Online Professional Development Opportunities: Undervalued?

Recognizing The Benefits Of Free Online Learning

Here’s a question worth pondering: As demand for individuals with hybridized skill sets and specialized knowledge increases, are people changing the way they perceive and pursue opportunities for professional development? In a recent feature for The Guardian, sponsored by online learning institution The Open University, a survey of 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom was used to explore the value of higher education and shifting attitudes toward online learning. The results offer some interesting insights into how the educational paradigm may be transforming behind the scenes. Consider the following answers from respondents who attended university (i.e., traditional institutions of higher learning in the UK):

  • 61% of people feel the experience prepared them for their career.
  • Only 48% of people feel their degree has been beneficial in terms of getting a job in today’s economic climate.
  • Over half of those people feel they were rushed into making choices at university, and 40% said they would have chosen a different educational path in hindsight.
Image credit to www.openuniversity.edu

People seek out opportunities to develop their professional skills online, but do they overlook the value of free courses?

These sobering responses point to a burgeoning demand for specialized learning solutions capable of filling knowledge and skills gaps left behind by conventional curricula. This, of course, is where online learning enters the picture.

In the same survey, a majority of respondents ages 18-24 said they feel obligated to gain additional qualifications and acquire new skills. Moreover, 39% of all respondents have spent time doing professional development online. But as workers balance the costs and benefits of acquiring new skills to help them in their careers, they may still be overlooking the value provided by free online courses. According to the survey, 45% of respondents said they would only do an online if it led to an official certificate.

The more interesting, and perhaps more telling, divide is the one between how employers and job seekers or workers see the value of free courses. Only 13% of job seekers or workers felt that employers would value free online courses with no accreditation, yet nearly one in five recruiters said free online courses do add value to a candidate’s curricula vitae (CV). It’s possible that people simply aren’t taking as many free courses as employers want them to take!

If individuals aren’t enrolling in as many free courses as employers would like, this should be a very easy problem to fix – at least if both sides recognize and acknowledge the extent of the added value. As employers and job seekers/workers redefine what it means to be qualified for a job and what levels of specialization are required, online professional development courses are primed meet these needs and provide benefits free of cost. That’s a win-win situation for all parties who want workers with skills relevant to modern jobs.


Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson,  Meri Tunison, and Steve von Horn. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.

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