One of the great advantages of attending a traditional college are the many benefits the school may offer on campus in terms of job opportunities and career services. Some online programs try to match the high standards set by schools such as Princeton, MIT, and Purdue (according to research published by College Magazine) by making resources and advisors available by phone, chat, or via LinkedIn. However, these methods don’t always live up to the desired goals. So, what do online courses offer in the way of preparing students for the Real World? What life skills could students gain by taking online courses?
1- Online Networking and Communication Skills
Thanks to the internet and other technological advancements of the 20th and 21st Centuries, many companies and work environments no longer rely on an office or central location to maintain operations. Instead, graduates who are new to the working world may find themselves subject to a network of contacts and coworkers with whom they must communicate via email and not in person. The online learning environment, with its virtual classrooms and lack of face-to-face interaction, helps to prepare students for a situation in which they will have to rely entirely on online and long-distance communication.
Although some people may argue that a virtual or distance learning environment robs today’s students of their exposure to society and weakens social aptitudes, there are other ways in which online learning can help strengthen a student’s ability to gain and practice using proper manners. While shorthand and abbreviated texts are acceptable when texting a family member or instant messaging a friend, they are not suitable for participation in a discussion board or when emailing a professor. This need to learn and develop proper writing etiquette is a skill that will benefit students as they venture out into the world, whether to pursue a higher degree or start a new job. And, by participating in online learning activities and communicating virtually with other students and faculty, students should be able to cultivate these skills and, simply put, manners.
Students are forced to develop self-discipline in order to excel in their online studies. Unlike in a traditional classroom, where a majority of the learning is done in class with only homework assignments or papers completed at home, an online course does not provide a work schedule or outline for when students should log onto the course management system and do their work. There is no teacher providing live encouragement or watching over their every move in the classroom, so students must develop their own self-discipline in order to get things done. This unique characteristic of an online class can help students to find and foster the internal motivation necessary when setting out into the real world.
4- Time Management
Unlike students in a traditional classroom, who are required to attend lectures and labs at specific times, online learners are encouraged to take advantage of every minute and schedule their time appropriately. Many students choose distance learning because they are juggling more than just school on a daily basis. Jobs, families, and travel all factor into their daily schedules, so they need to learn great time management skills in order to fit schoolwork into the picture, as well. Additionally, because many course management systems are now accessible on the go, students can take advantage of every spare minute, reading assignments or contributing to discussion boards from their smartphones or tablets while between appointments or during a lunch break. It is this early exposure to time management that teaches online students how to make and meet personal deadlines and goals.
Although on-campus students are often required to interact with the same LMS as distance learning students, there is one aspect of technology to which they do not often gain access while in school- professional video conferencing software. While many students are familiar with Skype and FaceTime, basic video chats are missing the features and feel of a professional online meeting. Many businesses are now choosing to ‘meet’ with clients, partners, and other employees virtually instead of spending airfare on overseas (or even domestic) travel. And, online instructors will often use these methods to communicate with students or set up group projects for learners. This can help students better communicate with fellow classmates and instructors for a variety of academic reasons, all of which are better translated into the corporate world.
6- Job/Career Prep
There is one colossal advantage to taking courses online instead of in person- everything is saved and recorded electronically. This means that online students may be better prepared to put together an e-portfolio, one of the greatest assets an individual can have when voyaging into the world of job searches, applications, and interviews. Being able to seamlessly build an online repository of work, projects, and learning can help place online learners a step above those who learn on-campus. One of the many arguments against online education is that students have less of an opportunity to acquire hands-on experience in their field of study. While this may not be true for web developers, graphic designers, and writers, this is definitely a huge disadvantage for biology or education majors. However, by allowing students to access and display their work and studies in an organized, easily accessible manner, online education can help students boost their resumes and market themselves as effectively as possible.
20 Life Skills Not Taught in School, by Jake Akins
College Magazine’s The 10 Colleges with the Best Career Services, by Lyla Lawless
US News’ 4 Ways Online Education Programs Teach Real-World Skills, by Darwin Green
US News’ Evaluate Career Services in an Online Education Program, by Jordan Friedman