Online Education Programs: Great Training Ground for Tomorrow’s Business Leaders
The topic of online education has been hotly debated in recent years as more and more higher education institutions evolve to include online learning in their portfolio of offerings for students. Increasingly, online degrees, certificates, and professional programs are being accepted as a viable alternative to an on-campus experience - with added flexibility, among other benefits.
I believe that online programs come with a significant added benefit that an on campus experience simply cannot provide. An online education experience like that of HBAP, provides a unique training ground for developing skills that are valuable and transferable in today’s global business environment. Through the process of completing an online learning program, students obtain key skills that can be transformational for their career, such as learning how to lead, how to effectively collaborate, network, debate, project manage, and communicate.
Throughout my experiences teaching at Harvard’s Business Analytics program, I strongly encourage students to be active learners in the online learning environment, as this can help them make the most out of this opportunity.
5 Skills that online education can offer to a professional
Here are 5 ways that online education can provide a unique and competitive advantage for a young professional:
- Getting used to working on a “Global Scale”
Very often, job descriptions of large organizations mention “comfortable working with global teams”, which is important. Students of an online learning classroom are exposed to and get to learn from different cultures, languages, and mindsets. It is very common for a class to begin and the students to ask “What time is it there?”. Embracing the global nature of an online course can pay dividends when it comes to the industry, as a student will understand the challenges of working in a different timezone, and the importance of effective communication and collaboration. In HBAP, there is a pitch day competition that helps students put together the perfect pitch through a series of coaching sessions and feedback.
- Technology fosters Community and Leadership
Students have the ability to create communities within an online program, and the power that a community can have is groundbreaking. Slack is particularly useful, as any student can create a group or a channel, and they can easily ‘recruit’ for these channels just with a simple post. Diverse communities of all sorts are being created, such as Women of HBAP, West Coast HBAPers and so on. Moreover, great ideas have been developed from HBAP, such as a podcast, “Itsdiff Leadership & Educational Podcast on Apple Podcasts,” led by one of our students and so on.
- Raising your ‘virtual’ hand improves confidence, storytelling and presentation skills
Students are encouraged, and sometimes assessed by raising their ‘virtual’ hand on Zoom. Exercising this proactive muscle can improve presentation and storytelling skills, as well as confidence, which are crucial when it comes to working in the industry.
- Less is More: an online learning community is likely to foster more meaningful interactions with one another
Students engaging in online learning classrooms are more likely to have meaningful interactions with one another and with their professors / mentors, without the ‘need’ to engage in a full conversation.
- Increased focus: online education allows students to focus more as they ‘dial in’ from the comfort of own home/environment with no distractions
Having the comfort of your own home is a big deal when it comes to learning. Being able to learn from one’s own home, as modified according to the taste and comforts of an individual can reduce the ‘noise’ and distractions, so the student can actually focus on the skills and content that matter. I have seen plants, aquariums, music studios and even gyms in the backgrounds of students.
Resources that can help students make the most out of online learning
Here is a resource checklist of tips for students to maximize their online learning experience and develop valuable transferable skills:
Trello is a fantastic tool that I have been using for years. It can add value to both synchronous and asynchronous classes, and it can be used during live sessions by one of more students at the same time. It has a wide range of features, it is very user friendly and can get a student truly organized when it comes to studying, coursework deadlines, collaboration and so on.
Scrible is outstanding, I wish it existed when I was a student. When a student is researching articles online, they can easily bookmark and annotate articles, build their own library, make comments directly on pages or highlight important parts of a page and also share their work. It’s a very powerful tool that helps bring community together.
Calendly is an online smart appointment tool. It connects directly to your calendar and it only shows your available slots to whoever has your personalized link. This easily schedules meetings in your calendar, without needing to go through lots of backs and forths when it comes to scheduling.
Doodle is particularly interesting as it finds the best available time slot for multiple students in a group to meet.
I believe Medium is one of the best publishing tools out there. Anyone can publish an article on the topic they are interested in. It’s great for discovering articles on topics related to your course, but it’s also great for sharing your thoughts with the world and your classmates. The editor is very easy to learn and this is another useful skill, as using such editors is crucial when it comes to submitting coursework.
Adobe Spark is a tool that allows users to tell a story in an interactive way. Users can create all sorts of visuals, like videos, or webpages, is an online creative application and integrated storytelling platform. With the platform, users can create and customize all sorts of visuals to share knowledge in an interactive manner.
Need a break?
I loved this: Google Arts & Culture. Google has teamed up with over 500 museums and galleries all over the world, you can access virtual tours and online exhibits.
Marily Nika, holds a Ph.D in Computing Science on Epidemiology & Social Network phenomena from Imperial College London and currently works part time as a Teaching Assistant for Harvard’s Business Analytics Program, since 2018. Marily has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry, where she has been working in AI for companies like Google and Facebook and she is an active advisor for early stage startups. Marily supports 2 HBAP courses on the topics of Digital Innovation, Strategy and Leadership, and is teaching a series of Product Management & Strategy sessions for the Program.