Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Recession and Online Education

During times of economic recession when employment opportunities are minimal and layoffs are abundant, adults naturally seek opportunities to make themselves more marketable to employers. Whether individuals need to acquire new skills to enter an entirely different career field, or they simply want to fine tune skills that they already possess to keep their existing jobs, education is often the solution. However, unemployed or working adults with families and busy lives may have difficulties fitting college courses into their hectic schedules. Recession May Drive More Adults Students to Take Online Classes by Steve Kolowich is an article that discusses the reasons many adult students will choose online learning in the current economy. In this article, I will summarize Kolowich's article. I will also provide an analysis of what I think has created this enrollment trend: cost, convenience, and completion.
Article Summary
Adults often choose times of economic hardship to go to school. Currently, more adults are selecting two-year colleges and private for-profit colleges than traditional four-year universities for their educational needs. Many of these students will take online courses. The 2008 Sloan Survey of Online Learning anticipated that all types of colleges would experience increases in enrollments, but non-traditional schools could see the greatest jumps in enrollments. Elaine Allen, one of the report's authors, attributes this to the fact that non-traditional schools offer online classes.
Online classes offer many conveniences that traditional college courses do not. Students can take online classes at times that work for them. They do not have to leave their homes to go to school. They are still able to care for the needs of their families. Individuals can save on gas by not having to drive to campuses.
Online enrollment has been steadily increasing since 2003. More than a fifth of all students enrolled in higher education were taking at least one online course in 2007. Over half of the colleges surveyed in 2007 thought that it was critical to offer online courses to students. In addition, 70% of the colleges noticed an increase of student interest in online learning. Students are beginning to choose colleges specifically for their online programs.
Because of the recession, jobs are scarce. Tough economic times put "more people in the pipeline, looking, and hoping for opportunities" (Stevenson, 2008). Taking classes or earning a degree gives individuals an edge over the competition in the job market. "The majority of continuing education students today are most concerned with first getting into the academic pipeline" (Stevenson, 2008). Adults enroll in programs that offer classes to complete degrees they did not finish in the past. "A lot of people want to increase their skill levels or get that degree they didn't have. The threat of losing their jobs can be as big a motivator as the actuality" (Kolowich, 2009). The cost of losing a job or not obtaining a new job is greater than the cost of education. In addition, non-traditional colleges offering online courses often cost about the same of even less than traditional universities.
Unemployment benefits often pay educational costs during the first year of unemployment. Unemployed individuals can use these benefits to take classes. Some companies give educational benefits to employees that they had to layoff. Former employees can use these benefits to learn new skills. Individuals are able to enroll in classes without worrying about how to pay for them.
Many adults who would like to go to traditional universities to earn degrees are unable due to busy schedules. They have to work or search for new jobs. They have children to care for and households to run. "They may prefer to go into the classroom but they need to work or stay at home and they don't have the time. An online education may be their only chance to get a degree" (Johnson, 2006).
Online courses offer much more flexibility than traditional classroom classes. Students can participate on days that are convenient for them. If they have to do their schoolwork early in the morning before going to work or late at night after the children are asleep, they can. Online courses still have participation requirements and assignments with due dates, but if students know that they will be busy on days assignments are due, they can simply do these ahead of time.
Many online programs allow students to take only one or two courses at a time to be "full-time." This allows busy adults to focus on a minimal amount of subjects. Their other responsibilities would make it difficult to take four to five classes at one time as is necessary to be full-time at traditional universities.
Students do not have to leave their homes or jobs to attend online classes. They can participate in class from anywhere that has a computer with internet access. Time is not wasted driving to campuses, finding parking, and walking to classes. Parents do not have to worry about finding childcare for their children during class times. Students do not have to rush from work to school to home feeling as if they are constantly on the go. Online classes offer conveniences like these that traditional courses cannot.
According to Stevenson (2008), "today's non-traditional student is interested in one thing: completion, completion, completion." Adult students want to earn or complete their degrees as quickly as possible. "Students earning a bachelor's degree from University of Phoenix take one class at a time for five weeks per course" (Johnson, 2006). This means that students can complete up to 10 - three credit courses in a year or 30 semester credits. Accelerated online degree programs like this are a big attraction to individuals who desire to complete degrees quickly.
Because of our country's current economic recession, more often adults are enrolling in degree programs. Some hope to find new jobs, while others aspire to keep the jobs they have. Education is an effective way increase employment opportunities. Many of these individuals choose to attend non-traditional colleges. Non-traditional schools offer several advantages to benefit the busy adult. These advantages include cost, convenience, and completion. Non-traditional institutions "tend to offer programs that have traditionally been tailored to serve working adults" (Kolowich, 2009). Online courses offered by many of these schools are the ideal educational alternative for busy adults.
