Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

Posted January 19, 2015, by Marni Williams
The new year has clocked over and everyone is talking about what they are looking forward to: new jobs, new cities, home improvements, babies, putting their selfie sticks to good use. 

And if it seems as if everyone around you is on that self-improvement conveyor-belt towards livin’ the dream, then you’d be right.

Paris-based global communications group Havas has been trend-spotting for more than a decade and has just listed ‘self-everything’ as their number one ‘übertrend’ for 2015:

‘Creating a positive self-image is now recognised as a vital task for everyone, boosted by good measures of self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-respect and self-regard. Getting those right sets off a self-reinforcing process, especially for those energetic self-starters.’

OK, it’s possible all that self- talk may have made even your own inward-focused eyeballs flick outwards in disgust, but, as the report suggests, all this introspection and individual action-taking seems to be a response to something bigger. Says Havas:

‘Maybe this is all an unhealthy sign of an increasingly fragmented and atomised society. But maybe it’s more about people responding to a world that has gotten too big and too unmanageable.’

Unmanageable? Surely not! I for one am managing just fine with the 41,000 new Facebook posts per second and 278,000 tweets … every … minute.

If we’re now relying only on ourselves to improve our own lives then it’s probably no surprise that ‘self-directed learning’ was also in Havas’s much-awaited What’s-Now report.

We direct our own learning online every day. Whether it’s finding the right YouTube clip for your IKEA flat pack assembly or completing an online degree, we’re more capable than ever of learning life’s lessons from our living rooms. Yet for all that convenience, finding a career path can seem more difficult than ever. Maybe this is because we’re also living in a time when the terms ‘analysis paralysis’, ‘information overload’ and ‘decision fatigue’ seem increasingly relevant to our daily lives.

So in this world of endless choices and industry shifts, how do we know that the paths we’re choosing are the right ones?

The good news is that along with this barrage of choice flows a bit more flexibility: we don’t have to know exactly where we’re going from the start in order to improve ourselves. In fact, a bit of indecision can be a good thing, as long as it’s not stopping you from acting. Why? Because you might just try your hand at a few different careers before finding one that really calls your name. And this is easier than ever with universities offering study by-the-unit (that’s ‘by-the-subject’ for those of us who have been out of the study game for a while).

It’s an approach Open Universities Australia has pioneered with great success. In fact, 2012 saw a 17 per cent increase in unit enrolments alone, and they have found that offering subject tasters sets students on a path to greater realisation of their goals.

So is single-unit study right for you? It’s 2015, guys: only you know the answer to that. But in our self-interested year of self-discovery, this could just be the self-directed study revolution we’ve been waiting for.

Here are five reasons why studying step-by-step might be for you:

Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

Units introduce you to studying at a university level, no matter your previous level of study

Whether you didn’t finish high school, you are new to the country or you’re looking to make a shift from VET study to higher education, taking a preparatory unit will make you one-and-a-half times more likely to pass your undergraduate units.

They’re popular, too. In 2012 there was a 250 per cent increase in prep enrolments at OUA. These units cover areas such as academic writing, time management, and online learning and can serve as bridging units so that you can get your skills or knowledge of a specific area up to scratch before you start a degree.

Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed
Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

You can try before you buy

OUA’s model of offering units of study from different institutions allows you to see what’s on offer around the country before you commit to a full degree.

As a part of OUA Pathways, you can nominate a general area of interest and OUA will recommend units from different degrees that will not only suit your interests, but count towards a full degree once you’re ready to begin. This is a great way to try courses from institutions as diverse as RMIT, CSU, the University of Western Australia and Griffith University.

Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

It counts towards something bigger

No matter what you start with, it will always count towards something greater. Whether that’s simply increasing your chances of getting into a degree program, reducing your study time with recognition for your prior learning, or inspiring you to learn more with a postgraduate qualification, taking a unit or two is never wasted time.

With demand for postgraduate degrees projected to double between 2014 and 2020, it will pay to get started. Not only that, once you decide to translate your study into a full qualification, you can apply for government-funded study loans to make your journey even easier.

Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

You can start whenever you like

Wherever you are in life, or even in any given year, you can always improve your knowledge through further study and learn more about an area that really interests you.

Studying a single unit online is a much smaller commitment than taking on a full study load, and with OUA you can start at one of four dates in the year and set your own pace through to a qualification.

You can also start slowly. Taking one unit at a time allows you to get into a good study routine and to manage your commitments. Once you’ve found your groove, you can move on to two at a time (and more if you really want to). 

Keep Calm And Improve Yourself: How Short Courses Can Help You Succeed

You can plug gaps in your knowledge while you work

Whether you’re interested in learning about ‘Communications in the Electronic Age’, ‘Indigenous Australian Education’, ‘Introduction to Sustainable Development’, or any other of OUA’s 1,000-plus units, taking a single subject such as these can allow you to get up to date in specific areas without binding yourself to three (or more) years of study and a large fina/…/new-media-communications-in-the-electronic-agencial commitment.

You can also fit your studies around your work commitments, so you can continue to earn while you learn. And what’s more self-satisfying than that?


With study units you can begin anywhere, but you still have to start somewhere.

Browse these study units and enquire now to direct your own journey. No regrets!

Marni Williams

Academy Xi
ACBI (Australian College of Business Intelligence)
AIBI Higher Education
AIM Business School
ALC Training
Australasian College of Health and Wellness
Australian College of Physical Education
Australian Institute of Business
Australian Institute of Management Education and Training
Australian Institute of Personal Trainers
Billy Blue College of Design
Builders Academy Australia
Building and Construction Training Australia
Celtic Training
Collaboration Learning
College for Adult Learning
Demi International
Ducere Global Business School
Ella Bache College
Endeavour College of Natural Health
Foundation Education
Gateway Training Academy
GROW Training Group
Hader Institute of Education
Hammond Institute
Health Courses Australia
Industry Skills Training
Insight Training
James Cook University Online
La Trobe University
Lumify Learn
MCI Institute
Melbourne City Institute of Education
Melbourne College of Further Education
Monarch Institute
Monash College Future Skills
National Business Institute of Australia
Nepean Industry Edge Training
Onfit Training College
Open Colleges
Original Campus
Outsource Institute
Parker Brent
Pet Stylist Academy
Phillips Institute
Plenty Training
RMIT Online
Sero Institute
Serve It Up
The Hotel School
The Institute of Applied Psychology
Torrens University Australia
University of Adelaide
University of the Sunshine Coast
UNSW Online
UTS Online
Victoria University Online
Torrens University Australia
Torrens University Australia
University of East London
Southern Cross University