Home Business Virtual learning could better prepare students to navigate a rapidly changing job market, experts say

Virtual learning could better prepare students to navigate a rapidly changing job market, experts say

by Mahad Arale

Why some think skills and experience acquired via remote learning might translate well to new work-from-home reality

Some experts say the new virtual, at-home reality that students have been forced to deal with could serve as a trial run for how many workplaces may ultimately operate. (Arek Socha/Pixabay)

In mid-March, the threat of COVID-19 in Canada caused universities across the country to stop offering in-person classes and services, shifting them online. Ryerson University wasn’t spared, and it doesn’t appear as though the university will be opening up again anytime soon.

Remote school during a global pandemic has been difficult for a lot of students. But some experts say if students become more accustomed to the new reality of working while sitting in a room in their house behind a laptop for hours on end, this might better enable them to tackle some of the challenges that will arise in post-pandemic workplaces.

After all, many workplaces may ultimately choose to operate remotely post-pandemic, which means students are getting in a great dry-run.

The pandemic has helped plenty of companies and organizations discover that a lot of their work can be done from afar, Michael Halinski, an associate professor of human resource management and organizational behaviour at Ryerson, told the Ryersonian.

“COVID-19 has kind of forced an experiment on all corporations and it’s giving them an opportunity to test out and try out different approaches that they wouldn’t have (otherwise),” said Halinski. He adds that some organizations have gathered information that they can use as part of their post-COVID-19 operation strategy. 

Some students are preparing to enter industries that have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, Halinski said, the pandemic being already a time during which job opportunities for young workers have decreased due to the virus and accompanying recession.

Despite that, he thinks today’s students are better prepared to face the demands of a virtual workplace than they were six months ago due to their current experience using online meeting sites like Zoom and Google Meets.

Social and emotional skills are at the top of the list of worker skills employers are likely to seek out over the next few years, said Pedro Barata, executive director of Future Skills Centre.

“When we think about skills, sometimes we tend to think about advanced technical skills or digital skills,” Barata said, “but I think one of the things that are really coming through, especially in these times, are (traits) like adaptability, resilience, learning as you go and being open to that learning.” 

COVID-19 has provided a “crash course” in preparing students to enter a work world that will require people willing to embrace and adapt to increasing change, Barata added.

Working in an at home environment may affect one’s overall productivity, only 28 per cent of American workers agreed with their boss that they have become more productive during this pandemic, according to a report by The Economist. The report also highlights, through research done by workplace software developer Atlassian, that work hours started to increase in March, which was when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The researchers also found that people were conducting a greater share of work in the morning and evening hours of the day suggesting that work was being completed during people’s free time.

As many students face some of the challenges associated with working from home — be it a deficient work space or an isolated at home environment —  two useful tips that could increase success are: invest in proper ergonomic and technological equipment, and take frequent breaks where you are able to socialize with another person, according to Anthony Ariganello, CEO of Chartered Professionals In Human Resources Canada.

“We are humans and we need relationships in our lives,” Ariganello said. “Most people need human contact. If it’s not physically at least being able to talk, discuss, see. Even if it’s virtually.”

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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