Expert Interview Series: Chris Johnson of MyCareerTools About the Importance of Online Education


Chris Johnson is the manager of MyCareerTools, a website which provides information and practice tests to people trying to advance their education in order to improve their career opportunities. We recently spoke with Chris about the advantages of online education and how this field will grow in the future.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why are you so passionate about continuing education?

I am responsible for managing the My Career Tools website, where we help students to optimize their career path. For us here at My Career Tools, continuing education means upgrading your education, honing your skills, and learning new specializations to create new career possibilities.

How has online learning simplified the process of continuing education as compared to years past?

Online education is here to stay; and nowadays it can be delivered on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. The way I’m seeing it, online learning will grow exponentially in the future.

While online learning may be new to many in the baby-boom generation, younger students have already been doing this for a long time. For them, online learning became an accepted method many years ago. Online learning is about the students just as much as the content, and technological developments have allowed us to develop enjoyable and memorable learning experiences. As a result, students are remembering the study content far better.

Other than improving career prospects, what are some other advantages to completing continuing education courses?

Today, online learning options allow an immediate-gratification learning experience. Online learning immediately teaches students the things they need to know, and is generally so interesting that students understand and remember the lessons after just a couple of minutes (this is what experts called “microlearning”). For that reason, continuing education courses through online delivery have become very popular, and most courses are open to every interested individual. Online courses allow people to not only enhance their careers, but also to improve their lifestyle skills and the quality of their lives.

Where do you see the future of continuing education in the next few years?

In the short term, I foresee that in the next few years online learning will increasingly include more:

1. Adaptive learning – This a technology-driven learning method that uses learning technology that adapts the presentation of the study material to the individual learner. This method is usually directed by learning data obtained through study analytics. Adaptive learning functions like a sort of artificial and intelligent tutor. Modern technology allows the tools to learn the way in (and the level at) which students learn. The presented learning material is adapted to each individual learner.
2. Virtual Reality – Through virtual reality, students can visit places that they cannot physically access. They will be able to visit ancient times, historical sites, submarine life, monuments, other continents, or even outer space. Virtual reality can take science and history into the classroom and take learning to the next level.
3. Gamification – Experts are convinced that by using gaming technology and mechanics, many other non-gaming settings will benefit. This development will definitely result in amazing outcomes, and will motivate students even further to reach their goals. Gamification offers a lot of potential for new strategies to enhance the engagement of students with the study material; and some education experts are convinced that this exciting technique will boost students’ motivation to a stunning recall rate of up to 90 percent. By 2020, the gamification industry is expected to involve some $10 billion.

What advice would you give someone who is unsure about (or dissatisfied with) his or her career choice?

They can find quite a few career quizzes, both offline and online, and it would surely help if they would take a few career tests to discover which career tracks will suit them. Many studies have shown that students who used career quizzes for self-assessment purposes together with professional advice achieve much better results when it comes to completing their career training or college graduation goals.

Scientists say that students who took a few career assessments have “a higher career decision self-efficacy level.” In plain English, if they take a career assessment test, they are expected to make better decisions related to their future careers, and this will result in more effective study results and better career development.

Ready to learn something new to help further your career? Check out our open courses today!

How Diversity Drives Business Success

Having a more diverse workplace brings tangible benefits.

Diversity is valued because it gives opportunities to those who may not have had them before. At its core, diversity is an equalizing force that lifts up our society to a new level of fairness and mutual respect. But there’s something else about diversity that makes it almost impossible to ignore: it works.

Diversity’s Bottom Line

New research into the impact of diversity on a business shows definitively that companies with more diversity outperform those with less. The more different types of people that work together and solve problems together and innovate together, the more successful all of those tasks, and the business as a whole, will be.

The research is stunning and conclusive: the more racial and ethnic diversity a business has, the more successful it is. In the United States, for every 10 percent increase in diversity on the senior-executive team, earnings rise 0.8 percent. Those companies with the least diversity are not just missing out on the benefit, they are actually lagging behind the average company, McKinsey research has shown.

Although the value of increasing diversity in companies has long been debated, research like this shows that it is more than worthwhile for businesses to make every effort to increase their diversity at all levels of the workforce, and particularly in senior management. Many companies can’t afford not to take advantage of these benefits, besides the obvious moral benefits to doing so.

Why Diversity Gets Results

There are two main reasons given for why diversity has a positive effect on a company’s bottom line. First, exposure to different viewpoints results in greater number of ideas and solutions offered and considered. This means that often a better solution can be found, and better ideas can be pursued than under more homogeneous circumstances.

The second reason diversity can bring higher profits is that employees with different backgrounds and experiences will be able to bring new customers and markets into the fold. Harvard Business Review found that companies with two-dimensional diversity were 45 percent more likely to have their market share grow year-to-year and 70 percent more likely to bring in a new market than less diverse companies.

Your company’s bottom line will benefit from diversity.

The More Diversity, the Better

Two-dimensional diversity refers to both diversity that is inherent, like racial or gender diversity, and diversity that is acquired, or learned. The HBR study found that when more diversity is present, there is more outside the box thinking and it is accepted and welcomed more than at less diverse workplaces.

Having two-dimensional diversity in a company’s leadership is still relatively rare. 78 percent of respondents to the HBR study reported that their companies did not have 2-D diversity, which means that if your business does, you will have a huge advantage over many of your competitors.

CCSU’s Office of Continuing Education is hosting a Diversity & Inclusion conference on November 17th. Learn more about this conference now. Also, to see our continuing education offerings related to workplace diversity, view our open courses.

Expert Interview Series: Dr. Bridget Cooper on Professional Development and Becoming a Better Leader

Dr. Bridget Cooper is a cage rattler, change strategist, consciousness raiser, speaker, coach, and best-selling author of four books on communication, conflict, change, and empowerment.

