4 Lies you've heard about taking classes online
Online learning, distance education, eLearning — there are many names for taking classes online, but it’s an indisputable fact that the number of students choosing this modality has rapidly grown over the years. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that while overall college enrollment dropped by almost 90,000 students from 2016 to 2017, the number of students who took at least some of their courses online grew by more than 350,000.
Fortunately, high-quality college courses have become more accessible than ever. Online learning has played an instrumental role in bringing world-class educational resources to those who can’t realistically commute to campus, to those who may feel more comfortable in a virtual learning environment and even to those who reside in developing nations.
Despite the fact that eLearning offers unmatched flexibility, many prospective students are still skeptical. Misconceptions related to distance education may be holding students like you back. Read on to discover the truth about taking classes online.
4 Common misconceptions about online learning
Best Colleges’ 2019 Trends in Online Education Report found that the primary concern online students have about participating in distance education was the quality of instruction and academic support. This was followed by a number of other concerns, such as worries about employers’ perception of online degrees and the supposed lack of community in a virtual environment.
We examined the research and looked to University of Massachusetts Global’s online learning resources to get to the bottom of these misconceptions.
1. Online courses lack the quality of on-campus courses
One of the most common misconceptions about distance education is that it isn’t as rigorous as on-campus learning. As you consider your options in going back to school, you’re inevitably wondering things like, Will I learn as much from an online program? or Are online classes hard?
In truth, distance learning can be challenging for those who aren’t used to autonomy. The most successful online learners often share the following abilities:
- They know how to prioritize time management
- They have the ability to stay motivated
- They know when to ask for help
- They are able to articulate themselves well through writing
- They’re confident in their abilities as a student
- They have basic technology skills
As long as students are able to keep up with the assigned coursework, the learning outcomes between online and face-to-face learning shouldn’t differ. In fact, a recent study from the U.S. Department of Education found that students who received face-to-face instruction had no advantage over online learners. In fact, the online students exhibited modestly stronger learning outcomes than their classroom counterparts.
There are other insights we’ve learned over time as well. Also consider that online learning often allows students to consume information in more digestible portions. That can make it easier to learn the material and understand how different concepts intertwine. And when technology is integrated into learning models, students are more likely to remain interested in the content, stay focused on their assignments and retain the information.
2. Your online degree will be less valued by potential employers
It’s clear that you stand to learn just as much in an online program as you would if you were attending courses on campus. Still, there’s a natural follow-up question: Will future employers take my online degree seriously? Completing an online program doesn’t matter to hiring managers as much as you might think.
The 2019 Trends in Online Education Report revealed that 38 percent of surveyed employers believe online learning is equal to on-campus learning. Only 10 percent believe it to be inferior. What’s more important to the hiring managers and human resources professionals who view your resume is that you received your degree from an accredited institution. Accreditation signifies that a college meets or exceeds the expected standards for a particular program, regardless of whether it’s on-campus or online.
The Best Colleges survey also revealed that graduates of online programs fare well in the workforce. Among surveyed graduates, 85 percent maintain that their online education yielded a positive return on investment (ROI). After their experiences with distance education, 89 percent would recommend it to others.
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3. You’ll be isolated and forced to learn by yourself
When asked to envision the online classroom experience, many people conjure images of students sitting in front of their laptops at home with little to no interaction with their classmates or instructors.
The reality is that part of the surge in students enrolling in online programs is due to the flexibility they offer. Students can often get their work done when it best fits into their own schedules — even at their own pace for some programs. While that can result in more independent worktime than a traditional classroom environment, you can still be a part of an interactive learning community when you study online.
Not all online courses are the same, but most of them will include an interactive component. This might be conducted through video conferencing or through discussion board participation. Both of these options allow students to engage with one another, bounce ideas off classmates, offer counterpoints and ask questions.
It’s also pretty common for online courses to include group projects that involve the use of tools like Google Docs or Zoom. This is an important aspect of eLearning that employers love, because collaborative communication in a digital environment has become a vital part of most industries.
If you ever find that you’re struggling or have additional questions regarding one of your lessons or assignments, online instructors at most institutions will hold virtual office hours. They make themselves available for students to reach out with questions or for additional resources as needed.
4. You won’t receive help when you need it
One of the top concerns students have is that an online classroom environment can’t offer sufficient academic support. Not all institutions are equally equipped to support online students. The key is finding a college or university that designed its programs with students like you in mind.
Consider the online campus at University of Massachusetts Global, for example. An instructional innovation team of nearly 40 people works hard behind the scenes to support students, faculty and instructional designers alike. Students have access to many resources, including writing and math tutors who hold virtual office hours.
Online students also have access to multimedia writing and design support, which can help them discover innovative ways to present projects and other data to their classmates — and ultimately to their colleagues in the workforce. This resource enables students to browse through a curated collection of on-demand tutorials and other materials related to graphic design, videography, podcasting and more.
Keep in mind that most online programs are designed with the understanding that not every student is a tech whiz. If you find you’re struggling with one or more of the tools used in your virtual classroom, there should be technology support services readily available to help walk you through everything.
Find success taking classes online
The online learning experience may seem a little overwhelming at first, but examining the facts makes it clear that you could receive the same high-quality learning outcomes you’d expect from a traditional environment. And if you’re hoping to juggle your coursework with a number of other responsibilities and commitments, the flexibility offered by distance education is unmatched.
If you’re still unsure whether you’re cut out for the eLearning experience, you may want to learn more about what it takes to be successful. Find out if you have what it takes by heading over to our article “6 Signs you’re ready to conquer the online classroom.”
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