my unpredictable schedule.”
Flexibility is just one advantage Web-based learning has over the traditional classroom. “One of the biggest draws of distance education is the time factor,” says James Moshinskie, Ph.D., professor of information systems and chair of the Distance Learning Roundtable at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “It allows professionals, who don’t have time to waste, to actually spend it learning instead of fighting rush-hour traffic,” he says.
Not only do you learn when you have the time, but you can go as fast or as slow as you need. “The classroom is at your disposal 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” says Moshinskie. Most online degree programs utilize bulletin board systems (BBSs), chat rooms and e-mail to hold class, do assignments and communicate with classmates and professors. “You have more control over virtually every aspect of your learning experience when the school comes to you.”
Gary Mayo’s need to exercise this option while continuing his education led him to pursue a virtual executive M.B.A. from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Mayo, 45, graduated last December and counts access to scholars around the world as another plus. “Over the course of the 19-month program, I had classmates from Moscow, Amsterdam, Brazil, Hong Kong and Toronto,” says the global customer service director for Visteon Automotive Systems, a division of Ford Motor Co. in Detroit. “It was great to be able to talk about newsworthy events, such as the financial situation in Asia, as they happen with the people who actually live there.”
He did more than just widen his professional network. “I really learned about other cultures and the differences that sometimes separate us,” says Mayo, who manages a global staff of 100. “There was a group project in which one of my classmates was struggling. I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t ask for help,” he recalls. Mayo later came to find out that the classmate’s culture frowned upon that behavior. “It taught me some valuable lessons about interpersonal communication and overcoming differences to work well with others.”
Speaking of the workplace, it used to be that a distance degree was seen as a low-quality substitute for “the real thing.” But the advent of new technologies is helping to change the perception of distance learning in the office. “Many companies realize that the only difference between a traditional degree and one earned online is the way in which it’s earned,” states Vicky Phillips, CEO of Lifelong Learning, an adult education consulting firm in Waterbury, Vermont.
But the truth is, you don’t even have to allude to how you earned your degree. “Employers want to know whether you have the degree, not how you earned it,” says Dixon. “Think about it. When was the last time you were asked during an interview, ‘Did you take your courses online?'” On the other hand, if you want to play up your technical savvy, it wouldn’t hurt to mention it.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LOG ON
Despite the warm reception online learning is receiving at some companies, there’s