Prof. K.R. Anupama

Why Online Education is the Best Choice for Working Professionals | Prof. K.R. Anupama | Associate Dean | BITS Pilani Work Integrated Learning Programmes (WILP) division

Prof. K.R. AnupamaIndia ranks second globally in terms of the number of online learners. According to World Economic Forum data, India had approximately 13.6m online learners, second only to the US, and the trends seem to be only rising. Learning from the comfort of our homes is truly one of the key advantages of the times that we are living in. And for working professionals, for whom generally the time is less and the work quite voluminous, this boon provided by online learning is of even greater value.

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) making rapid strides, it is becoming increasingly imperative to make aggressive transformations at workplaces. According to a LinkedIn study, jobs requiring knowledge related to AI have more than doubled in the past two years in India. Similarly, professionals across the world will have to refocus on unlearning and relearning, as the skills required for jobs are projected to change at least by 65% by 2030. Online education, pursued in the form of online courses (alongside jobs), has therefore become a necessity for working professionals.

Flexibility provided by online education is the key to its own success

Online education, which was a transformative revolution in higher education, has reshaped traditional learning landscape. For working professionals juggling the demands of careers and personal lives, this innovative approach is a convenient alternative. Several top-ranked educational institutions around the world have created exclusive online divisions that offer courses to students across various countries. Over the last few years, many of them went to become online degrees of high quality.

With NEP India allowing a second degree to be taken via online education, this has allowed online education to take off in India. Several organizations are encouraging their employees to take up online education rather than taking a break from work to pursue higher education, so that their employees can continue to succeed in their careers, while enhancing their knowledge and skills at the same time. With the quality of online education improving due to their formalization and standardization, this is an ideal situation for industry professionals to improve their credentials without losing on their experience. For working professionals, this flexibility is a lifeline that allows learners to pursue degrees or certifications, without compromising their professional commitments.

Learning without borders

Online education is a realm where geographical barriers vanish and time becomes your ally. Working professionals can easily access top-tier education from institutions worldwide as technology transforms screens into windows to lectures, interactive discussions, and resource-rich libraries. This is a world where a marketing manager in Mumbai can seamlessly attend a lecture from a professor in Paris or collaborate on a project with peers scattered across continents. Online education has evolved into a medium that fosters a global learning community, nurtures diverse collaborations, and fuels innovation, thanks to the marvel of the technology.

5G and other technologies will propel online education even further

Internet has empowered us in ways that were unimaginable earlier. Now, with 5G making its way, new paths for learning and engagement will be opened, as it provides a wide range of benefits, including providing seamless coverage, high data rate, low latency, and highly reliable communications. 5G service will enable learners to go beyond smart classrooms and teachings, and take education in India to the next level. Learners will likely be able to experience, digital twinning, VR, IoT, and other technologies in phygital education with the help of 5G service.

The power of 5G, combined with other developing technologies, such as AI and ML, is expected to reshape the educational tools and thereby the institutions of the future. Learning and learners will see a marked shift, as they move towards an entirely new world of high-quality teaching and learning resources.

Learners will have better access to higher-quality education by doing away with time and space constraints. One of the most intriguing features of 5G is the capacity to communicate with others and exchange ideas using holographic technology. It also allows for real-time data transfer between networks, giving students quick access to knowledge and real-time collaboration opportunities with their peers.

Also, with Metaverse coming into the picture, the experiential aspect of online learning will improve by several notches. While there are some obstacles in India in terms of setting up Metaverses for learning primarily, they are definitely surmountable; Once they are addressed successfully, the advent of 5G will make immersive virtual experiences possible in the future.

Tailored learning experiences

One of the key differentiating factors of online education lies in its personalised approach. Learning thus becomes a tailored suit, designed to fit individual needs and preferences. Working professionals, each with their unique aspirations, skill sets, and schedules, benefit from learning paths customised exclusively for them. From self-paced modules that accommodate erratic work hours to specialised courses aligned with career trajectories, online education moulds itself to the learner. Adaptive technologies and multimedia resources cater to diverse learning styles, ensuring comprehension and retention — a luxury often absent in traditional brick-and-mortar setups.

Work-life-education balance

The concept of work-life balance, which may have seemed like a futile pursuit, has increasingly become achievable – thanks to changing work cultures. Many organisations have realigned their focus on employee wellness, particularly after the pandemic, by recognising the need for self-care and spending time with their loved ones.

In this scenario, online education acts as an ally, as it allows professionals to pursue education without the pressures of attending physical classrooms. Rather than forcing a binary choice between career advancement and higher education, online education integrates seamlessly into the existing tapestry of life. It allows professionals to upskill or retrain, without disrupting the delicate equilibrium, offering a pathway to career growth, without sacrificing their personal well-being. There is, in fact, a respect for the intricate dance among professional responsibilities, personal commitments, and the pursuit of knowledge.

Few challenges and roadblocks still need to be addressed

The path of online education also has its own set of challenges. The absence of face-to-face interactions can potentially breed a sense of isolation for some. Also, the need for self-discipline and motivation becomes paramount in the absence of structured classroom settings. Technological glitches and connectivity issues may occasionally disrupt the learning flow.

And yet, these challenges can definitely be addressed. Collaborative virtual platforms, robust support and mentoring systems, and evolving pedagogical strategies are mitigating these hurdles. Institutions are investing in comprehensive student services, fostering vibrant online communities, and fine-tuning methodologies to ensure a holistic learning experience.

A bright road ahead for online education and working professionals

As the world hurtles towards a future shaped by rapid technological advancements, the significance of online education for working professionals will only amplify. It stands as a testament to adaptability, catering to the evolving needs of a dynamic workforce. Embracing this paradigm shift is about leveraging convenience as well as embracing a transformative educational model — one that democratises learning, empowers individuals, and blurs the boundaries between work and education.

Online education, therefore, is not merely a choice for working professionals; it’s a gateway to limitless possibilities. It embodies the ethos of modern education — flexible, inclusive, and empowering. As the world evolves, so does education, and online education emerges not just as an option, but as the best choice for those seeking to traverse the dynamic landscapes of knowledge, while addressing their personal and professional commitments.