Common Myths Debunked about Opting for an Online Degree

Common Myths Debunked about Opting for an Online Degree

For years, traditional education has given online learning a bad rap. In fact, before the pandemic pushed education into the digital realm, the common masses thought of online learning as a scam or a side hobby to acquire new skills. However, online learning programs have now found their time to shine.

As more and more learners are opening up to the idea of pursuing an online degree, here are a few myths that are worth dispelling:

Myth #1: An online degree doesn’t have the same value as its traditional counterpart

There used to be a grain of truth in this belief. However, that was almost a decade ago when online learning was still in its nascent stages. At present, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has started approving online programmes offered by top universities. In the landmark UGC (Online Courses or Programmes) Regulations Act of 2018, the UGC announced that educational institutions can offer online certificate, diploma and degree programmes in disciplines that have the same programme in the classroom teaching mode.

The impact of this act is that these online programmes will bear as much weight and value as offline degrees.  And whether you apply for the programme to gain practical/theoretical knowledge or for better job prospects, online degrees will hold the same merit as traditional degrees.

Myth #2: Online learning offers low-quality education

Initially, universities and colleges did not have the direction or resources to conduct online programmes. Hence, there was a minor trade-off with quality. Fortunately now, we are living in a time where technology is ubiquitous, and it would be a criminal waste to miss out on the opportunity.

With a growing number of students and improved channels for communication, educational institutions are finding the best possible ways to cater to the changing needs. They are also recruiting top-notch educators and faculty members to be a part of their programmes. As a result, you can now trust your future in the hands of highly skilled and knowledgeable faculty members.

Additionally, as part of regulations, online learning portals have to adhere to the highest standards of quality to retain their accreditation and recognition. Therefore, as long as your education provider is accredited, you do not have to worry about the quality of education.

Myth #3: eLearning is easier

On the contrary, e-learning is tougher and more rigorous than traditional classroom programs. The primary reason for this difference is that online learning calls for sharper reading and writing skills. Further, you are in charge of your education. It requires a greater amount of discipline and dedication to stay on top of all the deadlines, assignments, tests, and other schedules.

Myth #4: I will have to purchase a high-end laptop or computer. I will be spending more than a regular course

As stated previously, technology has made progress by leaps and bounds. Resultantly, you are no longer confined to laptops and desktops to get an online degree. You can leverage the power of your smartphone to download official apps from your education provider and get to learning anytime and anywhere.

Plus, think about all the money that you would be spending if you had to travel daily to your classes. Or worse, think of the situation where you would have to relocate to an entirely new city to earn your degree. The total costs of shifting, rent, and other expenses would surely make traditional learning more expensive.

Myth #5: Online learning is boring/lonely

Naturally, when one thinks of online learning, they may assume that it may feel like a lonely and boring option. However, the online learning sphere is supported by an active and thriving community of learners and educators who add a personal touch. From forums to live chats and online clubs – there is a wealth of possibility if you crave for a complete campus experience.

With cutting-edge technology, you can enjoy real-time conversations, interactive sessions, and educational content in various formats. Online learning programmes attempt to emulate the traditional model of learning with digital platforms. So you can participate in group discussions, projects, interactive seminars, collective assignments, and more.

You end up getting the best of both worlds!

Concluding thoughts

As one can conclude from above, the reality of online learning is quite different from its perception. It may feel overwhelming at first, but it is no different than the traditional learning environment. And while you are juggling assignments, coursework, and tests with other life commitments, you will grow to appreciate the flexibility offered by online education. 

Not just core IT, you also need these skills to thrive

2020 accelerated the digital transformation of businesses. It impacted every element of the corporate ecosystem, especially business operations and jobs. While some industries witnessed lower job prospects, the essential goods, and services sectors, like healthcare, e-commerce, EdTech and FMCG among others, saw an increase in the creation of job opportunities. As reported by The Statesman, “Hiring activity in India saw a 14% jump in December 2020 as compared to the previous month, signalling a clear recovery of the job market in the post-Covid months.” What brought about this change? 

