Blog entry by Natalie Kijurna (Administration)
I spent a total of 20 years of my life in school from Kindergarten to law school. I would say, for me, education was important. I would even go so far as to say that for many people it’s important. But, there are those people who, for whatever reason, did not decide to pursue a higher education after high school. Maybe it just wasn’t for them, maybe they never understood the purpose of school, or they didn’t like the structure of a school environment, or maybe they didn’t like to answer to authority. I get it. Different strokes for different folks. It’s what makes the world go around. I figure we’d all be bored to tears if we all liked or excelled at the same things. I mean, who the heck would’ve invented electricity or sent man to the moon if I was the only one sitting here on Earth? If it was up to me to learn about science or technology we’d still be hunting and gathering and picking fleas off each other. But I digress.
In 2015, I wrote an article published in a professional magazine that discussed why attaining a credential, either a degree or a certificate, from an accredited school was a much better way to attain a career than trying to learn what you needed to know on your own or enrolling in a program that had absolutely no oversight, state or federal. I firmly believed this because in my experience many of the programs that tout a fast and cheap way to get into a career in fact do not also provide a way to educate on soft skills, those skills that are not really measurable but are more intangible; the skills that allow people to interact with others effectively either within their profession or outside of it; the skills that allow a person to thrive in their workplace and not just go through the motions. Some examples of soft skills include: professionalism, ethics, leadership, communication, responsibility, and problem-solving. I will admit it. I think soft skills are important. They separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak. It means the person not only has the skill to do the job, but the maturity, character, and aptitude to handle ALL aspects of the job both tangible and intangible.
Well, times they are a changin’. There is a constant push, at least in court reporting (of which I’m most familiar), from professionals, students, and others, to do away with formal education and, instead, have students teach themselves at home faster (supposedly) and definitely cheaper. The accredited schools have fought the good fight, but as there was 60 National Court Reporting Association (NCRA) certified schools five years ago and, as of today, less than 30, I think the trend is obvious. Unfortunately, the near extinction of schools coupled with the general public’s lack of knowledge about what a court reporter is let alone what a court reporter does has left a dearth of court reporters. There are simply not enough graduates to fill the open spots. In fact, it truly is one of the few professions I know of where graduates are almost assured a position once they graduate. Yep, schools for professions such as court reporting are a dying breed. Partly this is due to almost insurmountable federal regulations, but, as I mentioned, there’s also a push internally from those in the rank and file who believe there’s a better way. So, is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) just for HGTV? Or, can a DIY or self-paced program really work for education, with a sound model of course, and prepare students for a fulfilling and successful career?
Here’s the thing. There will always be those people who can just pick up a guitar and play it without ever having taken a lesson. Or, pick up a tennis racquet and be able to give Serena Williams a run for her money. But, those are the exceptions not the rule. Most people need practice, direction, tips, hints, advice, and good old book learning. But, can DIY work taking into consideration what the student needs to really be successful? After much pause and lots of soul searching, I think the answer is yes. It can. Here is why DIY or a self-paced program can work:
- No pressure - There are no completion dates. There are no instructors expecting homework. Your dog no longer has to digest reams of paper to give you a valid excuse– it doesn’t matter anymore.
- More flexibility – You want to study at 3 a.m.? You want to practice your skill at 5 p.m.? Go ahead. There are no classes. No set meetings times. Your time is your own 24/7.
- Less money – No instructor to pay, no building upkeep, means less money. In addition, you’re not going to get a school administrator on the phone screaming “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” because it’s pay as you go. You pay first, learn later. No starting classes and then getting a bill in the mail for the amount you owe.
But, aside from these concrete advantages there are also the more intangible advantages:
- Sense of accomplishment – To me, this is the big one. I don’t know if you ever built something from scratch or even just put something together from IKEA (MUCH more up my alley), but, once you finish it, you feel GOOD. Like you can conquer the world. It may only be a $29.99 shelf, but man you put it together, it looks great, and you get compliments on it. Teaching yourself something can be a life-changing experience.
- Undercover learner – With a self-paced program there’s not a ton of out-of-pocket expense, so you can be an undercover learner. In other words, no one has to know you’re even doing it. Started college three times and quit? Always saying you’re going to start something and never do? Never fear, no classes to attend, no one to answer to, you’re golden. No worries.
- Discover passion – Teaching yourself something is not easy. There can be a lot of trial and error. There can and will be frustration. There will be feelings of failure. It will be TOUGH! But, if you do it – fully and completely - you’ll know without a doubt that although this might not be your only passion, it certainly must be one of them. Because trying to teach yourself something that you absolutely do not care about has to be the most impossible thing in the world. Try it. Teach yourself how to play piano if you couldn’t care less about ever playing piano. See how long you last. But, love tinkering with cars? Teach yourself how to change an alternator…I bet you’ll not only do it quickly, but you’ll continue to learn more and more. In my opinion, passion is a force of nature that will let you know whether or not you should be doing what you’re doing. Listen to it.
Understandably, there are negatives to self-paced learning or learning on your own. I know. I wrote about it once upon a time. But, in this world where technology is advancing so rapidly that a computer you buy today is obsolete tomorrow it’s no wonder that more and more people want to use that technology to follow their dreams.
One caveat to everything I’ve said so far…there are different types of quality to the self-paced/DIY programs out there. Just like there are horrible instructors that don’t have a clue what they’re doing and others that inspire us to go on and become Nobel Prize winners, one has to be careful to select a program that really gives them the tools to succeed. Which just so happens to be the topic of my next blog – stay tuned ;)
Director of Alumni & Employer Relations
CCR: The online education you want, the quality you deserve.