Contributors: Julie Hurlburt, CHIM; Megan Adams; Emma Brown
Students who need a flexible, “ready when you are” training environment have long chosen online education. The COVID-19 pandemic made that option not just more attractive to students—but necessary. In 2020, numerous academic institutions had to pivot quickly and expand their distance-learning options to accommodate students in the wake of closed campuses and community shutdowns. For some institutions, this is a temporary measure. For others, it has revealed how valuable the virtual format is in a world that’s increasingly dependent on remote workers and overall social distancing.
In the case of those students who are facing the almost certain prospect of remote work after graduation, the benefits of online learning extend beyond the content of the courses offered: from developing greater independence, self-motivation, and time-management skills to learning to create effective, ergonomic workspaces to collaborating with family or housemates over the shared internet bandwidth for videoconference-call schedules. These are skills that are highly valued—and essential—for remote workers.
And communications skills top the list. To be successful in the workforce today means being adept at email and video correspondence and maintaining strong communication lines with colleagues to ensure quality, timeliness, and productivity. For many who have studied with a distance-learning program, these skills are already well-developed (not to mention mastering the art of “half-business” attire, the ability to be professional and engaged on-screen, and exercise excellent mute-button timing).
In the specific case of the health information professional, being fluent with online tools is paramount to collaborating with colleagues and increasing productivity. From addressing deficiencies in patient abstracts to improving data quality to completing coding queues and addressing validations, many of the tasks within health information management are made more navigable in an online environment. It follows, then, that the professionals most highly valued, especially ones working remotely, are those dedicated to fostering and contributing to collaborative virtual environments.
Although many people choose online education out of necessity, there’s a wealth of experience that serves long after graduation. Students might consider it not just as a way to gain training in handling private health information, but training in life-and-work management, too.