When you envision going to school, you picture the traditional classroom environment, complete with a whiteboard, desks, pencils and notebooks. That’s what you’re used to; that’s what you’re comfortable with.
But with the increase in college courses offered online, you’re starting to become curious about your educational options. The convenience and flexibility of online learning is appealing, but it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
This skepticism may stem from some of the common myths about online learning. If these misconceptions are the only thing standing in the way of you and your dream career, it’s time to bring them to the light.
We enlisted education experts to help set the record straight about online learning.
5 online learning myths debunked
MYTH #1: You have to teach yourself the material
Just because you’re not physically sitting in front of your instructor, doesn’t mean he or she won’t be there to guide you along the way.
Online class instructors are responsible for engaging their students and teaching them the subject matter, just as they would in a brick and mortar class, according to Shekhar Regmi, Ed.D. lecturer and chief academic advisor at the UMass Amherst University Without Walls.
The function of the instructor is to explain the material, answer questions and guide the learning based on the state of the students’ knowledge in the subject matter, explains Dr. Luz Claudio, tenured scientist and online course creator. “The actual learning is always a matter of personal responsibility, whether the course is online or not.”
MYTH #2: You'll have no interaction with instructors or classmates
The origins of online learning can be tracked all the way back to 1959. Technology has rapidly evolved since then, and online learning has followed suit. Just as you can use technology to speak to a friend face-to-face across the globe or collaborate with a group of business partners to devise a marketing strategy, it’s also made online education up-front and interactive.
"The world has changed and as a result, the landscape of online education has also changed."
“The fact is, the world has changed and as a result, the landscape of online education has also changed,” says Michael Holcomb, PhD, founder of online language learning institute, The Conversational Koine Institute. “Increasingly, educators and students alike are meeting online, in real-time, in a face-to-face manner.”
Katie Schellenberg, CEO and founder of Beyond Tutoring, adds that in some of her online courses she saw live footage of everyone in class, including her instructor. Unlike sitting in the back row in a classroom of 300, technology allowed for true interaction with her classmates and professor along with greater accountability.
MYTH #3: Online courses are easier than on campus courses
We hate to burst your bubble, but if you're enrolling in an accredited program, this is simply not the case! Perhaps reading this myth got you a little excited and hopeful that online education would be a simpler schooling option. Regmi argues that not only should students expect online courses to be just as challenging as their on-campus counterparts, but they should want them to be.>
“College is expensive,” Regmi says. “Students are paying good money and they should expect to get their money's worth.” Part of getting what you pay for is expecting to undergo challenging courses en route to graduation. If your courses are too easy, this can be a red flag and Regmi recommends checking the school’s accreditation.
MYTH #4: You have to be a tech whiz to take online courses
You can order a pizza with your smart phone with a few simply taps on the touch screen. You share pictures and communicate with your friends and family on your favorite social networks. You’re probably a lot more tech savvy than you give yourself credit for.
“Platforms for online courses have significantly improved their user interface over the last few years,” says Dr. Claudio. “There is no need to know any programming language or other technical skills to participate.”
Age and technical ability should never be an excuse for you to not pursue online learning options. Regmi shares that the oldest online student he’s ever worked with was 80! “If she could do it, anyone can,” he adds.
MYTH #5: Employers don't value online degrees
"As more and more employers and those with hiring authority have themselves earned degrees online, the stigma against online degrees is diminishing,” says Regmi.
"The stigma against online degrees is diminishing."
As the number of online students is increasing, the number of skeptical employers continues to decrease. This notion that your online degree will carry less weight than a traditional degree is untrue. In fact, some employers may consider it more valuable.
The virtual classroom simulates many of the modern technologies used in the workplace. It’s not uncommon for colleagues to communicate and collaborate online, so your online learning experience could prepare you for that interaction. Earning an online degree also demonstrates your commitment and self-motivation to advancing yourself and your career.
Regmi advises students considering online education to select a school that also has traditional campuses and is regionally accredited.
So what are you waiting for?
If these myths about online learning have been deterring you from considering this educational option, it’s time to stop making excuses. Now you know the truth about online education.
That being said, online learning is still not for everyone. Find out if it’s the right path for you by learning some common signs you’re ready to be an online student.