August 2010 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Blended Learning: An Educational Hybrid

Tags: Education & Careers

Dr. Carol Nappholz is director of educational programs, Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver, 303-871-4146.

Statistics show earning a graduate degree increases the potential for higher earnings during your working life. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of applicants who already hold one or more graduate degrees are enrolling in executive and professional graduate degree programs.

“You can never stop learning if you want to succeed, and if you want to continue to succeed,” noted the CEO of a major Australian transportation and logistics company, addressing students graduating from an executive masters program in intermodal transportation management (of which he, too, was a graduate). His remarks came from the heart, as he had attended several executive programs since completing his first graduate degree.

lifetime of learning

Whether you envision working for a single company for most of your life, moving among different companies within the same industry, or being open to different career paths if they arise, continuing your education should be fundamental among your goals.

For many logistics professionals, online learning presents an attractive option for further education. Yet despite the convenience of online education programs, many students miss face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers, which can create opportunities for networking and new friendships, and facilitate cohesion among students working on group projects.

Studies also suggest that lack of socialization and personal contact with instructors contributes to the fairly high dropout rate among online learners.

The Best of Both

Many supply chain professionals, however, find long hours and travel obligations rule out programs that require classroom attendance. These conflicts cause them to miss important learning opportunities, which, in turn, can impact their potential for continued job success.

Fortunately, several universities offer programs, especially at the graduate level, that comprise a blend of classroom and online learning. For example, students may attend four or five intensive, week-long residencies on the university campus, where they interact with each other and course instructors.

Prior to each residency, students access course materials online, and complete reading assignments and projects. After each session, they engage each other and their instructors via chat rooms; participate in group projects via email and video-conference; and complete individual assignments.

These hybrid programs include many of the conveniences of online learning without the drawbacks. Students who travel can access course materials from anywhere in the world at any time. They can complete assignments while on the plane or at home. And they can participate in a group discussion by pushing a button on their mobile device.

Evidence suggests that an even stronger sense of community exists among students enrolled in hybrid programs than those enrolled in either traditional or fully online programs. This sense of community, combined with the flexibility of the online component, makes balancing work and study commitments much more manageable.

Working adults enrolled in hybrid programs are less likely to drop out; and companies providing tuition benefits for these employees are more likely to see a return on their investment.