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Demystifying Online Learning for the Working Professional

  • 4 Min Read

The need for continuous professional development in the workforce is high, yet the uptake is still extremely low. Here’s how you can encourage working professionals to engage in online learning.


There is an interesting paradox to professional development. The desire and need for learning and professional development are high, yet the uptake is still extremely low. In North America, 75% of employees are interested in professional development, but only 14% go on to enroll in a course. Why is there such a large disconnect between interest and uptake? There are many reasons why employees don’t engage in professional development. For those who have been out of school for some time, one of the most common barriers is intimidation. Much has changed and continues to change, especially with the advancement of online learning.

Let’s dive deeper into online learning to learn more about what the world of professional development has to offer in 2022.

What Is Online Learning?

At its core, online learning is education offered via an app or the internet. It’s also known by terms such as e-learning, virtual learning and remote learning.

With the advances in learning design and technology, various types of online learning courses and programs are now offered by education providers. Each one of these offers different benefits and levels of interaction.

  • Asynchronous courses offer students flexibility in when they do their learning. Course materials, including prerecorded videos and readings, are uploaded to the learning platform and are constantly available to students throughout the course. Students can choose when they engage in learning; there are no set class times. Assignments and tests just need to be completed by the given deadlines.
  • Synchronous courses provide live interaction with the course instructor and peers through scheduled classes in a virtual meeting room. The learning is done together as a class, like it would be in an in-person setting. Along with the scheduled classes, students may have coursework to complete on their own to reinforce the learning.
  • Blended learning pairs the best parts of real-world classrooms and virtual components, creating a more personalized and flexible learning experience. Students in these environments gain the personal connections and engagement that come with in-person learning alongside the flexibility and convenience of online learning.
  • Self-paced courses, or on-demand courses, allow students to work through the course’s learning materials and assignments at their own pace and on their own schedule. This gives learners full control over how they progress through the course. The expectation is that students complete any assignments and tests within the duration of the course, but how they choose to work through the learning material is up to them.
  • Cohort-based learning, which is closely related to instructor-led learning, is when a group of students begin the course together and are led through the learning material by an instructor. During instructional periods, the instructor is available to provide real-time instruction and course materials. This model is traditionally used for in-class instruction but is used in online learning, too.

Why Consider Online Learning as a Working Professional?

No matter what type of online learning you choose to do, online courses and programs offer many benefits for the working professional.

1. Flexibility for the Learner

Online learning enables students to study where and when they prefer, especially in the case of asynchronous or self-paced courses. Working professionals can easily fit learning into their busy schedules at times that are convenient for them. Learners can easily access online courses from anywhere they have internet, whether they’re traveling or at home. The learning materials are constantly available and accessible for students to review throughout the course.

2. Global Perspectives in the Classroom

People from all around the world can access online courses. This brings a greater number of perspectives to a virtual classroom than those limited by geography. These broader perspectives can help learners develop cross-cultural understanding and appreciate diverse thinking.

3. Learning Environments That Suit

Taking an online class allows students to learn in a place that is most conducive for them. Students can choose a location and environment that best suit their learning needs—they aren’t limited to a busy classroom. Students also have more control over how they interact with their peers, which can ease anxiety and worry.

4. Cost Savings

In general, online courses cost less than in-class courses as students don’t have to pay additional fees to the education provider. In addition, not having to travel to the classroom allows learners to save on transportation costs like public transit fees, parking or gas.

5. Technical and Soft Skill Improvements

Taking part in online learning can help working professionals further develop their technical skills with the use of different learning software, collaboration tools and communication platforms. Gaining proficiency in more online applications helps increase efficiency and adaptability in the workplace. Online learners can also hone their online communication and collaboration skills, which can help them become stronger contributors and leaders in the workplace, especially as many workplaces remain remote or hybrid.

Online learning offers a flexible pathway to develop new skills and foster career growth for working professionals. Developing new skills opens the door for more career opportunities and helps keep skills and knowledge relevant and up to date.

Help Employees Further Their Professional Development

Navigating the sea of online learning options can be difficult and daunting. D2L Wave, a free-to-use talent development solution, can help employees easily find, request and register for online professional development opportunities that fit their needs and align with business strategies. Organizations and their employees can be confident in the quality of their learning as all courses and programs are offered by accredited education partners.

Try D2L Wave Today to transform your workforce with upskilling education

Written by:

Grace Sham
Grace Sham

Grace Sham is a Marketing Specialist for D2L Wave, specializing in digital and content marketing. Grace holds a Bachelor of Management and Organizational Studies from Western University, a Social Media Marketing Certificate from George Brown College, and a Marketing Management Post-Graduate Certificate from Fanshawe College.

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Table of Contents
  1. What Is Online Learning?
  2. Why Consider Online Learning as a Working Professional?
  3. Help Employees Further Their Professional Development