What is Online Learning?: Dispelling the Myths

What is Online Learning?

Distance and online learning is often one of those “ah-ha” moments. Even if you have done your research about your particular school and program before you enrolled, once you have started participating in online classes, it can be a different experience from what you expected.

Below we have dispelled several common online learning myths. When answering the question, “What is online learning?” it is important to keep in mind that online education is still being developed and refined. Depending on the institution and program you choose, your online learning experiences may vary.

Online learning is easier than learning face-to-face.

Myth: Nothing gets students into more trouble than thinking they can coast through an online course, pick up a decent grade, and move on to the next class.

First-time students often assume that because they do not sit in class for 3 hours a week, they can scratch that time from their to-do list. However, online college classes cover the same challenging curriculum as campus classes and require just as much of a time commitment.

The benefit of online classes is not that they are easier than campus classes, but rather that they are more flexible. Instead of adhering to a strict courses schedule each week, online classes allow you to choose instruction times that are convenient for you.

The quality of online classes is lower than face-to-face classes.

Myth: While this may be true for “diploma mills”(schools that attempt to scam potential students by claiming that they can purchase a diploma without completing any coursework), it is not true for accredited universities.

When selecting an online college, it is important to check for accreditation. In order to maintain their accreditation, online programs from accredited institutions are rigorously designed and monitored for quality.

Additionally, online education degree providers often have entire departments dedicated to designing courses and training faculty to ensure that students will receive an optimum online learning experience.

I’ll be out there in cyberspace on my own with no help.

Myth: Well-designed online programs typically include interaction and accountability with the teacher and other students in the course. Often online universities will also have advisers and mentors to assist you throughout the admission process, as well as tutors to advise you in homework assignments.

Tech support is also a vital part of good programs. Many schools offer help—either through the telephone or online portals—in familiarizing students with the software needed for their courses. However, if this is one of your concerns, be sure to ask about the level of classroom interaction before enrolling in a program.

Online and distance learning is for people in the wilds of Montana.

Myth: Online learning is not just for students who live in rural areas, but can also be an attractive option for working adults in metropolitan centers who want to take courses scheduled at a suitable time for them. Increasingly, even students who live on or close to campus will sign-up for online courses because they find them to be so convenient.

Depending on your preferences, many colleges will also allow you to take a mix of online and campuses classes, so that you can receive the best of both worlds.

Online learning is just a bunch of emails back and forth.

Myth: Where email communication is one facet of online learning, there is also other opportunity to interact with students and professors through chat forums, discussion boards, and sometimes even by phone.

As technology advances, the software available to online learning providers has made the online educational experience amazingly similar to face-to-face. In some cases, students can see, hear, and respond to instructors as though they were in a real-life classroom.

I need to be a computer geek.

Myth: Look at it this way. If you can check your email and perform routine searches on the Internet, than you likely have enough “geek” to be successful with online courses.

However, if you are hesitant about computers, check out the program’s help desk set-up before enrolling in a class. Some providers have computer tutors who walk new students through the technology. Others have 24/7 help desks, so if you run into a technical glitch at 11 PM someone can help you fix it.

Online colleges often have excellent tech support, because they are aware that unless online students can easily use the programs and move around in a virtual environment, they will become frustrated and drop out.

Distance and online learning can be just as educational and challenging as campus classes. In order to be successful with online learning, it is essential for you to take the time to do your research and get all of the facts pertaining to your particular school and program. Whether you take just a few online courses or decide to earn your degree completely online, online learning is a flexible and convenient option for pursuing your academic goals.