8 Myths about Online Education

Some online education myths won’t disappear. Here’s what you need to know.

When online learning was first proposed as a viable alternative to in-class learning, many people were skeptical. And, at the time, their suspicions were well-founded. Unfortunately, while the quality of online learning has improved greatly over the years, many of these early misconceptions have yet to fade way. Here are some of the top myths many people have about online learning, and why they’re either not true, or not the complete story.

1. Online classes aren’t as effective as in-class learning.

There are certainly many ineffective online courses, just as there are poor classroom experiences. The medium used to deliver the class content isn’t nearly as important as how it’s executed and evaluated.

Over the years, many online courses have proven themselves to be just as effective as their traditional counterparts when it comes to learning. In fact, online education benefits from analytics tools that help instructors pinpoint problem areas in their courses. Accordingly, online courses have improved at a rapid rate, and are now fitting alternatives to classroom courses.

2. Online classes are easier than traditional classes.

Some students sign up for online courses in the belief that they will be able to sail through coursework. But, as anyone who has ever received a take-home test knows, instructors often compensate for the availability of resources by increasing expectations.

Online classes demand every bit as much time and attention as in-class lessons. They often include more written correspondence with teachers and classmates, as well as extra quizzes or written coursework to measure progress. Students who under-estimate the workload risk falling behind.

3. Online classes aren’t accredited.

Since online education became more accepted, many accredited institutions have included online courses as part of their curriculum. In fact, it is increasingly unusual for today’s college students to graduate without ever having taken an online course.

But it’s not just higher education that offers accredited course. More private educators have taken steps to gain accreditation for their courses, thereby increasing its value. Furthermore, the routes these educators need to take to gain accreditation are rigorous—a reminder that just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s easy to obtain.

4. Online classes aren’t respected by employers or educational institutions.

Part of the problem with this myth is that it treats all online courses as essentially the same. Some online courses are not reputable, but then, neither are some institutions. It’s up to the student to do their research to determine whether a course is credible.

Fortunately, the rising number of accredited online courses indicates a growing respectability and acceptance among employers and educators alike. Some businesses even require certain online certification as part of employee development. As for educational institutions, students who plan to transfer must always check with the college or university to see if their credits will carry over. This is true of online and in-class credits alike.

5. It’s easier to cheat in an online course.

Online cheating was a major concern for many years, but technology has evolved to address this criticism. From browser blocking functions during test sessions to keystroke tracking, many online courses have better cheat-proof functions than traditional classrooms.

Online education also tends to evaluate students differently. When the course requires interaction in classroom discussions, frequent micro-quizzes, or even video presentations, finding ways to cheat can often become more of a hassle than just doing the coursework.

6. Online students don’t get to interact with the instructor.

Again, this is up to the instructor. There certainly are courses where the teacher operates in the background and students essentially follow the formula and learn on their own.

However, online classrooms also provide the opportunity for instructors to join in on discussion room chats, offer webinars, or even conduct video chats with students who need more personal guidance. For private instructors, these are also unique selling points that can be used to boost the value of the course.

7. Online courses offer no interaction with fellow students.

It’s true that many students have found online courses to be more isolating than classrooms. However, this is often the result of the course design, rather than an inherent flaw in online education.

Discussion forums, online collaborative projects, and group webinars are all positive ways fellow students can interact with each other during an online course. While it can be awkward for students to break the ice, with the right incentives many students find more confidence expressing themselves in writing than in words. This may make online education more comfortable way for introverts to bond with their classmates than traditional classrooms.

8. You have to be good with computers to take online courses.

It’s hard to say how accurate this myth is, as what it means to be “good with computers” can vary greatly from user to user. For some, a “computer person” is someone who writes code for a living. For others, even basic interactions on a computer are foreign and alienating.

That said, many online educators have worked tirelessly to create accessible, user-friendly online courses, with the goal of creating an intuitive interface that doesn’t interfere with the learning process. This means that the bulk of online education courses require no more special computer skills than shopping on Amazon.

E-learning makes quality online education more accessible.

Online education is still a developing field, and as such, there is always room for improvement. In many ways, this creates an opportunity for innovation, allowing instructors to look for newer, better ways to educate now that they can work outside the constraints of the traditional classroom model.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of online educations it that it is accessible to people who previously would not have been able to attend a traditional course. This includes those with busy schedules who might be juggling work and family commitments, those who live in geographically remote areas, and even those for whom travel is prohibitively difficult due to injury or disability.

Opportunities like these are too good to pass by. So, instead of allowing myths about online education to hold the field back, let’s learn from these misconceptions to make better learner experiences.

Author

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this. Often when someone finds out that I teach online classes at a University they will bring up many of these issues. However, the good news is that more and more people have begun to accept the validity of gaining education online.

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