The pandemic not only compelled organisations to re-invent their business strategies and market but more importantly made them realise the need to have professionals with advanced and specialized skills that could address their clients’ needs. Today, as companies gear up to speed the hiring process, they are focused on onboarding aspirants who are agile, creative and digital savvy. 

What does this mean for freshers and professionals?

We’re witnessing the rise of a new era, more dynamic due to the accelerated adoption of digitization. Organisations worldwide are reimagining their business models to thrive in the ever-evolving competitive market. As a result, the job market is transforming and becoming more skill-oriented than experience-oriented. It’s time for aspirants to create or revamp their resumes by making them more skillset heavy. Companies prefer and will continue to opt for creative, agile aspirants who possess strong technical as well as soft skills.

What are the core skills organisations are looking for?

●Analytical skills: In today’s data-driven world, every aspect of businesses is dominated by data. Working with massive amounts of data involves analysing it to gain insights that help organisations strategise and predict future trends. Analytical skills stretch from Data Science, Business Analytics to Data Analytics and People Analytics. These skills are pivotal to all functions and teams from Finance, Human Resource, to Marketing, Customer Satisfaction and so on. A recent report by Quess shows a big spike in demand for new-age skills in general and a 44.7% spike in demand for Data Analytics, in specific.

  • Cloud Computing expertise: As per a LiveMint report, “Cloud adoption by organisations rose 80% during the first half of the financial year 2021 compared with the second half of the financial year 2020.” As business functions and resources migrate to the cloud, high-level expertise in this field has become a major requirement. It has become the most sought-after tech skill organisations are looking for in 2021, as per a recent report by Rapyder Cloud Solutions.
  • IoT & Big Data competencies: Though we’re familiar with these terms, last year witnessed a much-needed push in the adoption of these technologies in every industry. Many organisations strengthened their digital capabilities and profitability using these advanced technologies. The adoption of the Internet of Things and Big Data are pivotal to ensure high productivity and help thrive in the dynamic market. Thus, companies are actively looking for aspirants who possess high-level proficiency in these technologies.

But it’s not just core IT skills that organisations are looking for

Businesses are exceedingly realising the importance of softer aspects that are required for a holistic approach to a problem. 

  • Problem-solving & product management competencies: From innovatively approaching a business problem to strategizing, having professionals with problem-solving and effective product management competencies has become of significant importance to companies. Organisations need these softer skills to succeed in the product-dominated market. From global firms to leading startups, all businesses are looking for professionals with these two skills.
  • High order thinking: Companies are focused on hiring aspirants with high order thinking skills that comprise competencies like creative thinking and decision-making abilities. This is vital for complicated problem solving and it has become crucial for business continuity. Companies need people who can deal with a difficult situation at the leadership level as well as at the front end.  High order thinking skills include creative cognizance, agile decision-making, mitigating crises, strategic thinking, among others.
  • Growth mindset: The desire and willingness to adopt and adapt are crucial to growth – both personal as well as organisational. Organisations want people to be open to constructive feedback and have a strong growth mindset. This indicates an individual’s risk-taking & innovation capabilities, creativity and willingness to learn.

What can you do to remain relevant and in-demand?

Gone are the days when having a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree was enough to land your desired job. In today’s ever-evolving digital-first era, having the relevant skills for a role is crucial to securing a job and keeping it. More than tenure, it is the impact one can make and that is what organisations look for while hiring a person. 

Explained: How students can fast-track their careers with skills in Data Science and Business Analytics

Data Science and Business Analytics have seen an exponential rise in demand for progressive businesses. According to Mordor Intelligence’s Market Study, the global Data Science market platform is predicted to reach USD 230.80 billion by 2026.

