Get Ahead By Going Online
Advancing your career may be one click away
by Louis B. Tharp, Ph.D.
The surest path to career success is learning. This fact becomes more obvious every day as we move into this third millennium, already being called "the millennium of knowledge." When the whole world is changing - at the fastest pace in history - people with cutting edge knowledge are in great demand. The best promotions are going to the people who know what's new - especially in technology. This means that learning is the primary runway for taking off to new career destinations.
The problem: Finding time for further training or continuing education
It seems like everyone today talks about having a "full plate." You may feel like you are trying to juggle six dinner plates, plus a large bowl of hot soup! How can you find the time to obtain the education and training that may mean career advancement? Taking formal scheduled classes requires you to jump several hurdles - getting registered, matching their scheduled meetings into your over-scheduled life, driving to the campus or training facility, and attending during those exact hours over several weeks. Meanwhile, work and home obligations and duties do not magically disappear. Studies show that the most common reasons students drop classes are not academic difficulties. It's personal factors - at home and on the job - that interfere with the good intentions of even the most ambitious students. How can you overcome these obstacles? The solution may be just one mouse click away.
Upgrading your skills online
Just as the Internet is revolutionizing everything else in our lives, it is changing the nature of learning. Online learning is here - and it's here to stay. This does not mean that traditional forms of training and education are doomed. There will always be a need for traditional classrooms and face-to-face instruction. This is particularly true in the area of technical training, since some tasks will always require hands-on shop experience. Pity passengers flying in planes maintained by any future A&P trained entirely in a virtual classroom, using virtual wrenches to tighten virtual bolts - with a mouse! I foresee FAA Advisory Circulars 747(a) (b) (c) and (d): Cautions Regarding Virtual Maintenance Techniques When Applied to Real Aircraft.
Seriously, however, there is much to learn that can be learned online. In fact, there are many things that may be learned better online. Online learning is primarily useful for the folks who already have had hands-on training, plus years of job experience, and can probably qualify for a Ph.D. - standing for Doctor of Practical Hardwork. For such professionals and other adult students, online learning is sometimes the method of choice.
Advantages of online learning
Your computer may be your ticket to further training and career advancement. The first advantage to online learning is that most online classes are scheduled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As a former college professor who only lectured on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am rather impressed with the work ethic of these "virtual teachers" - and the "Always Open" policy!
Online courses allow you the advantage of "byte-sized" learning. You can squeeze in learning at any time - putting in an hour here, 20 minutes there, or maybe half of your lunch hour at work. You can fit the course around your own busy schedule. Students can walk in and out of the "classroom" at their own leisure without bothering the lecturer. The silicon teacher will wait while you go to the fridge for a cold beer. Don't try that in a traditional classroom!
The third advantage is the chance to concentrate your efforts to produce efficient learning. In an online course, you can skip over what you already know. If you don't understand some point, you can review it, again and again, until you get it. Online learning puts you actively in charge of your own learning. It can be the most efficient educational process possible.
No parking problems
If you are thinking about acquiring a college degree, the campus is now as close as your keyboard. Almost every institution of higher learning seems determined to also become an institution of online learning - at least for part of its curriculum. Even Harvard is offering several distance education courses. Some are available on an open-enrollment basis through their extension school. That's right! You can go to Harvard just by clicking on www.extension.harvard.edu - a site they call "Harvard's best kept secret." UCLA and Berkeley also have extension divisions that offer dozens of courses to the general public.
You can even obtain your accredited degree entirely online through Capella University, Jones International University, University of Phoenix, or Unexus University - the first of many to come.
For the aviation industry, distance education via correspondence courses has been available for many years through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the institution that Time magazine has called the "Harvard of the sky." Embry-Riddle has started to offer many of their programs online. You can learn more about their programs at http://online.erau.edu. Northrop-Rice Aviation Institute of Technology also is making plans to bring some of their courses online in the near future. Many other institutions - colleges, graduate schools, and training institutes are joining this trend.
