Workshops, Seminars, Short Courses: Major Differences in Online Learning Programs

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Workshops, Seminars, Short Courses: Major Differences in Online Learning Programs

Enrolling in online education is a great decision to make! It gives you the opportunity to expand your knowledge and skill within a field while taking advantage of the lower cost and higher convenience of the web. More people than ever are engaging in online courses, thanks in no small part to the COVID pandemic, which in addition to closing physical classrooms has compelled professionals to improve their credentials and more actively pursue their career dreams.

Yet, once you decide that you want to learn online, you have a more difficult decision to make: how? There are several levels of online education to choose from, and each offers advantages and disadvantages to different students. This guide should help you navigate the increasingly complex world of online education, so you can position yourself for success.

Online Class

Plenty of education opportunities online take the form of individual online classes, which take only a few hours to complete. While single classes are excellent for providing a basic introduction to a topic, the severely limited amount of time makes them poor at providing any deep knowledge or skill. Many single online classes are free, and the others tend to be affordable, making these once-off education experiences attractive to students looking for direction in their studies or careers.


The primary difference between a training and a single online class is that training is typically developed by and for specific organizations with the intention of preparing employees for new roles and responsibilities. New hires moving through the onboarding process will often participate in a training or two, but job candidates and experienced employees can also be subject to training. Companies tend to work hard to produce training that is engaging and educational, and online training has more potential to hold your interest and teach you the skills and knowledge you need to excel in your job.


Like training, workshops tend to be hosted by companies with the intention of developing a certain skill, like teamwork or leadership, within their workforce. Generally, workshops do not help students gain any type of hard skill or deep knowledge about a topic or field; instead, they are intended to be quick, fun, and easy classes to introduce employees to new concepts or techniques they can apply to their work. Sometimes, workshops are available to the general public, in which case they most likely serve the purpose of educating consumers about a company’s products or services.


Seminars are online classes that provide deep insight into a particular professional topic through a lecture, interview, or panel discussion. Industry experts will host seminars with the intention of sharing their expertise, often as part of a larger conference dedicated to their field. Unlike online classes, which have a cap on the number of students who can enroll, seminars can have audiences in the hundreds or thousands because there is essentially no coursework for students to complete. Seminars can offer valuable information and networking opportunities, but like single online classes, they are unlikely to equip you with an expert level of knowledge or skill.

Workshops, Seminars, Short Courses: Major Differences in Online Learning Programs

Short Course

Online short courses cover complex topics and last a few weeks or months, so students have more time and space to explore the course material, engage the professor, build relationships with fellow students, and more. Prestigious universities offer online short courses in a variety of subjects, giving you the opportunity to learn from some of the most experienced professors in your field. Sometimes, short courses provide a certification upon completion, which you can use as a credential to boost your career.

Degree Program

An online degree program inarguably provides the most in-depth instruction of all online education options. Just like a traditional degree program, online degrees require you to complete specific courses to accrue expertise in a particular field. Every level of degree is available through online learning, from associates to doctorates, and with each successive degree, your earning potential increases dramatically.

However, it is important to note that degree programs have some downsides. Tuition remains roughly the same between online and traditional degree programs, though online school allows you to skip costs like transportation and student housing. Furthermore, you might need to take time away from your career to complete your degree, which could be expensive and frustrating. Before you enroll, you should determine whether a full degree is essential for achieving your career goals or whether some other online education will suffice.

The world of online education is expanding, providing you with almost unlimited opportunities to gain new skills. You have the power to choose the best online education for your career.

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