While women have been dominating higher education in the US, we are lagging behind in taking advantage of learning resources online, claims the co-founder of an online education startup.

By Michelle Chen (Co-founder, RedHoop)

For those of you using Quantcast to understand your users, this screenshot should look familiar. You are probably asking yourself, ‘which company’s demographic data is this? How come so many male and so few female?’ It is definitely not Pinterest’s – that’s for sure.

It is the demographics data of RedHoop, an online education startup I co-founded this year. When I first saw this number two weeks ago, I was taken aback. It just doesn’t make sense.  It’s been over 20 years since more women than men are getting college degrees in the US!

Is RedHoop’s demographic data an anomaly? Not necessarily. I looked up the demographic data of some of the leading online course providers on Alexa.com, went back to see the stats of my Coursera course, and talked to my friend who works at Coursera. All the number I found show the same conclusion – women are not taking advantage of the growing number of exceptional online learning resources.

Why do so few women continue their learning online?

My hypothesis is after we get our degrees, which is the most valuable employment credential, we become too busy for further learning due to professional and family reasons. That must change. A degree is simply not enough in today’s job market, regardless of your gender. Though I have a Stanford MBA, I went through a period of unemployment in 2008-2009 due to the financial crisis, a painful, yet life-changing experience. It made me realize no matter what degree I have, I must continue to learn and acquire competitive skills in order to succeed. For those who have kids and find it impossible to squeeze in more time for self-learning, remember that mothers are the most important teachers for their children. So please, never stop learning and never stop being a role model for your kids. Any knowledge/skill can become outdated, so the best thing you can teach your kids is an attitude of lifelong learning.

The Best Online Resources

To jumpstart your self-learning, I encourage you to start with the major MOOC (Massively Open Online Courses) providers, e.g. Coursera, Udacity and edX based in the US, Open2Study based in Australia, and OpenupEd based in Europe. Khan Academy also has amazing courses, and their courses are usually short. Even a paid course provider like Udemy has over 300 free courses.

If you are like me and don’t want to spend time visiting multiple websites to search for courses, check out RedHoop. We aggregate over 4,000 courses (1,400+ free) from all major online course providers and the number is growing. The vast number of different kinds of courses available is simply remarkable. Two days ago, a good friend of mine, who is also mother of two, found a speed reading course on RedHoop. Speed reading is a useful skill for any busy professional and a great time investment.

I also encourage you to use Quora. Many people ask questions like “how to learn …” and I find some of the answers useful and insightful.

To conclude, I will leave you with a quote by Gandhi, “learn as if you were to live forever.” Remember that there are numerous online learning resources made for people like us – people who never cease striving to be the best person we can be, people who never settle for anything less than the extraordinary.

Never stop learning and never stop improving.

Are you taking advantage of online learning resources?

173e515About the guest blogger: Michelle is the co-founder of RedHoop, a search engine for online courses. It already has over 4000+ courses (1400+ are free) from all major online course providers like Coursera, Udacity, edX, Khan Academy, Lynda.com and Udemy. You can follow her on Twitter at @michellechen or email her at michelle@redhoop.com.