to complete, although I will say they were high quality (and in English).

So my take was, to begin with one at a time and complete the projects slow and steadily.

This was hard because the projects that I built were not updated and I had to make a lot of errors.

Slow and steady I did it and I finished 4 in a good way (Css, Js, React, Node Js with Mongo DB).

It was hard, but also I went through different online courses with the same approach and I completed them.

Slow and steady as I said before, that was the key.

This third year I was much mature and my commitment was real.

Summary third year

So, in summary, I could say

  • The knowledge acquired in the past years was key for my success in online education.
  • Slow and steady wins the race
  • You may encounter (especially with web dev courses) that some things have changed and you need to solve some errors on the way.
  • For example, if you are studying javascript and the instructor uses some versions of the packages, try to use those, otherwise, it could lead to unexpected things.
  • That’s not bulletproof, because sometimes they would use some open-source packages (or APIs) and they could end their services.

Fourth year

Fourth-year came, and I was trying to understand better the situation. Online courses alone don’t cut it. You just need to apply, especially in technology.

So suddenly I felt bad because just dedicated myself to courses and not exploring other types of content.

I decide to make a change and explore other types of content, like books, podcasts, and some live training.

Is true that I felt kind of bored of video content, it was the same structure and learning was slow.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that video content is really helpful, just that sometimes it can slow you down.

Maybe after some level of experience, commitment and discipline you found that you can trust yourself to take on more tasks.

Then you realize that video although you can speed it up, it’s not as fast as reading.

And create blogs, books are (in some cases) faster than videos, not only to consume but to create too.

That means that when you are looking for some special information about a problem you have, it would be easier to read a blog than a video, because the last may not exist.

On the other hand, books are very structured in their table of contents, so you can skim faster than in videos.

After incorporating this variety speeds up my learning, and also make me better at reading English.

I think it has many benefits, that to consume books first and then videos.

For programming languages, frameworks, or coding projects I still prefer videos because is easy to see what their code is doing.

Fourth-year in summary

  • Video content is great but it can benefit to consume another type like books, blogs, podcasts.
  • Reading is faster than seeing videos
  • Books are (in some cases) cheaper than courses, especially if they are digital.
  • Remember that not applying and just doing only was in the course, could not take you anywhere and you may find yourself not making progress.
  • Try to incorporate some buddies and start teaching or creating content, not only could help you but also others.

Why this year is different

Ok, Fernando, after all these years what you have learned.

The truth is that I am still learning, and not looking for getting rid of online education anytime soon. I think that is one of the best ways of educating today.

Because in some countries (i am talking about my country) education has so many flaws. I could make a book about it, and only scratch the surface.

Our unique way is to go through online education, and I know that it’s not the best one, it has many flaws too.

One flaw could be that you don’t have so much social interaction or feedback on your work although some platforms address this problem.

Also, the top universities have top-class professors that could teach you wonders.

On the other hand, online platforms don’t have as much recognition as universities, and this would not change so easily.

So some people think that online degrees are useless.

But a pandemic hit us, online classes were the norm so what is the difference?

The name of the university in the paper counts a lot, and for me is a no-brainer to graduate.

Nearly all the jobs ask for a degree in the field, also a lot of experience, but that’s a problem that I can write about later.

So my approach for this fifth year will be the next one.

  • Concentrate only on the resources that gather me the best information and ignore the other ones.
  • There are so many resources that can be overwhelming, so look for USEFUL content.
  • Don’t hesitate on looking through a variety of resources, you look for useful for your situation, you can skim through books, perfectly fine.
  • The world has become bigger, in terms of online communities. Not all people what to move to the US, so before moving out try to read about your country.
  • Read about your situation, the goods and the bad of the place you living.
  • Looking in other countries could be helpful too, you can get to know places looking at youtube videos.
  • You can discover that the places you fantasize about are not as beautiful as you think.
  • Every country has problems, the sooner you discover, the better.
  • Once you know your situation, you can adapt your learning through it, and prioritize what’s important

That’s my take.

I will write more on the topic, I promise, see you soon.

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Remember you can follow me on Twitter @fernandocutire, I am getting better at writing in English so we could talk there

Fernando Cutire

Fernando Cutire

Software Engineer Finishing my degree. Becoming a better friend