In 2019 when I started my educational journey at Stenberg College in the Counselling Therapist program, it was a hybrid delivery program. This meant we spent two to three days learning theory online and then two to three days on campus putting the acquired knowledge and skills into action. However, six months into the program, the pandemic hit, and the Counselling program moved entirely online.
While the theory lectures remained the same, our instructors met us virtually every morning for live instruction. Despite our nerves about moving from in-person to online, we quickly learned the advantages of learning online. Here are my top five reasons why I enjoyed online learning.
When we transitioned to an online delivery format, I discovered that my classroom could now be anywhere I wanted it to be: the couch, a park, a friend’s house or even the treadmill. How cool is that? With the flexibility of watching or listening to my lessons from my laptop or cell phone, I could expand my learning environment to suit my schedule.
Learning online also meant I no longer needed to wake up at 6 a.m., walk my dog, or commute for an hour to campus. This added change meant I didn’t need to pay for a dog walker, saved money on gas and car insurance and had more free time in the day.
2. Increased self-discipline
Many people may initially see learning self-discipline as a disadvantage. The increased need to be self-disciplined to set a new online schedule helped me prepare for opening my private practice as a Counsellor. The responsibilities that I have now are very similar to learning online:
- Set aside a certain amount of time every day to plan, market, and develop my business.
- Be diligent in completing tasks on time, which requires practice for many people.
These are vital skills that don’t come naturally. Self-discipline is learned and my time studying online helped set this system.
3. More time for additional certificates
An advantage to online learning is being able to complete additional certifications. I took courses related to counselling offered in other parts of the province that I normally would not have been able to travel to or participate in. I often attended online workshops or seminars on the weekend on Trauma Informed Practice or Play Therapy. So, by the time I graduated, I had other certifications I wouldn’t have been able to access without online learning. I also met other professionals from around the province or country from whom I gained valuable knowledge and created lasting networking connections.
4. Choose when to study
Another advantage to learning online is choosing when to study based on when you do your best work. I’m a morning person, so I could work through my online lessons early in the day, which meant I was more focused and could easily concentrate. Some of my classmates were the opposite and often did their lessons in the evening when they were more relaxed.
Either way, with online learning, you choose the time and place, depending on your unique learning style. Also, because I was able to dictate when I studied online, I could keep my part-time job and fund my education. This added to my satisfaction, knowing I was able to return to school later in life and remain financially independent.
5. New skills through creative counselling
I was very hesitant about doing play and expressive therapy with child clients online, but it was an easy transition once I found a good video telehealth platform. My clients found it easy to get into as well!
Kids are so used to being online. Many teens prefer online counselling to in-person, which helps them feel more relaxed and in control. It taught me early on to be a creative counsellor. I learned to create online games, discussion questions and art activities that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do if we continued with a traditional in-person program. I’ve incorporated many of these ideas into my in-person sessions, such as emoji face check-in sheets, rock-paper-scissors ‘get to know you’ questions, and more. Working online challenged me in many ways, from organization to creative thinking, which has proven to be a valuable, lasting skill.
While I didn’t expect to transition to a fully online format when I first entered the Counselling Therapist program at Stenberg, I can truthfully say that it taught me much more than I anticipated. I left with excellent time management skills, creativity in my professional abilities as a child and youth counsellor, and the self-discipline required to run a busy private practice. While you may be hesitant to make the switch, the advantages of studying online can easily create an excellent learning environment.