Online learning has been growing rapidly over the past 10 years. Students have flocked to online universities and massive open online courses (MOOCs) because they want to make themselves more appealing to potential employers. Is it working?
Time magazine explored this issue in an effort to understand whether online learning is actually helping students get jobs and employers find qualified employees. While employers are somewhat skeptical about online learning, attitudes are shifting as more students look to the web for a degree.
With the national unemployment rate hovering near 8 percent, getting a job is exactly why many adults pursue a degree, online or otherwise. The question is: Can an online degree help you land a job?
An increasing number of students are hoping that the answer is yes. The growth in online education over the past decade has been nothing short of meteoric: a November 2011 report by the Babson Survey Research Group (PDF download) found that more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during the fall of 2010, a 10 percent increase over 2009, and nearly four times the number of students taking online courses a decade ago. While some of the current students are enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar schools that also offer certain courses online, many other students take online courses through institutions like ITT Technical Institute and the University of Phoenix, which offer a majority of their degree programs over the Internet. Still, concerns persist over the quality of online education and the usefulness of an online degree in getting a job.
Perceptions of online-only degrees are slowly shifting. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employers’ views of online education have improved over the past five to 10 years. More than half of the human-resources managers SHRM surveyed for an August 2010 report said that if two applicants with the same level of experience were applying for a job, it would not make a difference whether a job candidate’s degree was obtained through an online program or a brick-and-mortar university. Seventy-nine percent of HR managers said they had hired an applicant with an online degree during the previous 12 months.
Higher education’s efforts to improve online learning are paying off. The infographic below, created by Drexel University Online explores what employers are looking for in an online student.