Distance learning has often faced an uphill battle when it comes to public perception. The worry is that a degree from an online institution lacks something that a degree from a brick and mortar school can offer.
Partly, prestige has been a factor in attitudes about online schools. Some of the country’s universities and colleges have histories stretching back hundreds of years. That naturally adds a level of prestige that younger institutions have yet to build. And even though Strayer University’s roots stretch back to 1892, because we’re a recognized name in online education, people assume that we haven’t been around as long as Stanford (1891) or California Institute of Technology (1891).
But despite past perception, employers are viewing online education and degrees from accredited institutions like Strayer University, with real value and as a viable option for employees whose education they want to enhance.
Employers See Real Value in Online Learning
A new generation of managers is doing the hiring, and they are more comfortable with the ability of technology to enhance learning in and out of the classroom. That’s partly due to the increase in quality technology to access online course materials and the value that employers are placing on tech-savvy talent that is needed in today’s marketplace.
And now that every university, college and community college is scrambling to set up their own online learning options, it’s clear that the stigma has fallen away. This is exciting for someone like me, who sees what’s going on at Strayer and in the online education industry. It means we have a real head start serving our students and knowing what really works in technology and digital learning.
Online education’s reputation may be benefitting from the additional scrutiny that traditional institutions are under with the ever increasing cost of funding an online degree program at private and public institutions. It’s increasingly clear that what matters in education is the ability to get the skills that employers are looking for, and many older institutions are having trouble letting go of the old Ivy League ideal.
Returning Students Care about Skills
In a knowledge-based economy, more adults are turning to online degrees to fill out their resumes than ever before. People need to enhance their skill set while still being able to juggle work and family, and taking courses online really appeals to those who need that flexibility, and their employers recognize that economic reality in the people they want to hire.
In this economy it’s easy to question whether or not some degrees are worth the money given the earning potential and employment outlook for certain graduates with skills that employers aren’t looking for. Strayer is focused on making sure that our students are getting skills that are relevant for today’s jobs, and we’re actively pursuing those goals in a way that I don’t think traditional universities are.
Students and employers recognize these realities, and they see that accredited online colleges offer streamlined programs that focus on training highly specialized professionals who are primed for today’s job market and got there without sacrificing their current career.
The Future of Recruiting
I think that employers are changing the way that they recruit the talent they need to run their organizations. That means that job seekers need to stand out in ways that goes beyond what it says on your diploma. You’ll need a portfolio of work, a way to prove your skills and value before you begin working. The degree you get is just the prerequisite to you getting a shot at a position; it’s your skills and personal attributes that actually get you the job.
It’s becoming essential that students really have a plan of action when it comes to higher education. When a student has a career goal in mind, either as an undergraduate or as a returning student looking for a master’s degree, they’re much more driven. Employers can tell that without even looking at what school is listed on a person’s resume.
Author bio: Jennifer Cook writes about online education, career development and issues in higher education for Strayer.edu. When she isn’t pouring over labor statistics or devouring articles on education policy and online degrees, you’ll find her cooking up a storm in a small kitchen with surprisingly little counter space.