Johnson, F. (2003, August 21). Online Education Helps Fight Enrollment Dip. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 36(7), 9. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from Regional Business News database.
Kolowich, S. (2009, January 16). Recession May Drive More Adult Students to Take Online Classes. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(19), A11-A11. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
Stevenson, J. (2008, September 15). Streamline the Pipeline. Business West, 25(9), 38. Retrieved August, 1, 2009, from Regional Business News database.
My name is Andrea L. Rodriguez. I am an educator. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies with an Emphasis in Spanish, a California Teaching Credential for kindergarten through eighth grade, and a Washington State residency Teaching Certificate for kindergarten through eight grade. I taught elementary education for nine years in both public and private schools in California and Washington. I also taught kindergarten through sixth grade outdoor, hands-on summer science camp for four years. Currently, I am a university enrollment advisor. I help adults choose degree programs to fit their goals, assist them in the enrollment and financial aid processes, and prepare them for success in online or campus college courses. I am pursuing a Master of Arts in Education/Adult Education and Training to better serve the adult students that I enroll. I also hope to one day become an employee trainer for a corporation or an instructor of adult college courses.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Educating Professionals For Success - A Lifelong Process

What is the difference between education and training?
Education develops the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling; to qualify by instruction or training for a particular calling, practice, etc. It focuses on the individual and his or her ability to make a contribution.*
Training gives the discipline and instruction, drill, practice, etc., designed to impart proficiency or efficiency. It focuses on a specific, finite task.*
Let's take a closer look at how education builds from one level to the next:
Pre-school: provides a good foundation in personal, social and emotional development, knowledge and creativity that enables individuals to become more confident and able and ready to learn much more as the years go by.
Elementary School: achieves the best possible intellectual, moral, social, and physical development of the individual while developing the potential of each person and to preparing them for the responsibilities and fulfillment of adulthood.
Middle School: introduces a broader range of exploratory courses and activities in order to assist young adolescents to discover and develop their interests and abilities through teacher-adviser programs, extracurricular activities, and core curriculum.
High School: prepares students for a meaningful life; to be a good citizen, economically self-sufficient and respectful of themselves and others; to ensure that all students leave ready for college, jobs and/or civic involvement.
College/University: takes middle school and high school imparted knowledge to the next level, prepares individuals to specialize in a particular field and empowers the student with life skills that enable him to contribute positively to society.
Post-graduate Study: provides advanced learning in specialized disciplines, an in-depth understanding such that the student becomes something of an expert in the topic of study; prepares students for today's diverse careers in the public and private sector, or for continued study.
Education should never stop, yet, in the automotive industry the focus has shifted to training, and minimal training at best. New hires are typically given collateral, a video, an office tour and introductions, shown their desk, phone and order pad, and expected to jump in.
To augment this, sales trainers are continually advocating new techniques, workshops and seminars, all designed to provide quick fixes that will jump start sales. At APB we call that "flash in the pan" training. In reality, these fixes simply offer a brief burst in sales that dies out just as fast. In fact, when analyzed over a two month period these bursts only move business from the following month and into the current month; the two-month average stays the same. It seems like everyone is always looking for something new without having mastered the basics. Until 100% of the customers coming in get a demo no one will have earned the right to "try something new."
The bottom line is that retail teams in automotive dealerships don't need training to succeed; they need education, an ongoing process of growth that builds on previous lessons and provides structure, but that never ends.
Professional education is a lifelong process that should be facilitated by every dealer and embraced by every employee, from manager to greeter. Every day something new emerges that requires learning and has applications for our business. Today we have YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, eBay, an "app for that" and on and on. People can get virtually anything, anytime, anywhere. When individuals stop learning they stop growing and in our business, if they stop growing they quickly will be left behind.
In today's market, ongoing education is an investment not an expense. No longer can a dealer capture a good share of the market simply by having a quality product. Dealers need to find ways to separate their operations from their competition. Good service and properly trained people certainly are on the top of anybody's list of ways to get that done.
At the "pre-school" level, professionals are generally new to the industry and require training in the basics including:
  • Introduction - hours of operation, technology and tools available, PDA, CRM, etc.
