January 2012 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Online Education: An Ideal Medium for Logistics Professionals

Tags: Education & Careers

Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is program director, reverse logistics management, for American Public University, 703-966-5847

Although continuing education offers logistics professionals many benefits, long hours, shift schedules, travel, and jobs in remote locations can make attending classes difficult. Online education has quickly emerged as a preferred learning method for logistics professionals.

Today's online classroom offers dynamic peer interaction, based more on real-world, practical applications than traditional theory. This focus enables students to apply lessons to their work the very next day.

The technology used by online universities allows for a variety of interactions between students and teachers, including video presentations, links to outside videos and resources, and online conversations via message board-type applications. Unlike traditional classrooms, discussion is not limited to the time teachers and students spend in a room together.

Some professors teaching online courses create personalized announcements using audio and video to virtually unite and interact with students. Such focus allows instructors to use discussion forums as a conversational medium between faculty and students to build a virtual learning community.

Each online student—from the soldier in the Middle East to the warehouse operator in Seattle—has a unique voice within such classrooms. Students enjoy collaborating and interacting with each other, and build strong connections in the online environment.

Different from Brick-and-Mortar Learning

Without geographic limitations, online students can share the experiences and viewpoints of classmates across the country and around the world. Online students tend to be adult learners between 25 and 65, with an average age of 44. They typically have five to 20 years of work experience, and bring lessons learned in the field into class discussions and assignments. They are working adults looking for a promotion, or new job or career.

The interactive nature of online classes allows students to share their experiences, bringing a new depth and applicability to lessons. The variety of backgrounds brought together in the digital classroom would be difficult to duplicate in a brick-and-mortar university.

Online programs also tend to be more flexible than the established degree programs of traditional universities, allowing students to take and earn collective credit for classes across varied disciplines. Because of the low overhead, online universities typically offer more classes in niche areas than would be practical at a traditional university.

This flexibility fits the inter-disciplinary nature of the logistics field, which combines principles of operations, finance, marketing, and acquisition management, along with more specialized areas such as reverse logistics. Logistics professionals can increase their knowledge of all these topics through an online university and apply their efforts toward degree credit.

The online platform eliminates borders and connects students, faculty, and staff from around the world in one place for one common purpose: education. Online learning represents an ideal medium for logistics experts to bring their real-world industry perspective into the classroom.