With so much changing in online education and the great variety of the types of courses and programs available online, misconceptions abound that have created a sort of urban mythology about online education. In this article, we’ll separate the facts from the fiction.
1. Online courses and programs are easier.
This is easily the most common misconception, and students rarely believe that online classes are as or more difficult than traditional ones. Nearly every other article about online education will tell you exactly what this one is doing. Online programs will also emphasize the difficulty level of online courses. Yet, students don’t believe it until they’re in the middle of it. Expect to spend at least 15 hours per week on a three-hour credit class.
2. Everything will be on my own time. The only deadline will be the final at the end of the semester.
For your online course, expect frequent deadlines for assignments, comments, papers, tests, and – yes – the final exam. Not only are there deadlines, there is often a narrow window where you can take tests, typically four hours. This can pose problems for students who are in a distant time zone from the school or if you have an unusual work schedule. If this is your situation, check with the school and the specific professor to make sure that you won’t have to miss a night of sleep in order to take a test.
3. You have to own a personal computer to complete an online program.
Owning your own computer makes things much, much easier if you are taking classes online. However, it is not a requirement. What is necessary is secure access to a computer and secure access to an Internet connection. If owning your own computer is not a reality, there are other options available. Community centers and public libraries often have computers with fast Internet connections, and they can help you choose times during off-hours where you can use the computer for an extended time in order to complete your assignments and tests.
4. You can’t transfer credits from an online program to a traditional degree program.
This myth arises over confusion about the issue of accreditation vs. the issue of whether a program is online or traditional. Courses from an accredited program will often be recognized by a traditional college, especially if those courses are taken online from a brick-and-mortar school.
5. Employers value traditional programs over online programs.
There will always be some employers who view online degrees with skepticism, just like there will always be people who will never feel secure making a payment or doing their banking online. However, more than three-quarters of employers view the quality of online degrees as equal to traditional programs. Just like for traditional programs, some online degrees have more prestige than others. Check to make sure that your program is accredited and ask people in the profession as well as Human Resources Specialists how an online degree from a certain school is viewed in the field.
Online courses are improving in quality, and those improvements are being recognized both by employers and the larger academic community. Shake off the myths of the past and know the realities of online programs before you enroll.