Demand for online education increases as working professionals look for flexibility

University of Roehampton, London Online

When Tony Mancini was earning his master of business administration (MBA), he was working 60 hours a week, building a family and – somehow – attending night classes in Montreal.
If there’s one thing he discovered from his arduous experience, it’s that the campus model for education isn’t always the best option. “If I had the option of online education, it would have benefited my family the most,” he says. “If I didn’t have to go to a campus to pursue my MBA, I would have been better able to share my parental duties.”
There is a growing demand for online education in Canada and around the world as working professionals look for more flexible options to increase their education and remain competitive. Nearly a decade ago, Professor Mancini left a 30-year career as a management professional to teach online – and to help others avoid the difficulties he once faced.
He currently is the academic director for online management programs at the University of Roehampton, a UK-based institution offering online master degree programs in management, public health, education, public administration and psychology.
Flexibility
Flexibility is just one of the many reasons online education attracts more and more students each year. For working professionals looking to advance their education while continuing to work, online education offers an alternative that does not require travelling to a campus.
Trends in technology have made education more accessible, especially for the increasingly mobile workforce. Thanks to the popularity of smartphones and tablets coupled with compatible applications, online students are able to take their classroom with them wherever they go and complete their coursework when it fits their schedules.
Global classmates
Today’s workforce isn’t just more mobile, it’s also more global as Canadian companies conduct more business internationally. As a result, companies are looking for employees who have broad geographic experience and understanding.
In an online program, students are able to learn with and from colleagues from around the world and build a robust global network of fellow professionals who often share best practices and offer different viewpoints on what leads to successful strategy.
“It’s nice to read perspectives on a particular topic that are different from the North American standard I am accustomed to,” says Francis Richard, a Roehampton online student from New Brunswick.
Employers have a lot to gain by hiring graduates of online programs, but an online student’s current employer benefits as well.
Immediate rewards
Instead of taking a break professionally to earn an advanced degree, online students are able to apply the knowledge and practical skills they learn in class to their jobs almost immediately, meaning that students and employers don’t need to wait until graduation to start seeing the benefits of online education.
For example, students from the University of Roehampton’s online MBA program must complete a final management research project that ties together all facets of the program before graduating.
This culminating component of the curriculum requires students to demonstrate the ability to apply their knowledge of theory as well as their preparation for the real world of business. Surprisingly, most Canadian universities do not require students to complete final management research projects.
Outside of larger institutions, only a few Canadian universities offer online options for today’s graduate student. Meanwhile, Professor Mancini and others in his field continue to help higher education move toward a model demonstrating how diversity in the virtual classroom fuels new thinking.
Students like Francis Richard are the future of our employment market, and those who have varied expertise and an adaptable, global way of thinking have the competitive advantage.

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