Mediaplanet  Why should someone who is already in an established career consider investing in continuing their education?

LC  The concept of a single career over a working life is part of the past. Instead, in an unprecedented way, early and mid-career professionals must be prepared to re-invent themselves in uniquely competitive and emerging markets. However, if you proactively reflect your next steps and acquire new knowledge and skills, the journey can be an exciting rather than a difficult one.

MP  For someone who has to meet the demands of work and family life, how can they manage to go back to school?

LC  With strong time management and support from home and school, continuing education is absolutely manageable. The reality is that, if distance, time demands, or other challenges prevent you from attending classes in a traditional classroom, online education is a gift.

Well-designed online courses enable students to be successful. As well, clarity in the course and a reasonable workload are essential. A good instructor will also make a world of difference for students. Continuing education programs come in many shapes and formats. This variety and flexibility are all about meeting the needs of the working adult learner.

MP What are the benefits of online learning programs?

LC  The benefits are many. The first is clearly access to education. While we knew this about online education when it first emerged, it continues to be a dominant message in the e-learning research. While physical distance is a factor in the access discussion, it is not the only one. Online education helps us deal with many of the disincentives to education that exist in our lives.

"We are also seeing strong evidence of the impact that online education has on how we live and work."

We are also seeing strong evidence of the impact that online education has on how we live and work. In a recent study, the impact of online education on the practices of health professionals in Northern Ontario was examined. Again and again, the study results indicated that the learning achieved through online education was positively affecting the practice of the participants.

MP What are some of the challenges that online learning programs face?

LC  There are many myths around online learning, some of them include;

Myth 1: Online learning is easier than other kinds of learning. This is not the case. Online courses require the student to be a disciplined and independent learner.

Myth 2: Online learning is not as substantive as learning achieved in a face-to-face classroom. This is simply not true. For more than a decade, there has been a body of research indicating that there is no statistically significant difference between learning outcomes achieved through online learning and other kinds of learning settings.

Myth 3: I won’t like online courses because they are all about reading and writing. While reading and writing are important, we have come a long way in online course presentation. Sophisticated multimedia applications, simulation experiences and web conferencing can all be part of today’s online course experience.

MP How has new technology shaped the way we learn?

LC  This is an interesting question, and there are diverse opinions out there. Some experts suggest that technology itself affects how we learn. Others say that technology simply offers new tools to use in our learning but that we continue to learn as we always have—through time spent on tasks, mentoring, and experience.

Either way, new technologies are an undeniable part of education at every level from public education to post-secondary education and to the corporate world.

MP What do you think the future holds for online and continuing education?

LC  The future has never been brighter for online and continuing education. We have reached the point where we know that online education is here to stay. There is nothing faddish about it. Instead, now teachers, researchers, learning designers, and others are working hard to ensure that online education is a consistently positive option.

On another front, the globalization benefits of online education are stunning. We can now connect with and learn from people around the world, and be richer and better informed because of these relationships.