Eric Ziehlke

Monday, 25 April 2005 09:28

Next-generation education

If you spend time on a college campus these days, you'll notice the rapidly evolving relationship between education and technology is changing decades -- even centuries -- of tradition. While many of us remember spending our college days immersed in textbooks, students some are turning to new technologies, such as e-textbooks, for information.

These new technologies are changing the very way that students receive and process information. While critics argue that technology dilutes students' research skills, technology is actually helping students become intentional learners. This means they are increasingly sophisticated in their ability to sift through a wealth of digital information and become critical thinkers in every area of their lives.

Beyond the eLibrary and eBook collection, there are several additional tools that are further encouraging students to become intentional learners.

Interactive simulations

In our global economy, the need for workers with critical thinking and problem-solving skills is greater than ever. Using interactive simulations and virtual organizations, students are presented with real-world, professional scenarios that resemble a high-tech "choose-your-own-adventure" book. These simulations require students to define problems and analyze, recommend and defend their solutions.

Computer-based interactive game and story simulations help students make decisions in a learning environment and give immediate feedback. The simulations adapt to the skill level of the learner, and participants may repeat the simulations using a variety of scenarios to determine the best outcome. This ability to determine "what if" in a risk-free environment encourages exploration and learning.

Virtual organizations

Many universities now realize that in order for students to make real-world decisions, they will need to rely on realistic data. Through programs such as "Virtual Organizations," available at some local universities, students are able to view mock company Internet and intranet sites.

These Web sites give students access to hypothetical company data, such as links to financial and other administrative documents. This allows students to analyze the types of documents that would normally be considered privileged information in real companies, forcing participants to think critically and resourcefully to solve problems with proprietary or confidential data.

Improving writing skills

One of the most important skills to any employer is the ability to communicate. More colleges and universities are realizing this and providing new ways to improve skills in this area. Colleges are giving students access to a variety of interactive Web-based tutorials, writing samples, style guides and instructional handouts from the American Psychological Association and the Modern Language Association.

Some students can upload assigned papers for review by experienced writing-skills instructors and have those papers returned with feedback for format, grammar, style, organization, punctuation and usage within 72 hours. Comment on course content is left to the primary instructor.

Keeping plagiarism in check

As the influence of technology spreads, schools are becoming more sophisticated about checking for plagiarism in papers. Many are exploring automated systems that compare academic papers to materials found on the Web and a database of previously-submitted papers. These types of programs review the originality of the content. In some cases, there is even the option of a side-by-side comparison to similar materials found in other sources.

The result of this technology is a smarter, savvier student able to use his or her skills in today's business world. While theory is still an essential part of any university education, employers are increasingly demanding practical skills from their employees.

New technologies allow universities to offer a combination of both theory and practice, creating intentional learners who will adapt and excel in any work environment.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 24 February 2005 11:24

Thinking ahead

In a sluggish economy, Columbus employees need to focus on improving in-demand skills.

Economic data shows Ohio lagging behind the national economy in employment.; the state's 5.9 percent unemployment rate is a half-point higher than the national rate. Since 1994, only Oregon's unemployment rate has risen faster. Ohio lost 52,000 jobs in 2004, and many workers are unsure of their future.

Columbus hasn't fared as poorly as those cities that rely heavily on manufacturing. However, the city's employers weren't exactly filling up the Help Wanted pages last year. Only 100 new jobs were added to a local economy with more than 880,000 workers.

The lagging economy means that it is no longer enough to have the right degree or work experience to land a great job or earn a promotion. A new study by the University of Phoenix reveals that employees who want to advance in their careers also must be team players with excellent communication and problem-solving skills.

The university recently polled 330 employers in health care, education, technology and other high-growth sectors identified by the U.S. Department of Labor around the Midwest and across the nation. In their responses, executives stated the most important skills to succeed in today's workplace are communication (96 percent), followed by learning aptitude/desire to grow (95 percent), collaboration and teamwork (93 percent) and creative problem-solving (92 percent).

