Lie #2: Online Colleges Aren’t As Good As Traditional Ones

Woman working at her desk taking courses online.

Lie #2: Online Colleges Aren’t As Good As Traditional Ones

If it were actually true that traditional colleges are better than online colleges then I suppose there’d be no point even trying to juggle work and school. Universities would all close their distance education departments, and you may as well quit your job right now so you can trudge downtown every day to attend a traditional college.

But most of the time, “traditional” schools aren’t even giving you the best education you could get in order to get hired. Think about how many university graduates you know who are flipping burgers just to keep afloat.

In fact, most online graduates are actually getting higher grades than graduates from in-class programs.

Let me spell that out for you: higher grades mean you are:

  • more confident when entering the workforce,
  • more sure that you’re able to meet the requirements, and
  • more likely to get hired.

It makes a difference when your instructor’s teaching style is based on how you learn. Every talk with her is a 1-on-1 conversation, so you can’t help but retain more information, compared to sitting in a lecture hall. Traditional lectures often have 150 other people – and the only thing you have in common is that you’re all facing in the same direction – listening to a professor talking at you (not to you).

Maybe you already knew this, but traditional schools have desks in a row, a teacher at the front, lectures and memorization for a reason. In fact, they came out of the Industrial Age, when it was really important that people grew up to follow orders.  They expected only to go work in the factories.

The Problem with “Brick and Mortar” Schools

That type of teaching punished individuality, and focused on verbal intelligence to the exclusion of all else. As a result, you were at a disadvantage if you were right-brained or artsy! In contrast, you were in luck if you could fit into the “norm” without making any waves.

Today when you think about a brick-and-mortar school, picture this in your mind: a dark brick factory in the early 1900s, with the rank smell of coal smoke suffocating the air because the windows don’t open, each dark and choking breath closing in upon rows of people who’ve all been trained, criticized, and beaten into performing exactly the same tasks in the exact same manner at the exact same time.

Now picture one of these people shoved out into the sunlight, blinking at the glare and scared to take a deep breath of the unfamiliar cool, fresh air. What happens if they’re given a task outside of what they’ve been forced to repeat day after day, hour after hour?  Perhaps we ask them to simply find North, but they stare blankly and confusedly. That’s because the system didn’t teach them to understand the world outside their comfort zone, without the ability to solve a problem on their own.

Actually, a tiny handful of extraordinary, talented workers will solve the problem by strength, courage and wit. But the odds are heavily tilted against them. Only the very, very best even survive, much less prosper.

Can Traditional Education Teach Independent Thinking?

If the only way you’ve ever done anything is by blindly following orders, you’re standing sightless in the sun with no idea which way is North. And as the 21st century unfolds, the problem’s going to get worse, not better.

Think about this: a few decades ago, the factories gave way to cubicle farms. As a result, the air was cleaner but the tasks were still repetitive.  We had more business and less industry, but traditional education still had a place preparing people for the workplace.

Today, many businesses are ditching those rows of identical cubicles in favour of more informal settings. For instance, Google’s employees work at a “campus”, have individual decorating budgets for their office spaces and are given 20% of their time to work on personal projects. In many offices today, people don’t wear 3-piece business suits; instead, they wear jeans and t-shirts. There are bean-bag chairs in the break rooms and Wii tournaments every Friday. And these non-traditional businesses are cleaning up – nobody is more successful than Google.

But traditional schools are still teaching people to sit in a row and stare straight ahead!

Imagine for a moment that you show up to apply for an accounting job with a paper ledger and a slide rule (not so uncommon even 40 years ago). How would you ever compete with applicants carrying accounting software on the smart phone in their pocket – or even those with just a calculator?

Impossible. You’d starve to death. And you couldn’t possibly provide your customers a similar level of service or speed.

And yet, lots of university graduates are doing just that. They’re trying to fit a square peg of education into a round hole of a job. Traditional universities just don’t prepare you for a career out in the real world. Instead, they hole you up in a library doing archaic research and debating academic problems that are only relevant to other academics.

Factory workers – and the schools that produce them – are a dying breed. Large institutions are too unwieldy to change direction quickly and it’s taking forever for traditional schools to catch up to the current job market. Unfortunately, they spin their wheels and keep teaching lessons that are simply no longer relevant to today’s employers. Meanwhile, being able to toe the line and sit quietly in a row is less and less important these days.

The Solution to Preparing for a 21st Century Education is Online

But here’s the TRUTH: 

IF you can learn to be a critical thinker who can solve problems beyond what you’re taught, and IF you attend a school that is able to offer the newest, most relevant career-based training, you CAN become a valuable employee and you CAN compete.

And you won’t end up another square peg with no place to rest. Smaller online colleges can turn on a dime as the industry changes, and can produce employees for the 21st century – not the 19th.

Listen up:  you MUST learn the essential job skills for your exact job, and you MUST be able to keep learning even after school is over.

Most people do not. Most people go to university and learn to be drones for jobs that don’t even exist anymore. Thanks to their lack of experience, they don’t have any idea how to think globally and solve a problem they’ve never seen before. Most people don’t know that they don’t know.

BOTTOM LINE:

1) You must learn the right skills employers need to fill the job.

2) You must be able to adapt and change as the job changes.

Often you’ll try something and it doesn’t work the first time. But… the good news is, once it works, it will usually work for YEARS.

That’s why time spent on education is absolutely the best time investment you can make – IF you’re aware of what really works and what doesn’t.