Shaun White & Online Education: 5 Surprising Things They Have in Common

June 24, 2016 by Lindsay Racen

With the 2014 Winter Olympics come and gone, and snow season in full force, it's the perfect time to hit the slopes and e-books. Find out 5 surprising things snowboard legend Shaun White and Online Education have in common.

1. Often Found in the Clouds

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Shaun White has an amazing ability to launch himself high into the air while pulling off the some of the most complex tricks in snowboarding. To spectators, while he is in mid-flight it almost seems like he is riding the clouds. Shaun can get 24 feet out of the halfpipe, which is incredible when considering that a superpipe is 22 feet high, putting his combined height of 46 feet off the deck. "The technicality and board control required to get that kind of amplitude is quite frankly Herculean," said Joe Cavanagh from Whitelines magazine.

By its very nature, online education lives in the cloud. Students communicate and collaborate virtually which allows them to complete their education on their schedules. Although valuable, this convenience is not the only benefit to utilizing a cloud-based environment, Affordability, accessibility and the options to customize content to the needs of each student are also huge selling points for the approach. Some even speculate that e-learning will even replace the traditional classroom environment.

2. Fans Around the World

As an action sports icon, Shaun White competes in boarding competitions around the world. He stood on the podium two consecutive times in the Olympic games, winning gold metals in the men's halfpipe events in 2010 and 2006. This international media coverage has gained him millions of followers from across the globe. He has 2.6 million followers on Facebook, 1.4 million on twitter and sponsorships that extend his network even further. His reach, although difficult to calculate in full due to his numerous personal and professional affiliations, is extremely robust and continues to grow.

Because e-learning is gaining significant momentum in the field of education, new studies are being conducted to measure the success of the phenomenon. According to the U.S. Department of Education and the Babson Survey Research Group  between 5.5 and 7.1 million people in America have taken at least one online course. This remote access allows students to work from anywhere in the world. Although the U.S. is significantly invested in the initiative, other countries are catching up. Emerging leaders in online education include India, China, Malaysia, Australia and South Africa.

3.  Use of Technology to Teach Others

In January 2012 GoPro, maker of the most versatile camera that is often known in the action sports industry for producing the most epic personal videos, welcomed Shaun White to their sponsorship team. The partnership aimed to drive product innovation and capture high quality video and photo content, which when shared with the public in turn inspire others to build upon their own skills and try new tricks. GoPro's founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, spoke to this saying, I can’t bust airs like Shaun White or the rest of our athletes, but I feel like I can when I watch their GoPro footage. It’s addictive and inspiring to the rest of us to get out there and GoPro in our own way."

Similarly to this type of partnership, new learning technologies are helping evolve higher education including cloud-based software platforms that in a sense sponsor students in pursuing their academic goals. The feedback that students provide about their learning experience in turn helps improve program delivery and new releases in platform features. Blackboard is a common virtual platform used by students that study fully online, but there are many others utilized by various universities that offer similar benefits for those studying remotely including Pearson eCollege, Moodle and Sakai. Some programs also offer application based programs using tablets or other mobile devices. The progression of this type of education opens up new opportunities for technology improvements that best fit student needs.

4. Learn Throughout the Year

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As a native Southern Californian, Shaun finds ways to study and improve his work whether the surface beneath him is fresh powder, concrete or water. He may chase winter while competing around the world, but nearly every sport that involves a board gives him time to practice his professional skills. In fact, a little known fact about Shaun is that he is also a professional skateboarder. Growing up skateboarding, he gained inspiration from icon Tony Hawk, whom he met at the age of 9. He went on to become the first athlete to compete and medal in both the Summer and Winter X Games in two different sports.

Most students studying fully online do so in order to fit school into their busy schedules. Nontraditional schools that offer such programs do not follow the standard Fall to Spring schedule, rather they offer more sessions on a year-round basis. For example, Brandman University, part of the Chapman University System, offers six 8-week sessions each year, allowing students to attend school in the summer and accelerate toward graduation. 

5. Inspire Others' Dreams to Come True

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Shaun White is uniquely known for his lush red curly hair. In fact his distinct image earned him the nickname "The Flying Tomato," but in 2012 he gave up his famed look for charity when he donated nearly 13 inches of hair to the charity Locks of Love. Recently he also took the time out of his busy schedule to personally write back a nine-year old fan who had undergone heart surgery. His letter back to the kid included an autographed snowboard, goggles, a backpack and a helmet, making his young fan's dreams come true.

Online education was founded in providing working professionals flexible options to attend school while maintaining their full time careers and commitments. In essence it is rooted in helping people achieve their personal and professional dreams. Although some for-profit schools that have received criticism for their low graduation rates and high default rates, other nontraditional institutions are nonprofit and have proven their commitment to the long term success of their students.

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