Saturday, 23 March 2019

What does 'Academic' Really Mean? | Online Course Recommendations

Would you say you're academic? I didn't think I was until recently. When I was a kid, I didn't enjoy school for a number of reasons: I was bullied, the teachers were abusive, and education-wise it was certainly under-performing. When I left that school to become home educated for the next few years, I enjoyed the projects we did and the places we saw, but I didn't seem particularly academically driven (not that that is necessarily needed in home education, but maybe that's a blog post for another time.)

Then I attended secondary school. I got good grades and I was well behaved, but looking back I can see that peer pressure made me take it less seriously than I could've done. When I began to suffer with anxiety and started online schooling, I took it much more seriously and really strived for good grades, even if I moaned about it sometimes. Still, I didn't think of myself as academic - plenty of people there were smarter than me.

It was when I decided to do A Levels that I began to think of myself as academic. I had a sudden need to learn more, and I was revising for 10 hours a day leading up to my exams. I was glad when college was over because, duh, freedom -- but after a while, I began to miss it.

I wouldn't go back to school or college, or go to university. It's a privilege, of course, and I enjoyed a lot. However, being forced to work just makes me resent it, and I hate learning something that I don't enjoy. Going through the motions in terms of learning doesn't satisfy me. But I've realised that I love teaching myself and putting effort into my own academic development, even if I have 'finished' education. (Does it ever really stop?) Once a home-ed kid, always a home-ed kid, right?

This might come as a surprise to you - it certainly came as a surprise to me - but a few months ago I realised I have an emerging passion for interior design. I've always loved it, and it's something that actually excites me, but for some reason I never thought about it in terms of a career choice; oh no, books and publishing is what I've always wanted to do. But as I thought about it more, I realised it couldn't hurt to learn more about the subject.

And so I searched for an online course.

And now I'm studying Level 1 Interior Design, soon to move on to Level 2! It's via distance-learning, so it can be completed anywhere, and it's self-paced, so I can fit it around work, completing assignments as and when I can. The joy I felt whipping out a fresh notebook and spending hours writing notes, making everything neat, and writing the words 'learning objective' again made it clear that, yeah, maybe I am academic after all. I can't believe that that realisation didn't come to me sooner. After all, I am Amber, the girl who got a new camera and immediately re-purposed an old notebook into a camera 'cheat sheet', the girl who actually enjoys doing rotas at work, the girl who still buys new stationery every August despite having been out of education for quite a while now...

It's not even necessarily about achieving a qualification so I can have a career in the industry. Like I said recently in my post about climbing the O2, it's so nice to achieve something for yourself, not for money or career-related goals. Here are some websites I've used to complete online courses that I really recommend to anyone interested. (Not sponsored, obvs.)


This is actually a careers website but they also have a directory of thousands of courses led by other providers and colleges. This is where I found my interior design courses, which are actually through Brentwood College.

Open University

There are lots of courses on the Open University website. Some are free, some are paid, and some result in a qualification whilst others are there for insight and something extra to put on your CV.


Lots of different universities run short courses on FutureLearn, and I did a great journalism course a few years ago with the University of Strathclyde. Bonus: they're all free. Cha-ching.


This is actually the first website I ever used to do an online course, which was an art course by Penn State University. There are plenty of other companies and universities on there, too.

Honestly, learning has become my favourite thing. I'm all about self-development and becoming the best person I can be. A lot of people define 'academic' as someone who is good at English, Maths, Science; someone who got straight A*s in exams; someone who goes on to become a doctor or a teacher. But maybe 'academic' just means someone who enjoys learning - whether that's as part of a course, or at work, or travelling the world. The world is your oyster (and a classroom).

Are you academic? Have you ever done an online course?

1 comment :

  1. I'm in the final month of my B.A. in English, and while I'm overjoyed to be done with classes and classroom settings, I find myself eager to learn more than ever. I'm currently using a website called Skillshare to learn more about Adobe programs, like InDesign, and I'm thinking about taking a few other classes in topics that interest me. I agree that being an academic can be seen in a lot of different ways, but it's really just about learning. Great post!