Online Education is a Valid Response to Coronavirus

By Adrienne Way, Edcor owner and CEO

The novel coronavirus has stopped business as usual for everyone. Response to the coronavirus has changed the way we communicate, work and learn, and conduct our daily lives. It is a great disrupter for education at all levels. For higher education that means a great disruption in how we view and participate in education opportunities.
In recent years more and more companies have begun offering education benefits to their employees. Edcor clients offer their employees opportunities to advance their educations by completing degrees or earning advanced degrees and certificates. These people have opportunities to learn new skills and advance their careers through education benefits.

The novel coronavirus isn’t stopping that, but it is creating changes. Education leaders are suggesting that a deliberate response to the coronavirus could help create a strong education path for nontraditional students. Brandon Busteed, the president of University Partners and Global Head of Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan, suggests that working adults view their education opportunities as “education as a purpose” rather than simply a benefit. Viewing education as a purpose can contribute to “purpose well-being.” Purpose well-being is liking what you do each day, and Busteed says that for most of us that means our work.

In Gallup’s Well-Being Index there are two questions each respondent rates: 1.) You like what you do each day and 2.) You learn or do something interesting each day. “Purpose well-being is high when people like what they do each day and are motivated to achieve their goals,” states the survey. People who had “completed four years of post-secondary education were more likely to be thriving in purpose well-being that the global population as a whole.”

One practical response to the coronavirus is for non-traditional students to evaluate their education paths, to ensure that their path is leading toward achieving their goals. Education advising is one part of education benefits that can help enhance purpose well-being and increase motivation. Edcor client employees have access to advisers that can help them define their goals, evaluate their progress and help them develop the most efficient education path toward completion.

Online education isn’t new, but for those who haven’t taken online courses, this is a timely and valuable response to the coronavirus. C. Ronald Kimberling who was US assistant secretary for postsecondary education under President Reagan says that higher education has been reshaping itself for the past decade. What we are experiencing now is another force that will cause change. “The coronavirus is yet another type of disruption likely to accelerate the radical transformation of higher education.”

Online education isn’t “second-best” for nontraditional students. It has always been a practical choice for working students and now, for everyone shut out of in-person classes, it is a viable response to the coronavirus. Kimberling cites a Brookings Institute study. “Online courses offers the promise of access regardless of where students live or what time they can participate, potentially redefining educational opportunities for those least-well-served in traditional classrooms.”

The education department recognizes the value of online education as a response to the coronavirus. It has given approval for schools to use online technology and accommodate students without going through the regular approval process that usually is required for distance learning programs. They also have allowed accreditors to waive the distance education review requirements to accommodate students whose education is disrupted.

Positive action is the best educational response to the coronavirus for nontraditional students. Using employer tuition assistance programs will help create education as a purpose. Education advising will help define education paths that help students accomplish goals. Even with education disrupted at the present time, online education is an opportunity for students to motivate themselves and maintain forward momentum.