Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 27, 2021

How Online Learning Enhances Your Professional Skills

How Online Learning Enhances Your Professional Skills

Online education is becoming increasingly popular today, with dozens of online courses being held on a regular basis all over the globe. So why does online learning attract millions of people around the world? How does it enhance your professional skills and advance your career, and what is the future of this education trend?

Nowadays, studying on the Internet is not only popular, but it is also very convenient. Starting from choosing an educational course, picking the right tutor, planning the time for the classes, and carrying out payments—everything can be easily done online.

What Is Special About Online Learning?

In recent years, due to the global growth of the influence of the Internet, the role of online learning has increased significantly. People like the simplicity, financial attractiveness, and fun of this way of learning in comparison with the traditional education. Indeed, by studying online, you get easy and quick access to any material on your subject.

You can also choose any convenient time and place for an online class to take part in.[1]

The strategic goal of distance learning is to provide people of any professional activity and at any place of residence with equal educational opportunities through the use of new information and communication technologies. Based on the use of distance learning solutions, the education system creates additional opportunities for updating training content, teaching methods, and knowledge dissemination.

It contributes to all levels of education. Thus, a large number of people who cannot afford studying in higher educational institutions due to the lack of financial or physical capabilities[2], or professional employment can sign up for an online course.

Online learning is also focused on the organization of corporate training. It is difficult for corporate workers to make a training schedule to complete traditional full-time study. Being able to independently study when they are comfortable is key for this category of students. With distance learning, every employer has a chance to plan his/her workload and schedule.

Advertising

Benefits of Learning Online

You may have perhaps thought about the opportunities that online learning can offer compared to traditional full-time education. Although the classic, well-established way of education and online learning do not exclude but rather complement each other, the advantages of online learning are quite extensive.

Some of these benefits include:

  • There is no need to pay rent or incur other costs associated with studying in the classroom.
  • You can choose a training program and study while being away from the city.
  • You can choose any educational institution even if it is located outside of your country.
  • You are not connected to the venue of the training courses and have a chance to combine work and education.
  • You can organize your time for learning, which contributes to higher motivation, better time management, and the ability to analyze and synthesize the material being studied.

Of course, there are many great things about online learning, which are mostly associated with online learning flexibility,[3] availability, and a high level of customization of the educational process.

What is more, the advantages of  e-education compared to the traditional way of learning are also obvious:

  • The possibility of lifelong learning
  • Students are trained independently in their own way; they choose the time and place that suits them best
  • A variety of subjects are at your disposal
  • The possibility to follow your own pace—students learn the subject as fast as they can; they can review the material as many times as necessary
  • You can choose a place where you want to study (at home, at work, etc.)
  • The opportunity to participate in the highest quality or prestigious programs—you can attend courses at the best educational institutions, which are conducted by well-known experts, regardless of where they take place
  • Opportunity to choose your own way of studying the subject—active or passive learning and various levels of interaction
  • Practical work with various technologies—you not only get information about the material being studied but also obtain additional knowledge and skills about the use of various technologies

Types of Online Learning Programs

Educational institutions providing online learning programs can be divided into three main categories:

Distant Universities

For example, in the USA, there are a few of such educational institutions providing Bachelor’s and Master’s programs.

Decent establishments will have the necessary accreditation.

Advertising

At the same time, there are also non-accredited programs, so it is important to find out what kind of accreditation a particular program has.

Corporate Training and Courses

Such educational organizations provide trainings and programs leading to obtaining a certificate and developing or strengthening any professional skills.

As a general rule, these are non-accredited programs established in accordance with the individual requirements of clients. Therefore, it is highly important to find out information about the course structure, its means and methods of communication, as well as student support provided.

Traditional Universities Providing Online Education

Many traditional universities and colleges have recently launched a part of their programs online, thus, expanding the list of courses offered.

How to Pick a Suitable Online Course

There are three main features defining a quality distance education program. If you want to pick an online course that will contribute to your professional development, then you should pay attention to the following things:

1. Course Structure

A online education program never copies the lecture program of the same/similar course. Instead of simple full-time study program duplication, the course is to be carefully organized in such a way to involve the student in the learning process with interesting topics and themes being discussed.

Besides, the structure of the course is to provide you with more opportunities to organize the online learning process than it would be possible with full-time education.

Advertising

The main idea of any online course is that it should be focused on the student, allowing them to set the course content based on his/her personal needs and professional objectives.

2. Means and Methods of Communication

An online learning program may involve a wide range of information delivery methods; it could be email, telephone, online platforms, interactive television, newsgroups, audio/video conferencing, etc.

Communication methods need to be as consistent as possible for your learning style, so make sure to check it beforehand so that you stay on the safe side.

Depending on a course type, they can be either synchronous or asynchronous. The former require the simultaneous participation of both tutors and students, which allows for their interaction in real time. In this case, the means of information delivery include interactive television and video conferencing.

