Online education is rapidly gaining prominence in business and higher education circles. Just a decade ago, online learning was viewed as a second-rate form of education. Today, a combination of factors have pushed this technology-based learning method into greater prominence for students and young working professionals.
The ever-spiraling costs of higher education, a slowing economy, tougher admission requirements to physical universities and more universal Internet access have all come together to lift the opportunity for online education’s promise.
According to Hotchalk, an education technology company, about 62% of US 30-somethings have enrolled in an online course. And the age range of people taking courses online is growing too, with people in their 20s and those in their 50s attending online courses.
A recent BMO Capital Markets and Training Report published by The Education Industry Association (EIA) reports that online education enrollments has grown growing to 13.5% in the 2010 – 2011 school year from only a miniscule 1.2% of the total market a decade ago. And US News, using estimates culled from a Sloan Consortium online education report, recently reported that nearly 7 million students enrolled in an online course through the end of 2011.
The data indicates more people of all ages are turning to online education sources to increase their knowledge, enhance their education and increase their employment opportunities. A study by Hotchalk revealed that 46% of students who had some experience with online education reported it was “somewhat better” than the brick and mortar equivalent. All this seems to suggest that online education is now being better received by students. In fact, it’s increasingly seen as the more preferred method of study, for students seeking online college business degrees or young professionals looking to re-energize their career.
So let’s look at how online courses can play a part in lifting up a young professional’s knowledge base.
Courses for Study
A junior accounting professional at a mid-size manufacturer might want to take online courses to broaden his expertise. Deciding which course to take is one decision, and picking out the online process that best suits the person’s schedule is another critical point. For anyone looking to continue courses, it’s important to set goals for the study. Can you get the course work approved by your company? Will it be seen as a beneficial aspect of your company progress? Will this just be a refresher course? Or are you looking into entirely new studies? Experimenting with courses, while rewarding, can prove costly and is often not realistic for those on a tight budget.
A recent development in the world of online courses has been the launch of edX. A joint venture by MIT and Harvard University, edX offers about 60 free courses from universities such as MIT, Harvard, University of Texas, University of Washington, Georgetown University, Rice, McGill, Cornell as well as universities from outside the United States such as the University of Hong Kong, Kyoto University, Seoul National University, University of Queensland and many others.
These online classes range from different topics in social studies, business, health management, law, science and history, among others. Registrants can choose from this educational buffet without committing to a particular subject. The student is also saving money by testing these courses for their effectiveness.
Not all courses offered online need to culminate in a degree, class accreditation or other educational certification. Many individuals are finding that they can enhance their knowledge and their career prospects through vocational courses. Organizations such as LERN (The Learning Resources Network) offer courses taught by industry experts. LERN courses are offered indirectly through more than 300 universities in the US and Canada, and supplement the more traditional offerings from those institutions.
Young professionals working for companies and organizations can take courses that focus on business and associated disciplines to help them boost their resumes, add to their knowledge core and further their careers. Others may take courses to boost their competitiveness in today’s ultra-tough job market.
Kiplinger.com highlighted the story of a 42 year old woman who found her career prospects were diminishing. Although enrolled in an MBA program, she was unsure of exactly how to broaden her career prospects. She worked with a career counselor and identified characteristics most fulfilling for her career. When it came time to take online courses, she had the necessary structure and guidance. She ended up applying for and eventually securing a new job.
Seeking guidance from skilled advisors can help before tipping the toes into professional online courses. It’s a smart way to spend a little money to save more later on.
One of the growing issues with online courses is that burnout from laptop use can occur over time. Without classroom discussions, and with minimal instruction from online professors, students may tend to feel somewhat isolated. Online online education sites lists three major ways students can avoid burn out from online studies:
• Disconnect & Reconnect – Take time to shut down the technology and reconnect with the people around you. Sometimes, informal classroom discussions can happen with students enrolled in the same online class. Take advantage of these instances.
• Prioritize & Minimize – Understand what is most important to you, focus on that, and find where education fits in.
• Health & Happiness – Eat healthy and exercise regularly.
For young professionals, it’s important to take stock of where your career is today, and where you want it to go. Online courses can be a great driver to taking you ahead in your business development. Seek out some of the leading online courses in your area and hone in on your goals.