There are now so many college courses already online that you may want to visit one of the websites that indexes them all. Just go to www.mindedge.com to choose from over 6,000 online courses from over 100 colleges. Hungryminds.com also represents a host of colleges, universities, and technical institutes - including UCLA, Penn State, University of Maryland, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and many others. This site will let you choose from over 17,000 distance learning courses. Western Governors University (www.wgu.edu) also brings together hundreds of courses from many accredited colleges across the United States. Unfortunately, not all majors are available online, though this is changing rapidly.
Web-based training for aviation maintenance professionals
There is a steady trend toward offering even the highly specialized technical training required in the field of aviation maintenance over the Internet. How far this trend can go, due to the very nature of the subject, is yet to be seen. Most web-based training programs have been offered through company programs to train their own employees. Many such courses are designed for training on specific technical tasks for specific aircraft. General topics, such as safety or human factors, are more easily adapted to web-based training programs.
FlightSafety has a website (www.flightsafetyonline.com) that offers courses delivered over the Internet. Their first course, Principles of Troubleshooting, is scheduled for 20 hours, in two-hour daily sessions over a two-week interval, during work hours. According to their description, "This is a normal FlightSafety course, only the delivery medium is different."
Another provider of online training programs is Aviation Learning, found at www.aviationlearning.com. They have developed an entire library of computer-based training products focused on borescope inspection. They offer an introductory course, plus 11 engine-specific courses. They have announced plans to expand to 50 borescope inspection courses as well as four other courses on non-destructive testing. Their courses have been used by Pratt & Whitney as well as by other corporations.
A newcomer to online training is TrainingTek.com created by Douglas Payne, formerly a manager of technical training for FlightSafety Boeing. They offer regulatory required training materials, including live training sessions delivered over the Internet. They also have "pre-recorded training sessions that can be administered anytime or anywhere."
Free online learning communities
A new concept that is rapidly gaining popularity on the Internet is that of the "learning community." The idea is to provide an opportunity for members of a community with common interests to share their expertise with each other - for free. There are several expressions of this free learning concept. Learn.com offers a truly wide variety of content - from trivia topics like How to Give Your Cat a Pill to a few technical subjects like Generating Electricity from the Ocean. It's completely free. Many other free learning communities are springing to life on the Web. Talkcitylearningcenter.com is a site with courses delivered by some very knowledgeable instructors, usually conducted over a few weeks. Arlene Hirsch, a best-selling author on career planning, is the instructor of the course A Street Smart Guide to Landing Your First Professional Job. It's a very impressive course - especially since it is for free! For more career advice, go to Jobsuniversity.com - another free learning community directed toward personal development and career management and featuring courses taught by some famous names like Tom Peters.
Another free online learning community is Aerolearn.com. They offer over 200 free, self-paced courses exclusively for aviation maintenance professionals. The short courses cover a wide range of subjects, including technical and management topics, as well as several courses on career development and personal growth. Courses are created by instructors representing every segment of the industry - aviation educators, consultants, authors, manufacturers, and training and service providers who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with other professionals. Some of Aerolearn's courses have been developed from presentations originally given at conventions or to organizations like Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) or Aviation Technician Education Council (ATEC). Each course has its own communication center for interactive learning.
The Internet has introduced a whole new world of learning opportunities! Whether you want to go to college, gain specific job training, or learn from the free courses offered at an online learning community - they are all just one click away. The next click is up to you.
Dr. Louis B. Tharp is a graduate of Yale University and earned his Ph.D. degree in psychology from Claremont University. He has a wide range of experiences that include work as a professor, author, and video producer. Dr. Tharp has conducted personal development seminars for employees at McDonnell Douglas, the FAA, and other organizations. He has developed and taught distance education courses, both online and over television. He is currently the director of Online Learning at Aerolearn.com.