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Why Online Learning Experience Is an Asset in Today’s Virtual Workforce

Virtual teamwork is ubiquitous: The number of people who regularly work from home has grown 103 percent since 2005, and nearly 50 percent of organizations polled in an HR survey said they use virtual teams. At the same time, managers often question one’s ability to work remotely; not everyone can handle the independence. A Wakefield Research survey showed that half the respondents’ bosses oppose working from home.

If you’ve completed your education online, these statistics can work in your favor. If you excelled in the online learning format, advertise that fact. The extreme self-motivation and time management skills you demonstrated makes you an attractive recruit and trusted employee for today’s globalized workplace. Below is a closer look at how the skills you gain from an online degree program translate to the virtual workforce and the talking points to help you land your next job or teleworking role.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Online Courses

An online course is just as much work as the on-ground format, and the amount of time you dedicate is also about the same. However, the online format—just as a virtual workplace—affords you more flexibility. As long as you meet your deadlines and communicate with your instructor and peers, it doesn’t matter where or when you fulfill the requirements.

Each week, your instructor expects you to take the following actions yourself:

  • Review the learning objectives
  • Complete the assigned readings
  • Submit assignments
  • Go through the lecture materials
  • Participate in the discussion boards

You are probably experienced at independently completing the first three actions from previous in-person courses. Learning from an online lecture is different, but you can also do it wherever and whenever. The main difference is that it could include online media, such as TED Talks or how-to YouTube videos in addition to the instructor’s presentation.

Where online courses really diverge from in-person courses and resemble a virtual workplace is the last point: discussion boards.

The Benefit of Discussion Boards and Virtual Group Work

Participating in discussion boards is a lot like participating in a virtual team. Communicating your ideas clearly, getting responses, and projecting a professional image are necessary in a virtual workplace. Instructors, just like managers, expect you to write respectful, thoughtful, and polite communications, respond to different perspectives, and build a rapport with your peers. You must convey your professionalism virtually, and you get really good at it post after post, week after week, course after course. Expect to get plenty of practice in this regard: I wrote 168 primary responses and countless reply posts during my time at Northeastern.

On occasion, you may need to collaborate with classmates in a different time zone, which is excellent practice for the virtual workforce. You might live on the East Coast and your West Coast teammates may want an 8 p.m. PST conference call, or the schedule allows only a small window to submit your contributions to the group project. In an interview, you can showcase your willingness to be flexible in the other direction—when it doesn’t particularly suit your time zone or schedule.

How an Online Program Hones Your Technical Skills

Your online degree also equates to probable above-average technical skills, a definite plus for any job seeker. For starters, your instructor might ask you to record your introduction, set up your own blog or website, edit a Wiki, or narrate a presentation and upload it to YouTube. You might need to download software or access thin client software and learn how to use it to complete an assignment. And your textbook might only be available digitally. After a program’s worth of technical hurdles, big and small, an employer could trust that you are versed in common collaboration tools, content management systems, and basic troubleshooting.

Chances are that you will work on a geographically-dispersed team if you haven’t already. With an online degree experience, your future employer will know you’re comfortable learning new technologies, building a rapport virtually, tackling tasks proactively and independently, and knowing your way around a computer and virtual workspace. Whether you’re starting your online degree program, completing it, or have graduated, use the talking points from this blog post and be confident that your unique virtual skills and experience are recognized and in demand.