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Harnessing The Power of Online Learning

There is no doubt that the technology has changed the world, and as a result the way we educate has changed as well. No longer are students beholden to the old system of sitting in a classroom while taking valuable time away from their lives and other responsibilities. The online and hybrid mediums of education have revolutionized the way the world educates, and the outcomes are very impressive in relation to student outcomes and academic rigor.

My passion for online learning began as a life preserver for me at a time in my life when I needed a big change. Long before I was a doctor, professor and entrepreneur I was a 39-year-old stay at home mom who knew I had to make some tough choices going forward in my life. On a day when I thought I could not take another moment of my current situation; I was gifted with something that would change my life forever – the opportunity to earn a degree online. At that time, I had never heard of online learning, as was the case for many, and I would find myself a graduate of one of the first accredited online degree programs in the country. I had 3 teenagers and was working full time, so online learning was a welcomed option for me and a way for me to reach my goals without giving up my other responsibilities.

Such is the case for almost 6 million online learners a year since my graduating class in 2004. Since that time, 19 years ago, when I began my educational journey I have since completed a Bachelors, Masters and PhD online and have gone on to work as a professor online for 14 years. Needless to say, I have seen the online medium explode and evolve into a tried and true option for students who need the flexibility to get their education. Not only that, I have seen the online applications improve in such a manner that I could only dream of, and more and more LMS options are popping up every day.

Since its conception we now have a great deal of statistical data that has proven that online education is not only sound, but actually produces better students than a traditional classroom setting. One main reason is that students must have a skill set to succeed that traditional students do not necessarily have. These include the ability to self-regulate, organizational skills and self-discipline as well as advanced critical thinking and writing skills. One meta-analysis study reviewed numerous online learning studies and found that students who took all or part of their course online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.

The US Department of Education also found that students performed as well despite varying online learning platforms. Statistically 68% of students are working professionals over the age of 32, so this means that the students in an online class are generally adult learners, educated and expect a higher level of rigor. 54% go part time to school and the class ratio is on the average 25 students to 1 instructor versus a larger class size for traditional classrooms.

Other important statistics as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) are that 1)the worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 Billion in 2025; 2) in 2017, approximately 77% of US corporations used online learning; 3) in 2017, 67% of US companies offered learning opportunities via smartphones; 4) eLearning increases retention rates by 25% to 60%; 5) e-learning for companies grew by a stunning 900% between 2001 and 2017; 6) e-learning has led to an increase in income for 42% of US organizations ; 7) a survey of 2,500 companies found that those with “comprehensive training programs” have 218% higher revenue per employee and 24% higher profit margins with IBM saving approximately $200 million after switching to e-learning.

Also, important to note is that many students are attending online training for a certificate as opposed to a degree, so the cost can be less than a traditional classroom. For example, Western Education Institute (WEI) offers a complete accredited online certification comprised of eighteen 8-week accredited courses that can be completed in 5 months on a full-time schedule for only $13,000.00. Payment arrangements are also available to allow students to complete their education and be debt free upon graduation. This is a far cry from a degree program that can run upwards of $30,000.00 and requires many students to go into debt to complete them. A report by The Classroom showed that “the average annual tuition and fees for a four-year bachelor's degree in the United States is $8,893 for in-state attendees of public colleges, $22,203 for out-of-state attendees of public colleges, and $30,094 for private nonprofit colleges. These 2013-2014 figures, from reports released by the College Board, represent a 2.9 to 3.8 percent increase from the previous year.”

This supports the idea that online vocational certifications go a long way in the career of the learner as well as offering them more bang for their buck. In fact, the NCES also cites that “If you're considering a skilled trade or a career in the health-care field, vocational certificates and associate degrees offer a shorter road to professional practice than a traditional four-year college.” This does not mean that anyone having a certificate will get the same pay as someone with a degree, but in some industries it is the same. Many companies are realizing that a certificate and work experience go much farther than a green graduate with no skills and who requires extensive costly training.

So, what does this mean for you? It means that students and employers now have multiple options for their career development needs. The options are endless provided the opportunity is with an accredited institution, such as WEI, where students can be sure their program meets academic standards of excellence. That certificate may be all you need, coupled with work experience, to get the career you desire in the field you desire. Online training is also a way to brush up on additional skills you may need to get to the next level in your career.

If you have already experienced online learning, then you probably already know the benefits. If you have not ever taken an online class, do not let it scare you. Once you overcome the hurdles of getting used to the online application you will probably find that online learning is fun and enjoyable as well as rigorous. The power of online learning is at your fingertips if you chose to use it – harness the power and harness the rewards! Your future is literally in your hands – your keyboard that is.

Dr. Robin is an Industrial Organizational Psychologists and Dean of Curriculum and Program Administration at Western Education Institute. She also is an Executive Coach and Trainer at Dr.G Consulting.

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