The data show there is a real concern among employers about finding qualified employees. Seventy-four percent of employees surveyed expect continued growth for jobs in their respective industries, but 65 percent also cited a shortage of skilled candidates to fill these anticipated positions.

In a highly skilled economy such as the one in Columbus, education is heavily valued by employers. And, earning a degree can be the one factor that positions you above the rest of the candidates for a particular job or promotion. In fact, more than half of employers surveyed say they favor continuous improvement and updating of skills through education and training.

If you're an employee who has been thinking about returning to school, make sure that the curriculum is current and the style of learning is relevant. Look for universities where classes are taught by instructors who are all experts currently working in their fields of expertise. That allows them to illustrate how theory is applied outside of the classroom -- a valuable asset for any student.

If you're an employer, consider the benefits of ongoing education for your current and prospective employees. Increasingly, employers are realizing those benefits.

According to the survey, nearly 57 percent of the respondents offer tuition reimbursement to employees seeking to enhance their skills. It's also an effective way to retain quality employees, another major concern among employers in the study.

With colleges and universities focusing more on practical application of theory, education can improve everyone's communication and teamwork skills. In Columbus, those skills are no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with over 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 21 October 2004 07:37

The changing face of faculty

According to a 2002 report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only 27 percent of college students fall within the 18- to 22-year-old age range. Today's typical college student was considered "nontraditional" just a decade ago.

Now, students are more inclined to concern themselves with their next career move, paying the mortgage and coordinating transportation for their children, rather than with campus life and full-time classes.

This trend has two important implications for the future of post-secondary education. Since the overwhelming majority of college students today are people who must incorporate education into an already hectic life, classes must be scheduled during times or through modalities that are convenient and effective for the adult learner.

As a result, there has been an explosion of programs with evening, weekend, and online courses. And working adults, with their years of experience, tend to be more savvy consumers of education. They are more demanding of service, curriculum and instruction than the "traditional" college student.

These students generally require a different approach to education. So the trend toward an increasing number of working adult students in college classrooms has encouraged another trend, an increasing number of working adults to instruct them.

While the academic background of every faculty member is fundamentally important, it's just as important for universities to stress the need for professionals to serve as facilitators in their classrooms. Practitioners with the appropriate academic credentials can offer expertise according to their experience, while allowing for more peer-to-peer learning.

The marriage of theory and practice

In nontraditional programs, the face of faculty is continuing to change dramatically. A growing number of faculty are not full-time employees for whom teaching is a primary occupation. Instead, they are practitioners who have advanced academic preparation in their fields and significant practical experience.

This blend enables them to credibly facilitate the marriage of theory and practice in the classroom. As professionals and instructors, they work with students to develop knowledge, skills and perspective relevant to the workplace.

Faculty are also lecturing less these days. They have the authority to present a lesson, but they realize that a top-down approach to education simply won't work when they may be sharing their classroom with a student or two more experienced than they are in a specific area. Instead, instructors introduce the subject and engage students in a discussion in which topics are debated and challenged.

The most effective way to educate working adults is through enlisting local professionals who have both the academic preparation necessary to teach discipline-specific theory and the practical experience to render it useful. They are accomplished managers, executives and practitioners with the academic background and skills necessary to help their students achieve.

Give back to your community through education

As a business professional, you may think being a part-time member of the faculty at a local university isn't manageable while maintaining your career, but it may be more manageable than you think.

No longer are faculty required to physically attend classes five days a week, as universities begin to offer more online courses and alternative classroom schedules. Instead of five daytime meetings in a lecture hall, you might find yourself in class one night a week or asynchronously five nights at home, facilitating over the Internet.

Applying for faculty positions varies depending on the institution. At the University of Phoenix, faculty must have a master's degree or doctorate and must successfully complete a rigorous assessment and certification process before they submit course applications. We are obligated to provide our students with faculty who possess a passion for their careers on the job and in the classroom.