  • Sales orientation (product / service training)
  • Sales administration - resources at your disposal
  • Dealership culture and guiding principles
  • Job description - not selling, but helping customers select the exact car that fits their needs
  • The processes unique to the dealership including the methods used to greet and capture important data from every customer
  • How to ensure that each customer understands that the dealership is the single destination for all their transportation needs
As employees advance, their progress should be monitored against clearly established and communicated goals. If challenges arise, they should be viewed as indications of the need for additional education in that particular area that can complement ongoing education. More advanced programs allow individuals to hone their skills or concentrate on specific areas. These may include:
  • Key Account Management
  • Customer Service Excellence Training
  • Sales Training
  • Telephone Sales Training
  • Sales Management Training
  • Prospecting
  • Customer Relationship Management Training
  • Negotiation Skills Training
As a manager, it's important to quickly gain an understanding of what level each employee is at, from "elementary to post-graduate," and to provide educational opportunities that build on each employee's existing knowledge.
APB takes a customer centered approach, realizing that it is the customer's perception that must rank high in any successful and enduring Sales and Service approach. Just as important is the collection of meaningful data that provides the basis for analysis and interpretation for any improvement plan.
The "Red Carpet Treatment" or treating the customer right must always be the basis for the Sales and Service process. When sales and customer satisfaction go down, it is often because the dealership tried something new and forgot the basics. A consistent process helps dealerships keep to the fundamentals and establishes measurements to identify ways to improve.
Education is also essential for the leaders of a dealership, those that have learned the importance of providing the resources needed to get the job done; those who choose to concentrate on becoming all that they can be - not on trying to beat their competition. They must become personally involved and demonstrate the value in ways that their people can understand. Managers must demonstrate by example the lessons taught to every employee and set the tone that everyone can follow. When they do, they are supported by an army of well-educated staff that executes on the lessons they've learned.
Ongoing education represents an opportunity to grow people, profit and performance. A dealership's investment shouldn't be in the brick and mortar, but in its people. Buildings don't sell cars, people do and until that is realized they will always be a step behind. Dealers today aren't money broke, they are people broke.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Using Continuing Education Loans to Help Reach Your Career Goals

If you feel like you're stuck in a dead-end job, continuing education may be the answer. The high costs associated with advanced training and education, however, prevent many people from seeking the additional education they might need in order to improve their earning power or move into a more desirable field. But with the help of continuing education loans, many working individuals find that they are able to pursue the advanced training or degrees they need to finally achieve their career goals.
Adults seek to further their educations for a variety of reasons. Some are simply finishing their degree programs. Others are looking to enrich their lives with continued learning. Still others are interested in mapping out an entirely new career path. There are even benefits to pursuing continued education if you're already working in your chosen field. An advanced degree or additional training may put you in a better position for advancement within your own company or may provide you with more leverage when negotiating for a raise.
Opportunities for adults to pursue continued education are everywhere. From night classes to correspondence courses to online degree programs, a variety of options are available to working individuals. Unfortunately, however, pursuing an advanced degree or vocational training in a new area can be an expensive proposition. Online degree programs may help you reduce your costs by eliminating the need for textbooks and transportation, but the credit hours themselves may be just as expensive as they would be at a regular 4-year college. Most people can help to make their costs manageable, however, with the help of continuing education loans.
Available from a variety of sources, continuing education loans exist to help adults manage the costs associated with the pursuit of continued education. Many private lenders offer continuing education loans; and, assuming that you have a good credit history, approval rates for these loans are generally high.
When you apply for a continuing education loan, your lender will let you know how much money you will be able to borrow. This amount may cover a portion of your school fees or you may qualify for the entire cost of your degree program (including books, equipment and other requirements). Some lenders will also allow you to choose whether to begin payments while you're still in school or to defer your payments until you've completed your program. By choosing to defer your payments until you're finished with school, you may be able to reduce the amount of time you're currently working, helping you to finish your degree more quickly.
As your new degree begins to open new career doors, it is hoped that the costs associated with a continuing education loan will be far outweighed by your improved earning potential. By helping you to manage the costs associated with furthering your education, continuing education loans may ultimately mean the difference between staying in your current job and finally pursuing the career path you've always dreamed about.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raising the Bar on Excellence Through Education

"I will continue to strive towards greater challenges."
Education can be seen as a great challenge, but what it provides you is even more rewarding in the long haul. Education will help give you the fundamentals needed to have all the success you can possibly dream of in life.
The ability to understand, comprehend, problem solve, and research anything on your own stands for a self sufficiency that empowers you to always "know that you know". This is the correct answer to any challenge life may present. Education in its simplest form means you never have to take someone else's word on anything.
The subject of education can be looked at in many positive ways. You have probably thought of many of these situations yourself. However, there is one view of education which some people do not think about. It can make all of the difference in the world in your life.
When you put a little careful thought into it, it is easy to see the significance of education. When you see how strongly education relates to excellence, it will be enough motivation to do your very best.
Whatever you learn, there is always more to learn. The key which makes learning one of the most positive aspects of your life is that education will not only enable you with a good foundation, it will also help you to build on it.
