In the past, Online Degree suffered from a reputation problem that made prospective students reluctant to enroll and led to employers feeling uncertain about qualifications. However, all of that has changed forever and now there are more employers than ever who are actively seeking out candidates with experience in online learning.
Online learning is a valuable experience that you should be ‘selling’ to every prospective employer. It is an experience that showcases a range of different skills and abilities and is something that not everyone is capable of doing.
If you are unsure of how an online course or degree could impact your career prospects, or you want to learn more about how to communicate your experience to hiring managers and employers, keep reading. We will break down the reasons why societal perceptions of online education have changed and explain how you can advertise your experience with online learning to employers.
Online Degrees: The New Normal?
One result of the COVID-19 pandemic was that every facet of everyday life had to transition from in-person to digital. Some aspects of life were obviously easier to transition to than others and education was definitely a tricky field. It was much easier to take university courses online than it was for elementary school teachers to manage their first and second-grade classes!
A benefit to the digital transition is that students around the world learned how to complete coursework and study courses via distance learning. Additionally, teachers, professors, departments, and schools of all kinds adapted, innovated, and developed tools and strategies to assist with digital learning.
As we are now transitioning to a post-pandemic world, there are, of course, questions about what will revert back to ‘normal’ and what will be changed forever. Most courses that transitioned to online learning have now landed in a middle zone of hybrid learning – just like many workplaces are now offering hybrid working schemes.
Hybrid and online learning offerings benefit students and schools because they offer more flexibility, support, and resources. Not everyone learns best in the same way, and online learning is a great way to accommodate the unique needs that some students may have.
However, another result that was perhaps unforeseen is that online learning is now viewed as an acceptable, normal form of learning by many people. While in the past, online learning was considered with a degree of skepticism, it is now considered to be nearly identical to in-person learning and, in some ways, actually preferable.
In fact, there are now many employers who actively seek out candidates with at least some aspect of online learning in their academic credentials because it highlights the candidate’s experience with tech, self-directed learning, and time management.
Communicating your Experience to Employers
Online education and distance learning, in general, teaches students a number of important, marketable skills in addition to the course content. Listed below are just some of the many different skills and experiences that students gain from online learning and can apply to any work environment.
Regardless of whether you are taking a course in person or online, time management is certainly one of the most important skills that students develop while in education. However, students who take a course through online learning certainly develop their time management skills to a much more significant degree.
When you are learning online, there is no structure to ensure that you are attending certain lectures or seminars, and there are not any peers or professors repeatedly reminding you of specific timelines. Instead, you need to create an organized schedule for yourself, sort out your timelines, and ensure that you are working efficiently.
Especially when learning online, it can be easy to leave things until the last minute, put things off, and get distracted, only to find that you have overloaded the end of a course. Successfully completing an online degree illustrates to employers that you are organized, disciplined, and can manage your time effectively.
This is a great point to mention when it comes to working on your own. Many fast-paced work environments want self-directed, efficient workers who are able to work independently without a significant amount of oversight. If you are able to successfully manage your time, and you are able to work independently without continual reminders and updates, these are skills you can highlight in your job interviews.
More than ever before, there is a focus placed on successfully maintaining a work-life balance that is healthy and sustainable. For the first time in history, corporations are starting to take burnout seriously.
When you are taking an online course, there is typically no structure to the individual lessons themselves, unless there are live-streamed seminars or labs. This means that you need to learn how to work around your class schedule and move classes or commitments around to accommodate your work.
The daily needs and demands that we all have do not go away as soon as you start studying a course – if anything, they can amplify. Learning how to create and maintain a work-life balance while taking care of yourself and avoiding burnout is an essential skill for the workplace.
Students who are also working while studying are especially experienced with managing these burdens along with the demands of everyday life. There are so many demands to juggle that these learners become experts at prioritization and managing needs.
Regardless of the industry you are either upskilling in or trying to break into, employers will appreciate any employee who is able to prioritize the most important or time-sensitive tasks. Successfully completing an online course demonstrates to future employers that you are capable of prioritizing your tasks and balancing workflows in an efficient manner.