Businesses should encourage staff to seek part-time teaching opportunities at local colleges. It benefits the company when staff has an avenue to increase knowledge through teaching, gain credibility through an affiliation with a university and network to build relationships with potential future business partners.

As an educator, I encourage you to take a moment and explore how teaching can benefit you personally and professionally. While your intention may be to share your knowledge, you might be surprised at how much you learn from the experience, as well.

Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 200,000 students at more than 140 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 12:34

What's it worth?

We would all probably agree, at least philosophically, that educating ourselves and our employees is rewarding. We probably would not all agree on how much we should invest in training programs or tuition reimbursement benefits.

However valuable we think the training and development of our employees is to our company, formal programs can be expensive. We are the ones held accountable for the bottom line, so we have to be able to answer the question: Are our educational expenditures giving us a reasonable return?

There is evidence to suggest that dedicating resources to employee training and development is not only a good idea but also a sound business practice.

For example, the American Society of Training and Development wanted to know what kind of return companies realized on their investments in employee training and education. The group conducted research between 1996 and 1998, measuring changes in the participating companies' stock prices, as well as dividends paid in the year subsequent to the study. They found that increasing training expenditures by $680 per employee yielded an average 6 percent improvement in shareholder return.

When you are considering implementing a new training program or revamping an old one, ASTD suggests conducting a standard benefit-cost ratio. When it comes time to conduct your analysis, ask several questions.

First, what does your company need that can be addressed with training and education? You might want to address a particular technical skill with software training. Or you might want to offer more general customer service skills training. Your need might be even broader, such as a need to improve the critical thinking skills of your managers or to develop leadership skills in your junior executive ranks.

Depending on your environment, you may be looking for time savings or improved quality, or both. What are your specific goals for training and developing your staff, and how will you know if the training has been effective? Targeting your needs and objectives will help you figure out the best path to achieve success.

Then there are questions about the cost of a proposed program. How expensive will it be to develop the program, produce the materials and pay a facilitator to conduct it? The more extensive the planned program is, the bigger its price tag and the wider its potential range of outcomes.

If you are designing the program internally, do you have staff already dedicated to the task, or will existing staff be taken away from their primary responsibilities? How much time will your employees spend in the training program and not at their stations? It is necessary to consider all the costs, including the opportunity costs.

Ultimately, when these questions have been answered and you've estimated direct and indirect costs, you have to determine if an in-house program is realistic for your company. Is the process of developing and delivering a training program part of your company's battery of core competencies? If not, how much would it cost your company to outsource? Who would you choose to partner with and how?

Providing tuition reimbursement benefits to your employees is also a viable option to consider when determining how to develop your company's labor force.

There are many academic programs in the Greater Columbus area designed for business professionals that can help meet your company's training and development needs. Generally, degree programs of this nature do not take your employees away from their desks or off the line during the day.

Furthermore, these programs can give your employees a broader perspective because they will be collaborating with people who bring in ideas from their experience at other companies in other industries. And most of these programs pay dividends right away, as your employees apply what they learned in class last night to the problem facing them at work today. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 186,000 students at more than 139 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 29 April 2004 06:33

Is your company prepared?

The signs are all there. Your information system is affectionately referred to as "Old Unfaithful" and your managers have dubbed the human resources department "The Business Prevention Unit."

While this may seem to demonstrate a collective sense of humor, make no mistake -- the morale of your employees is declining right along with your productivity. Three years of scrimping and cutting back, however necessary, are taking their toll.

It is time for changes -- big ones. Are your people fully prepared to effectively plan and implement those changes?

Even the best-laid business plans can fall victim to economic reality. And anticipating the most logical of trends has never been an exact science. As a business leader, you rely on your employees to execute the company vision, regardless of the inevitable curve balls thrown their way.

Employees with the experience and willingness to adapt to changes well certainly are highly valued already. This is especially true in today's climate, where so many companies are doing much more with far less.

But how can a business increase the capacity of its work force to handle the increasing demands on those human resources? The answer is lifelong learning. Specifically, an advanced education can broaden an employee's perspective tremendously, which can translate directly to your bottom line.