In turn, asynchronous methods are very flexible; they allow students to choose the time convenient for them to work on the course material.

3. Support and Contact With Students

Although participating in training courses remotely, students should in no case feel isolated from each other. A truly quality program will involve a variety of methods and techniques for creating an atmosphere of real interaction between students and a tutor.

When choosing a distance education program, clarify how students get help and support from their instructors. Ensure that there is online support, chat rooms, online bulletin boards, and other student counseling and support tools.

Advertising

How to Use Online Learning to Enhance Professional Skills

Online education is a valuable tool in a fast-paced and highly competitive working environment. Professionals and experienced workers turn to online training or distance tutoring services to advance their career paths and strengthen their knowledge.

After all, online learning improves your skills and helps you acquire new ones without being distracted from work.

Whatever your level of training, area of interest, preferred format or schedule, you will definitely find something that suits you.

Everyone prefers to study in different ways, and online learning can give you as much time and attention as you need. Flexibility and convenience make the process of online learning more relaxed, especially for those who are extremely busy in their everyday life.

The advantages of the online learning method have already been appreciated by many large companies around the world.[4] This type of education attracts many; not only with the opportunity to train a large number of employees at once but also with its affordable price.

Thus, large enterprises reduce the costs of staff development while maintaining high-quality training. Online corporate learning can be done both during work hours and after business hours.

Final Thoughts

The rapid development of information technologies and the widespread access to the Internet form new requirements and opportunities for modern learning experiences.

Taking into account all its features and benefits, there is absolutely no doubt that online learning helps you grow professionally and will enhance your career.

More About Online Learning

Featured photo credit: Stefan Vladimirov via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

John Obstander

John is a productivity geek and a writing enthusiast who has no limits and got wings to take over the world.

10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2021 How Online Learning Enhances Your Professional Skills How to Be More Efficient at Work, at Home and in Life 11 Ways Using Productivity Tracker Apps Boost Your Efficiency 25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

Trending in Learning

1 What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable? 2 7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It 3 10 Methods To Acquire Knowledge Effectively 4 The 10 Best Online Dictionaries 5 The SQ3R Method: How It Maximizes Your Learning Comprehension

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 1, 2021

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable?

As someone on the Millennial/Generation X cusp, one of my first memories of a news story was the devastating crash of the Challenger space shuttle. I couldn’t process the severity or the specifics of the event at the time, but looking back, the Challenger explosion represents a heartbreaking example of what can happen when systems fail.

A part of the shuttle known as the O-ring was faulty. People from NASA knew about it well before the disaster, but NASA employees either ignored the problem—writing it off as not that bad—or were ignored when they tried to alert higher-ups about the issue.[1] This is a tragic example of single-loop learning where organizations focus on what they’re doing without reflecting on how or why they’re doing it, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Single and Double-Loop Learning

Chris Argyris describes the difference between single and double-loop learning with a metaphor. A thermostat that turns on and off when it senses a pre-set temperature is akin to single-loop learning. The thermostat being able to reflect on whether or not it should be set to that temperature in the first place would be more like double-loop learning.[2]

Imagine the difference if NASA would have encouraged and addressed employees’ questions about how they were doing, what they were doing, and whether or not they should be doing it at all—you’ll start to see how an extra layer of questioning and critical thought can help organizations thrive.

Single Loop Learning

Single-loop learning is when planning leads to action, which leads to reflection on those actions and then back to planning, action, and more reflection. Now, you might think that because reflection is involved, single-loop learning would be an effective organizational model. However, because there isn’t room for critical questions that ask why actions are being taken, problems begin to bubble up.

The Double Bind

When organizations are operating in single-loop learning, they get stuck in what Argyris calls the Double Bind. Because there’s no value placed on questioning why the team is doing something, team members are either punished for speaking up or punished for not speaking up if something goes wrong down the line.

Primary Inhibiting Loop

When an organization is stuck in single-loop learning, the double bind leads to what Argyris calls the primary inhibiting loop. Real learning and growth are inhibited because team members withhold information from each other. This withholding leads to distrust and is difficult to remedy because even if employees attempt to become more forthcoming, lack of trust sours interactions.

Advertising

Secondary Inhibiting Loop

Because information is being withheld, team members play unconscious games (not the fun kind) to protect each other’s feelings. For example, I might try to distract my colleagues from worrying about a problem in our plan by shifting the focus to another project we’re working on that’s going better.

When you’re stuck in single-loop learning, the organization does whatever it can to continue taking action after action instead of stopping to truly reassess the bigger picture. This leads team members to hide information from each other, which causes distrust and behaviors that try to mask flaws in the organization’s structures and systems.

Double Loop Learning in Organizations

A common misconception is that the opposite of single-loop learning involves focusing primarily on people’s feelings and allowing employees to manage themselves. However, the solution for single-loop learning is not about doing the opposite. It’s about adding an extra later of critical analysis—double-loop learning.