Necessitating the molding of companies’ data, and analysing their business, has become key in helping businesses navigate through a rapidly advancing, data-driven world. The ongoing pandemic has expedited the digitalisation of businesses across industries. Companies have embraced the power of these two technologies at a quick rate in order to stay relevant in today’s competitive market.

According to a new study by Tableau Software and YouGov, 83% of data-driven companies in India gained critical business advantages during Covid-19. With every passing day, the vision of why Data Science and Business Analytics are crucial for businesses is becoming clearer.

Data is being constantly generated from all over the world, and it’s what we do with that data that matters. Every newsletter we sign up for, every account we open, every reaction to an online post generates data. Leveraging the enormous amount of data with the help of various analytical techniques, we can classify and predict hidden patterns to derive meaningful insights from them.

Companies can bridge the gap between data clarity and analysis, leading to higher profitability in business. The report by Tableau Software and YouGov also states that nearly 76% of data-driven Indian companies are optimistic about the future health of their business for the coming months as compared to non-data-driven companies.

Apart from the data-driven decision-making process, they use it to build analytical models for problem-solving, identify the target audience, strategize business plans, and predict future trends.

For this, organisations actively look for proficient professionals who can utilise the advantages of data and analytics to join their teams and help them achieve their business goals. As of today, Google search shows 8.29 million vacant jobs in these two promising domains in the country.

In addition to that, here are two more reasons to develop expertise in that to fast track your career:

1. The pool of promising career paths: Data Science and Analytics offer a reservoir of opportunities to take one’s career to the next level. Knowledge, proficiency, and experience will allow the learner to build their career as a Data Scientist, Data Architect, Data Engineer, Data Analyst, Business Analyst, Data Engineer, Analytics Manager, or Business Analytics Specialist, to name a few.

2. Lucrative salary packages: Depending on experience, professionals in these spaces are paid handsomely. According to Payscale.com, an early career Data Analyst with 1-4 years of experience earns an average of Rs 4 lakhs to Rs 6.8 lakhs annually, while an early career Business Analyst with the same expertise earns up to Rs 5 lakhs to Rs 8 lakhs annually. As one gains more experience over the years, the salary slab also increases. A Senior Business Analyst with over 10 + years of experience earns Rs 12 lakhs to Rs 17 lakhs in a year.

According to Linkedin’s Jobs on the Rise in 2021 Report, job profiles in the Data and Analytics domains are some of the fastest-growing in-demand ones. This means it is the perfect time for analytical enthusiasts to upskill themselves in the domain and build a promising career.

Enhancing Data Science and Business Analytics expertise not only helps freshers and early-career professionals to get a head start in their careers but also helps mid-and senior-level professionals to transform their careers.

Are remote proctored exams most viable way of assessment amid COVID; experts weigh in

The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated the role of technology in every sector including education. As the country battles the second wave of the pandemic, universities and schools are looking to override the long haul of uncertainty and worries by adopting technological tools.  

Recently, the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) had to re-conduct the Company Secretary Executive Entrance Test, (CSEET) 2021 for candidates who faced technical issues during the exam held on May 8 through remote proctored mode. The exam was conducted again on May 10.

As the education sector prepares for prolonged online education and online open-book exams, those critical of the sanctity of traditional evaluation systems for promoting rote learning are favouring proctored exams over offline exams as a reliable option. 

Skipping or cancelling examinations would have negative consequences on the future of the students, said Niranjan Hiranandani, Provost – HSNC University, Mumbai. Hence, it becomes crucial to adopt an alternative method of assessment, he adds.  

Ensures assessment with diligent monitoring 

“At the beginning of the pandemic, institutes were doubtful about managing remote exams for students. Gradually, however, many institutes have quickly adopted the viable option of AI-enabled remote proctored exams to assess students. Remote proctoring provides a viable alternative to physical exam invigilation. Exam invigilators can monitor the activities of students in the form of audio, images, videos, and screen activities. The most important improvement we have observed is quick result processing and flexibility in defining exam patterns with technology-driven exams,” Hiranandani added.