Your management team's ability to develop flexible plans that prepare your company for growth in an uncertain future is a critical component of success. Applied academic programs that expose employees to the diverse backgrounds of others facing similar challenges are incredibly valuable. They are not simply a means to cover basic business principles or provide professional credentials.

The most valuable contribution provided by such programs is an often much-needed infusion of creativity. Ideas generated in a dynamic classroom environment can help companies manage change more effectively than if they relied solely on their employees' own experiences. Furthermore, critical thinking skills honed in the classroom can help managers avoid the costly pitfalls of a trial and error approach to problem solving.

Managers today need to understand not only the economic and market conditions that affect company cash flow, but also must be adept at managing people through change on a day-to-day basis. To do that, all employees must feel empowered to look at operations, systems, products and services critically. They must be able to express their ideas with the knowledge that those ideas will be appreciated appropriately.

With that in mind, managers who support their employees' educational endeavors and establish open lines of communication provide them with a mechanism to share pertinent information that can help improve organizational productivity.

Often, these ideas are the seeds for bigger plans that can ultimately help a company negotiate or even leverage changes that might otherwise have threatened its very survival or stunted its growth. If employees understand that they are an important part of the change process, the resulting sense of relative control can boost morale in a situation that could have destroyed it.

Of course, most changes will have some negative impact initially, but the depth and duration can be lessened by an empowered, prepared and educated work force. That's the kind of leverage companies need in times like these.

Fortunately, students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Central Ohio are studying change management every week. They are reading theories and dissecting case studies about managers and businesses faced with a variety of situations. They are discussing how an academic theory can or cannot be applied to various problems to help them structure their approach.

They are learning how to assess and take advantage of circumstances in an ethical manner. Not only are they learning how to resolve issues, they are learning how to maximize opportunities and minimize risk.

And with the rise in the number of working adults pursuing business degrees, many are taking the theoretical and applying it on the job the very next day. As we move into the future of business in Ohio, it is clear that higher education will play an increasingly important role in developing the necessary skills for employees to maximize their contributions to their companies' success.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005 10:49

School days

The back-to-school season is a time to refresh and renew our priorities. It’s a chance to jump back into an environment of learning and challenge our minds. If you have ever considered returning to school as an adult, now is the perfect time to make your goal a reality.

Fortunately, there are more options today than ever before for adults considering a higher education. The Columbus area is home to many programs geared toward working adults. Here are few questions to ask yourself if you are thinking of enrolling at a local college or university.

  • How will classes fit into my schedule? This is probably the most commonly asked question by adults who are working full time. Many traditional institutions cater to younger, full-time students and schedule a majority of classes during daytime hours.
    However, there are a growing number of schools that offer convenient night and weekend courses, allowing students to go to school and keep their day jobs. Some even offer a combination of in-class and online learning, allowing students to attend class once or twice a month and conduct the remainder of their coursework online.
  • What type of technology is used in the classroom? As you might imagine, the last decade has brought sweeping changes into the classroom. Most of today’s students now bypass the dusty reference books in college libraries and log onto the Internet instead. In fact, some schools are even phasing out textbooks altogether. Students pay for access to electronic textbooks, which can be downloaded on laptops and PDAs.
    Schools are also offering electronic, interactive simulations that allow students to make real-world decisions in a learning environment and receive instant feedback. Web-based writing tutorials and electronic plagiarism-checking tools are also a part of this new high-tech education landscape. As you consider which school to attend, make sure your top choice utilizes technology that will help you stay ahead in today’s business world.
  • What will it cost? You’ll want to do a careful assessment of tuition and make sure it will fit into your budget. In addition, you’ll also want to account for additional expenses such as books, course materials, childcare and transportation. The good news is that there are several financial aid opportunities for working adults, so don’t let the sticker price of tuition deter you from your dreams. By working with a qualified enrollment counselor, you can determine a financial aid package comprised of grants, loans and/or scholarships that works for you.
  • What is the learning environment? Carefully consider the type of learning environment present at each college and ask to visit a class. Are the courses small in size or in large lecture halls? Are they taught by the professors themselves or by teaching assistants? Does the format encourage discussion? Do you work on individual projects or in learning teams?
    More working adults are choosing a learning environment similar to the real world, where instructors function as facilitators rather than lecturers. In this type of classroom, lively discussion takes place among working adults about how to apply the lesson in the workplace. They also work in learning teams, similar to the real world.

