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Online Learning Done Right: Preparing the Workforce of the Future

It seems like every week we hear about a new app or program with the potential to change our lives. Many of these technological advances have an application to improve how education is delivered.

Online education has long given people the opportunity to pursue learning in a flexible way. We know from the trajectory of online learning and various forms of blended learning that there is a role for technology-driven educational solutions.

There is an Art to Online Learning

In the wake of the current COVID-19 outbreak, online learning has become a vital short-term or transitional method at every instructional level. However, emergency remote learning, which is what many institutions have had to employ due to the current pandemic, should not be confused with online learning. Online learning is facilitated instruction that takes into account pedagogical methodology, instructional design and the unique circumstances and behaviors of online learners. It is adaptive to students’ educational needs and available whenever it is needed. It ensures that the latest techniques and learning science are available to students no matter where they choose to access classes.

Some tactics that can facilitate high-quality online learning include rich media content and scenario-based learning in which students are given simulated real-world situations which they can experience and to which they can respond.

Skeptics may think that people can’t learn “soft skills” through online learning, but at Ultimate Medical Academy we’ve found scenario-based learning to be highly effective for teaching and practicing skills like conflict management, customer service, communication, emotional intelligence and more. Mastery of communications, time management and organization not only helps online students make the most of learning opportunities, but can also lower stress and help them focus. While there may be a bit of an initial learning curve with technology, the use of virtual meeting platforms and team chats facilitates collaboration and simulates the person-to-person communication missing from remote work. Discussion forums create the atmosphere of a participatory campus for interaction with faculty and other students. The ability to foster, engage and sustain an online community will help when it comes to team-building in the workforce.

Whether in-person or online, relationships between teachers and students remain essential to effective instruction. When teaching online, the key is knowing how to build those relationships across distance using technology and digital communication. Ensuring strong internal feedback loops between faculty, advisors and others allows the institution to quickly respond and adjust to the most common student needs.

Going the Extra Mile for Success

For adult learners, home responsibilities don’t stop so you can do your homework. While online learning provides students with a number of benefits–flexibility, convenience, access to educational options despite distance, etc.–remote students may need different support services than traditional students, particularly those who may be balancing the demands of work and families in addition to schooling.

Online faculty as well as UMA’s Learner Services Advisors work closely with students to provide technological support, group and individual study assistance, and help with managing outside influencers and distractions from family, friends or work. Learner Services Advisors sometimes even help with non-academic challenges such as childcare, transportation or clothing for interviews. Even after graduation, UMA is there with assistance for alumni as they move through their careers.

Online Learning Prepares Adult Students for Allied Healthcare Jobs

Prior to today’s public health crisis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that 12.5 million healthcare workers would be needed between now and 20281. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in Florida alone the number of jobs in the healthcare and social services industry will grow by 15 percent from 2019-2027, representing more than 1.35 million jobs in the state by 20272.

Fortunately, a number of health careers lend themselves to digital learning. There are allied health positions that serve traditional doctor’s offices to pharmacies to insurance companies, particularly in information technology, medical billing and coding. Online curricula provide access to the healthcare content and training students need in a manner that fits their lifestyles and schedules.

The thoughtful approach to facilitated instruction using digital technology that we employ at UMA–and have for more than a decade–uses online learning to equip and empower students to excel in healthcare careers. We have seen the power of online learning to provide educational opportunities to those who need flexibility and access to valuable, high-quality instruction that doesn’t require physical proximity.

1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/empby-major-occupational-group.htm; Table 1.2 in the downloadable XLSX file, lines 395-J and 467-J

2Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, http://www.floridajobs.org/workforce-statistics/data-center/statistical-programs/employmentprojections

Geordie Hyland is Executive Vice President at Ultimate Medical Academy where he is responsible for the delivery of online academic and campus services. He also oversees Ultimate Medical Academy’s Continuing Medical Education (CME) division.

Learn more at UltimateMedical.edu