Why e-learning might be the right fit for you

Online Degree

Electronic learning has been transformative for education providers and corporations alike, freeing them from the constraints of on-campus courses and allowing them to leverage cutting-edge technology to deliver a high-quality, targeted curriculum via connected devices including laptops, mobile phones and tablets to students wherever they are located in the world.

The rapid advancement of technology, such as ultrafast broadband, 5G and cloud servers, has made e-learning a more cost-effective and reliable option for both providers and students. E-learning is also soaring in popularity as attitudes change and greater demands for digital courses and distance learning emerge and strengthen. But is it the right fit for you?

What is e-learning?

E-learning is not a new concept. The first online programs launched way back in the 1980s even before the advent of the internet, but the scale and quality of these programs has vastly improved in recent years. That’s why employers view degrees earned online as equal to qualifications earned at “traditional” universities where people study on campus. 

When you add in the numerous benefits of studying online, it is no surprise that students of all ages see e-learning as a more flexible and accessible path to future success in their careers. It is no secret either. A recent report by McKinsey found interest and participation in online learning soared to record levels in 2020. What’s more, students believe e-learning is actually better than traditional learning.

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes: “[T]he landscape of student expectations is changing in favor of more remote learning, and against some old assumptions about college life”. It goes on to say that students are now looking to go to colleges that “offer more courses online” and specifically have “high-quality remote course options”.

This is backed up by a separate report from the nonprofit group Quality Matters, which found that 90% of chief web officers (CWO) at large corporations expect the typical undergraduate to complete courses either in a hybrid format or completely online by 2025. E-learning appears to have already become an expected and respected route for higher education to procure a lucrative, fulfilling job in a wide range of industries.

What are the benefits of e-learning?

Flexible, less time-intensive – One of the most obvious advantages of learning online is the flexibility and freedom it gives you in your day-to-day life. A study by Brandon Hall found individuals spend up to 60% less time completing work for core classes online compared to physical classroom settings. Perhaps more importantly, you can obtain an online degree from the comfort of your own home without having to relocate to a campus which could be thousands of miles away. Online learning could be the right fit for you if you need this flexibility.

Boosts motivation – It requires a significant personal commitment to move to a university campus and stick with it for several years, especially if you are not in a position for major upheaval in your life. Students that opt for offline courses often struggle to retain motivation and interest during the semester. It is no surprise then that retention rates for these courses are lower. E-learning can fit neatly into your current life circumstances, allowing you to earn the qualifications you need to get ahead. Online courses are shown to boost retention rates throughout the year by more than 25%.

Again, this goes back to flexibility as students have more options in how they approach and consume the curriculum. There are less likely to be clashes with your current commitments when taking classes and completing work as you are essentially your own boss. You are also less likely to feel like you are under pressure as you won’t need to attend classes at specific times or meet stringent in-person deadlines. 

Increases knowledge retention – While you may have already known that online learning is more flexible and a better fit for busy professionals, you might be unaware of the fact that online courses are better for learning and retaining information, which can be crucial when completing tests and coursework.

Tech giant IBM found students in online courses are able to learn five times as much material compared to in-person classes because they are able to work at their own pace, absorb key concepts slowly, reflect on what they did and then use that knowledge to achieve higher grades. IBM believes this is due in part to the multimedia content used in online courses. The variety of articles, videos and webinars support and enhance learning in comparison to the “talking head” approach that dominates traditional learning. 

Better student tracking – E-learning provides benefits to the course operator too. It can be difficult to track a student’s development when the majority of a curriculum takes place offline in classrooms and evaluations are infrequent. In contrast, online universities provide a targeted set of courses over a fixed set of terms with regular examinations which take place in almost identical settings online. 

Harvard researchers have found that courses that are expertly curated and hosted online with a mix of multimedia content and regular examinations are much better for students as they improve the quality of learning and decrease distractions, which also makes it easier for students to take in and recall key theories and subjects. Online tutors can also follow the development of a student more closely which helps to offer more personalized and helpful updates and interactions. 

This is something that students really crave according to Dr Marcus Specht. He notes:
“The students of the future will demand the learning support that is appropriate for their situation or context. Nothing more, nothing less. And they want it at the moment the need arises. Not sooner, not later. Mobile devices will be a key technology for providing that learning support.”

Wide selection, customizable – The boom in e-learning has prompted online universities to offer a wider selection of courses to cater to students’ demands with various levels and disciplines on offer. Whether you want to learn quantum physics or how to produce music, there is likely to be a high-quality course available. Many of these courses can also be customized to a student’s needs. You will often see several different concentrations available for degrees to tailor a course to specific career goals. 

Have perceptions of e-learning changed? – E-learning is more than just an outlet for undergraduates to achieve the qualifications they need to start a career. It is also helping businesses to transform the personal development of workers already in key roles in startups, small businesses and large corporations. This is partly due to changing perceptions of e-learning among executives, who now see it as an investment, in both the employee and the business, rather than a recurring cost with minor returns.

As noted earlier, employers now also view online learning in the same way as an in-person education. It’s no surprise then that the number of enrollments in online programs skyrocketed 158% for the 2020/21 academic year as the number of listings in the US also soared from 1,500 to 2,500. 

These changing perceptions have come at a time when companies have needed to develop their own workers to offset skills shortages in key areas such as IT. This can be done with the impact of learning on the business being minimized. Online learning expert, Leanne Doohan notes: “Training can be delivered in a much more cost effective way with both travel expenses and time away from the office reduced.”