By conducting a bit of investigative homework, you’ll be confident in your choice for a college or university — one that will help you succeed in your career and life. Don’t let another autumn pass by without seriously considering whether returning to school is right for you.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university, with more than 280,000 students at more than 172 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach Ziehlke at Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005 07:10

Season of opportunity

Summer is one of the best events of the year here in Columbus. It's a chance to enjoy a slower pace -- or at least the illusion of one. Many of us spend the extra daylight hours taking walks along the riverfront, attending cook-outs with friends or playing on the company softball team.

Summer is also a great time to take a class to improve your business and professional skills. Many of Columbus' colleges offer summer courses for adults, where you can learn everything from French to fencing. It's a great way to meet new people and learn skills that you may not have time to study during the hustle and bustle of fall and winter.

While many schools offer individual courses, others provide the opportunity to begin earning your degree during the summer. Students often find it easiest to enroll before the fall rush begins, easing into their area of study before the days get shorter and busier.

Because summer is often a popular vacation season, summer school may not have been an option for adults in years past. However, many colleges now offer ways to combine in-class and online learning, making it possible to conduct your coursework over the Internet.

Rather than reading your popular fiction paperback at the beach, you could log onto your laptop and begin working your way through your business degree. Or, after you've sputtered through the Grand Canyon in your family's minivan, you can log on for a quick economics or finance lesson in your hotel room.

Summer courses may not be for everyone. However, many universities today offer concentrated courses that meet just one night a week, leaving you with six other nights to enjoy an ice-cream cone with your children or the late-night ballgame on TV.

So, why should you begin your education this summer? Here are just a few of the tangible benefits.

* Knowledge you can apply on the job. At many of today's forward-thinking universities, you'll do more than just study theories. You'll focus on how they are applied in the real world. Students are encouraged to discuss problems that instructors and classmates face in their jobs, often presenting solutions that can be tested on the job the following day.

* Networking. Because classes for today's working adults are typically filled with professionals, summer courses are a great way to boost your networking skills. Chances are you'll meet classmates from a wide range of industries with a common goal of self-improvement through education.

* Career advancement. Studies continue to show that higher degrees equal higher paychecks. New information from the U.S. Census Bureau reinforces the value of a college education.

Workers 18 and over with a high school diploma earn $27,915, while those with a bachelor's degree earn almost double -- an average of $51,206 a year. Workers with an advanced degree do even better, making an average of $74,602.

In a competitive job market, employers are searching for characteristics that set you apart from other applicants for hire or for a promotion. A higher degree is a great way to make that distinction.

So, as you listen to the sounds of summer in your neighborhood -- kids playing a late evening game of tag and crickets beginning their nightly serenade -- think about spending one evening a week investing in your future by earning a bachelor's or master's degree. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will accomplish your goal, and the sooner you can take advantage of the opportunities an advanced degree may afford you.

Why wait? It may be your best summer yet.

Eric Ziehlke is campus director for University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with over 230,000 students at more than 150 campuses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Monday, 27 September 2004 11:53

Educational opportunities

Today's workplace is one of growing uncertainty for an increasing number of professionals as pressures from technology and globalization influence economic change at an escalating rate.

Working adults are taking advantage opportunities to assess their personal and professional goals, including their career potential, either voluntarily due to job dissatisfaction or instability, or because they're forced to due to job elimination. In fact, a recent survey of more than 6,000 adult professionals conducted by University of Phoenix found that nearly one-quarter are dissatisfied with their occupation and are considering a career switch.

