With unemployment hovering at 7.3 percent and many employers still holding off hiring despite strong profits, the challenge facing many adults is whether or not to seek additional education in hopes of being prepared to jump back into the work force or to advance their current careers. With competition on every front, this is especially true for those who often have to juggle the responsibilities of a family, elderly parents and work. The emergence of online education as a viable alternative to traditional brick and mortar learning provides an avenue to take the next step.
A recent Gallup poll discovered that many adults recognize the flexibility of online education, saying it provided a format most students can succeed in and that it provides a variety of choices for highly regarded curriculum. One-third of the more than 1,000 adults surveyed also said the value of tuition they paid is better than traditional classroom-based education, and 34 percent said it is equal to the value of a traditional education.
Below, Chancellor Brahm offers his thoughts on the concerns adult learners might have when considering beginning an online education program.
#1: Online education is too easy
Online courses provide more flexibility so that the student can learn at his or her own pace but they require just as much work and, importantly, allow the student with initiative to think innovatively in terms of processing and responding to assignments. Educators at institutions which were early online education adopters often offer classes which are generally more robust, reflecting the time spent evolving courses to meet the challenges of a course and/or major in a dynamic and progressive manner reflective of the real world.
For many adults, online education is the ideal vehicle for balancing a family, a job and the next goal in their education. A great resource is the highly regarded U.S. News & World Report online education rankings which scores hundreds of institutions in faculty credentials and training, student services and training, and student engagement.
#2: The technology is too difficult for many adults
Online education has undergone a significant transformation in the last few years as it has become an in-demand resource for a large segment of adults looking at higher education options. While basic knowledge is required, you don't need to be the next founder of a billion dollar tech start-up. Not even close.
Recognizing that technical and other support forms are essential in every aspect of an online education, leading institutions provide extensive resources for every student both online and via skilled counselors. Studies by leading educational publications show that leading online providers are increasing their spending to provide ease-of-use technology for both teachers and students to level the playing field for all involved.
#3: All courses /degree programs are created the same
Students are too savvy and demanding to accept traditional in-class courses that are simply being "poured" into a computer for online initiatives. The days of talking heads and static slide shows are quickly coming to an end. In fact, most sophisticated universities have put together teams of specialists including instructional designers, technologists and faculty content experts whose sole job is to create dynamic courses that incorporate compelling technology with storytelling and essential information to deliver outstanding learning outcomes. While there isn't an Avatar movie-like course in the making, students are increasingly giving high marks to programs that incorporate best practices in course design.
#4: Online degrees aren’t employment worthy
Putting aside the adaptation from a famous Seinfeld episode, employers and recruiters recognize the assets of a committed online graduate. A number of studies by colleges and independent research firms over the past few years, including one in 2011, have shown that nearly two-thirds of those familiar with online education believe that a degree earned online is as credible as one earned at a traditional campus-based program.
A study by Excelsior College in 2011 found that nearly two-thirds of those familiar with online education believed that a diploma earned in that manner was as valuable as a traditional brick and mortar degree. Respondents stated that the most important factors in determining credibility of an online degree was the accreditation of the institute awarding the degree and the quality of its graduates.
#5: Online students are on their own, not really feeling like they are part of the institution
One of the great benefits of online education is that each student not only progresses at his/her own speed, but does so with the ability to actively seek out support and guidance from faculty and staff that has a vested interest in seeing students succeed. Importantly, most online classes are limited to 25-30 students whereas on-ground instruction can be two or three times that number sometimes running into the hundreds listening in an auditorium.
In the online world, students have lots of options including regular video and conference calls with their instructors, who often will reach out to them if a period of time has elapsed without interaction. Students are encouraged to engage in peer-to-peer sessions both online and in person. This is the ideal environment for students to advocate for themselves in a comprehensive learning environment.
For example, some of our Brandman initiatives provide personal coaching, an advisor for each student, and student services provided by one-stop experts so that students won’t need to navigate the phone system to receive the attention they need.
About Chancellor Brahm's List
Chancellor Gary Brahm has been at the forefront of providing high quality, cost efficient online education for adults. Brandman has been honored by the highly respected U.S. News & World Report educationalrankings. In 2013, Brandman was named Best Online Bachelor's Program in California and ranked in the top 10 nationally.
"Critical for those considering online education options in 2014, one should be thinking outside your geographical box. Whether you live in an area with many colleges or in an area with few or none, the beauty of online education is that the teaching comes to you,” said Brahm.
“In addition to checking out such resources as the U.S.News & World Report rankings, go online to see what students are saying about the courses and/or degree programs you are interested in pursuing. In addition, make certain the university you wish to attend is accredited by a regional accrediting body.”
You can find out more about Brandman's online programs here.