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The landscape of online learning is shifting right now. If you would have asked me about the landscape just five years ago, I would have told you it was emerging. It was still new and exciting, and if you were in the business of online education, you had to prove yourself.

Five years ago, online education was emerging because no one really had an idea of where online learning would go or whether it would work. But now we have proven ourselves, and everyone is adopting it. Ground campuses supplement their traditional classroom experiences with online coursework, and if an employer is looking at a transcript from that school, they won’t have any way of knowing whether the courses were taken sitting in a lecture hall or on a computer.

Digital Natives Will Propel Online Learning Forward

As digital natives – those who have been around computers and smart phones since they could walk – start to turn their sights toward higher education, the way we teach must adapt to the way they learn. With this younger generation getting older and technology becoming more integrated in our lives, the landscape of higher education will continue to shift and online learning will become even more accepted than it already is; it may become the norm.

Some Students Actually Learn More Effectively Online

For those who argue against the validity of online learning, a common theme is that online courses are easier than traditional courses; therefore, students aren’t achieving the level of learning outcomes that they would in a regular classroom. My experience and research have demonstrated that quite the opposite is true. In an online “classroom” there is no back-row student who can get away with simply being present but not actually engaging in the learning process. Every student must engage, and they must participate in such a way that the faculty member deems it substantive or the student will not be successful.

In 2008, Robinson and Hullinger published a study that found when higher education courses are offered in an online format, the student experienced higher levels of engagement, demonstrated higher levels of knowledge, real world application and critical thinking.

Online learners tend to be highly motivated individuals with exceptional self-discipline, and on top of that, they are held accountable for learning at every step along the way. All this adds up to online graduates who are just as well-prepared, if not better prepared, than graduates of brick-and-mortar schools to take the next steps in their career.

Employers View Online Degrees Without Stigma

As the landscape of online education has shifted, so too have the views of those hiring graduates of online programs. While employers have indicated that the specific school a candidate attended could have a positive impact on whether the person is hired, it will rarely have a negative impact. Instead, employers are more concerned about the specific major of the candidates. Only 3% of employers said a student’s major was not at all an important factor to their organization in hiring.

Gone are the days where an employee is hired by a company right out of college and leaves the company decades later at retirement. Today, employees jump from job to job to move their careers forward. This makes employers less willing to invest time and resources into training their employees; they expect the candidates they hire to hit the ground running the moment they start the job. This is why the student’s specific major or degree program is given more weight by employers than the school the student attended.

An online degree provides you with skills that are immediately transferrable to the workplace, positioning you a cut above others who may be competing for the same jobs.

The Future of Online Learning

We’ve seen a huge increase in students taking online classes in a relatively short period of time. While overall enrollment of students in higher education has trended downward in recent years, the number of students taking courses online has continued to increase. In the most recent data published, more than one in four higher education students (28%) were taking at least some of their courses online.

As higher education students come to expect online delivery of coursework, the industry will continue to grow and evolve with the demand. And with that, students receiving an online education will graduate better able to adapt to the fast-paced work environment that now prevails. Today, it is more important than ever before to accept the changing views of traditional forms of education. As an entirely online institution, Pittman Group University is at the forefront of this change.


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