The immediacy and flexibility of e-learning also make it a very attractive proposition for businesses. Ms Doohan adds: “Organizations can as well give new staff and volunteers immediate training without having to wait for a classroom to become available.”

If you are not fulfilled in your current role and believe you would benefit from e-learning, you could ask your employer to pay for your training. If there isn’t an in-house training program in place already, you will need to highlight how the online course will benefit the company in terms of your current tasks and projects. Try to stress how it’s key for your own personal development and happiness at the company too. 

It is likely that your employer will be open to e-learning due to high-profile case studies on how it has helped companies to drive cost savings. IBM says it saved around $200m after embracing e-learning as its expenses on instructors, as well as equipment, travel and hotel rentals plummeted. Perhaps more importantly, almost half of US corporations say e-learning has boosted their income. 

Do perceptions differ by industry?

E-learning is highly valued across different sectors, though certain industries do look more favorably on the process than others. Finance and accounting have the highest proportion of recruiters who say they strongly agree that the quality of online learning now matches face-to-face learning, but this is a sentiment that is becoming more widely shared regardless of the sector. The sentiment shifted notably during the pandemic, but e-learning was already rising in popularity before that. 

Globalization has been a primary factor as companies are now operating cross-border with a workforces located on different continents. E-learning has enabled companies offering digital products and services to train a global workforce regularly. Research by LinkedIn found e-learning is often being used in different ways but that most industries are now fully on board with the process. Here are a few examples of how digital training and courses are being used:

  • Retail industry – To improve customer service, marketing and product development
  • Financial industry – To improve compliance, learn new financial instruments and software
  • Pharmaceutical industry – To learn features, benefits and drawbacks of new medicine
  • Manufacturing industry – To learn from software simulations and interactive scenarios to improve core processes

MarkinStyle founder, Bobby Chernev adds: “Online learning is the most convenient way to provide continuing education and professional self-improvement. Its value lies in the fact that it’s broader and more personally beneficial than company training. Providing your employees access to quality eLearning classes will re-energize them and provide a sense of growth. “

E-learning case study – Engineering management

E-learning could be the right fit for you if you want to work in engineering and have your sights set on engineering management in particular. This role can be hugely rewarding, both financially and professionally, as it brings together tech-driven problem solving and core management abilities related to planning and organization. The best way to get a job in engineering management is to earn an online master’s engineering management degree at a leading university.

In order to apply for this program, you will need to have at least two years of work experience in engineering and a bachelor’s degree in either engineering, computer science or physical science. This course is perfect if you are a civil engineer, biomedical engineer, software developer or research analyst and want to take the next step in your career. 

Do you want to learn about the principles of management and leadership and the foundations of project management? If so, this course could be the right fit for you. If you meet the criteria and are successful with your application, you will then be able to complete a maximum of two courses per term completely online. By completing the core courses and earning a degree, you can then harbor aspirations of securing a new, highly paid role in a variety of different industries. Roles you could apply for include:

  • Project manager
  • Project engineer
  • Operations manager
  • Hardware engineer
  • Automation engineer
  • Structural engineer

A Master’s in Engineering Management (MEM) is an excellent path forward for those who want to become a hardware engineer, for example, and are excited by the prospect of studying, developing, testing and monitoring computer hardware for a business. The average salary for a hardware engineer is an impressive $106,709 annually. Many engineering management roles pay similarly.

Engineering is just one example of how e-learning in the form of earning a degree online can supercharge a person’s career, helping them to earn qualifications and experience from elsewhere and then completing courses online to vastly increase their employability and salary expectations. In a world where professionals cannot simply go back to a physical university for three to five years, e-learning is critical to personal development.

Is e-learning right for me?

More students than ever are actively pursuing degrees that can be attained either fully online or with some remote lesson options. But how do you know if it’s right for you? E-learning is accessible, affordable and convenient, but you will still need to possess a certain level of motivation to work mostly independently to achieve your goals and objectives.

E-learning could be ideal for you if you are excited about reading, watching and consuming large quantities of multimedia content and then working through it to complete coursework and prepare for tests. Studies show that visual learners who can memorize and recall information from online documents, infographics and charts get a great deal of enjoyment from online programs for this reason. However, every student has the capacity to be engaged with an online learning style as it is easy to adapt to the flow of online courses.

Being able to work independently is important too, though you will always have the support of an online community when you need it. E-learning changes the dynamic of the classroom as you won’t have a professor in front of you talking for an hour. This may be preferable if you don’t like the social aspect of physically attending a classroom and participating. Being alone can also help you to stay organized and focused during lessons.  

It is definitely the right fit if you are worried about the time you need to spend studying and the effect it will have on your career if you currently have a job and a family to support. However, that doesn’t mean e-learning is easy in comparison or that degrees can be earned without a significant time investment. It will be less time intensive than a campus-based course though and give you much more flexibility in how you approach courses. 

One upside of the recent work-from-home shift is that many people now have a home office or other designated space for completing work free of distractions. If this is the case for you, you won’t have to worry about creating a space for studying so the transition back to learning should be as simple as logging into a course online via your desktop PC or laptop.

You now have all the information you need to make an informed decision about whether e-learning is the right choice for you to achieve your career objectives. The benefits for busy professionals cannot be underestimated, but even younger undergraduates can reap many of the cost and time advantages of online courses to get ahead and thrive in today’s competitive job market. Employers and students alike no longer have to worry about being left behind. E-learning is empowering the workforces of tomorrow to learn new, much-needed skills that will address shortages and drive companies to business excellence and success.

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