Thoughts from a professional ready to level-up

John Westra is a Virtual Innovation Officer at VUTURUS, a company on a mission to help clients adopt and implement cutting-edge technologies, including AR, XR and VR.

As a veteran of the AR/VR industry, why take online classes? 

The value of current, verifiable knowledge has never been greater. Even for those with broad industry experience and certifications, such as myself, the best opportunities present themselves to those with cutting-edge skills. 

I knew that enrolling in Producing Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences would give me a competitive advantage and allow me to update my CV with current knowledge, but that wasn’t the only reason. Every time I speak to people about the future of Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality, I’m invariably asked, “How do you get the knowledge and training you need for this field?” I want to be able to answer that question with authority. 

Any obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get to this point in your career? 

Like many technical people, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with education from an early age. My high school had two computer terminals and a line printer in a 8’x10’ room (closet). Only honors students with perfect attendance could use them. Since I didn’t quite fit in that category, I bribed the janitor. That was my first experience learning in my own way. 

Rather than go straight to college after high school, I joined the Air Force. Training became my best friend. My aptitude for computers and eagerness to pursue any certification available, was rewarded with rank and recognition. I quickly fell in love with the concept of merit. 

John in the Air Force

While serving in the Air Force, I earned an Associate Degree through the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF). The ability to accumulate credits wherever you go is an ideal fit for highly mobile students like me. 

After I left the Air Force, I continued to pursue and earn a variety of certifications in both technical and non-technical disciplines, such as sales, project management, planning, leadership, etc. I also attempted to return to school. 

It didn’t take me long to discover that traditional higher ed institutions didn’t fit my needs. Prior-learning credit was tough to come by and credits often didn’t transfer.  Classes filled up rapidly, were based on outdated material and frequently taught by people who had little or no real-world experience or worse, were themselves still in school! I gave up. 

Why Columbia College Chicago Online? 

My first challenge after making the decision to return to ‘school,’ was to figure out what type of educational experience was right for me. Online education was an obvious component. I wanted to be able to take classes anywhere, at any time. 

While the boom in online education over the past decade has vastly expanded access to knowledge, it has had the unfortunate side-effect of sometimes diluting the quality. YouTube and other online sites contain some great resources, but they are inconsistent at best. 

Finding a certification option was my focus. Rather than earning another degree, proving subject matter knowledge was my priority. I wanted to make sure the organization I chose wasn’t only recognized for the quality of their courses but also had a history of certifying students who went on to achieve success with the knowledge they acquired. 

My search for online certification programs focused on Augmented and Virtual Reality eventually led me to Columbia College Chicago Online’s  program. As I looked at the course offerings, it became obvious someone had forwarded them my list of criteria, and they had diligently checked them off. 

Not being easily satisfied, although impressed with the phone conversations I had with their admissions staff, I jumped on the train and paid them a visit in Chicago. What I discovered was exactly what any prospective student should expect — a dedicated team of people who have been successful in the private sector and understand the importance of delivering high-quality educational experiences that fit the needs of individual students. 

John started Producing Augmented and Virtual Reality Experiences June 25. Follow him on Twitter and watch out for his next blog post as he dives in, levels up and shares his experiences along the way! 

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