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Is it practical to study online?

BY: SGI|12 February 2019
BLOG| Deciding to study online

Is it practical to study online? That’s a tricky question to answer because everyone’s circumstances are different. However, the US-based Babson study (2016) shows online learning enrolment has increased for 14 years, with 6% of all students (a total of 6 359 121 students) in the States taking at least one course online. This seems indicative of a global trend of increased online learning enrolments that suggests that for most people, distance learning is becoming a practical solution.


Over 60% of Africa’s 1,2 billion people are under the age of 25. By 2050, the population is projected to double. Already, countries are struggling to provide access to education. In South Africa, for example, traditional tertiary institutes are limited at certain intake capacities, which means that there simply aren’t enough “spots” for thousands of matriculants each year. This is where online learning can truly be a differentiator in “democratising education”.

Read more: 5 reasons studying online is a smart choice

Here are three factors that are making it more practical to study online with distance learning:

1. The question of connectivity:

According to We Are Social:

  • Globally, over 4,021-billion people were using the internet in 2018.
  • Each person spends about six hours using internet-powered devices and services every day. That’s close to a third of their working lives. If we add this together for the 4 billion internet users, we collectively spent about 1 billion years online in 2018.
  • Africa has shown the fastest growth in internet users (20% year-on-year growth in users).
  • Mobile phone use was up by 4% year-on-year in 2018.


Internet access is increasing and data costs are coming down. SA is currently known for having fairly high data prices compared to the rest of the continent (a gig is seven times more expensive here than in Egypt), but that too is changing. The introduction of new competitors means #datapricesmustfall at some point in the near future.


What does this mean for online studies? Obviously, better internet connectivity and cheaper data are a win for online students. Remember, there are also coffee shops, libraries, and community centres where Wi-Fi is free.

2. The question of time:

Practically speaking, do you have time to learn while you earn? Let’s think about it this way…


Say you decide to do a week-long short online course. This probably demands about two hours of your time every evening. That’s about 14 hours in total. Do you know what else is 14 hours? Stranger Things – and you probably made time for that, didn’t you?


The point is you make time for the things you feel passionate about doing. Online short courses are commonly designed for people who are learning while working, so the modules are meant to slot into busy schedules. It just becomes a question of prioritising.


Remember, you can also usually speak to your employer – more often than not, businesses are very understanding and supportive of individuals seeking self-development opportunities. Ask for time off when studying gets intense and assignments are due.

3. But is it really practical?

Yes, it is practical. This is one of the biggest advantages of online learning. It’s about combining theory with practical skills that can immediately be applied to the office environment for an instant impact.

Read more on how online studying changed one marketing executive's life in Gauteng

The agility of the online space means course material can change all the time to keep up with real-world case studies. This means that not only are you learning practical skills, but you’re also solving relevant problems. SGI offers a signature practical activity for every course. For example, you may need to create and post a paid social advert and get marked on the engagement you generate. Learning skills that are instantly applicable is what sets SGI students apart from the rest.


For more information on distance learning and development opportunities with short online courses, visit SGI.co.za. If you are keen to know what it is like to be a digital online student with SGI, then you should read our eBook here.


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