Even though continuing education programs have been in existence for more than 100 years in one form or another, many questions about what it is, how it benefits, and why it is so important continue to surface. We wanted to take the opportunity to answer those and other questions to show people the depth of value that comes from furthering a person’s education.
Although it is known that potential employers tend to favor job candidates who have an initial degree, a question has been raised regarding perception of continuing education programs. Overall, companies of all industries and sizes view a person who has taken the time, put in the effort, and paid the money for additional education as being positive. However, most companies prefer to see programs taken from conventional colleges and universities opposed to those completed online, which raises yet another question of why.
Keep in mind that today, the number of companies being acceptable of online education, certifications, and degrees has increased dramatically yet there are still some that tend to be hesitant. To overcome this possible challenge, there are two specific things a person can do. Therefore, rather than steer clear of online opportunities, an individual needs to be prepared to offer possible employers with a little information.
The following are some of the key things that should be included on a resume and discussed in an interview.
o It would be imperative that only accredited colleges or universities be considered for continuing education programs, and those with accreditation from agencies that are recognized nationally
o Showing ability to manage time is also essential in that it makes potential employers more comfortable and confident in the person’s dedication to the job. Obviously, completing continuing education programs online is different from taking courses on campus since becoming distracted or not completing studies can be difficult for some people. Therefore, being able to prove sound time management skills would be a huge plus.
o Highlighting strengths that came from the programs taken would also give a person an edge over the competition. Although this would be important regardless of the type of college or university attended, it is especially critical when it comes to online continuing education programs.
Another common question asked about taking programs online has to do with the amount of time it takes to complete a program or earn certification or a degree. To begin with, one of the primary reasons that courses taken online have become so popular is convenience. This type of learning gives a person the chance to complete programs in a timeframe that works best. Classes could be taken at night, on the weekend, or anytime the person has available.
Because of this, it is actually common for continuing education programs to take longer to complete but this is not because of the way the system is set up but that most people enjoy the flexibility these programs provide. Now in saying this, most programs do have deadlines, meaning while learning is self-paced a person would still need to have all coursework and other educational activity completed within the timeframe provided. For instance, a four-year bachelor’s degree would take five to six years to earn online.
There has also been some confusion and misconception pertaining to the structure of continuing education programs offered online. Because of this, many people want to know how online programs are structured and what they consist of. Just as there are differences between conventional and online education there are also many similarities. Below we listed the standard setup offered by colleges and universities throughout the country for taking programs online regardless of type or level.
o System Log On – Rather than driving to a campus and sitting in a classroom with other students, continuing education programs would be possible by logging onto the educational institution’s website where studies would be taken via the internet. The person would need a computer with high-speed internet and sometimes, the school’s software programs downloaded. With this done, the individual would be able to access curriculum, complete tests, interact with other students and instructors, and participate in seminars and other media events.
o Instructor Communication – When taking classes in person, instructors are readily available. While there could be some slight delay in communicating with online instructors, thanks to technology, most colleges and universities feature video and audio interaction. Because of this, instructors respond to a student within 24 hours on average although many instructors offer instant messaging so the delay becomes void.
o Lectures, Workshops, and Seminars – When it comes to attending special events, continuing education programs offered online have a huge advantage over brick and mortar schools. The reason is that in person, information is provided one time, giving a person no ability to rewind. However, with programs, certifications, and degrees completed online, these activities are stored on video so a person could go back and watch or listen time after time.
o Program Materials – With continuing education programs online, most material is provided in the form of downloadable documents, CDs, and sometimes, textbooks. Again, this allows a person to review material whenever wanted. As far as the type and quality of materials, there is no difference from what an individual would get online versus conventional learning options.
o Tests and Grades – When completing education online, most schools post detailed information about upcoming tests and grades. Now, there are two things in particular that should be understood. First, unlike conventional colleges and universities, the process of taking online tests is not monitored in that instructors believe someone dedicated enough to study using this method is also mature enough not to cheat. Second, it is common for online tests to be timed and only accessible for a set amount of time so being prepared is imperative.
Key Factors when Choosing Continuing Education Programs
One other question that comes up often has to do with key factors a person should pay attention to when choosing a college or university for continuing education programs. The following are the things deemed to be most important:
o Accreditation – As stated, a school with national accreditation is critical and the most important factor of all
o Reputation – Obviously, the reputation of a school, curriculum, and instructors should also be considered
o Teacher to Student Ratio – Just as this would be of importance for a traditional school, the number of students for each teacher is also vital for online education
o Instructors – Even the background of instructors should be understood, which would include certifications and degrees possessed, colleges or universities attended, areas of expertise, number of years of experience in the field being taught, as well as number of years teaching, experience with continuing education programs provided online
o Accessibility – Being able to interact with other students and communicate with instructors would be yet another consideration when choosing the best online program
o Alumni Success – It would help to know the number of graduating students, percentage of alumni working in the field studied, and names of companies, firms, or organizations where employed
o History – There are many newer online educational institutions that provide education based on integrity just as there are some older online schools that fall short in all areas of importance so a person cannot base the decision on this factor alone. However, in most cases the school with the longer history tends to bet the better choice for continuing education programs.
o Curriculum – All coursework and materials used must be up to date and in compliance with any rules, regulations, and laws, if applicable
There are thousands of options when it comes to continuing education programs online, which can make the process of choosing a little difficult. While each of the following suggestions is excellent, a person should know there are many other great choices to research for consideration. These schools offer degrees for various industries/sectors and on different levels.
o University of Phoenix
o American InterContinental University
o DeVry University
o Walden University