How Businesses Are Dealing With Online Learning

Businesses around the world are turning to online learning as a means to prepare employees for a variety of sectors. As the amount of online courses grows, the competency level of instruction becomes increasingly important for businesses seeking to maximize student engagement and retention.

How Businesses Are Dealing With Online Learning

Google is now testing two new ways to facilitate the discovery of online courses, one of which turns your smartphone into a “klick” to locate the available content. Google is adding a “Quick snippet” menu, similar to Amazon’s tool that allows you to describe an item and buy it almost instantly. Following this, users can also listen to short audio clips from lectures as they are listening to a video for free via Google’s YouTube Kids (8 to 17 year-olds). Google’s academics are among the pioneers behind audio-only online classes, which provide a wonderful alternative to online courses found on other platforms, such as YouTube or Coursera. Can you tell where your courses are going?

These experiments with technology align closely with a new partnership between Udacity and edX, better known as Harvard University’s startup. Their partnership will provide more than 45,000 “now” students—many of them former students of Harvard and other top academic institutions—access to Udacity’s online courses, at no charge. Between the two organizations, more than 40,000 students have completed the American Economic Association’s final program for professional economic leadership.

A support organization for educational entrepreneurs, Kicksstart, provides thousands of students with business-appropriate advice and introductions to industry leaders. One Kicksstart business champion is Morgan Merlo, founder of a mobile payment technology company. Now in its third year, Kicksstart’s entrepreneurship center serves almost 2,000 K-12 students and students with special needs. He says, “Since their ages are so important, helping them become entrepreneurial early on helps with employment, along with other aspects of earning a living.”

We are all consumers of a website, service, tool, or a product. We register by entering our username and password. For some of us, the key to staying in school is that the professor sends us high-quality instruction. Google’s audio streaming of online courses, which we’ve discussed above, can let us get that same instruction through the devices we choose to use. We just pay for the privilege.

Part of the answer in making the transition from K-12 to college and beyond is to make lifelong learning a part of the everyday landscape. There’s a whole generation of today’s adult students that grew up on online learning, like Ross, a graduate student at MIT. When he was in his 20s and struggling with a college course, he wrote it off as something inferior to brick-and-mortar classes. He remembers thinking, “It’s too hard. I’m never going to pass this.” But the course was different: he had access to a helpful peer group, he could interact with his classmates online, and he could review notes and other materials at his leisure. He ended up mastering it and graduated, having felt that he had earned it.

We’ve seen many studies on what impact technology and online courses have on college students. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of adult students enrolled in higher education increased by 25 percent. But online courses alone are insufficient to replace in-person learning: more than 30 percent of all study leave days at U.S. colleges and universities are spent in-person. Rather than outgrowing students, technology can enhance the in-person experience. It can push back the curtain on issues like institutional bias, which is why James Hannam, the associate director of the Oregon Center for Educational Equity, defends online education in his TED talk, “The Secret to Learning,” which you can watch here.

We should celebrate the genius of people like William Burroughs, who said, “We must always look at any revolutionary system through the gritted teeth of those who have stood against it all of our lives, who have struggled against it day after day, and fought it back and come close and come so close to success.” Today, the computerized education movement is a great step in the right direction, advancing a culture of lifelong learning.

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