Reeta Sonawat, member of advisory council, Association of Indian Educacy Schools (AIS), said, “As an alternative way, what we can adopt is a 360-degree assessment methodology, which takes into consideration 50 per cent of online and 50 per cent continuous assessments. For online cognitive ability assessment, students could be assessed on answers to application-based questions. In addition, they can submit a mind map of the topic, which will give a teacher a clear understanding of the student’s mindset. Our education system is exam-oriented and this ensures that students adhere to a daily routine. It is important that some assessment pattern is put in place.  

“Remote proctoring is efficient, secure, cost-effective, and evaluations are accurate, reliable, and timely. Especially at a time like now, when health is a priority and we must maintain safe physical distance, institutions need to implement technology to maintain academic timelines.” 

No loss of answer scripts or chances of misevaluation  

“Online exams provide a clear advantage due to the nature of technology that is far easier to track and manage from a centralised secure server, as opposed to managing physical test centres across the country. There is no chance for paper leaks, loss of answer scripts during transit, or missing evaluating a question. Since April last year, MeritTrac has remotely proctored over five million assessments for various institutes and none of the exams had to be rescheduled or called off,” said Sujatha Kumaraswamy, CEO, MeritTrac Services. 

Vaidyanathan Jayaraman, Dean – UG programs and professor of supply chain operations, data sciences & analytics at SP Jain School of Global Management, said, “The software tool should ensure biometric authentication based on ID scan, face scan and a 360-degree view of the room in which the candidate is taking the exam. A crucial feature that can make this tool authentic, reliable and trustworthy is the feature of a lockdown mechanism the second the exam taker tries to access any applications or web-browsers during the test.”  

Jayaram believes if these features can be combined with a single sign-on functionality that can be seamlessly integrated with a learning management system, the tool becomes trustworthy. The student experience before, during and after the exam is not only the deal breaker but a game-changer. 

Open books exams – another alternative  

Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management, and CEO of ask.Careers, considers open-book exams to be a better alternative.

“While proctored exams ensure that students solve a question paper, much similar to the traditional format without cheating, in open-book format, students are given complex problems to solve that require them to refer to different concepts from the subject and apply their minds to solving the problem. The focus is assessing the students’ understanding of the topic and not how much they have memorised,” he added.   

The extension of lockdown has led to the postponement of numerous big examinations at beginning of the outbreak last year. Students have been in a state of constant uncertainty owing to exam dates and the closure of education and coaching institutes. While online exams can be held for entrance tests or semester exams, they may not be a viable option for school exams, especially board exams. 

Not a viable solution for rural areas 

“Online proctored exams in rural setup amid COVID is not possible, especially in school education, as there are many problems such as less connectivity, limited access to e-gadgets, less awareness among teachers. Students in rural areas are not well-versed with handling technology and if anything goes wrong then they could be at a great academic loss,” said Sudhershan Punia, lecturer, District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), Jhajjar, Haryana.   

Schools have been closed down in most areas across the country and the government has recommended moving to online learning as a stop-gap arrangement to avoid disruptions in academic calendars.  

“Online proctored board exams are not a viable option as conducting online exams will lead to all sorts of misconducts, students who have studied throughout the year and not studied throughout the year will be at par, which is not the right thing. Besides, the arrangements required to conduct online exams will cost a fortune to the government and we cannot ignore the fact that many areas of India are still devoid of internet connectivity,” said Kumar Tarun Narula, Class 12 student, SAI International School Bhubaneshwar. 

COVID-19 accelerated technology adoption 

While the technology was available for a long time, the shift from traditional exam to online was triggered during the last year. The benefits of proctored exams such as accuracy, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, secure, scalable, fast and personalised assessments are designed to fulfil the gap while minimising the dependency on physical infrastructure.  

