Don't let personal development get in the way of the children's bath time, says Professor David Towler
For most people, work-life balance is nothing new. It is something we all try to achieve with our family and friends in a whole variety of ways, ranging from spending time with the children, to watching football or voluntary work.
In my case, for example, I do a number of things outside of work with a local school and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and I also have a young son. I am no different from millions of other working people. The one thing I know is that time is precious, and the way I spend my time is important not just to me, but to a number of other people who depend on me to a greater or lesser extent.
Online learning allows us to manage our work-life balance.
Traditionally, people prefer face-to-face learning because it seems to offer more support and interaction. But with advances in technology, online learning can be every bit as supportive and interactive, and it can also offer huge advantages in efficiency. For example, chat rooms, message boards, video and audio streaming, online libraries, e-books and online tutors are available at the click of a mouse when the user wants them.
If you think about it, a one-hour tutorial/work session could take up to three or four hours with travel time before you even think about the lost opportunity costs. You also have to attend a particular place at a specified time. But being online means you can develop yourself while minimising disruption to your home and working life. As one of our candidates said: "The flexibility to learn when it suits me is the key thing - I can study after bath and bed-time for my little boy. And I don't have to go to classes or libraries for long periods of time when I've been out at work all day."
Online learning empowers learners in the sense that it puts them in control. It also lowers barriers to learning for millions of people who otherwise couldn't take advantage of it due to other commitments. In short, it offers the most realistic option for achieving an attractive work-life balance for learning and development.
Professor David Towler is principal and founder of Cambridge Online Learning (COL), which recently undertook a research project that revealed how e-learning is helping promote better work-life balance. www.cambridge-online-learning.co.uk