It is also entirely appropriate to point out in an interview setting that you were able to prioritize schoolwork while you had a number of different life events occurring. We all made it through the COVID-19 pandemic and we have all experienced ups and downs – it is okay to say that you persevered through the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic (or even of a career change!) to complete your course.
Self-Directed Learning and Working
Another skill set that students hone when they participate in distance learning is self-direction when it comes to learning and working. As an online learner, you will not have the same access to professors and your peers as you would in class in a brick-and-mortar university or college.
Instead, you will likely need to be more resourceful than you otherwise would and will need to do your own research, check your notes, or actively follow up with professors. This all requires a significant amount of problem-solving and self-directed learning and working.
Many employers are looking for employees who will ask questions when they need to, but who will also try a few solutions to a problem before asking for help. This demonstrates resourcefulness and a willingness to work and find things out on your own. If you have daily experience doing just that through online learning, then this is something that you will be able to easily highlight during the interview process.
Dedication and Hard Work
Every course and degree program requires a certain amount of dedication, hard work and diligence, and online courses are just the same. In fact, it is often more challenging to learn a subject online than in person because of the self-reliance required.
Regardless of the grade you received, if you are able to successfully complete an online course, then you have worked hard and shown a level of dedication to your study. You can emphasize your hard work by telling your potential employer about the course itself, including its course structure, rankings, and some of its notable professors or teaching staff.
Tech Skills and Adaptability
When studying online, there are likely a number of different software platforms and tech tools. You likely have experience using the learning or edutech platform for your particular school, a document processor such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, a video-sharing platform (Zoom, Skype, etc.), and experience with PowerPoint and Excel, along with other software applications depending on your area of study or graduate school.
Your academic experience with tech can be used to your advantage, regardless of the job you are applying for or the industry you are entering. Most employers will not expect their employees to already be able to navigate platforms such as Oracle, Workday, or Salesforce, but they will want evidence that you have experience using a number of different software platforms and that you are comfortable learning how to use new software.
In the interview process, make sure to tell the interviewer that you have experience with a range of different software platforms and tools and that you are agile when it comes to digital work. Your experience studying online has made you adaptable and able to take on new challenges and learn new things when it comes to tech.
Case Study: Online MBA Degrees
It is useful to provide an example in order to give some clarity around the types of skills that an online course can give a student. This case study is on online MBA options available at Kettering University Online, a fully online institution that offers a range of different master’s degrees and certificates.
This MBA degree is designed specifically for engineers, and students can customize their online course by specializing in additional supply chain, health care, leadership or operations courses. Such a course is ideal for busy professionals who do not have the time to ‘stop and drop’ everything in their lives to go back to university for a few years. Instead, they can complete the work at their own base and develop their skills as they go.
MBA degrees are all about networking, getting ahead, and learning as much as possible about the commercial sector. Although digital learning can pose a challenge, it is also a great opportunity for the brightest and best in business to seize an opportunity for personal betterment and to develop a set of skills.
The Future of Learning?
While the long-term impact of the transition to digital learning is as yet unknown, there have certainly been a number of important short-term changes. Learning online is now more popular than ever before and is also considered to be a viable, successful, and valid form of study.
The end of the stigma attached to online learning means that more and more students are likely to consider it. A knock-on effect of this could be that more people than ever before are given the chance to challenge and better themselves through graduate courses, certificates, and degrees, which they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to attain.
A more concrete result of the transition to digital learning is the fact that there is now better educational technology than ever before. As society becomes increasingly digitally focused, it will become more important for young people to be comfortable using online platforms and tools. The fact that educational technology has drastically improved over the course of the last few years suggests that this is now much more possible.
Is Studying Online for you?
When deciding whether or not to study online, there are, of course, a number of key questions that every prospective student should consider. Not everyone has the time, energy, or resources to make such a choice, and studying online is certainly a challenge.
However, if you feel that studying online may be something that you are interested in, then consider the skills listed above and think about how you would be able to apply them to your online course. And, of course, remember to take care of yourself, always take breaks, and never sell yourself short in a job interview.