Can Online Classes Help You Become a Polymath?

Taking online classes may be one way of developing as a polymath. But what is a polymath and which online classes can help you get there fast?

Short Online Classes. A Shortcut to Success.

Online classes may be one way of developing as a polymath. But what is a polymath and which online classes can help you get there fast?

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. But can they help you become a polymath?

Let’s find out.

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.

1. You can take them at your own pace.

2. You can take them from home using a PC or laptop.

3. They are often cheaper than attending a college or university.

4. You can tailor your education pathway.

5. 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.

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. But the more online classes you take, the greater the chance you have of becoming a polymath.

In the meantime, here’s a few takeaways to consider.

Top benefits:

1. Keeps your mind healthy and active.

2. Increases your value in the workplace.

3. Gives you more options when changing jobs or career.

4. Makes you a more interesting conversationalist.

5. 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.



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Polymath – Wikipedia

What is a Polymath? From the Renaissance to the modern day, explore what it means to be a Polymath.