Benefits of Flexible Online Learning Environments for Professionals

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An online degree lets professionals keep their jobs while improving their career skills.

College and perhaps graduate school have long been considered the educational finish line for ready-to-launch professionals. Young men and women would learn the skills they needed, get jobs, and never look back. Today, though, this reality is changing. In today’s fast-moving, ever-changing world, says writer Clodagh O’Brien, “there is a perpetual need to learn new skills, acquire knowledge and gain qualifications that are relevant in today’s technologically driven marketplace.”

But how do busy professionals make time to go back to school? The answer is, they usually don’t—at least not in the physical sense. More and more people today are taking courses online to fill a wide variety of needs, from a quick brush-up on a specific topic or skill to earning advanced degrees and certifications. They are doing this work in a way that fits into their professional lives—and many institutions are happy to make this possible. A plethora of online programs now offer coursework to fill any need.

One such program is Washington State University’s Online Master of Business Administration. Pursuing an online MBA degree makes it possible for professionals to keep their jobs while boosting their skills for future advancement. Offering quality education within the framework of a flexible learning environment, WSU’s Online MBA program offers a solid foundation for career advancement.

How Does It Work?

Online courses have various formats. Some are synchronous, which means that all enrolled students access the course material simultaneously. Synchronous courses require scheduled attendance through online chats or teleconferencing. In asynchronous courses, participants can view course materials, such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, and syllabi, anytime and in any way they like.

Like traditional students, those taking an online course must submit assignments and take tests. All material is submitted electronically, often through education-specific programs such as Blackboard, Canvas, and Moodle. Students are expected to keep track of all requirements and deadlines and submit materials according to the course’s schedule, with little to no oversight or reminders.

Key Benefits

Online programs have many advantages compared to traditional in-person programs. Although these advantages hold true for any student, they are particularly beneficial for professionals who wish to maintain their jobs while taking coursework. The Open Education Database (OEDb), a database of more than 1,600 institutions that offer online courses, lists 10 key benefits of online classes:

1 – Variety of programs and courses. Students today can earn any academic degree online, from a single career-specific certificate to a doctorate. They are not limited by geography but can choose the program that best suits their needs, no matter where it is located physically (if, indeed, it has a physical location—many programs today do not).

2 – Lower total costs. Online programs tend to be more affordable than traditional colleges. The OEDb points out that although online tuition rates are not always lower, associated expenses are almost always less. “For example, there are no commuting costs, and sometimes required course materials, such as textbooks, are available online at no cost. In addition, many colleges and universities accept credits earned via free massive open online courses (MOOCs), the most recent advance in online education. These free online courses can help students fulfill general education requirements,” the organization says.

3 – More comfortable learning environment. If you want to attend class in your pajamas, online learning may be for you. Grab a cup of tea, kick back in your favorite easy chair, and settle in for a pleasant hour or two listening to lectures and completing assignments. No hard wooden chairs or tiny desks required!

4 – Convenience and flexibility. Online students are able to plan study time around the rest of their day, instead of the other way around. You can work at your convenience, which makes balancing work and family commitments with your education possible.

5 – More interaction and greater ability to concentrate. While not true for every student, studies suggest that shy students participate in online class discussions more easily than face-to-face. Some students also report better concentration in online classes due to the lack of classroom distractions.

6 – Career advancement. Online courses position students for career advancement even while they are working, between jobs, or taking time to raise a family. This academic work will explain any discontinuity or gaps in a resume as well. Earning a degree also shows prospective employers that you are ambitious and motivated.

7 – Continue in your profession. Many students today begin as traditional students but discover that they must work to afford to continue school. Online courses allow these students to continue in their jobs while also pursuing academic credentials.

8 – Avoid commuting. Instead of driving an hour to class through snowstorms and thunderstorms, then fighting to find a parking spot, online students simply stroll to the computer and turn it on. Not only does this save time and hassle, many online students also find substantial savings on fuel costs, not to mention wear and tear on their car.

9 – Improve your technical skills. Even the most basic online course requires the development of new computer skills as students learn to navigate different learning management systems and programs. In addition, the participation skills students learn within their online courses translate to many professions. Examples include creating and sharing documents, incorporating audio/video materials into assignments, and completing online training sessions.

10 – Transfer credits. The ability to transfer credits can be extremely helpful in many different circumstances. College students, for example, may want to attend summer classes away from their physical college while enjoying their summer vacation or doing seasonal jobs at home. They can take a course online and transfer the credits. Or, if desired courses at their regular college are full, they can take the courses online for credit.

But Is It Really as Good?

All of these benefits are worthless if an online degree does not deliver results—in other words, if it lags in quality or prestige behind brick-and-mortar programs. According to the OEDb, students can rest easy on this score.

“Required coursework remains similar between traditional and online courses, with students completing exams, papers, presentations, quizzes, and projects in either format,” the site says. In addition, “Accreditation provides another comfort concerning the benefits of online learning since any accredited program, whether on-campus or online, boasts the approval of an accrediting agency. This detail means that any accredited online program meets the same standards as accredited on-campus options.”

These assertions are backed up by various studies. Since 2010, for example, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized that online learning, when used by itself, appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction. And the Instructional Technology Council’s Annual National eLearning Survey, which tracks participants’ experiences with online learning, stated in 2016 that “95 percent of respondents described their online courses as either equivalent (87 percent) or superior (7 percent) to traditional courses.”

As findings like these pile up, online learning will only continue to grow in acceptance and prestige. Busy professionals have no reason not to take advantage of this flexible, convenient, and career-boosting option.

About WSU’s Online Master of Business Administration Program

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business delivers one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the nation. WSU offers an Online MBA course curriculum designed to equip students with the tactics, knowledge, skills, strategies, and other resources utilized by today’s high-profile business leaders.

WSU’s Online MBA degree program offers four MBA concentrations—marketing, finance, hospitality business management, international business, and a general MBA. For more information, visit WSU’s Online MBA website.

 

 Recommended Reading:

3 Ways to Prepare Yourself to Transition Into Management

4 Tips to Help You Transition Professionally While Still Employed

3 Things to Do When You’ve Reached a Plateau in Your Career

 

Sources:

The need for new skills – Digital Marketing Institute

How does it work? – Open Education Database

10 key benefits – Open Education Database

Coursework and accreditation – Open Education Database

Studies of online learning – Inside Higher Ed