While these programs were created initially for students who were unable to participate in traditional programs, like older students and working parents, today, individuals from every age group and background are enrolling in online degree and certificate programs.
While distance learning is becoming more normalized, some prospective students are still hesitant to enroll due to concerns that future employers may not take their online educations as seriously as they would view more traditional programs. However, these old stigmas are fading fast and online education is now being accepted as readily as traditional formats.
Some of the old stigmas of online education will be explored, as well as the reality of how prospective employers actually view online programs.
Old stigmas and misconceptions
Individuals opposed to online education share a belief that online classes are easier than traditional classes, and students can complete them at their own pace. In fact, online learning requires a lot of self-discipline on the part of the student. There is still a syllabus and assignment deadlines that have to be met. Students need to participate regularly in discussion boards. In fact, the ability to be successful in online programs shows employers that you are a motivated self-starter.
One of the most beautiful things about distance learning is that it makes education accessible to talented students everywhere, including stay-at-home parents, individuals suffering from illnesses and ailments, and people living in remote locations.
Another misconception is that the professors may not be as high quality, since students are mainly self-directed learners. The reality is that many professors are true experts in their fields, with a vast range of experiences. Not only do professors need to receive special training in the technology being used, they need to be more accessible to their students. They work more unconventional hours, responding to student work and inquiries more frequently. Online education is essentially more individualized.
For some reason, online programs have carried the stigma of being lower quality than traditional programs. Many prestigious universities offer online courses and programs, including Stanford and Harvard. Students today are technologically savvy and universities understand that demand. Also, by offering online classes, they can serve a talented global population, rather than just students in the nearby radius.
One of the most beautiful things about distance learning is that it makes education accessible to talented students everywhere, including stay-at-home parents, individuals suffering from illnesses and ailments, and people living in remote locations. It is also well suited to different learning styles and students who do not feel challenged enough by traditional education. As more virtual schools open up at every educational level, it will soon gain the respect that it so rightfully deserves.
The importance of accreditation
On-line programs offer equivalent programs to their traditional programs. When you look into a potential program, make sure that the institution is accredited. The accreditation process is rigorous and will show you that the program is high quality. This will also assist employers in seeing that you were enrolled in a serious institution, and not a “diploma mill.”
“Diploma mill” programs make unrealistic promises, like extremely expedited certificate programs and do not require students to complete much work. Simply put, they are money-wasting scams.
What online education says about you
There are a number of traits that future employees must possess to be successful in an online program. Completing an online program shows prospective employers that you are driven, have initiative, can manage your time well, and are technology-savvy.
Many online learning students complete their programs while they have jobs or responsibilities, like raising children. Despite these challenges and time constraints, these students persevered, proving how driven they truly are.
It also takes initiative to complete online programs, since they require a great deal of structure and self-directed learning. This is an excellent way to promote your worth for upper level and managerial positions. Time management is highly valued by employers and online learning requires you to carefully manage your schedule and be able to prioritize.
Finally, 21st Century skills are needed to be successful in today’s industries and online learning certainly helps shape these skills more than their traditional counterparts.
How employers really view online learning
First of all, as with any degree, grades do matter. On your resume, you should include the name of the institution that you completed your program at, your GPA, and your major coursework. Be ready to explain how the courses were structured and what types of projects you worked on.
According to CNN, Excelsior College and Zogby International conducted surveys online, and the results were predominantly positive. Of the CEOs and business owners polled, 61 percent were familiar with online programs and 83 percent of the executives polled agreed that online programs were just as high quality and credible as traditional programs.
Most employers looked for online programs that were accredited and reputable.
The big picture
Online education not only prepares you for a local economy, but you can compete on a more global level. You can access your coursework from any location at any time, unrestricted by your local area’s offerings and you are able to take coursework that is accepted internationally. One example of this would be TEFL (teaching of English as a Foreign Language) certification programs.
Many of them are internationally accepted, allowing you to work all over the globe. Additionally, your local university might not offer special certificate programs, like Accounting or Beauty Therapy, but you can find your desired program online, making you that much more marketable. You are completely unrestricted.
More employers are looking into online education for their employees, to provide additional training and special coursework required for promotions, as it is less expensive and more flexible. The Huffington Post explains that the cost savings of online education can be as high as a third cheaper than traditional schools. That is quite a bit of money from the budget that can be directed elsewhere.
Finally, check out this study published in the Journal of Statistics Education. Besides it proving that prospective employees are independent, motivated, and efficient, it also gives employers access to a much larger pool of qualified candidates with more diverse life experiences.
More competition equals more qualified employees.
About the Author: Andrianes Pinantoan
Andrianes Pinantoan is InformED’s editor and part of the marketing team behind Open Colleges. When not working, he can be found reading about two of his favorite subjects: education and psychology. You can find him on Google+ or @andreispsyched. This originally appeared on Open College’s InformED blog: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/career-tips/what-do-employers-think-of-online-education/