Apr 07 2012
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E-degrees: do they help or hinder in the job market?
Saturday, Apr 07, 2012
Remember the days when you had to be physically present in the classroom to learn, and when blackboards and library cards were the norm?
The internet has revolutionised the way we study and now it is very convenient for both employees and jobseekers to seek further education without abandoning their careers and homes.
Aaron Bennett is one of those who has benefitted from online education. The South African expatriate recently earned his MBA through the University of Liverpool in the UK while working as a consultant of The Gulf Recruitment Group in Dubai.
“This was always a life goal and the course offered allowed me to study even though I had a tough travel schedule for my job,” he says.
Through Ashridge Business School, for instance, middle managers, aspiring managers and senior leaders can obtain learning materials from Virtual Ashridge, an online resource.
The tool has been successfully used by several companies in the region, enabling their staff to prepare for programmes through pre-course reading or help them throughout their studies.
“Subsequently, it can be applied as a personal development tool within the workplace environment,” said Andrew Mechelewski, Virtual Ashridge content manager.
But while online programmes abroad are accessible to UAE residents, there aren’t many locally produced e-learning programmes yet and companies are still a bit biased towards traditional teaching style.
UAE-based training schools, which have the capability to create online-based programmes, are also sceptical about the real benefits of 100 per cent e-learning. “The content they offer [in the UAE] is often repackaged from other parts of the world and resold into the UAE market. It is not content developed by and for this market,” notes David Brennan, general manager at etisalat Academy. Rather than offer courses exclusively online, the academy uses “blended learning”, which combines both face-to-face and e-learning teaching techniques.
Learners have a hands-on experience online, in addition to what they receive face to face.
Access to networks
“For example, telecoms is increasingly IP-based, so now some of our courses have live, online access to networks or to test-bed equipment in other countries,” Brennan. “In this way, we build online learning into our courses, rather than replace them with only online options. This learning is far more powerful,” he adds.
Brennan believes that online learning does not fit every learning need, citing that many students still require interactive, face-to-face teaching methods. It works well in knowledge-based learning, but is much more limited in experiential and soft skill domains, which are in high demand in the UAE.
“Fundamentally, humans are communal and, as adults, we love to learn in groups and from the experience of each other. This is certainly true of Arab culture and I don’t think online learning should be seen as a substitute because the learning outcomes will not be as significant,” he points out.
Brennan admits that there are a number of organisations in the region that have utilised online learning for the training needs of their staff, but only because they’re having financial constraints. Organisations see online learning as a quick, cost-effective fix to their training needs.
“The global financial crisis is a key driver in organisations adding online learning to their training interventions. After the crash, many organisations deeply cut their training budgets, and even now, training budgets are still very low across the region. In other words, a number of organisations have embraced online learning for financial rather than learning reasons.”
But Bennett notes that the online education market has evolved such that online courses are no longer different from those at the university. “As the traditional brick and mortar institutions noticed the reach of these programmes, they have [gotten] involved and set up courses that run in line with the programmes they offer at the schools,” he says.
“The online courses are often more demanding in work load than traditional schools. This is because students are graded on continuous assessment and not just on exam results.” Globally, however, companies have become more lenient with online degree holders. There has been a greater acceptance of students who have online degrees, especially the ones from reputable and accredited institutions.
“Though there has been a slower uptake of this within the UAE, one simple fact remains true — we are living in the information age where universities and employers must recognise this fact and embrace how to attract and provide top quality knowledge to the next generation. The days of library cards and blackboards-only instructions are diminishing,” says Gaj Ravichandra, general manager, HR solutions at Talent2 Middle East and Africa.
“Having said that, there is still a leniency towards traditional education and learning in the UAE, particularly with regard to core/ technical knowledge,” he adds.
Taking up online courses can greatly help employees become more valuable in the workplace and increase the employability of jobseekers.
“Online courseware will help employees become more valuable if the nature of the subject matter in the training relates to improving the skills required of the job they are currently in or hope to be in someday,” says Gaj Ravichandra, general manager of HR Solutions at Talent2 Middle East and Africa.
Online learning tools are also instrumental in improving the “levels of engagement with employees” as company staff learn more about their role, organisation, technical or management skills. This is particularly important in companies that are “geographically spread.”
“Online learning provides another way of getting key knowledge to employees who learn through different ways. Blended learning approaches have seen the greatest levels of employee engagement and successful post-training application,” he adds.
Jobs applicants can benefit from learning online as well, by taking up courses that teach them new skills and knowledge that relate to the requirements of the job they are seeking.
“E-learning can provide a great base level of knowledge before attaining on-the-job experience,” Ravichandra said.
“This baseline level of knowledge will also help jobseekers have more meaningful and relevant conversations during their interview or networking process, including more expansive conversations about the wider industry or technical aspects.”
By Cleofe Maceda?Senior Reporter
© Gulf News 2012. All rights reserved.
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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