While the way students are achieving educational goals may look a little different due to the pandemic, it doesn’t eliminate its value or importance. In fact, with the way our day-to-day lives are evolving, it’s critical that students take time to evaluate how their next steps, personally and professionally, might impact the future. What’s been made clear over the past year is that how one looks for a college, how one prepares for a career and, ultimately, the importance of education all go hand in hand.
And while online education is an increasingly popular option for students, it doesn’t mean that all students are equipped with the knowledge of how to navigate this new-ish learning style and what resources to use in the process.
Here are three key insights for students to enable them to thrive, regardless of the learning environment.
Evaluate key factors when choosing a college.
Most educators want to cultivate an environment for students to flourish and to ultimately enter into the workforce successfully. The first step for many, though, is for students to find the right college and to know what to look for in an institution. There are a lot of variables that go into this decision, because some students thrive with learning in person while others thrive online. And with the past year’s circumstances, online education has skyrocketed across the country, with 93 percent of households with school-age children doing some form of e-learning. Enrollment at online institutions for both undergraduate and graduate students continues to grow.
What’s critical for many students is finding an environment that’s affordable, flexible, and inclusive. During a time of economic uncertainties, there are often significant barriers that exist to those who want to pursue a degree. Two common barriers are affordability and flexible scheduling for those who need to work full-time. Fortunately there are universities out there that offer a flexible and affordable learning model, in addition to scholarships and grants, that allow students to achieve educational and career goals.
Inclusivity is a factor that must be considered, too. It’s recommended that students seek a university that has a lasting model in place to combat systemic racism, ease financial burdens and advance equity by increasing access to higher education. It’s worthwhile for students to vet colleges based on whether or not they have an active diversity, equity, and inclusion program as well.
Capitalize on learning.
Most learners are motivated to further education, at least partially, by career aspirations. So how does one capitalize on learning to make that dream a reality? And what should educators know about the various types of learning models? Students of all ages have unique, sometimes complex, learning styles and it takes time to determine what works best for one student compared to another. Both the educator and learner must determine what learning style fits best to know what resources might best suit the subject matter and the learner.
There are four well-known ways that people learn, known as the VARK model: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. For students, understanding how they learn not only benefits them while in school, but also as they engage in the workplace, socially, and with family members.
For online learning specifically, it’s valuable if students identify a sense of self-motivation and establish a routine. Understanding the technology involved in an online learning environment and what tools are necessary is also important. Identifying colleges that have the resources, mentors, and other financial support in place is a life-changing step for students who are new to online learning and who may have unique barriers between what’s happening now in their life and their long-term professional goals.
Understand that education is valuable for our future workforce.
According to Gallup, the #1 reason Americans value higher education is to secure a good, or better, job. While this remains a driving force for many students, others are motivated to be in school simply to learn more about any topic and gain knowledge, even if it’s not tied to a career aspiration. Whatever the reason, education is what links us to the world as we know it and what impacts our future workforce.
Many professions require continuing education in the form of advanced degrees, certifications, or yearly training. Oftentimes, furthering an education equates to more opportunities to be promoted, salary increases, the ability to make career transitions, and overall lifestyle improvements. To enable students to succeed in the future, it’s up to universities and state-by-state decision makers to knock down barriers, like financial and technology-based equity gaps, that limit this upward mobility.
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