Over the last 15 years, online learning has become a vital part of the American educational system, or a variety of reasons. Thanks to the online offerings from some of the country’s top colleges and universities, students have access to programs and education that they may not have otherwise — and students have responded positively in droves.
Nearly one third of all students in higher education have taken courses via the Internet. That’s more than 6 million people, ranging from students who take a single class to those who have earned their entire degree without setting foot in a traditional classroom.
Despite online learning’s popularity, though, there are still some who question the value of online education. There’s still a perception in some circles that online learning is somehow “less than” taking classes in on campus, and that the education isn’t as rigorous as it could be. Online learning can be as rigorous (sometimes even more so) and as in-person learning, and while it is certainly different, this doesn't mean it can't work well.
The quality of instruction or lack thereof, is just one of the pervasive myths that surround online learning. If you are considering an online program to further your career, but aren’t sure, do not let these myths cloud your thinking.
1. You Don’t Build Relationships
One of the best parts of going to any school is the relationships that you build, both personally and professionally. There’s a perception, though, that taking classes online prevents you from building relationships since you aren’t sharing the same space.
That’s not true. You’ll notice that the same students appear in multiple classes, and group projects, class discussions, and other assignments provide the chance to interact. You may have to reach out to others to get to know them, but it’s certainly possible to develop meaningful relationships within your online classes.
2. You Cannot Be Involved in Professional and Academic Groups
Most college programs are associated with professional and academic groups, including honor societies, professional networking groups, and associations. Many online students believe that they cannot be involved with them, but this is simply not true. Online students are just as welcome to join associations as on-campus students, and if your academic performance is up to par, academic honor societies are not concerned with how your courses are delivered.
3. You Can “Cheat” More Easily
One of the major concerns about online education, especially from an educator’s standpoint, is the integrity of the educational experience. Because students work independently for the most part, there is concern that they may try to cheat or beat the system. However, that’s a concern in any educational environment, and online course developers have implemented solutions to combat cheating. Plagiarism detectors, test monitoring systems (some of which involve webcams), and synchronous discussion systems are all being employed to ensure academic integrity and quality instruction.
4. Online Classes Are Just Reading
Because online students can log in to complete tasks at any time, some believe that taking online courses is little more than reading prepared lectures and books. Online learning does involve reading, but most classes also include discussions, multimedia presentations, projects, and assignments, all designed to augment student learning. In short, it’s very similar to a traditional class.
5. You Can “Hide” in an Online Class
When you take an online class, you aren’t face-to-face with your classmates and instructor, so you might think you can “hide” in the classroom. You might believe that you can hang out in the virtual back of the room and do the bare minimum to get by. That’s not always the case. Discussions are an important to the online educational experience, with a substantial portion of your grade determined by your participation. Blending in won’t do you any favors.
6. Online Classes Require In-Depth Computer Knowledge
Online courses are designed to be user-friendly, and most course platforms are very intuitive and simple to use. Most schools provide free training in the online platforms as well. Beyond that, you will most likely only need basic word processing skills to succeed; in fact, online courses often allow you to build your skill set in other programs.
7. Online Classes Take Less Time
On the one hand, online courses are a time saver — you don’t have to drive to campus, sit in a classroom, etc. However, you can expect to devote just as many hours to study in an online environment as you do in an in-person one. Reading or watching lectures, contributing to discussions, completing assignments, and studying can take up to 15 to 20 hours per week.
Online education is equivalent to in-person in many ways. The primary difference is the method of delivery. So don’t hesitate to try a class — you might find that it works for your goals and schedule.