The Difference Between Free and Paid Online Programs, Explained!

Disclaimer: I refer to paid programs as a standardised product. I am painfully aware that there is a huge fluctuation in the quality of paid online program offerings, but I commit this transgression to simplify and broadly establish the differences between paid and free online programs.

Mainstream awareness of online education was built via MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and hence, a lot of people assume online education = free. When making a purchase decision, they struggle with understanding the cost-benefit analysis of paid online education.
While attempting to explain the difference between paid and free online learning, I will simplify for the sake of brevity.

The key difference between free and paid programs is the following:

Enrolling in a free program is like buying a library membership vs. enrolling in a quality paid program is like getting admitted to a top-class university.

The Difference Between Free and Paid Online Programs, Explained! UpGrad Blog
The purpose of academic learning is to build your confidence and help your career progress. When you get a library subscription (free online course) you will buy access to a large pool of materials, but to achieve your objective you need to do the following:

    1. Have the self-discipline to go to the library


    1. Have the self-awareness to know what books you want to read – why and how?


    1. Have the self-discipline to complete the books you have picked up


    1. Rely on self-guidance (Google!) to resolve all your queries


  1. Create the self-image of having credible skills when you meet someone
The Verdict on Online Courses: To Do or Not To Do

When you have to rely so much on yourself, without social support or inspiration, you know that it is not going to end well, 99.9% of the times.
The Difference Between Free and Paid Online Programs, Explained! UpGrad Blog
When you get admitted to a top class university (quality paid online program), you have access to:

    1. A structured curriculum and tangible learning outcomes


    1. Experienced faculty teaching you academic concepts


    1. Hands-on application projects


    1. Amazing peer network


    1. Industry mentorship and career assistance services


  1. A reputed certification/credential with broad acceptance
Infographic: What After IT? Top 5 Transitions You Can Make

Our commitment, within all UpGrad programs, has been to provide our learners with all of the above, via our academic and industry partners. This has helped us achieve >90% completion rates and successful career transitions for many UpGrad learners. Hence, UpGrad learners compare the programs with other Post Graduate/Masters programs and not free online programs.

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