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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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How To Engage Your Employees With Online Education

 

It takes a lot of effort to recruit and retain good employees. You want to attract the best people and having done all you can to accomplish that, you want to create a work environment and culture that keeps them engaged, happy, and productive so they stay with you as they grow and continue to contribute to the company’s success.

One way to do all of that is to include tuition reimbursement in your employee development and benefit packages. An advanced degree is a valuable investment that pays dividends to both the employee and the company, and you don’t have to be a big corporation to make it part of your plans.

While some major corporations pay up to 100% of an employee’s graduate school tuition, many others give tuition assistance of a fixed amount – generally about £3550 -- per year. Whatever your organization can afford is definitely worth it.

American health insurance giant Cigna, for example, found that it saved more in recruiting costs and reduced turnover than what it spent on tuition reimbursement. Participants in the program were more likely to prove their value to the company and be promoted, and over three years of degree completion earned an average of 43% more than co-workers who didn’t participate.

Naturally, you want your employees to be able to complete their studies for advanced degrees without affecting the work they’re currently doing, which is why online programs are in such demand. Many schools offer online GMAT- waiver MBA programs and are designed for people who have already begun their business careers or are even well along in them.

One question you might have is whether you’re shortchanging your employees or yourself by offering an online master’s program rather than one in a standard classroom setting. How do they compare and do they both provide the same value?

Coursework

The selection and focus of courses may differ among different schools, but there is no difference in the subject matter of classroom and online courses offered by the same school. Typically, the same instructors teach the same curricula both online and in the classroom.

Most online programs provide an overall course outline of each subject but only allow students access to the actual content modules on a weekly or other regulated basis. These modules usually contain reading and essay assignments and tests, as well as special projects and possibly also participation in discussion boards.

Most tests are designed with the understanding that students will have access to their study material, and while tests are not monitored, they are often timed.

Resources

Now that university libraries and vast amounts of research are available online, there’s no limit to the resources available to a student who isn’t on campus. As far as required books and study material, they would generally be the same for online and traditional students.

Scheduling

Most online graduate programs are offered asynchronously, which means that students are not required to log in on a specified day or at any particular time in order to access the coursework as long as it’s within the time frame of the study module. As opposed to synchronous programs requiring that everyone who’s enrolled is attending a virtual class simultaneously, this kind of scheduling allows students to do the work when they’re best able, whether it’s before or after work, during lunch, or on the weekend.

Because there’s no commuting involved, naturally, an online student also has more time to devote to actual coursework instead of spending that time battling traffic on the way to a campus.

Interaction

The one area where online degree programs don’t compare equally to study on a traditional campus is in offering regular or spontaneous face-to-face interaction with the instructor and the other students. Many instructors offer video conferencing, though, and there are discussion boards and other means of connecting with peers. Also, given that students can live many miles or even half a world away from the college campus, some universities have satellite facilities in different cities that offer in-person guest lectures and opportunities for local participants to get together.

Results

A number of surveys have shown that whether coursework is delivered online or in a classroom, with the same instructor and the same materials, there is little to no difference in how students perform on exams or how they perceive the course relative to how much they learned.

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