What are some of the biggest challenges that business leaders face today and how can continuing education help employees overcome this?

RG: Business environments change fast, and leaders must ensure their team is relevant and ready to operate efficiently and effectively. The industry needs more leaders who are truly prepared to transform business practices with an innovative mindset and technological aptitude. However, despite changing technology, business leadership will always need a strong servant leadership foundation for success. Continuing education within the context of a student’s work experience and collaboration with other students create a rich learning experience.  

MH: There are several. One is: how do you keep and retain your best employees? Continuing education is a great way to offer benefits to your team as well as to grow them professionally. Another one is: I how do I increase the overall funnel of diverse talent? Continuing education can help to grow your diverse talent into leadership positions within your company.

MW: Business leaders are starting to rethink their approach to talent.  Hiring and retaining the right talent may be too costly. Upskilling in-house talent may be a better option than recruiting someone new. Understanding the quality of internal talent is essential and includes taking inventories of specific skills and assessing the potential that isn’t on a resume or part of a degree. Investing in the development of employee talent means continuing their education.

What are three things adults should know before going back to school?

RG: Adults earning their degree have a life; they are super busy. Graduate school is one more major time commitment and can be stressful. The key is to be proactive. Prioritizing responsibilities and following a short-term and long-term time-management schedule can help students stay on track and feel less overwhelmed. Being a driven go-getter is a great quality for success, except when it leads to burnout. It’s about identifying how to realistically integrate classes and coursework into work and personal schedules that work best for the individual. I always tell students, “make sure to carve out time for yourself, family and friends.” Keep the balance.  Continuing your education is an opportunity to learn new tools and apply them within businesses to help better engage employees, generate revenue, make positive contributions in decision making, think critically and offer alternative perspectives. You reinvest in your passion for the long haul and prepare to really make a lasting impact. It is all about the learning and intellectual curiosity that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning. 

MH: You are not alone. Don’t feel like you are the only one that is doing it. Don’t worry about what others think of you. You are an older student. It is likely that career and family eat up every spare second.  Build healthy habits to carve out time for your studies.  But don’t try to do multiple tasks at the same time. Studies show that our brains are actually not that great at multitasking. Like every Girl or Boy Scout knows, you should always be prepared.  Make sure that you have your equipment. Know your tech. Keep your remote batteries charged and your laptop, know your hotspots (and have a personal hotspot ready to go) and learn to use collaboration tools (e.g., especially the Google suite, Slack, etc.). 

MW: There are a few questions that adult learners should ask themselves. Is the program aligned to the outcomes I am seeking? What have graduates of the program been able to do with their learning experience? Does my employer or will a future employer validate this learning experience?

As a working learner, will managing learning and my daily life be difficult? What is the right modality of learning? Do I need to be physically present to stay engaged? Do I need strong advising to keep me accountable? How do I know this is a high-quality learning experience?

Is this something that I can afford? Will I be able to advance in my career and pay off the debt after pursuing this program? Will tuition reimbursement through my work cover my education? 

How can college graduates/adult learners benefit from an online education?

RG: The biggest advantage of online learning is flexibility. Everyone has a busy life to manage and an online education accommodates that. If schools want to help these top professionals excel, then they need to provide educational modalities that are flexible and convenient to meet their needs. Thus, online programs are a great option.

MH: There are the obvious benefits of online education that are intrinsic, like being able to access information whenever you want, wherever you want and being self-driven around your learning style and approach.  However, another benefit that is important to Rosetta Stone and society is opening up the access to education to a wider group of socio-economically and culturally diverse learners.  Everyone should have the right to have access to the best possible education.

MW: Online education can be a fantastic option for adult learners who need flexibility in their schedules. Competency-based programs are especially well suited for adult learners, so they can show what they know. Students don’t have to sit through a 16-week course to prove that they have mastered a certain subject. They can move as slowly or as quickly as they wish. At the same time, some off-line programs tie working and learning, so that students learn by doing. As one example, the University of Michigan’s Master’s of Health Professions Education program doesn’t have lectures; there is no content provided by the university. To apply to the program, students must already be in a professional educator role and demonstrate their competence by tying their work experience to a set list of Entrustable Professional Activities.

Flexibility and convenience should be core to any program—online or offline—tailored to adult learners. There is so much of life that gets in the way of the pursuit of learning; education providers must be cognizant of reducing friction and making it more seamless for adult learners to move in and out of learning and work.

How can higher education help with professional development and career growth?

RG: As a graduate student at a university, you are surrounded by like-minded individuals seeking to take a step-up. The innovation and entrepreneurial mindset create an environment that allows you to thrive.  Higher education gives that competitive edge. When you earn your MBA or DBA—you’re boosting your credibility with a point of difference. You’re more marketable because of your confidence in how you can significantly help a business succeed not just in revenue generation, but in leadership and stakeholder engagement.

MH: Continuing education is a necessity for just about everyone at every level.  The workforce is constantly changing and staying current with your skillset and new technologies are vital.  In this day and age, there is really no excuse not to stay hungry for more and more chances to update your personal development especially since there are so many low-cost and/or free services available.

MW: The future of work will look a whole lot different from the workforce of today. We will continuously return to learning throughout our working lives to ensure that we stay relevant and up to speed with our ever-changing economy. A broad foundation of transferable skills will help us move from domain to domain or industry to industry. We will access professional development opportunities more frequently in order to build more specific sets of knowledge and certifications in different areas as we advance in our professional lives. We’ll no longer have a career but potentially many different threads of work that make up our work lives.  And, we will always need to pursue some sort of learning to help us grow and adapt to changes ahead.