Accountability, critical thinking, discipline, and an ability to communicate online – they’re all qualities you want to have when looking to start or move up in a career because they are skills employers look for in a new hire. Fortunately, these skills can be learned in an online class and help you prepare today for a successful career.
Let’s take accountability, for example.
All students have to be accountable, yes, but in an online class there is not as much supervision. Your instructor is not calling on you in class or telling you when (or how much) to participate in an online discussion. It’s up to you to participate and interact with your classmates.
“Online classes help students transition from supervision to accountability, which is similar to moving up into a leadership role in a modern day career,” said Kirk Olson, who teaches paralegal studies online at Rasmussen College. “It’s difficult to pass an online class if you don’t participate because that is what instructors are looking for.”
And with accountability comes critical thinking skills, says Olson. We’re not talking about critiquing a person or his or her work, but rather the ability to think through choices and take action without being told to do something.
“When employers say they want critical thinkers, what they mean is they want people who can make critical choices with minimal directions,” said Olson. “In an online class, students have the freedom to take risks in their discussion posts. They’re encouraged to come up with new ideas and react to other ideas, but they’re not always told when to do so.”
All this interaction leads to another very important skill that will prepare you for your career – communicating online. Have you ever attended a meeting online or webinar? These days, more and more companies are holding meetings online because it’s easier and more affordable than flying employees across the country. Even small local businesses have to interact with customers they don’t see face-to-face (engagement through social media is a good example).
“In an online class, students can’t necessarily get on the phone and call someone,” said Olson. “They will need to individualize their learning online and learn to communicate in a clear and concise way.”
To get to the next level in your career, Olson says you need to be disciplined. This requires effective time management, something he says online students must demonstrate consistently.
“Most of my students are working full time and have family obligations along with school,” said Olson. "As an online student, you have access to your courses 24/7. You must have a solid time management plan, stay self-motivated and take the initiative to complete your assignments by the due date, all of which are great skills to add to your resume.”
Discipline also leads to being a self-starter, said Olson. Let’s say you work in a fast-paced business one day. Your employer is not always going to send you to a class to upgrade your skills. It’s your responsibility to stay up on what’s changing in your industry, and a lot of that is done online through webinars or blogs.
“After taking an online class, you already know how to learn online,” said Olson. “You might even be asked to host an online discussion or webinar one day.”
The best part – you are often learning and developing these essential skills in an online class without even knowing it. Keep them in mind the next time you struggle with an assignment or discussion post. Know you are on your way to being prepared for a successful career.