Over the past two years, business professionals, and students in general, have become all-too-familiar with online education. Because, in the wake of the COVID pandemic, it’s been a necessity. However, society is starting to settle into its “new normal” – whatever that means. And many business professionals are wondering about the overall benefits of virtual learning. Ultimately, after a period of forced online interaction, some have found it extremely helpful while others have hated it altogether.
Unknown to many, online education has been around for several decades now. In fact, the first college to launch a fully online program, the University of Phoenix, did so in 1989. So, it isn’t a new concept, even if various advancements in structure and delivery have made it easier and more accessible. Still, many today are skeptical about taking education online rather than in-person. And although various professional organizations have long championed virtual courses, doubt remains. Particularly among business professionals who have to complete continuing education requirements to renew their licenses.
So, when it comes to deciding between on-location and online education, it helps to know the benefits of virtual learning. Of course, not every person will find online options more suitable. But for some individuals, they can make a world of difference, opening up various possibilities and paths to success.
10 Notable Benefits of Virtual Learning
1. Access to Information Anywhere
While virtual learning might once have shackled a student to a desk with a massive computer and monitor, no longer. Because advancements in technology have easily rendered online education an enterprise that can happen nearly anywhere. For instance, one person might listen to a podcast or conference speaker while jogging on the beach. Another might knock out some coursework on their phone while taking the subway to work. The point is, one of the prime benefits of virtual learning today is that it can happen anywhere. And this means learners can tailor their personal experience to meet their own needs.
Granted, different types of online learning might exhibit some limitations. For example, a person trying to participate in an interactive webinar might not find it easy to do so while driving. Furthermore, taking a timed and graded exam in a crowded, noisy mall might not be the best idea. However, the very fact that courses can be taken on phones, tablets, laptops or other devices opens up a world of possibilities. Because instead of hours on-end spent at a corner desk, continuing education can happen on-the-go.
2. Virtual Learning Fits Into a Busy Schedule
In the same way virtual learning can happen anywhere, it can take place any time. At least, when it comes to options like self-study courses. Because in many cases, they are self-paced, able to be taken whenever convenient. Of course, the primary benefit here is that business professionals with busy schedules don’t have to impossibly cram another activity in. Instead, they can find a time when they aren’t busy to invest in their education. However, in a traditional setting, learners might have to set aside specific time slots to attend on-site training.
A further benefit of virtual learning is that self-study courses typically bookmark progress. So, if someone only has a couple of minutes at a time, that’s all right. They can make it through one video, stop and come back to finish more later. So, ultimately, virtual learning can free business professionals from further obligations in a busy schedule.
3. Encountering Ideas from Different Points of View
Typically, with on-site learning, the kinds of thoughts and ideas a person might encounter are fairly limited. If they never travel outside their geographic region for educational conventions, they’ll potentially hear similar concepts repeatedly. However, online education presents an opportunity to grapple with viewpoints and ideas dissimilar from one’s own. Ways of dealing with a particular problem might differ based on location. So, if someone never looks outside their region, they might miss a new solution.
However, this benefit of virtual learning exceeds simply finding new solutions to problems. It encompasses learning to value the input of others who think differently. It means potentially discovering other cultures and backgrounds, which is a staple of well-roundedness. So, ultimately, virtual education is a means of breaking down boundaries and helping individuals with different ideas learn from one another.
4. No Need for Extensive Travel
One of the highest costs of continuing education for business professionals comes from traveling. Because when all things are taken into account, there’s quite a bit to pay for:
- Air fare/fuel
- The conference/event
Furthermore, a faraway conference that lasts only a day might take a full weekend to attend. But virtual learning significantly decreases the cost of conference attendance in time and money. Because there’s no need to pay for the extraneous things beyond the event itself. In fact, business professionals can sit in the comfort of their own home, watch the various speakers and participate as required.
Of course, one potential downside to this format is the lack of interactivity and networking. Because, ultimately, attending a conference in person is a great way to build connections. However, for anyone needing to complete their education quickly and cost effectively, virtual conferences and courses are great.
5. Find the Best Options for Your Learning Style
One of the most important aspects for educators to understand is that not every person learns well the same way. For example, one individual might be incredibly comfortable reading an eBook and completing a quiz on the information. Another might flourish simply watching videos, taking notes, and soaking in the information. The point is, different people learn well through various methods. So, expecting business professionals to all prefer similar formats is unrealistic.
