Online Classes - Why Taking Short Online Classes Can Turn You Into a Polymath

Updated on April 2, 2019
Edward_G_Gordon profile image

As a Philomath, I place a lot of value on having a healthy brain. But what are the three main requirements for a healthy mind?


Short Online Classes. A Shortcut to Success.

Short online classes are designed to provide a foundation for further study or to fill a gap in your knowledge base. They rarely last longer than a semester, which equates to approximately thirty hours of study. And there's no limit to how many you can take.

Doctors and nurses have been using short courses for years to keep up to date with new advances in medicine. In fact it's considered part of their job to take these courses and attend conferences in order keep their certifications current.

But for most people, it's not always possible to attend a brick and mortar college or university, or go to conferences, whether that is due to poor grades, work commitments, distance or financial constraints.

Online classes offer a valid and accessible alternative.

There are several benefits to taking an online course.

  • You can take them at your own pace.
  • You can take them from home using a PC or laptop.
  • They are often cheaper than attending a college or university.
  • You can tailor your education pathway.
  • You can often get financial help from employers.
  • Because these courses are so short you will see an immediate boost to your promotion opportunities once completed.
  • You can dip your toe into a subject and if you don't like it, you won't have lost a lot of time or money.
  • There are now many top Universities offering short classes online and the costs of taking them are coming down all the time.


A Change in the Way We View Education

Education has always been important. The advent of the printing press in the 16th century saw an explosion in education which resulted in the establishment of Universities during the Renaissance period.

The advent of the internet has seen another exponential explosion, this time in online education. At first, the emphasis was on traditional distance learning with universities offering diplomas and degrees.

Time has seen a shift in emphasis with many companies now offering short classes and certificates at much reduced costs.

Udemy, one of the more popular providers boasts over 100,000 offerings.

With access to so much information, there has never been a better time to be a Polymath.


What is a Polymath?

A Polymath is an individual who is a dedicated learner, notable by their mastery of two or more disciplines and expertise in many more.

When we think of Polymaths, we tend to think of Leonardo da Vinci and his Renaissance contemporaries. The original Renaissance men.

The Polymath ideal of a universal education, popular during and after the Renaissance period has been superseded by the specializations required in many modern fields of endeavor, especially in Academia.

The Polymath is distinguished from the specialist by having a broader knowledge base usually covering unrelated specialities. In essence, a Polymath only goes deep enough to gain an expert understanding of a subject.

For example, a Polymath might have mastery in Physics and Maths, but may also be considered to have an expert command of languages, art or philosophy.

The specialist goes deep, mastering his chosen field of expertise with little or no detour into any other areas. For example, a Physicist who studies quantum theory may never study any other field other than their one speciality.

“A Polymath is a person of wide and varied learning? “

— Oxford English Dictionary

How to Become a Polymath

Specialist's will always have a place in society. We need them. But we also need Polymaths, people who can move between disciplines and see the patterns that others can't.

To be considered a Polymath, aim to master at least two subjects and become an expert in two or three more. The more varied the disciplines the better.

In the Renaissance period, a gentleman was not considered to be fully rounded unless they could discourse on multiple topics: theology, philosophy, science and the arts.

They were expected to be able to write eloquently, both in prose and poetry and to speak several languages with ease and to be physically fit.

Fencing became hugely popular during this period as it was seen as a required skill for a gentleman. Hence the popularity of fencing academy's during the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries. (Wikipedia)

Taking multiple short classes, can provide a deep understanding of a subject allowing you to become an expert, without the need to specialize.

In this as in many other endeavours the Paretto principle comes to the front. The 80/20 rule is in full effect when considering learning any subject. 80% of all your knowledge on a subject comes from 20% of the subject matter.

For example, knowing 1,000 phrases in a language will provide you with an expert level proficiency, allowing you to talk confidently and accurately with natives.

Being able to do Mathematics up to Calculus level will allow you to read and understand all but the most difficult mathematical texts and physics theories.



Taking short classes will always be beneficial, even if taking them doesn't turn you into a Polymath.

Top benefits:

  • Keeps your mind healthy and active.
  • Increases your value in the workplace.
  • Gives you more options when changing jobs or career.
  • Makes you a more interesting conversationalist.
  • Active learning, especially when done late in life, may help protect you from mental illness such as Alzheimer's. (ref: Alzheimer'

Maybe it's time to check out a few of the offerings from some of the providers listed below.



Oxford English Dictionary

Mastery by Robert Greene


Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with any of the listed providers and I will not receive any compensation should you decide to sign up to one of their courses.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Edward G Gordon


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      • Edward_G_Gordon profile imageAUTHOR

        Edward G Gordon 

        6 months ago from Northern Ireland

        Thank you for your comment Megan. With the internet, people now have so many opportunities to learn and educate themselves which they were denied before mainly due to lack of finance.

        And with course fees at an all time low, there's no better way to gain that education. And if you can become a Polymath in the process, all the better.

      • profile image


        6 months ago

        Very interesting read! As a teacher in the language field, I always encourage my students to take advantage of online educational resources. I myself have found them invaluable in better equipping oneself with the knowledge and skills that you wouldn’t ordinarily gain from a regular classroom environment.

      • Edward_G_Gordon profile imageAUTHOR

        Edward G Gordon 

        6 months ago from Northern Ireland

        Thank you for that support R Talloni. I'm a firm believer in education for the masses and online courses help reach people who for many reasons are not be able to access brick and mortar offerings.

        It's nice to know, I'm not the only person to feel this way.

      • profile image


        6 months ago

        Enjoyed reading this because continuing education is so important in this fast changing world. Knowing that it will equip them to move into better positions in other places my husband encourages his staff to take advantage of the opportunities online education offers people with all sorts of backgrounds and interests. All of the reasons your present are good ones, making the effort well worth the time.


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