This post has been updated on January 23 2020.
Online education, which has almost become synonymous with distance-learning, is a serious alternative to traditional education, not only in the US but also in other countries around the world. As per a recent survey, 5.8 million US students — which means one in four — are enrolled in at least one online course. There’s no disputing the fact that studying to earn a graduate or postgraduate degree via the web is fast growing as an option to the conventional classroom format of education.
Nevertheless, despite the continuously burgeoning popularity of the online method of erudition, a universal unfamiliarity with this newfangled means of learning has led to the abounding of several myths or misconceptions.
The conventional or traditional approach enjoys a clear edge over the online format in that the former allows for a direct interaction between the learner and educator, resulting in a perceived better learning experience. However, the web-oriented mode also has some distinct advantages that the classical system cannot offer.
8 Myths about online education debunked
In the following paragraphs, some of the common or prevalent myths surrounding web-based education have been underlined.
Quality is not as good as that of daytime or classroom education
Many students and teachers — and other individuals or professionals having a stake in the academic sector — are of the opinion that the quality of instructions offered for online classes is inferior compared to the traditional system. This might be true to a certain extent as the academic standards might differ from one institution to another.
However, most of the reputed colleges and universities in the US rigorously try to maintain parity between on-campus and online programs with respect to quality of teaching standards. Some online courses offered by a few universities even have more takers compared to the same programs provided in the on-campus format.
In the end, it all boils down to the robustness of the infrastructure required for providing online instructions, the experience of the teachers, and their level of competence in handling the web-based tools for imparting education via the internet.
Earning a degree comes easy via the online system
Another widespread myth that a vast majority of students have is that earning a degree online comes easy.
Though you may have the flexibility of studying at your own pace and convenience, you’ll also have to take into account that there’ll be nobody to remind you time and again about a particular project or assignment which has to be submitted by next week. Except for the automatic notifications, of course.
For a daytime course, you have the opportunity of communicating face to face with your instructor whenever you have any doubts or clarifications to resolve or clarify. With online education, you need to be more self-motivated and dedicate more time when it comes to completing a web-oriented course whose syllabus or curriculum may be the same as the brick-and-mortar program.
Online courses are unaccredited or unaffiliated
As far as the validity of an online program is concerned, its affiliation status may vary depending upon the accreditation standing of the academic institution offering the course, just like a traditional study program.
Before you decide to pursue a program or course in your preferred area of academics, make it a point to check out whether the course you’re interested to pursue is recognized by the relevant authority that confers accreditation. Opting for an accredited program means you can apply for state or federal financial grants, and transfer credits when applying for a higher education degree.
You can login at the website of Council of Higher Education Accreditation that regularly publishes and updates a listing of approved accrediting authorities or bodies that offer affiliations to higher education establishments.
Credits earned from an online program are non-transferable
Contrary to what you might think, transferring credits of an on-campus course might be as harrowing as reassigning credits for an online program.
It doesn’t need to be emphasized that you’ll find it really difficult to transfer credits to a different school if the program you’re pursuing is unaccredited. Programs which don’t receive the stamp of approval from the relevant accreditation authority are most likely to be disregarded when you apply for a financial grant, federal or state, and will also not be valued by employers.
More often than not, the college or university you’re submitting your application to (for a transfer) may not be in a position to make out whether the unaccredited program was pursued in a campus or followed up online.
Possibilities of direct interactions with instructors hardly exist
Of course, you cannot expect to be instructed by a teacher or educator in a classroom if you’ve applied for an online program. This is the main aspect that differentiates a web-based program from a brick-and-mortar one.
Though you cannot communicate with the mentor or lecturer face-to-face, opportunities to exchange views and opinions via a plethora of web-oriented modes are always there to explore. For instance, you can fix an appointment to interrelate with your teacher through emails, online chat sessions and forums, Skype, webcasts, and podcasts.
Then there are innumerable programs that offer a blend of both the online and on-campus modes, or to be specific, a hybrid model of learning. In this type of learning model, you attend classrooms once or twice a week, while on the rest of the days you make progress in your projects or assignments by going online.
Cheating is rampant in courses having an online format of examination
This again is another deeply embedded myth that needs to be deflated. Many instructors and teachers, who’ve amassed extensive experience in offering instructions in both online and classroom modes have gone on record iterating that cheating as a malpractice can be resorted to in either of the two educational approaches.
Though you can get an individual or institution to appear in a web-based exam on your behalf, be mentally prepared to receive the shock of your life when you find that your answer scripts have been rejected on the charge of plagiarism. Instructors now have more tools than ever that can assist them in cross checking plagiarism.
Then again, there are many online programs that make it mandatory to appear in a brick and mortar location for a test. On the other hand, students have developed and mastered ingenious ways of cheating when appearing for a test in a classroom.
Employers don’t recognize online degrees
Some employers still put high value on an Ivy League degree and screen out candidates with degrees from other educational institutions — be them for on-campus programs or online. But those employers are usually the same ones who complain about a talent shortage in a job market that is bigger than ever.
More and more employers realize that the real skills of job applicants are more important than their certificates, and the way they got those certificates are even less important.
And if we think about the relatively new and fast-growing industries like machine learning, software development, cyber security or even digital marketing, an online degree can actually impress more than a traditional one. That is because many established brick-and-mortar educational institutions don’t offer these kinds of courses yet.
Reputed schools and universities don’t have online programs
The educational system is known to be stiff and resistant to change. Learning used to happen in lecture rooms and this method of education won’t disappear anytime soon.
But there is always some wiggle room if you really want to find it. Today’s students feel at ease in an online environment and use technology and the internet to support their learning. Some educational institutions offer an online program as a way of responding the the 21st century learning needs.
Big reputable names like Harvard, Stanford, or MIT already turned to online courses, besides the traditional way of instruction. What’s more, many of these online courses are free. Check out this massive list of 250 Ivy League courses that you can take online at no cost but your time.
Over to you
In addition to the above, I’m sure there are other myths involving online education. Which other one/s did you encounter? Do share them in the comments section below!