The desire to change careers may stem from internal motivations, including dissatisfaction with one's current position, a lack of job mobility or a poor fit within a role and/or organization. A career change may also be a result of external pressure, such as a lay-off or termination. Whatever the circumstances, thinking about the next career move can be both stressful and energizing .

As working adults begin the "recareering" process, a common first step is higher education. In fact, 71 percent of adults considering a career change believe that education will play a role in their career paths; 84 percent agree that education is important in achieving their future professional goals.

Experienced professionals are returning to the classroom not only to acquire knowledge, but also to seek interaction with other working adults and discuss how theories are applied in the business world. As a result, schools are selecting faculty from local corporations based on their experience, teaching abilities and status as industry leaders.

Higher learning institutions are making note of the recareering trend and are catering specifically to working adults by providing flexible scheduling (evening, weekend and online classes), embracing new technologies and providing rigorous degree programs centered on professional goals.

Collaborative learning programs are also being offered by some of the more innovative institutions, which enable students to partner with fellow business professionals as they complete coursework and projects directly applicable to their future career.

Here are several important tips that can help you make the switch.

* Make a plan. Take realistic, well-planned steps toward achieving your goal. Otherwise, you may get in over your head by accepting a position for which you are underqualified.

* Get qualified. If your research shows that your experience and education are not in sync with the career you desire, don't get discouraged. Develop a plan to qualify yourself for the job, even if it means going back to school part-time or accepting an entry-level position.

* Network. Join the appropriate associations for the field in which you wish to work. Industry events and conferences are educational and provide excellent networking opportunities.

* Learn to market yourself. If you find that you are overqualified for an entry-level position in a new career, reassure the interviewer of your interest in the position and directly address the concerns about your commitment and qualifications.

* It is never too late. Many people find that retirement is a great time to go back to school and enter a field they have always wanted to explore.

Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 200,000 students at more than 140 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 11 March 2004 12:03

Convergence

Employee training and development take many forms.

The word "training" itself can mean many things -- a new employee orientation program, a series of customer service workshops or proprietary software classes. Training can be even more extensive, such as a lengthy program to help employees understand a new product launch and how it impacts each department.

Corporate training, no matter the type, is often more task-specific and geared toward a short-term problem or opportunity that employees need to learn about or understand. In today's economy, with the need for businesses to keep up with so many advancements in technology and an increasingly dynamic environment, training and development programs must address the organization's overall need to adapt.

Employees, especially those who have absorbed additional responsibilities due to restructuring, need the opportunity to participate in programs that educate them to think their way through myriad business issues that now face them. Programs that can do this will provide the best return on a company's investment.

Goal oriented

Having very specific goals for a company's training and development programs is vital to their success. Unfortunately, lean times often dictate that the organization focuses only on the short-term benefits of training.

In survival mode, the long-term benefits of educating employees seem too far removed from what's important now. As a result, a company's most important asset -- its human capital -- ultimately may not be as productive as it could be.

And while employees need those internally focused training programs to understand how to do their jobs better, they also need to receive education from outside sources. If employees understand the bigger picture of how they and their company fit into this competitive, fast-changing external environment, they can contribute to improving the company from the bottom up.

To do this, it's imperative to have them participate in a learning environment where they are exposed to ideas and perspectives of people from all walks of business and life. There are many sources to tap into for this type of business-related education.

Local, state and national trade associations and professional organizations have regular educational programs that help people in certain professions or industries learn about trends, new methods and systems. And, local chambers of commerce offer low-cost business-specific seminars.

Continuous education

Beyond this, many companies continue to encourage employees to earn a bachelor's or master's degree through a corporate tuition reimbursement program. Yet just as the return-on-investment must be evident to fund internal training programs, business executives are also demanding the same return from their tuition reimbursement expenditures.

Fortunately, today's models for educating working adults have changed dramatically, with many colleges and universities using real-world learning situations to help students apply what they learn to their jobs. This is really an extension of a company's training programs, and helps develop employees who have the ability and knowledge to make that company a success.

