The workforce has begun to move online en masse, with the number of professionals working from home increasing by 159% over the course of the last 10 years. Online learning, therefore, assists professionals to prepare for this move to online work, but what exactly does studying online entail, and what benefits can it bring students that will help them gain the skills wanted by employers?
The online learning experience
Online learning requires just as much effort as any other course, and will also require the same amount of time dedicated to it. However, there is more flexibility with studying online, just as there is with remote working. Provided that deadlines are met and communication is maintained with your peers and your instructor, when or where those requirements are fulfilled is up to you.
Studying online tears down the barriers that can come with classroom learning, with one of the major benefits being the ability to go as deep with a subject as you wish. Studying online also removes personal barriers to further education.
At first, it can be a challenge to adjust to studying online. However, there are a number of benefits to doing so, and acquiring an online degree can be excellent preparation to advancing your career and gaining the skills that matter to potential employers, including problem-solving and decision-making skills. So, what are the main benefits of studying online?
Self-paced learning and greater flexibility
Committing to a full-time graduate program requires a time commitment that many people will be unable to give, especially those who already have to travel for work purposes. For those trying to combine working and studying, an online program offers flexibility that allows individuals the chance to learn while still being able to pay the bills and grow their professional career.
Studying online means that people can learn on their own schedules, logging on at a time that is most convenient for them instead of having to skip dinner with their family or leave work early. This flexibility makes it easier to balance life, study and work.
In traditional learning, students can sometimes feel uncomfortable asking their teacher to deep dive into specific topics or to repeat a previous point, but with studying online, students can easily stop a lecture or revisit past material to get better organized or perform further research. Lesson plans can be worked through at an individual’s own pace to make sure that they have truly mastered the material before they move on to the next section. This extra flexibility means that online learners can go through the course at their own pace and make the most of the program.
Studying online also means that there is more time for self-care. Individuals can exercise their mind without the need to subject themselves to the daily grind of commuting through traffic or even having to make an arduous journey and attend a physical class when they may be feeling under the weather.
Classes can also be enjoyed on the go, with new subjects able to be studied from locations as diverse as a coffee shop, a subway car or a medical waiting room. Learning can even continue uninterrupted should you be bitten by the travel bug and decide to jet off to the other side of the world.
Studying online means that students can choose the setting they want to study in that is best for their productivity. Many people require absolute silence in order to study to the best of their ability, while others may need activity around them or to be able to listen to music in order to remain motivated. While a specific format and ambience is forced by the classroom setting, studying online means that individuals can alter their environment to their own personal preferences for learning.
Superior time management
It is not easy to juggle work, school and family commitments, and those who can do so successfully have time management skills that will be recognized and admired by employers. Online study programs have no set classroom time, which means that students can make their own schedule and it is up to them to complete assignments by the deadline, plan ahead and reach out to faculty members.
Employers expect workers to be able to manage their time in an effective manner. Online classes provide a regular schedule of deadlines that need to be made and kept, enabling students to practice their time management skills and remain productive week after week.
These time management skills will be seen by employers as a valuable asset in their employees.
Successful online students are demonstrating their skills in time management, self-motivation, problem-solving and decision-making, which are among the top employability skills that are looked for by employers in new hires. Successful online students have demonstrated their ability to cope with many different tasks, set priorities and handle changing work conditions.
Students are expected to be independent, able to learn on their own, and capable of engaging with the material they are being taught. The workforce is essentially the same, with employers expecting employees to be self-motivated, capable of making decisions and solving any problems they may encounter in the course of their work, and looking out for new methods and opportunities. The more effort that students and employees put into their work, the greater success they will achieve.
Improving virtual collaboration and communication
The ability to collaborate with other people within a virtual environment is a skill that can make a more effective leader. Critical leadership skills will be developed via the use of specialized knowledge, the creation of efficient processes, and the ability to make decisions in regard to best communication practices.
Online learning programs also allow for participation in discussion boards with class peers, email communications with teachers, and collaboration via a number of different software programs. With the progression of the program, students will become more skilled at pitching their ideas and making professional, strong and succinct arguments in text form.
Taking part in discussion boards is similar in many ways to being part of a virtual team. Vital skills in a virtual workplace include being able to clearly communicate ideas and get a response and being able to project a professional image.
