Online Learning Myths

Online learning has been evolving and becoming more common, but with those changes come myths. If you’ve ever considered pursuing an online education, here are some statements you may have heard or even believe to this day.

1. You have to teach yourself

Just because you will not be sitting in a classroom in front of an instructor, does not mean your instructors are not there to help you. Online instructors have the same responsibility to engage and teach their students as a face-to-face instructor.

Online courses give you the freedom to pace yourself and learn on your own time. Courses will provide lectures, readings, textbooks, and outside resources all of which are offered in face-to-face classes. Students also have access to speak with their professors over email or live video chat.

2. Online learning is all online

Yes, a lot of online learning occurs online, but well-designed online courses also invite students to engage with the world around them. This comes through talking about what they are learning with family, friends, and colleagues. It also happens through creative assignments that might require students to do interviews, make observations at a business or in the natural world, participate in service-learning, or join dozens of other possible activities in the physical world.

3. Students don’t learn as much online as they do in person — online courses are easier

Now that online learning has been around for over 30 years, we have a body of research to help us address this myth. Look at resources like No Significant Difference, and you will find countless studies showing that there is frequently no significant difference between how much students learn from one delivery system to another. What matters is the quality of the course design, the commitment of the learner, and the mentoring of the teacher. When those are present, learning happens whether it is face-to-face or online.

If you are enrolling in an online course, do not expect it to be easier than courses you have taken in person. The course material is the same, with the same academic expectations as a face-to-face course. In some ways, if you are not a self-motivated student, an online course may actually be more difficult for you.

4. All online courses are the same

We hear comments about online learning versus face-to-face learning, and they often assume these online learning experiences are all equal. We know that isn’t true for face-to-face courses, and it certainly is also not true for online courses. There are hundreds, even thousands, of ways to design and teach online courses. In fact, this field of study is called instructional design and is arguably the most important element of any program.

If one style or approach doesn’t work for you, don’t be too quick to rule out online learning. Take what you learned about your needs for success and look for instructional design that will deliver.

5. Online learning is impersonal

It is unquestionable that the interaction with your teacher and classmates is different in an online class, but that doesn’t mean that it is impersonal. As many online learners will tell you, communication and interaction with others can be rich, personal, and substantive online. With the way our world has changed, it is important to learn how to develop and maintain relationships online. Learn more about How to Build Rewarding Relationships with Online Classmates.

There are different ways of communicating and interacting with other people online. These differences in online learning have their pros and cons. For example, when is the last time that you were in a face-to-face course where every student in the class contributed 500-1000 words of comments in a class discussion? That is common in an online course, but rare in a face-to-face class. However, you can’t usually read body language or nonverbal messages from others in an online class. This could increase the potential for miscommunication but typically encourages us to develop a different approach to building and maintaining relationships.

6. Employees don’t value online degrees

Online education has become more common and widely accepted. Hiring managers have started to view online degrees equally to traditional degrees. As long as the degree is earned from an accredited institution and the candidate can demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skills for the position.

The virtual classroom engages many modern technologies commonly used in the workplace. It’s not uncommon for colleagues to communicate and collaborate online, so your online learning experience would prepare you for that interaction. With the increasing demand for digital skills in the modern workplace, online courses are a valuable way to enhance those necessary skills, improve resumes, and be standout in the job market.

Want to learn more about online learning? Check out what sets Concordia apart from other universities in online education. 

This blog was originally published on January 17, 2020. It has been updated to reflect current information.