“It becomes essential to educate and familiarise students and examiners with the advantages and good practices of proctored exams to make students feel conformable,” Sunil Kumar Agarwal, Head, Portfolio, Test Prep & Assessments at Pearson India. 

The need for businesses to have collaborative upskilling and training programs

Advancements in emerging technologies and the advent of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 have been transforming various facets of businesses across industries even before the COVID-19 crisis. The ongoing pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of emerging technologies by several years. Organisations have been under intense pressure to adapt to massive digitization in order to survive the crisis. According to a news report, “Cloud adoption by organisations rose 80% during the first half of the financial year 2021 compared with the second half of the financial year 2020.”

Although emerging technologies offer a competitive edge by opening up new revenue streams, by transforming business strategies of organisations, they also act as a catalyst in widening the skill gaps faced by industries. The latest India Skill Report (2021) by Wheebox, in collaboration with Taggd, CII, AICTE, AIU and UNDP, revealed that only 45.9% of the youth were considered as highly employable resources. The primary reason behind this is the broadened mismatch between skill, academic training, and employment requirements. On the one hand, organisations are unable to discover suitably skilled professionals while, on the other, young professionals are finding it difficult to acquire the kind of job roles they are aspiring to be in.

The sudden outbreak of the pandemic had disrupted economies, which resulted in massive unemployment and job losses. This economic recession has given the business landscape a formidable challenge. Regardless of existing skills, organisations now need the digital transformation process to be expedited. Last year, we witnessed unprecedented scenarios emerge as organisations shifted to remote working conditions and virtual collaborations. As technology becomes part of almost every aspect of our lives, we leap towards a brand-new digital panorama post-pandemic with technologies like Machine Learning, AI, Cloud Computing, and IoT becoming a dominant part of our daily lives. And businesses are compelled to build a digitally agile workforce while preparing for the evolving landscape.

Here’s why upskilling workforces in emerging technologies has become the need of the hour for businesses.

  1. Ensures agility: Upskilling existing professionals in emerging technologies like Data Science, Business Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, to name a few, will allow them to swiftly adapt to the changing needs of the business. They will be competent to meet market demands and assist in driving the change, which not only improves their careers but also enhances the company’s profitability.
  2. Enhances strategies and operations: Emerging technologies provide a host of new opportunities to businesses. Upskilling your workforce in these technologies will equip them to build future-proof strategies. Newer technologies are already revamping almost every aspect of businesses’ interactions with their consumers, from sales and marketing to after-sales support. Thus, upskilling the workforce will improve the operational performance and offer a significant competitive advantage.
  3. Improves employee retention: One of the greatest challenges every other organisation faces is retaining their best talent. An organisation that enhances an employee’s career by allowing them to hone their skill sets, with relevant skills through training, is a step towards developing a healthy employer-employee relationship. This also in turn improves the employee retention rate.

Having an agile and adaptable workforce is the most significant asset of a successful organisation. The market is constantly evolving and on the cusp of unprecedented growth, and professionals must adapt to it in order to help businesses achieve their goals. This is where upskilling plays a pivotal role. Expanding technological capabilities involve developing new and relevant skills, and organisations should take steps to enable their employees to upgrade their competencies. Companies are actively entering into strategic synergies to upskill their workforce. As per a survey by Skill Today, a global report by talent mobility provider Randstad RiseSmart, states, “Human Resource Managers at 77% of companies surveyed in India said they implemented programs for employees to either upskill or reskill themselves to meet changing business needs.”

While companies are focusing on upskilling their employees, they should also take into consideration the time they have in hand, their interests, learning objectives and future plans for effective implementation and employee’s 360-degree development. Thus, it becomes crucial for organisations to select the right corporate talent transformation partner to best meet the organisation’s needs. Upskilling employees is the most significant weapon in an organisation’s arsenal, while navigating through the dynamic technological transformation where the competitive market is rapidly evolving.