May 2010 | How-To | Ten Tips

Advance Your Career Through Online Learning

Tags: Education & Careers

Traditional classroom education is a viable option for some logistics professionals seeking new skills. But for many, online learning presents a better alternative for acquiring additional training, degrees, or certifications. Irvin Varkonyi, adjunct professor and marketing manager of transportation and logistics management at American Public University, provides tips for advancing your career through online learning.

1. Understand online learning. Online courses use the Internet to deliver material through multiple models, including real-time interactive video conferencing and Webcasts, non-interactive Web-enabled content, and asynchronous courses, which are not held in real time but provide many traditional classroom features, such as interaction between faculty and students.

2. Determine which type of learning suits you best. The main differences between online and traditional courses are student-instructor interaction and scheduling. Online learning interaction is virtual through real-time or asynchronous conversations such as discussion boards, where instructors provide assignment questions and students respond with original posts and comment on other responses. Some online learning offers students scheduling flexibility, while other courses mimic traditional classrooms with fixed meeting times.

3. Decide if you want a degree, certification, or just education. Online institutions offer students the option of taking individual courses without committing to an entire degree.

4. Look for a legitimate accredited institution. Universities that award undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates should be accredited by the regional Higher Learning Commission, the same institution that accredits traditional institutions, and the Sloan Consortium, a group of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education.

5. Ask the experts. Contact program alumni or current students to gather opinions about the course you're considering.

6. Check your company's requirements for advancement. Some companies consider advanced degrees in logistics and supply chain management a requirement for promotion beyond a certain level. Some do not. Make sure you understand the rules of promotion within your organization.

7. Learn the total cost of the program. Always check all the costs, including tuition and fees. A university should be able to quote you the entire cost of your education.

8. Seek financial aid. Federal government and military tuition assistance plans apply equally to accredited online learning and brick-and-mortar schools. Scholarships may also be available through the institution and external sources.

9. Make sure you have the proper tools. You don't have to be a technology wizard, but you do need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. Some online programs offer real-time video conferencing or Webcasts that use PowerPoint presentations and videos, but you should not need special software.

10. Investigate the opportunities available to program graduates. Make sure your online provider offers virtual career forums for recruiters to meet and interview prospective employees online.