With double-loop learning, questioning why the organization is doing what it’s doing is an organizational value. Instead of moving from planning to action to reflection and back to planning, in double-loop learning, people are encouraged to reflect on why they’re doing what they’re doing. This can help the organization take a step back and reconsider what’s best for all stakeholders instead of being stuck acting and reacting.

Ultimately, double-loop learning gives team members the time, space, and systems to ask tough questions and have them addressed in meaningful ways.

Let’s think back to the Challenger disaster. If NASA had created an organization that uses double-loop learning, employees wouldn’t have felt compelled to stay silent, and the employees who did speak up would have influenced the process enough to reconsider the timeline and develop a solution for the O-ring problem.

Single-loop learning is like a train with no breaks. Double-loop learning provides the extra layer of critical thought that allows the organization to stop and pivot when that’s what’s required.

Advertising

Think back to Argyris’ thermostat metaphor. Instead of just reacting—turning on and off when it detects a certain temperature—double-loop learning invites the thermostat to reconsider why it’s doing what it’s doing and how it might do it better.

How to Shift to Double Loop Learning

So, how can organizations shift from single to double-loop learning?

1. Stakeholders Must Level With Each Other

The first step to shifting from single to double-loop learning is for all stakeholders to sit down and talk openly about their expectations, values, and goals. These sessions should be led by organizational experts to ensure that old single-loop learning habits of distrust, withholding, and game-playing don’t keep people stuck in single-loop learning.

One of the keys to team members leveling with each other is listening. Focus on creating an environment where everyone can speak up without fear of judgment or punishment.

2. Create Benchmarks for Lasting Growth and Change

Old habits die hard, and single-loop learning is no different. If systems, check-ins, benchmarks, and periodic times to reflect and reset aren’t put into place, old habits of withholding and mistrust will likely creep back in. You can guard against this by making it a norm to measure, assess, and improve how new double-loop learning systems are being implemented over time.

3. Reward Risk-Taking and Critical Feedback

Double-loop learning requires squeaky wheels. You have to create a culture that rewards criticism, risk-taking, and reflecting on the system as a whole and the reasons the organization does what it does. Think big picture stuff.

This is about walking the walk. It’s one thing to tell employees to speak up and give their feedback, it’s another thing entirely to have systems in place that make employees feel safe enough to do so.

Advertising

Kimberly Scott’s Radical Candor comes to mind as one way to start shifting to a more open and critical environment. Radical Candor is a system that incentivizes employees and managers to start speaking up about things they used to sweep under the rug. It’s a roadmap and a way to assess and improve open and reflective feedback between all stakeholders.

Double Loop Learning for Individuals

Double-loop learning isn’t only for organizations. You can also apply Argyris’ ideas to your learning.[3]

Here’s how that might look:

1. Level With Yourself and Seek Accountability

Instead of being stuck in a single-loop learning cycle, break out by adding another layer of critical reflection. Why are you learning what you’re learning? Is it important? Is there another way? Think big picture again.

Become clear on what you want to learn and how you’re currently trying to learn it. Then, open yourself up to others to keep yourself accountable. Leave the door open to completely shift major details about your learning goals.

2. Create Benchmarks and Don’t Put Your Head in the Sand

Just as with organizations, individuals also need to create goals and continuously reflect on whether or not they’re moving toward double-loop learning. Schedule times to meet with the people keeping you accountable for your learning plan. Then, ask yourself whether or not your learning goals still make sense.

Ask big picture questions. Are you in the right environment to learn? Is your learning plan working? Do you need to change course altogether or shift your goals entirely? If it’s double-loop learning, you can’t be afraid to ask questions about why you’re doing what you’re doing and change course when the need arises.

Advertising

3. Value Risk-Taking and Accept Criticism

You’re also going to need to shift your mindset from simply learning and reflecting to accepting criticism, being critical of yourself as a learner, and taking risks and experiencing discomfort as you ask big questions and make drastic alterations to your learning plan over time.

Instead of concerning yourself with grades and GPAs, double-loop learning would mean you’re allowing yourself time to step back and analyze why you’re learning what you’re learning, if there’s a better way, and even whether or not you should be on that learning trajectory in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Think back to the thermostat example. Doing homework, handing it in, and then receiving a grade is single-loop learning. Thinking about why you’re doing any of that and making appropriate changes that align with your learning goals shifts you into double-loop learning, and that’s a great way to see the bigger picture and get the best results.

Learning and reflection are two of the most important things when it comes to organizational or personal development. This is why double-loop learning is key if you want yourself or your organization to succeed.

More Tips on Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Cherrydeck via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NPR: Challenger: What Went Wrong
[2] Harvard Business Review: Double Loop Learning in Organizations
[3] Journal of Advanced Learning: The role of reflection in single and double-loop learning

Read Next