One of the favorable characteristics of higher education is its willingness to change with the times and the technology.  A few decades ago most people could not even conceive of this thing called an online degree program.  What a difference the PC revolution has made!

Brenna Hawley writing in the Kansas City Business Journal makes an interesting observation (“Online Degrees Still Struggle to Click with All Employers” 10/19/12–10/25/12, p. 13):

“Online coursework and degrees are slowly becoming more commonplace in the working world, and that will only increase as more institutions offer them.  But online degree programs still can carry a stigma of being less difficult or not as official as ones earned at traditional brick-and-mortar schools.”

Hawley makes a good point.  Her statement summarizes the history of the world of online higher education:

1—Online degrees shall continue to grow in popularity.

2—Human biases still exist.

As anyone who has survived an online degree program from an accredited university can attest, you will work just as hard, if not harder, to earn that sheepskin.  Believe me, I know because my last degree was entirely online while my prior three were traditional brick-and-mortar programs.  Not only did I work just as hard, if not harder, on my online degree, but the quality of education was equal, if not superior, to the traditional degree programs.

The reason for that is you can’t hide in the virtual classroom.  The instructor, and every one of your peers, sees everything you do . . . or don’t do.  And if you don’t do the work, you won’t earn the grade.

Therefore, by their very nature, online degree programs force you to be more involved in the academic experience.  As we all know, the benefit you derive from any experience positively correlates with the investment you make in that experience.

Steve Parscale is the director of accreditation at the Overland Park Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.  He views the growing acceptance of online degrees as a simple, positive, and unavoidable reality:

“‘I think there’s an evolution.  You look back in the ‘90s, where it was totally unacceptable.  In the 2000s, more people became accepting over time.  Honestly, you have so many faculty members out there who have online degrees, it’s helping evolve the thinking of online education.’” (p. 13)

One particular benefit of online degree programs is the immersion in the virtual-team world.  Shortly before online education began to proliferate, in my professional life I was already well engaged in international conference calls, online business chat-rooms, virtual-team communications, and online project management.  How fitting then those online students are simultaneously building and refining their virtual-team skills.

This not only is the future—the future is now.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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