We recently asked for Dr. Cooper’s insight on the importance of learning soft skills to become a better leader in today’s workplace. Here’s what she had to say:

In your mind, what are the qualities of a great leader?

A great leader is focused on being the best person they can possibly be so they can serve as a role model, guide and inspiration to others. The most effective leaders I’ve worked with are authentic, compassionate, collaborative, courageous and not afraid to be vulnerable.

What are soft skills? Why are soft skills so important to a person’s career?

Soft skills are what make us human. You can design a robot to build or operate something but you need a human to create a vision, a mission and foster passion and purpose. Soft skills are things like communication, conflict resolution, and any level of emotional regulation. Soft skills either inspire greatness or destroy teams and organizations.

What soft skills do you believe are essential for someone to find success in their careers?

Emotional awareness is at the core of all soft skill development. If you don’t know who you are you can’t fix anything. Emotional agility, a construct I developed for my third book, Stuck U., is comprised of three essential skills: insight, flexibility and distance-ability (the ability to carve emotional distance and perspective in “hot” situations). Successful and abundant executives have mastery of Emotional Agility.

How can students and those either starting their careers or attempting to start new careers brush up on their soft skills?

Buy my books, of course! Aside from that, hire a coach to provide another perspective on where your blind spots for skill development may be. Listen below the surface when people are giving you feedback or responding to you. Personal growth and soft skills development is a lifelong process so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

In what areas do you find your clients most need to grow in regards to soft skills and leadership?

The component of Emotional Agility that gives my clients the greatest challenge is distance-ability. We submerge ourselves in conflicts and struggles so deeply that we cannot see our way to the clearest resolution. So many of us unnecessarily complicate things that could be simply solved if we could get some perspective. That’s how a coach can help you to pull you out of that head space until you can learn how to rise out on your own. It takes a LOT of practice and most of my work takes place in organizations that are abundant with stress and drama because of this skill deficit.

What are some of your favorite resources (blogs, books, organizations, etc.) that can help aspiring leaders continue to grow their leadership skills?

The American Psychological Association sponsors local chapters of their Psychologically Healthy Workplace programs that assist leaders and organizations in creating healthy work systems, including effective leadership. Any good leader is a on a lifetime path of self-growth so any book on how you can tap into deeper self-awareness, confidence, patience and communication.

How has workplace leadership evolved since you started your career? What do those heading into the workplace today need to know about evolving their skillsets into the future?

I’ve found that the line between professional and personal is blurring. Companies are realizing the effect on the bottom line of stress-related illnesses of their employees. Workplace violence, bullying and other forms of harassment dominate some human resource departments, preventing companies from focusing on their operations and advancement. Strong companies realize that consciously and intentionally supporting the development of their human capital – their employee base – pays off in spades.

What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over in regards to being better leaders?

I start off every professional engagement teaching my clients my technique for getting and staying focused, calm and present so that they can give their best selves to every meeting, presentation, and exchange. It’s called “Stop, Center, Move” and it reminds people to be present in the moment they are in, set an intention before they transition to any new space or conversation, and the power of the pause in owning their own personal power.

Too often, leaders – and people, in general – forget how powerful they truly are and they squander their potential by getting carried away by far too many distractions that tear them from their higher purpose.

Looking to invest in your professional development? View open courses at Central Connecticut State University.

How to Create a More Inclusive Work Environment

Inclusion means making sure all employees get treated equally and well.

It can be a problem when people assume that other people are just like them and treat people poorly for being different. The workplace should be an inclusive environment where everyone is respected and treated equally.

Treating Everyone Equally and With Respect

While it is important not to draw attention to people’s differences, it is also important not to let those differences keep them from succeeding in the workplace. Some situations like physical or mental disabilities or mental illness require accommodations to be made so that an employee can do the job successfully. Others don’t require accommodations — just a mindset of acceptance and mutual respect.

Sometimes inclusiveness doesn’t come naturally as people have many beliefs and assumptions about those different from themselves. Everyone from women to minorities to those in the LGBT community have long been ill-treated and discriminated against unfairly in the workplace, but inclusiveness says that it’s important to recognize that a different gender, race or lifestyle does not make someone less of a person or an employee.

Steps to an Inclusive Workplace

Training can take place to help employees learn to be inclusive, but there are many other ways to encourage inclusivity in the workplace. Here are some suggestions for greater inclusiveness:

–Modeling by senior staff and management. When the company’s leaders treat everyone equally and with respect, it sets the tone for how everyone else in the company should behave. Training leaders in best practices for inclusiveness is the first major step to creating an inclusive workplace.

–Hiring a diverse staff. Of course, you want to hire the best staff possible, but it’s important not to overlook certain populations during recruitment. If your company has diversity initiatives, your recruiting team should strive to meet goals in hiring a more diverse workforce.

–Being discreet about accommodations. It may hurt an employee’s reputation if their accommodations are publicized and/or known by their co-workers. Any obvious accommodations should be handled with discretion, and co-workers should be trained not to draw unnecessary attention to an employee’s accommodations or to suggest that they somehow make the employee lesser than others.

–Awareness and celebration of different cultures. Such celebrations can help build trust and understanding among employees with different backgrounds and traditions. It’s fun to experience different holidays and customs and learn new things about how co-workers live.

Meeting the challenge of inclusiveness will take cooperation and working together.

–Don’t assume anything about co-workers. It’s difficult not to make assumptions, but inclusiveness is about letting go of preconceived notions about others. The best course of action is to just treat people like they are worthy of respect and equal treatment — because, of course, they are.

Are you interested in learning more about diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace? Sign up now for Central Connecticut State University’s Annual Diversity and Inclusion Conference to create a more inclusive culture at your company. You can also join our mailing list for more information about courses and events.