There’s a persistent myth that employers view online degrees as somehow inferior to ‘real’ ones, or that online study isn’t as rigorous as face-to-face learning.
This myth has been around for a while, particularly in the world of commerce, and like most myths, it doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny.
As more and more Australians jump into remote learning – more than 300,000 Australian students are currently studying online, and the industry is currently valued at around $8 billion – the stigma around online degrees is starting to fade.
It’s a little like online dating: it’s becoming increasingly hard to find graduates who haven’t completed at least some modules online, and the same goes for recruiters and senior management.
Remote learning isn’t the exception anymore – it’s becoming the rule. And, as this new generation of learners heads into the workplace, we’re slowly gathering data around career prospects and employer sentiment. And the news is very encouraging.
Data has shown for a while that the learning outcomes for online versus face-to-face learning are about the same (in fact, online might have a slight edge in some areas).
In its own analysis, the US Department of Education found that “students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction”.
As more and more students come on board, the overall quality of online education has also begun to increase.
“Schools got better at the delivery models and hiring managers, particularly in the technology industries, became much more comfortable with it,” Nicole Cox, chief recruitment officer at Decision Toolbox, a national American recruitment firm, told U.S. News & World Report.
But what about employers and HR personnel? Well, the news is good there, too. In a 2018 workplace survey, 61 per cent of HR leaders firmly believed that online learning was as good as (if not better than) traditional, bricks-and-mortar education.
Seventy-one per cent of organisations said they’d hired an online graduate in the last 12 months, and 52 per cent believed that, in the future, most advanced degrees would be done entirely online.
This tallies with RMIT’s own research. In the 2021 Future of Learning report, the university asked professionals in Australia, the UK and America what they really thought about online learning.
Most respondents agreed that online learning could match face-to-face degrees in quality (only 21 per cent of professionals in Australia disagreed with that sentiment), and the perceived benefits were widespread: flexible learning, improved self-esteem, better access to education and more targeted, future-ready skills.
In fact, 41 per cent of Australians believe that online learning helps support the pace of technological change.
This is something RMIT has always focused on, particularly with its new Bachelor of Business degree.
To make online learning more relevant in the post-COVID world, RMIT Online has partnered up with industry leaders like Amazon Web Services, Adobe, Australian Red Cross and Medibank to offer practical, hands-on learning – not just lectures and exams.
“We know that technology is redefining the Australian workforce and the skills needed to remain competitive,” said Iain Rouse, country director for Australia and New Zealand at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“AWS is committed to providing training that provided students and current workers with the skills and knowledge required to thrive in the future workplace, and we’re proud to partner with RMIT Online to improve students’ overall employability.”
Practical learning is great for employers – they want tech-savvy graduates who can hit the ground running – but there are other factors to consider, too.
Some studies have indicated that where your online degree comes from is basically how employers calculate its worth: the reputation of the university, the overall quality of the graduates, and the accreditation of the particular course are all important factors.
Bricks-and-mortar institutions that offer remote learning are also seen as more trustworthy than those who specialise entirely in online education.
In other words, not all online courses are created equal. Students need to do their research, analyse credentials and (if possible) chat to industry professionals beforehand, to find out which courses and institutions are rated most highly.
The key takeaway is that the stigma around online learning is more or less gone. Recruiters, industry leaders, HR professionals, tech start-ups, CEOs – no one makes a distinction anymore between face-to-face learning and doing things online.
At the end of the day, employers don’t really care how you learned, so much as what you learned. And what you’re going to do with it.
Want to stay up to date with the latest trends and tech in business? Check out RMIT Online’s Bachelor of Business and apply now HERE.
Featured image source: iStock/monsitj
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