Almost every revolutionary trend that ripples through the modern world—especially those with a technological basis—gets its initial toehold among the younger members of society. Online education provides an excellent example.
High school and college-age students have been on the e-learning bandwagon for well over a decade now. To the vast majority of teens and 20-somethings, there is nothing odd or somehow inferior about taking a course online. Web-based education is seen as being every bit as valid as classroom education. In fact, it is often viewed as the more effective, more desirable method.
One of my tasks in working for Smart Horizons—the parent company for School Training Solutions (STS)—has involved interviewing both students and educators about their experiences with STS and another great Smart Horizons program called Career Online High School. One comment I’ve heard more consistently than any other focuses around how much better it was to take classes online where a person can move at their own pace in their own space without the distractions and inconveniences associated with most classroom experiences.
Many students with whom I’ve spoken had all but given up on their educational and/or training goals until they finally got out of traditional classroom settings and got online.
Now for that trend I’ve spotted among friends, acquaintances and colleagues.
A few years ago, many members of the “older generation” (middle-aged and beyond) were not prone to see online coursework as a valid form of education. They had grown up in classrooms, so to speak, and there was just no way taking classes online could possibly substitute for sitting at your desk during the specified time interval with a teacher standing in front of you. In fact, during my 11 years as an administrator at Pensacola State College (PSC), I have frequently heard such sentiments spoken by members of the PSC faculty.
Then, and it seemed to happen almost overnight, I stopped getting these vibes from the over-40 crowd. I call this the “trickle-up” effect. Often, those of us who have passed a certain age are hauling around a lot more psychological baggage than youngsters who tend to be a sponge for all things new and innovative. That baggage can be quite a barrier, but it is one well worth tossing aside!
Now, more and more, I hear people who are well into their professional careers talking excitedly about how e-learning opportunities can either enhance their current employment situations or serve as a catalyst to launch them in entirely new directions.
And yes, members of the PSC faculty seem to have reached a point of complete acceptance of online classes as a vital component of 21st-century learning.
I might add that STS is a great place to start!
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