What Does Online Learning Mean

Christine Hollen joins the PBS NewsHour to talk about online learning in the American higher education system.

Christine Hollen is Vice President of Education and Outreach at Prized Products. Follow her on Twitter @_CEO.

At Prized Products, I have watched at awe as nearly every single school in my own district and those of my colleagues across the country have chosen online learning as their best learning option.

Admittedly, I think this is because online learning doesn’t come with any of the traditional promises we face in more traditional settings. We deliver the course materials within days, it looks and feels like the real world, and the rewards are immediate.

What Does Online Learning Mean?

Yet, in recent months, I have seen some of my colleagues, who have been excelling in a traditional learning environment for years, question whether or not online learning is right for them. And this has been the most discomforting part of the conversation. As a learning leader, it feels like people are questioning the value of my job.

What brings me great comfort is that online learning is here to stay. It has become the preferred option for nearly every new university, secondary school, and K-12 school in America. It is especially valuable in K-12, where thousands of schools are striving to improve their curriculum, their teaching practices, and their student outcomes. Moreover, more than half of students are now enrolled in online programs, and we will reach 60 million students by the year 2020.

My colleagues and I at Prized Products have seen it first-hand as we have supported, partnered with, and ultimately created college and career-ready opportunities through online learning. Since 2004, we have been serving more than 12,000 students and alumni and building an online education community for the millions of learners worldwide.

How is Online Learning Better?

One of the biggest hurdles many students have is believing in themselves. It takes all of us as adults to show them that they are capable of great things. As we at Prized Products often see, these types of efforts go a long way in increasing students’ self-confidence and ability to achieve in school. Our community, therefore, exists to teach and to show people how to take the first steps towards fulfilling their dreams.

In addition to the learning benefits of online coursework, we are now seeing tremendous value in an online learning experience that retains the strengths of a traditional classroom environment and provides added opportunities to socially connect with peers and the program faculty. As a group of adults, we can provide tremendous support to younger learners. We can support them as they learn and hopefully work their way to success.

I personally have seen this several times when students want to avoid overwhelming formal school settings. We have, at Prized Products, created an alternative learning community that allows students to “live” outside of the classroom setting and remain active and engaged in their learning journey.

At the heart of each course of study is this student-led community, built on online education’s best practices and its flexibility. We call this the Network Learning Module (NLM), and our students have recently built a significant amount of engagement by making over 100,000 local contributions on the company’s We Book Facebook page.

Where Does Online Learning Go From Here?

In order to truly impact students, online learning must truly enable them to lead and grow on their own terms. Students must be involved in the start of their online courses and able to get help when needed. Learning environments must also be flexible to teach and support every student.

Through a wide array of courses, from information technology and computer science to health and nursing, we offer students online access to the right tools and technology for the right purpose, at the right time. Through our own online learning experiences, our entrepreneurs, executives, entrepreneurs, and founders have successfully generated millions of dollars for their businesses and organizations. We have written or worked with authors like David Lynch and Sal Seifert to develop online courses designed to engage their audiences and promote learning.

Finally, the value of our online learning programs includes the impact we make with our students and alumni. Thousands of them have earned over $12 million in earnings and are currently moving around the country, settling into new jobs, pursuing advanced degrees, or changing the world for the better. This all happens because our online education system gives students the power to create the path of their own success.

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