Training Pilots Online: It's The Future!

The University of Phoenix launched its online campus in 1989; years before schools like Harvard, Yale and Stanford started their online programs. Today over 4.6 million students are taking online courses, a number that is projected to exceed 18 million by 2014.  96% of colleges and universities have followed in Phoenix’s footsteps and launched their own online programs in one or all of their disciplines, yet their are still many who do not believe in the effectiveness of an education facilitated online.  Back in July we held a discussion on higher education with a room filled with professors and deans from collegiate aviation. At the start of the discussion the room was overwhelmingly against the idea that an online education program could be beneficial to both the students and the school, especially in the world of collegiate aviation. 


Online courses encourage laziness and only further entice students to lounge around in their pajamas all day. Instead of going to class they can lay in bed and just open their laptops and get the same credits as a student who is truly motivated and shows up to the traditional class every week. 

When I was in college, which was not long ago, students stayed in their pajamas all day anyway.  In my 3:30pm management course half the students were decked out in sweatpants and grubby t-shirts and based on the amount of drool that was on the desk, you could tell which students were engaged and which were not. If the curriculum is interesting and the content is valuable students will engage in the course regardless of how it is facilitated.  

Society has created this mythology around higher education that makes it seem like anything “different” from the norm is not as valuable, yet in nearly every other industry technological
change is looked at is innovation. Are we afraid that innovation in collegiate aviation will redefine the industry like it has to so many others? 


The threat of innovation is one reason why many believe that online education will hurt the future and integrity of higher education. How can classes be of equal or higher quality if students are not in the classroom and not interacting face to face?  

Schools today are basically custodial. They are taking care of students during work hours that are essentially nine to five, which is when the entire society is assumed to be working. Clearly that is changing. People don’t arrive and leave work at the same time nor do they only operate between the hours of nine to five and communicate with only those in their office face to face.  Technology has made it very easy for us to interact in a virtual environment regardless of what time zone we are in. That same technology can be used by schools to appeal to a much larger market. 

All schools, including the Yale’s and Harvard’s of the world, are on a more equal playing field than they ever have been before. With many programs and schools migrating over to online degrees, competition has increased. Smaller lesser-known programs can now compete in a much larger market, which threatens some of the “well-known” universities who now have to prove their worth to potential students. Reputation is not enough. 


An education facilitated online cannot teach life lessons or social skills, two very vital components to individual growth. Online learning produces social fears and an inability for our youth to engage comfortably in a social setting.  

I don’t mean to be overly cynical but does that mean if a student rolls out of bed in sweats, drags themselves to class, and sits through a lecture with slits in their eyes they have learned how to operate in society?  

In reality, online communities are self-policing, more real time and held to a higher standard by the members than many communities throughout our society. 

Add to that, a well designed educational program and a professor who has a robust and interesting curriculum and you could argue that online degrees are more interactive and provide higher accountability than your typical classroom setting. 

By not offering an online education platform, universities and the programs within them are limiting their potential market. In order to reach the maximum number of students, regardless of the type of program, schools will need to cater to different learning styles and time commitments. This provides an opportunity to reach new markets; think geographical expansion, executive leadership programs, and community youth outreach. There are just three additional methods collegiate aviation can use to bring in more revenue and provide more students with a high quality education. 

Producing smart, technically sound, socially competent graduates who can function in society and build our economy is still the end goal for our education system. A degree facilitated online is just another tool for reaching that goal.