Online education is still a relatively new phenomena, but in the short time it has been around, it has transformed the way we access education. Learning traditionally took place in classrooms at a set time, and if distance or time made that impossible, you likely had to miss out.
When distance learning did take place, it tended to be unwieldy, offering a less than satisfactory experience. The Open University, based in the UK, was the most significant real success, aided by its partnership with the BBC. However, the internet has transformed remote learning, making it more widely available today. This trend has been on the rise for a while, but it was during the Covid-19 pandemic that it really came to the fore, when learning for all ages across all subjects went online. In busy lives and particularly for working professionals, online education has been a boon, opening up courses to those who once would have struggled to access them.
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Why undertake further study
Common reasons for a working professional to undertake further study are to change or advance their career. It is becoming less common for a person to work the same career all their lives, and the decision to change careers is commonplace. There is a good chance that the qualifications someone holds to enter one career may not help them in the next one. Further study allows them to gain the necessary qualifications to make the change.
If you are happy in your career, that does not mean you have to stay in the same job. A promotion leads to new challenges, greater job satisfaction and a better salary, but competition for these positions can be fierce. Earning further qualifications is a good way of helping your application stand out and demonstrates your commitment to prospective employees. Time and money invested in education can pay off.
Universities and other educational institutions across the country and the world offer a wide variety of courses covering every topic imaginable to those willing and able to attend. However, if you are a working professional, there is a good chance that your work requires you to be in a particular location and that will be where you have set up your home, forging ties and relationships. You may have started a family with a spouse who is similarly tied to that area and have children settled in schools. Moving to attend a course at a particular university would be impractical and could cause considerable disruption to your work and family life, making it impossible even if it is the perfect course to advance your career.
Online courses are the answer to this dilemma. With an online course, it is unlikely to matter where in the world it is based. You will be able to attend it from anywhere with an internet connection. This will often be in the student’s own home, but you may choose to take the time for some study during your lunch break at work or during a commute if you use public transportation. Courses are now easily accessible that once would have been highly difficult for a working professional unless they were fortunate enough to live nearby.
Whether you work set hours during the day or at night or take shifts that vary from week to week, even if there was an in-person course within easy reach of your home, it would be unlikely to run at a time you could manage. However, an online course is a very different matter. Online courses will generally allow flexibility of study. With the materials available online, students can access them at a time that is convenient to them. Some might get up early to fit in study before work, while others will spend their evenings studying. If you want to set aside time each weekend for study, that is also possible.
Many programs will also allow the course duration to vary. If you want or need to gain the qualification quickly, that may well be possible if you have plenty of time for study. If, on the other hand, you have a demanding work schedule and are raising a family, your time will be more limited, in which case you can still take the course but spread the modules across a longer period of time. This means that you will not need to give up work or reduce your hours to complete the program, which is highly beneficial for the family finances.
Course providers are well aware of the popularity of online courses among working professionals, and many are designing them with working professionals in mind. A good example of this can be seen in the CCNE-accredited RN to BSN nursing program at Spring Arbor University. Designed to fit the needs of busy nurses, 100% of the coursework is online without set login times, allowing students to learn advanced, clinical, analytical and professional developmental skills while continuing to work and enjoy family life.
Many professionals working full time have several demands on their finances. They likely have their own home to run, rent or mortgage to pay, and perhaps children to raise with all the associated costs such as childcare, clothes and activities. While achieving a promotion will help pay for this, finding the money to pay for study can be tricky.
Course costs vary, and a good course is going to cost money. However, online courses tend to be cheaper than in-person courses. In addition to lower tuition fees, any study materials that need to be purchased are often in a cheaper digital format, such as eBooks.
Additionally, if you are traveling to an in-person course, you will have travel costs, whether they come in the form of bus or train tickets if you go by public transportation or fuel and parking costs if you drive. These can easily add up to a sizable sum. On the other hand, walking to your home computer costs virtually nothing, resulting in considerable savings. Moreover, because you will often be able to continue to work while studying, these savings allow many people to be able to achieve additional qualifications who might otherwise not have been able to afford it.
Quality of the courses
No matter how accessible, flexible or affordable the course, it would be worthless if the quality was poor. However, anyone who thinks an online course is a second-rate course will be in for a pleasant surprise. Many online courses are offered by top universities who take pride in delivering a rigorous course that can rival anything an in-person course can provide.
That is not to say that all online courses are of a high standard. Just as with in-person courses, the standards vary considerably. Before enrolling on a course, researching your options will truly pay off. Enter the type of course you seek into an internet search engine, and there are likely to be many results. Look at these options carefully.
One sign of a good program is being accredited by a respected professional or educational body. They may also rank highly in league tables. Check the course content to make sure it covers everything you need and see what qualifications you achieve at the end. You should also be able to read testimonials from previous students, and the course may also have records of where their alumni are now. If previous graduates have secured employment at the level you are aiming for, there is a good chance the course will allow you to do the same. If you are unsure about anything, get in touch with the provider. A good course will be happy to answer any questions and will only want to enroll you if the course is right for you.
Study can be challenging, and if you are also juggling work and family, it can be even more difficult. A good course will have the same support for their online students as those on campus. Checking what student support is available should be a key part of your research. Fortunately, with courses now often designed with working professionals in mind, the quality of all aspects of these courses is typically very high.
Studying for working professionals
Unlike in the past when working professionals might have to choose between study and work, online courses means that this is no longer the case. Instead, there has never been a better time to gain additional skills and qualifications to change or advance a career.
While it may seem daunting to study online at your own pace, once you are enrolled, you will find other working professionals doing exactly the same, resulting in a thriving online community that can be useful for support and networking. Consider now where you see your career going and what steps you need to take to realize those dreams. Thanks to online learning, they may be achieved far more easily than you expect.