Online Education and IT: A Match Made in Heaven

Quick tips to make the most of your online education.

By Scott Skinger, CEO and Founder, TrainSignal 

Over the last several months, education-as-a-service has radically gained momentum for both higher education and the technology industry. Online learning has kicked down doors to traditional classroom education, providing students and professionals alike with the information they need to advance their knowledge and careers. Companies such as Lynda.com, Khan Academy and Coursera have led this movement, rethinking how people learn and gain access to quality educational resources.

With more and more companies moving to the cloud, big data becoming an integral part of business, and new technologies emerging daily, it is about time all educators step up to meet the needs of an evolving knowledge-based economy—an economy that demands ongoing education to stay up to speed.

One industry in particular that can benefit greatly from online education is information technology (IT). Technology is growing faster than training courses and certifications can keep up. What’s more, the IT job market is growing at a rapid pace, making easily accessible (and affordable) online education a necessity.
A recent study conducted by CompTIA reveals that the United States will experience a 22 percent jump in IT jobs through 2020, but only one-third of these positions will be filled. This jobs gap lies in a lack of talent. Simply put, there are not enough qualified workers to fill these positions, and expensive, time-consuming classroom-based education is not the solution.

Just take a look at the IT industry from the perspective of actual professionals in the field. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by TrainSignal of more than 2,000 IT professionals, 68 percent say they prefer online or video training to other traditional methods, with 69 percent referring back to training material on the job at least once a month, if not more.

Rather than sticking to what is comfortable, we should be adapting education to be as nimble and reactive as the technology it fuels. Bringing IT education online kills two birds with one stone.

  1. It gives professionals access to the information they need in a digestible format that can be easily accessed anywhere at anytime, including at the office.
  2. It opens up IT certification prep to the masses, providing more opportunity to develop those in-demand skills hiring managers so desperately seek.

But it isn’t merely certification prep that makes online education a perfect match for IT professionals. According to TrainSignal’s survey, 95 percent of IT pros feel that ongoing training is necessary for career advancement. Unlike professionals in other industries, IT professionals require ongoing upskilling to remain competitive and, quite frankly, to keep their jobs. If IT professionals don’t have affordable, quality training material at their fingertips they’ll be replaced—it’s as simple as that.

The benefits of online education are numerous; rather than paying large sums of money to attend classroom courses or seminars on topics either too specific or too broad, IT professionals have access to training material that is applicable to the exact certifications or skills they need.

Tips to Maximize Online Education

So don’t wait around for your skill set to collect dust. There are online options you can take advantage of today. Here are some quick tips to make the most of your online education:

Designate Time: You Paid, Make It Worth Something!

Since online training can be accessed anytime from anywhere, it can be easy to put it off. It’s important to put aside some time, even if just an hour a day, to make sure you are making the most of your education. Start by giving yourself a goal to complete (e.g., start with a specific skill and move up to completing an entire course.) Establishing a goal beforehand will help you allocate the right amount of training time required.

Take Your Time: Ain’t That the Beauty?

The beauty of online training is that you can make it your own. You choose when and where you want to learn and how quickly you want to learn the material. You can even choose what it is you want to learn. Whether you’re watching videos or taking practice exams, never feel like you need to rush through the material. Learn it at your own pace and in your own way. Since you are the only one in the “class,” it is all about you. Feel good about the fact that you have the option to pause momentarily, backtrack, or stop and resume later.

Execute: Practice Makes Perfect.

It’s pointless to learn a new skill and not put it to good use. Once you designate and take the time to learn, use that new knowledge to help bolster your career immediately. Don’t forget that every new skill or certification is expanding your opportunities for career success. Put your newly learned skills to practice until they’re ingrained.

Review, Review, Review!

Don’t forget to review necessary material needed to do your job properly. Online training gives you access to unlimited amounts of material, both old and new, so don’t be afraid to go back and review information you haven’t encountered in a few months, years, or even decades. No one’s memory is perfect, so make sure that while you learn new skills, you also brush up on old ones.

Scott Skinger is founder and CEO of TrainSignal.His passion for IT education began when he passed his first certification to become a Novell CNA. Skinger went on to teach at several technical schools where he realized traditional IT education was not providing students with the skills they needed to succeed. In 2002, Skinger founded TrainSignal. Today, TrainSignal is a leader in IT education having sold more than $30 million in training courses worldwide. Skinger earned a degree from Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, IL, and serves on the advisory board of Salute Inc.

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