For every door which opens from learning, another open door is not very far ahead. The more education you seek, the closer you will be to a new door. Each new door symbolizes new and greater opportunities, dreams, goals, and success.
There is no reason for you to make-do on the least amount of education that is required of you. You have a far greater potential than you may realize, and education is the way for you to reach your highest potential. All you really need to do is to believe that you can achieve. When you focus on education, you will step closer and closer to your goals. When you focus on education, you will not stop until you have attained them.
When education is an important part of your life, you will see many new goals unfolding in front of you; even if you may not have been able to see them before. Education will show you new doors and become the primary key to opening them. You do not need to settle for less than the very best when you realize that learning will show you potential that you did not even know you had.
If excellence seems like a faraway dream, you now have the answer to making it come true. You can strive for the very best, and education will get you there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Best Education For Managers

Crisis in management education
There is no consistency today in the way we educate managers. Larger organizations tend to have more comprehensive programs. If we look at the business results of the past year it will show that these programs have not been very successful. In the US over 99.9% of all organizations have less than 500 workers. Many of these organizations have little to non-existent management education. There is a great opportunity now to improve. Most of the big companies use the traditional approach. Their managers are given a combination of classroom education, role plays, and outside experts with their theories. In many cases there is little follow up and measurement around the results of the education.
What does the BEST management education look like?
The BEST management education consists of a combination of classroom discussions and real life practice. While some background theory is important, it is better to have discussions around management practices and different approaches. The problem with traditional management education is that it is standardized and designed to fit all employees at once. For example, a new manager is having attendance issues with an employee. The traditional advice is to warn the employee that his behavior will lead to punishment if not corrected. Then managers are given exercises in class to try their skills at giving tough messages to make believe employees. Managers learn the right way and the wrong way and the training is complete. Unfortunately correcting human behavior is more complex.
Management is both an art and a science
Socrates had it right when he said asking questions was the best strategy to lead people to where you wanted them to go. Management education should be focused around discussing many possible solutions and strategies that might be different for each situation. Most HR policies tend to use the same rules for all people but people are different and have many different issues and managers must learn how to approach each person in a unique way. I had an employee once who was always late.
My peer manager suggested this person was lazy and I should punish him. I took a different approach. I sat down with this person and showed empathy. After asking many questions, I discovered this person was caring for ailing parents at home and his life was just overwhelming. We worked out a new schedule which allowed this person to come to work a little later in the morning. This gave him time to take care of his parents until a nurse arrived. As a result, his productivity soared and he was never absent again. Under a strict set of policies this person would never have been given a second chance.
Invest the time to educate mission, values AND behaviors
Did you ever notice families with well behaved children who just seemed to know what to do at all time? They were very independent and almost seemed too mature for their age? This was a result of good parenting which I suspect was a combination of paying a lot of attention to the goals of the family, values, and what was expected. At work adults are just like children but with bigger bodies. All adults require care, opportunities to thrive, and strong and open communications.
Empty organizational mission
Many organizations invest the time to place charts around the building describing what the organization stands for. Missing are the charts reflecting organizational values and expected behaviors. Best manager education invests time getting people to do more than just memorize the organizational mission. Best manager educational programs discuss why the organizational mission is important and what the organizations' values are. For example, if the organization says serving the customer is the most important value, there are countless definitions and examples of what this means. Finally, people are clearly given examples of what behaviors are expected to support the mission and values. In the above example, people are told that they are expected to make decisions at the lowest possible level using creativity when solving customer problems. This BEST manager education makes work come alive for people.
Measure for development not for rewards and silly contests
The best way to destroy management education is to surround the activities with rewards and silly games. For example, I can remember one program which gave tests and the managers who scored the highest were given dinner coupons. I can remember another program which gave out candy and movie tickets in class for participation. The BEST management education activities are open to all employees and have follow up opportunities after class to manage!
Everyone can benefit from management education
Many organizations only offer their management education activities to their star performers, emerging leaders, and other equally silly and useless categories. First, the BEST system gives opportunities to all people to go through management education. The BEST management education figures out a way and then process to enable all people to manage right after the education. In some cases, people will directly lead others. In other cases, people will lead projects. For the majority of people they will be allowed to manage their own work free from micro-management, limited decision making ability, and free from the threat of punishment AND the promise of reward.
The BEST management education is a creative and inspiring process not an event. Just one look at the collapse of the US economy in 2009 is alarming enough to know that the past management practices at a global level have led us down a path of destruction and reduced quality of life. Now is the time for new management models and practices. It starts with new ways of education and what it means to be a BEST manager!
Craig Nathanson