No matter what it’s called, knowledge is power!

Malik Al-Arafat

The name has changed over time from distance learning to online, electronic, virtual and digital learning. The objective, however, has stayed the same; that is, to continue learning, developing and advancing one’s education. Distance learning may be a vanishing designation as evolving technology closes the distance between learner and instructor.

However, it is now never too late for those who missed the chance to sit in a classroom and pursue higher education. Individuals can obtain a desired diploma or degree from their web-connected devices and study subjects not offered at local universities. World-class universities and institutions are awarding advanced degrees at bachelor, master and doctoral levels in a variety of online majors.

Still, obtaining an online degree is not as easy an option as many people think. It requires one’s full commitment, especially when enrolling in institutions located in different time zones with global classmates. It can be difficult to have study sessions, participate in virtual classes, and meet deadlines during weekends and vacations. In addition to the learners’ obligations as family members, employees, and community associates, they have to budget plans and schedules to complete their studies.

While time management and discipline are significant success factors for those attempting an online education, it also requires effective communication skills. Speaking and writing, in particular, are key skills, as engagement in group discussions is graded and assignments are submitted in writing. In addition, cohorts come from different countries, cultures and circumstances and this broad diversity makes negotiation, persuasion and civil discourse essential.

Despite these essential skills, a central advantage of online education is cost. Studying abroad can be very costly. Program and institution fees, housing, cost of living, travel, and other necessities all increase the cost. Moreover, there is the cost of taking a long break from the job that can be difficult for employers with a lean workforce. An online education allows interested individuals to pursue their education with an accredited institution without relocation while remaining employed as a full-time, productive employee. It is ideal for individuals who are already working and have domestic obligations.

Unlike traditional education, online education students may not have a traditional textbook. Online students do a lot of research, which helps them to acquire the latest knowledge in their field. Finding the information is not an easy task. It may require several trips to the library and searching the Internet for sources. Online education provides a great opportunity for individuals to extend their knowledge by either studying a different discipline or pursuing their studies to the next academic level.

One final consideration is that the range of options in online education is expanding. More universities and programs of study are increasing their online offerings with technology growth and increased demand. While businesses may find it difficult to sponsor all employees interested in pursuing full-time advanced education, the online education option has become a significant paradigm shift in the education market. This shift has implications for companies needing to meet their global demand for a highly educated workforce. In addition, online education provides individuals with the ability to prepare, develop and expand their opportunities. No matter what it’s called, the experience of online education benefits learners personally and professionally with great returns for business and communities. – Malik Al-Arafat, Dhahran