Online education is gaining credibility, says study

A study, released by the DeVry Institute of Technology in Calgary, found that seven of 10 Calgarians surveyed think employers see online education as valuable.

Lara Dodo, regional vice-president of technology and creative services at professional hiring consultants Robert Half International Inc., said that while online education may never eclipse the traditional degree programs, it is becoming more prominent as a “blended approach to education.”

Instead of having to choose between going back to school or earning money and building a resume, professionals can choose to split the difference and earn credits, or even a whole degree online.

The survey, of 504 Calgarians, conducted online for DeVry by Montreal-based Leger Marketing, found that nearly half of respondents think online education has become more credible in the last five years.

Ranil Herath, president of DeVry Calgary, thinks the state of online education has caused this recent shift in attitudes. While earlier attempts, “going back to the days of CBT (computer based training), (weren’t) interactive,” today, nearly all classes, regardless of where they’re offered, have some sort of online component.

In fact, Herath thinks online students might have it a bit harder because, “online students have even greater accountability than the students who come on to the campus.” He said it’s mandatory for online students to “take part in discussions on a weekly basis,” which means you can’t just “wait until the end of the session to study.”

And, unlike first-year courses at many traditional universities, Devry has a strict professor-to-student ratio that is enforced even in online classrooms. Herath says Devry has structured online programs “(so) you still have the same student to professor ratio that we would have in a campus, which is 30 or less.”

Both Herath and Dodo agreed too that taking online courses for at least part of a degree can actually be beneficial in today’s market. For jobs in business, that require an MBA, for instance, having experience contributing to projects online and participating in Webinars and web conferences can be a boon.

Particularly when working for a multi-national, most collaboration is done through online portals that look a lot like an online classroom, Dod said.

“As a savvy hiring manager, you have to look at the whole package of an individual,” she said. While there a lot of factors involved in bringing on a new hire, “no one’s hiring one-dimensionally” anymore, she said.

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