Many of the colleges and universities that cater to working adults are also working closely with local businesses to help them evaluate the effectiveness of internal training programs, and are even helping businesses develop new training programs that are specific to its particular needs.

While the corporate-education model has changed due to the focus on bottom-line results, some organizations still understand the value of ongoing employee education. According to the American Society for Training and Development's 2003 State of the Industry Report, service organizations led the way in a 2002 benchmarking study, with small increases in training expenditures as a percentage of payroll and spending per employee, while actual training hours per employee increased in all types of businesses.

More important, the study showed that revenue and overall profitability were positively correlated with training expenditure in the service organization sector during 2002.

This study shows that many organizations do understand the important role employee education plays in our highly competitive business environment. But it is vital for business and higher-education leaders to make sure that the education programs being offered to working adults are real-world focused and help build the kind of educated and adaptable human capital that will be able to help U.S. businesses grow and prosper. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 186,000 students at more than 139 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or Eric.Ziehlke@phoenix.edu.

Thursday, 11 December 2003 05:43

Sharing the costs

A recent national survey indicates that despite downsizing efforts by many companies, tuition reimbursement is on the rise within corporate America. As a result, more working adults are turning to alternative programs to advance their degrees or hone their skills.

According to the recent Insight Express survey, 78 percent of companies are investing in their workers' education and skills by providing tuition reimbursement. It also found 25 percent increased reimbursement amounts over the last three years. The survey was conducted among 314 human resource executives from companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Evidence of this trend can be seen in the Columbus area, where more and more working adults are seeking out educational services designed for the working adult. Seminar-style learning environments, evening courses and e-learning are becoming increasingly popular choices for busy professionals seeking to enrich themselves with education.

In Columbus, universities targeting the adult student have increased their presence by offering additional degree programs and opening new campuses. For example, the University of Phoenix, Ohio Dominican and Mount Vernon Nazarene universities, and ITT Tech have all expanded operations in Columbus this past year. And many of the adult students who attend these schools receive tuition reimbursement from their employer. For example, approximately 50 percent of students receive some type of tuition reimbursement at the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus, which opened in September.

"My ability to receive corporate reimbursement made it easier on me financially and played a major role in my decision to come back to school and pursue my MBA", says Maurice Budurin, a transfer student from the University of Phoenix in Dallas and a relationship manager at Paymentech.

Higher education plays a big factor in professional success, and this new study indicates that most corporations support this advancement. Many of the University of Phoenix students who are supported through tuition reimbursement recognize the convenience and flexibility of on-campus, seminar-style courses, as well as online programs.

"The real-world knowledge I gained during my MBA program experience at Franklin University is applicable to my job on a daily basis," says Bobby Williamson, executive director of the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau. "Franklin's program is based around peer-to-peer learning and a whole-brained approach that is perfect for working adults who live the business experience every day."

The bottom line is simple -- colleges and universities that dedicate resources to support the needs of adults make it easier for them to become successful, and tuition reimbursement plays a big part in their ability to earn a bachelor's or master's degree.

As the number of corporate-supported programs such as tuition reimbursement increases, so does the respectability of e-learning services. A University of Phoenix Online study indicated that 84 percent of human resource executives agree that online degree programs are a major trend for the future. Besides the University of Phoenix-Online Campus, several other institutions offer online courses and/or programs to Columbus residents, including Franklin, DeVry and Central Michigan universities, and Columbus State Community College.

At the University of Phoenix, all of our programs are accredited and facilitated by highly qualified professionals, whether on-campus or online.

As more and more students and corporations benefit from the innovative and evolving academic programs offered by colleges and universities providing these opportunities to working adults, the general public is beginning to recognize the quality of these educational alternatives. Eric Ziehlke is associate campus director for the University of Phoenix-Columbus Campus. The University of Phoenix is the nation's largest private university, with more than 175,000 students at more than 125 campuses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Reach him at (614) 433-0095 or EricZiehlke@phoenix.edu.

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