Again, one benefit of virtual learning is that there are many options open and available. Overall, individuals can find long courses, short courses, conferences, self-study options, videos, readings, and much more. In fact, some providers like VTR Learning even offer narrative courses, which put the learner in a lifelike business setting. Essentially, with virtual learning, individuals can decide on an option that fits their style of learning. And this helps ensure they get the most out of the experience.
6. Finding the Right Cost
Without a doubt, education is expensive, whether it’s for business professionals, college students, or anyone else. Information doesn’t come cheap. So, when completing continuing education requirements, it’s important to find options that are cost effective. Sometimes, this means attending chapter meetings and racking up as many hours as possible. Other times, it means checking to see whether an employer can help offset the cost. But another benefit of virtual learning is the proliferation of courses and prices available. Because of the sheer number of online providers, learners can choose options that work with their budget.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to find cheap education. However, the different options available should provide reasonable means for completing any requirements they may have. So, between virtual learning and on-site conferences, the former is typically the cost-sensitive option.
7. Availability of Free Options
One of the most advantageous benefits of virtual learning is the availability of free training. Of course, some online courses only offer part of a whole, enticing learners to pay and unlock the rest. But there are plenty of available methods for learning about a specific topic without cost. Some universities, like Harvard, Oxford, and Yale offer completely free lectures and courses. And when it comes to business continuing education, some providers have free offers as well. However, these are few and far between. And individuals will likely have to pay at some point to complete their licensing requirements. So, online options are great for individuals who simply want to learn. Particularly if they aren’t trying to renew a certification or earn a degree.
8. Receive Immediate Feedback
Ultimately, this benefit of virtual learning pertains more to self-study courses. Because webinars, conferences and meetings don’t always present an option for feedback. Furthermore, when they do, it probably isn’t immediate, since there’s a human element involved. However, online, self-paced courses typically present quizzes or other exams which immediately offer feedback. That way, learners have a good idea of which topics they’ve grasped well and those which they need to spend more time on. Thus, they can focus in on ideas that don’t make quite as much sense and get the most out of the learning activity. Pragmatically speaking, this is most helpful for those who actively want to understand a new skill or topic. Because they’ll have an immediate understanding of where they’re falling short or succeeding.
9. Investing in Tech Skills
Essentially, the very act of taking online education means investing in tech skills. Because many courses and virtual options require some working knowledge of computers, the internet, and other valuable programs. So, it might be said that increased tech knowledge is an intrinsic benefit of virtual learning.
Of course, that doesn’t mean an individual could take an online course and then apply for an IT job. But having at least a baseline ability to work with computers is an important skill in today’s workplace. In other words, it’s becoming much more difficult to secure a job without knowing your way around modern tech. So, taking virtual courses can actually prepare learners for business roles in more than their direct education value.
10 Discovering New Networks and Resources
Granted, it’s probably more difficult to find new networks through virtual learning options. Because, unless you’re participating in a live class, conference, or meeting, chances are it’s being done alone. However, online resources can point toward new networks that benefit individuals in different spheres. For example, this resource on SEO Facebook groups was linked to by an online course on the same topic. And through it, learners can find and join pages with strong networks that help answer questions. So, it is possible to find and form new networks through online education, even if somewhat less straightforward than in person.
However, the accessibility of different resources, tools, and helpful programs through online education is astounding. Because many courses and conferences include “tool boxes” which link to other useful articles and sites. So, learners can put together their own resource lists, based on different tools they find helpful as recommended. And of course, all this contributes to a stronger understanding of the topic in question.
Get Started With Virtual Education
If you’re a business professional looking to dive into a new topic or recertify your license, there are plenty of options available. In fact, depending on your topics of interest, you might be able to find free resources to help you learn. But if you’re looking for something more in-depth, there are countless online educational providers, like VTR Learning. Their narrative, story-based courses offer a completely unique way to learn. And with topics ranging from Accounting to Leadership and Business Strategy, there’s something for every professional. Furthermore, if you’re unsure about their style of education, you can always check out a free course before committing to anything more. So, you can experience the benefits of virtual learning firsthand without any strings attached.
Braden Norwood is the Content and SEO Specialist for VTR Learning, a company dedicated to online continuing education for business professionals. A nerd at heart, he loves learning more about search engine optimization, Star Wars, and video games. When he’s not working on his latest blog or article, he enjoys reading, taking walks, and spending time with his wife and son.