The recent explosion of online educational opportunities has forever altered the face of “traditional” educational methods, and created unlimited possibilities for those aspiring to attain bachelor’s, master’s, or even doctoral degrees while juggling family and work responsibilities in today’s fast-paced world. The questions remain, however; “Is an online degree of lesser quality than the traditional ‘brick and mortar’ based diploma in today’s job market? How do potential employers view prospective candidates who have acquired their educational degrees in an online environment?”
Although distance learning generally was stigmatized for many years as a more inferior method of obtaining an education, newer and younger business managers have begun to embrace job-seekers with online degrees, and they are becoming “more comfortable with the ability of technology to enhance learning in and out of the classroom.” The rapid pace of technological advancement has enabled educational institutions to offer high-quality online “virtual classrooms” that offer expansive learning opportunities through educational platforms such as Moodle, Blackboard, Elluminate, and so on. With the recent rush by even traditional colleges and universities to establish alternative online educational opportunities so as not to get left behind, the old stigma that distance learning previously suffered is beginning to drop away. Managers are now well aware of the high educational quality that many online degree programs offer, and many now welcome new “tech-savvy” graduates who are more adept at navigating their way around on a computer because of their online experience.
The online educational phenomenon has drawn millions of people who want to either enhance their skills or advance their positioning in the job market. More adults are “turning to online degrees to fill out their resumes than ever before.” Online education generally offers accelerated programs for working adults that can be completed in a shorter period of time, and in more flexible ways. Online students can log on to their coursework anytime, from anywhere, and are free from the usual constraints of unwieldy class schedules, snarling traffic conditions, or overdue parking tickets. A busy mom with two kids, or a crazed executive with a crammed schedule, can both have a better chance of being able to advance their education through an online platform. Since online education has become a credible educational alternative in recent years, and more accredited schools have jumped onto the ‘online’ bandwagon, employers have begun to view individuals who complete online degree programs as being more driven and self-motivated– attributes that are highly sought in job candidates.
Some cited drawbacks of online education “are (1) the lack of social interaction with peers, (2) lack of data about the effectiveness or quality of the education, (3) and loss of real-time teacher/student exchange.” These perceived shortcomings of the online experience are, however, diminishing, as the quality of online instruction continues to be upgraded by accredited institutions, and more improved methods of communication (i.e., weekly phone calls, discussion forums, chat rooms, etc.) between instructors and students, as well as between students
themselves, become more enhanced. A number of online institutions are also beginning to offer “hybrid” programs that blend the online and on-site experience together by offering periodic live classroom sessions during a particular course, thereby providing face-to-face encounters between instructors and students. The online educational experience has not only changed the way
people approach degree programs, but has also offered a valuable option to those who never thought it possible to obtain further
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education because of job or family constraints. It has opened the door to a brighter future for many, and offered unbounded opportunities to anyone in possession of a computer, and a dream.