Managers and instructors alike expect remote workers and students’ communications to be polite, respectful and thoughtful, and for them to have the ability to cope with other perspectives and build rapport with teammates. Online programs allow for this skill to be quickly refined.
Getting a broader perspective
People can study online from all over the world, and given that anyone can log in from anywhere, there will be a broad range of discussions in class discussions that allow students to broaden their perspective and enhance their cross-cultural understanding.
This not only gives students the chance to build a global network of contacts, but to also broaden their own cultural awareness.
Businesses want employees to be innovative, and innovation frequently arises from outside the individual world experienced by individuals. For example, prospective entrepreneurs may learn about the ways that certain technologies are adopted by other nations or how new ideas can be found or existing concepts improved by specific industries.
Exposure to new ideas from professionals from all over the world can spark individual creativity and this creativity can be invaluable for employers.
Refining critical thinking skills
Studying online encourages critical thinking in regard to everyday activities. The aim of the classroom is to get students to think differently, and critical thinking in the workplace is also a major desire of employers. The ability to master this skill will set a student apart from others, and the same is true of an employee.
Critical thinking plays a vital part in all forms of education, but with online study, those critical thinking skills are forced to develop in ways that might not be practiced within a standard classroom. This type of self-motivated and self-paced learning shows prospective employers that an individual has critical thinking abilities and will be able to solve any problems they may encounter in the future.
Learning new technical skills
The successful completion of an online study course is the equivalent of having strong technical skills, which will be a big help for anyone looking for work in today’s world. Digital learning materials will almost certainly have to be utilized as part of studying online, as will becoming familiar with new software and tools and the troubleshooting of common issues. When the large and small technical hurdles of studying online have been successfully overcome by a student, an employer will be aware that they are well versed in basic troubleshooting, common collaboration tools and content management systems.
Virtual teams are being used by more and more companies all the time, making it crucial to have an understanding of remote collaboration. Classmates will probably live in different time zones, which students will have to schedule around and adapt to, and they will also need to learn to embrace technology.
When a group project is being worked on, it can become difficult to share status updates or files with emails, so project management and communication tools may need to be utilized. These tools include Basecamp, Dropbox, Skype, Slack and Tello.
Basecamp is a very robust project management tool that can be used to upload files and share messages. Dropbox allows documents to be shared with a group and work to be kept in one place with the use of a file hosting service. Skype is famously the name of video conferencing software that allows for face-to-face communication with peers. Slack is a messaging platform that is useful for instant real-time messaging or to allow users to break into smaller groups to work on particular aspects of a project. Trello is another project management tool that allows individuals and teams to assign, create, prioritize and track to-dos.
The great majority of businesses today will make use of some combination of the above software or similar programs. For an individual to have project management experience and familiarity with software such as the likes of Basecamp will be a great boost to any resume.
Those who have successfully undertaken a course of study such as a Masters of Operations Management Online are making future employers aware that they are comfortable with learning new technologies, independently and proactively tackling tasks, building a virtual rapport, and knowing how to use both a computer and a virtual workspace.
A single course at a traditional university can cost upwards of $4,000, but studying online can cost far less.
There are a number of reasons why online study is more economical, including reduced overheads due to the lack of need for classroom space and materials, a greater diversity of courses to choose from, and the fact that traditional supplies such as paper handouts, chairs, paper, desks and writing utensils are not required.
The same content in an online course can also be easily recycled for other students, thus also reducing the cost.
Why you should study online
Individuals who are still considering whether or not to study online should think about the many benefits that come with online learning. Studying online can be the ideal choice for those who are wishing to study but who are already juggling family and work responsibilities, while also preparing them to advance their career and demonstrate crucial skills to potential employers.
Another benefit of studying online is that the majority of courses will be able to be completed quickly, or at least more quickly than is the case with the traditional classroom setting. Those who want to strengthen their resume should focus their attention on courses that are applicable either to their specific skill set or their dream job. Additional skills can also be acquired via studying online that increase their appeal to employers.
Those who complete online study will likely gain greater access to a higher number of job opportunities and earn more income. Online studying helps to prepare individuals for the globalized workforce of the 21st century.