GraduatesAlthough college costs continue to soar and tuition costs have increased 72 percent since 2000, according to a Deloitte study, the job market remains tight. Recently, a highly competitive demand to fill jobs with those most qualified has been met with a sharp spike in learners searching for online courses to improve their business skills. And in turn, this massive increase has resulted in job skills courses within the online education sector. Some e-learning platforms have taken notice of this growing need, creating opportunities for education and skills training online. 

What Business Skills Courses Are Trending? 

Much of these sought-after courses involve technology and business. Project management is a huge skill currently in demand. According to a recent article by the Project Management Institute (PMI), one-fifth of the world’s GDP (or $12 trillion) is spent on projects. The article also outlined the looming talent shortage facing project management over the coming years, forecasting a shortage that would reach critical levels by 2016. In fact, the widening gap of project management skills could directly put at risk over $4.5 trillion globally by 2016. Access to online courses on project management aims to shorten this gap. WizIQ, for example, has course offerings for project management that provide professionals with all the standard features of online learning (i.e. self-paced instruction with videos, presentations, tests, peer interaction, etc.) or the unique features of traditional classroom learning experiences such as live instruction, assignments, and lab work.  

In the technology area, one such example is big data – Hadoop, in particular. As recently as two years ago, the terms “big data” and “Hadoop” were not commonly used in the workforce. I myself was initially not familiar with Hadoop technology. Suddenly, Hadoop has become one of the hottest skills professionals want to learn. Recognizing this need, WizIQ now offers live and interactive Hadoop online courses. Courses on Java development skills have also seen a resurgence among professionals simply because Java is the most basic computer programming language and a requirement before learning other programming languages. Additionally, mobile development and mobile programming have also become hot trends in online learning, despite being nonexistent online as recently as two years ago. 

Interestingly, professionals with little or no prior knowledge of programming have enrolled in these courses, because so many functions in business these days involve a data element. For example, more and more marketers are taking courses in programming so they can run programs on their own simply to do a better job in marketing. They are not taking these courses to become programmers. 

How Do Professionals Prefer to Learn These Skills?

Most busy working professionals are trying to increase their business skills while maintaining a full-time job. Some of the new online business skills courses are video-based, allowing the professional to virtually attend the course around their schedule (i.e. lunch hours, evenings, weekends, etc.).  Meanwhile, other professionals like a more interactive approach, but with all the convenience of online (i.e. no travel, etc.). They prefer to take these courses live through a real-time instructor. Based on this emerging need, WizIQ has developed a business model that offers a choice for the learner – as well as the instructor – between live, interactive courses and video-based courses. And on the instructor side, anyone with expertise in business skills (or any other skill) is able to host a live and interactive class on our platform.

With easy access to these courses, more and more professionals, who once relied on their companies to pay for their training, are now taking charge of their own skill development and are willing to pay out-of-pocket if their employer does not offer them the professional development.

The Future of Corporate Training?

Traditionally, corporations and organizations have established training budgets and employed onsite trainers dedicating a day (or more) to training employees. This method of training employees has proved to be very expensive. According to the Association for Talent Development, U.S. companies spent a collective $164.2 billion on training and developing employees in 2012 – or $1,195 per employee. 

Corporations on tight budgets are beginning to cut back on training or looking for more affordable methods to provide professional development for its employees. With an undeniable need to provide proper training to working professionals, an economical solution is online learning.  WizIQ, for example, allows corporations to create and brand their own private learning academies for a small fraction of the average cost to train an employee. 

What Does It All Mean? 

With business skills courses emerging in online education, what does this mean for the future of professional development? Would this method of training have an effect on traditional MBA programs, for example? There will always be people highly inclined to seek a degree or devote the time and expense to undertake a graduate program to further their career, but expect an increase in working professionals looking for online courses just to polish up or learn new skills. If online learning just focused on degree stamps, then online education might simply evolve to an expanded version of the less reputable for-profit colleges. 

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