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Online Mountaineer: Inside the Online Classroom

Eight Skills You Learn as an Online Student That Will Add Value to Your Career Right Now

January 06, 2021


Scott Branham Headshot.


If you want to advance in your current or future career, furthering your education online will certainly give you the knowledge you need. But learning online adds value to your career even before you get your degree.

Companies look for great employees who have a wide variety of skills. However, even if you are the right fit for a position, you will still need to continue to learn new skills throughout your lifetime in order to remain a valuable employee.

In other words, this means learning on the job, as well as participating in educational programs outside of the workday world that will help you update your current skills and to learn new ones.

Online learning is the most convenient way to learn the many skills you will need to succeed in the workplace.

A group of recent graduates of WVU Online say the skills they learned through taking online classes helped them become more successful in their careers. Here are a few of the skills they found most valuable.


1. Technology Skills

The students report that their technology skills improved after taking online classes. For instance, they can now quickly understand and use new technologies and feel ease and comfort doing so.

Scott Branham, who received his M.S. in Business Data Analytics, says he wanted to earn an online degree in order to expand his technical skillset in his job at Honeywell, while continuing to work there as a program manager.

“It’s all about making a difference in the workplace,” he says. “It is the application of what is learned. For example, my technical writing improved greatly.”

Jill Lenihan, who graduated with a B.A. in Child Development and Family Studies and currently works as an instructional assistant for the visually impaired in Lakeside, Calif., says her online experience taught her numerous computer skills.

Jill Lenihan working at her desk.

“I feel confident now using many formats. For instance, PowerPoint is one of the programs I learned how to use well, and I can now submit a well-written report as a PowerPoint presentation. This will be another one of the many skills I will use in my future career. I would not have learned this skill as well in person because I wouldn’t have practiced with it and explored it as much as I did by taking coursework online.”


2. Time Management

In addition to organizing and planning their work, students taking online classes become experts in time management and juggling schedules. This is important because many of them work full-time and have families. Time management is one of the most important skills they say they learned from their online experience.

“During my first semester, I worked a 40-hour-a-week job, also worked a few freelance music and media jobs, and still found time to enjoy spending time with friends and family,” says Angie Milliren, currently a graduate student in Instructional Design & Technology and a music teacher in Elizabeth, Pa.

“This was all due to time management. For example, I could read for classes while running on a treadmill and write papers in paragraph chunks during my lunch breaks at work. Online classes work around an already busy schedule and can afford anyone the dream of earning a higher degree.”

Similarly, Matthew Spencer, a 2018 graduate with an M.S. in Business Data Analytics and manager of Health Solutions in the Department of Corrections in Wellington, New Zealand, says that without the flexibility of online classes, he would never have been able to balance his professional and family life alongside studies.

“By having classes when I was available and being able to distribute my work amongst lunch breaks, after children were asleep, on commutes, weekends, etc. I was able to get a degree that I value very much and learn some incredible things.”


3. Technical Skills

Students taking online classes say improved research skills added value to their careers:

“It gave me the ability to focus deeply on new and challenging concepts.” – Scott Branham, program manager at Honeywell (M.S. in Business Data Analytics)

“I now have more information literacy than most and it serves me well.” – Danielle South, doctoral candidate in Education (M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology)

“I learned data organization and governance, as well as storytelling with data.” – Alexis Wable, senior HR business analyst at WVU Medicine (M.S. in Business Data Analytics)

“I write clear and concise reports.” – Jeremy Harris, owner of IT Mindshare, LLC (M.S. in Business Data Analytics)

“It helped me with analyzing and reflecting.” – Brandy Boehke, a Pre-K teacher in West Virginia (M.S. in Literacy Education)


4. Communication Skills

Improved communication skills are a clear result of online learning. The students report improved writing skills, storytelling skills, better communication through discussion boards and emails, and better presentation skills.

Angie Milliren describes herself as someone who is computer-minded, but she says she never felt that writing was her strong point.

Angie Milliren working on her laptop.

“To say I was terrified at the prospect of writing a large paper is an understatement,” she says. “However, with time, and the support and reassurance of my professors, I feel I now have the writing skills I need, and I am on the track to success.”

“Above all, I’m not camera shy anymore,” says Allyson Whorton, who is studying Literacy Education. “Since I have had to complete video chats and post recordings of myself, it is almost like second nature to me now.”


5. Management Skills

Students not only learn to manage their own learning environments, but they also learn valuable management skills that help them in the workplace. As a result, they set goals and communicate better with others.

Scott Branham is pleased that he is now able to summarize complex information to make important business decisions, while Brandy Boehke says she improved her ability to give useful feedback to peers.

Brandy Boehke standing in her classroom.

“In addition, my presentation skills improved,” she says. “Online classes taught me about communicating complex ideas without being there in person, as well as how to manage remote employees and manage remote work.”


6. Ability to Work Remotely

Working remotely is vital to taking online classes and it is increasingly more important in the everyday work world. Therefore, WVU Online students learn to manage their remote work, communicate complex ideas remotely, and to balance working from home. As a result, most report that they can now work from anywhere.

Matthew Spencer recalls taking part in video calls with team members located across the country.

“Being able to have videocalls with my team helped me balance their schedules, even though they were in different parts of the country. Online learning helped prepare me for a fully remote job. After that, I ended up leading a remote international Data Science and Engineering team successfully.”

Similarly, current graduate student Hayden Moser, who is earning a Master of Science in Business Administration, says taking his online program allows him to continue to take classes while also completing an internship in Nashville, Tenn. “Due to remote learning, I am now on track to graduate earlier than I planned, while also working as an intern 350 miles away from home.”


7. Collaboration

Not only working remotely, but also working together remotely is vital. Moreover, the students now understand the importance of collaboration with people of all backgrounds, as they easily share experiences and research with others.

"The connections I made with my peers was certainly the best part of this program,” says Alexis Wable. “For example, we often paired with other students to complete projects. As a result, this team approach helped me to prepare for the nature of data analytics, where working together is encouraged and often necessary.”

Allyson Whorton explains that even when a program is all online, the assignments can still be group assignments. “For instance, every course I have taken in the last year has had some sort of video chat or discussion board,” she says. “The WVU Online professors really encourage you to communicate with your peers.”


8. Interpersonal Skills

In conclusion, perhaps the greatest skills the students gain are personal skills. They find that taking online courses teaches them so much more than what is on a course outline. In other words, they appreciate the experience and the real-life lessons it teaches them. Most report improved self-discipline, flexibility and consistency.

Kimberly Locy, who earned an M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology and currently works as an Academic Support Counselor with WVU’s Upward Bound program, says online courses take a lot of personal responsibility, self-management, and active participation.

Kimberly Locy standing next to a waterfall.

“Therefore, you truly get out of it what you put into it.”

“I appreciate the resilience I learned in my online program,” Danielle South says. “This includes learning to teach myself, diving more deeply into the content, and reaching out to others to help me. As a result, I do not give up when I run into a conflict now. Instead, I look for resources and solutions on my own.”


Want to Get Started Right Now? Connect with WVU Today!

If you want to advance in your current career or prepare for a future career, here’s how you can get started right now on the path to learning new skills that will help you achieve your goals:


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