14 Myths About Online Education

Posted by Greg Aronoff on Mar 5, 2015 2:58:00 PM

Online Learning Myths

Even though online education has been around since the 90's, and distance education in general has been around much longer, there are still plenty of misconceptions. For instance...

  • Have you heard online courses are easier? 
  • Or have you heard that online courses are basically textbooks with a chat feature?

If you answered yes, you're definitely not alone, but you would be incorrect!

So, let’s explore some of these common myths…..


Online courses are harder than traditional classes.


Fact: Online courses are not harder or easier than on campus. They're just delivered differently.

Although online classes provide more flexibility, it's not at the expense of rigor. The content of the course, including the work load is the same as that in a traditional classroom.  You still have the usual assignments, papers, tests, and presentations. Basically anything you'd expect in an on campus course, you can expect in an online course.   

According to Tracy Lorenz and the Huffington post blog, "because of the online learning model and number of projects that are assigned, online students are often assessed more than in classroom settings."



Employers don’t take online degrees seriously.


Fact: Both education and employers have changed their opinion about online education. 

A lot of universities are now offering some type of online/distance component. In fact, some schools don't even make a distinction between online and on campus. For instance, a degree from the University of Colorado doesn't mention online even if a student took all their courses online. It's the same exact degree.

From the employers side....

Employers have come to realize that the content of an online course usually mirrors that of on campus course. In one CNN study, 83% of executives surveyed said that an online degree is just as credible as a traditional campus program. 

Among the things employers factored:  

  • Accreditation of the college or university
  • Quality of its graduates
  • Name of the institution awarding the degree

On the same note, it was Bill Gates who said the best education will come from the web.



Online learning was just a temporary fad. 


Fact: According to eLearning industry, the rise in online learning isn’t showing any signs of slowing. 

In fact, judging by some 2014 statistics, the future of online learning is brighter than ever.

  • About half of all college students are taking at least one course online right now.
  • Online learning increased 150% between 1998 and 2008.

As advancements in technology and the comfort level of students grows, the popularity of online learning will continue to rise and thrive.


All online courses are the same.


Fact: Each online course is just as unique as each on campus course.

Although the course management system may be the same, faculty are open (and encouraged) to be as creative as they would like when setting up their online course.

Just like traditional on campus courses, the quality of each online course depends on the quality of the professor - not the technology limitations. 

According to University.com, many online courses are using the latest technology.  “No longer in its infancy, now students in online classes can expect web-based video, live chat rooms, instant messaging, and sophisticated collaboration tools." 

Actually, there's a growing consensus that we've only begun to see what's capable as far as online education tools.



In terms of learning quality, online is less effective.


Fact: Students have rated online's effectiveness as being as good or better than face-to-face.

Research over many decades show there is no difference in the quality of learning from a classroom or through an online setting. 

Since the content is the same, the only difference in online learning versus the traditional classroom is the medium used to deliver the material to the students. 

Many institutions are using (or are developing) a quality standard for online courses to ensure that the quality of online courses are the same as traditional classroom instruction.

According to eLearning Industry, “eLearning has the power to increase information retention rates by up to 60 percent.  That means that, not only is eLearning more cost efficient, but also it’s also more effective (in terms of how much knowledge is truly acquired during the learning process)”.

A 2009 study from the Department of Education found that students in online courses scored slightly higher on exams, and on average, they fared better than traditional students. 



Online courses are isolating and lonely.


Fact: Online can offer the same level (via different delivery) of interaction.

With the use of text and video chat (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc), threaded discussions, and technology built into course management systems, a student can choose the level of communication they want (both with their instructor and their classmates).

In fact, with so much opportunity to interact with peers and professors, there is often a greater feeling of personal connection than in a traditional classroom.

According to the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, a lengthy study was conducted looking into the 'silo myth'. Notable results include:  

  • 91% of students say they feel comfortable asking questions.
  • 88% of students say they have no difficulties expressing thoughts in online classes.
  • 89% of students say they feel emotionally attached to other students in their online class.


Financial aid won’t cover online classes, so it's all out of pocket.


Fact: Online courses are just as likely to be covered as on campus courses (depending on the institution). 

For the majority, there is no financial aid distinction between online courses and on campus courses. Want to know what the cost of college in Colorado would be like? <---Follow the link to start your research.

According to College Atlas, an organization that relies on feedback from schools, education professionals, and students to help keep content up to date and accurate, the following is a breakdown of how students are paying for their online classes:

  • 31%-- student loans and other financial aid only

  • 28%-- personal funds only

  • 21%-- personal funds and loans

  • 8%--   personal, loans and scholarships

  • 8%--   personal and employer

  • 4%--   employer only

Grants and scholarships are also available for online courses as well. 



You can take online classes, but you can’t complete a full degree online.


Fact: Accredited colleges have been offering full degrees since the mid-90's.

Of the colleges that offer online courses, nearly 60% offer complete online degrees. With public institutions more likely to provide this option. 

So, research is showing that full degrees are a prime driver of the online learning popularity. For instance, institutions that don't offer full degrees online have a smaller percentage of students taking online courses.

From the site Myeducation.com, the number of schools that offer online programs have almost doubled in the last decade. 

  • In 2002, 34.5% of institutions offered full degrees online. 

  • In 2012, 62.4 percent of institutions offered full degrees online.

So this trend of full degrees is expected to grow with demand.



All online courses are self-paced and assignments can be turned in whenever you want.


Fact: The norm for most online courses follow set dates and deadlines.

Although you may login to your course anytime and anywhere, you are still responsible for meeting the deadlines and due dates set forth by your instructor. 

Basically, all online learning can be divided into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. 

According to the site Mindflash, “Synchronous e-learning involves online studies through chat and videoconferencing.  This kind of learning tool is real-time.  It is like a virtual classroom which allows students to ask, and teachers to answer questions instantly, through instant messaging, which is why it is synchronous.  Rather than taking lessons alone, students associating themselves with synchronous courses can easily interact with fellow students and their teachers during the course."

On the other hand, asynchronous learning can be carried out even while the student is offline.  This involves classwork that's delivered via web, email and message board that are then posted in online forums. In such cases, students can complete the course at their own pace.



Online courses are “easier” than face-to-face courses.


Fact: Online courses are just as rigorous as traditional face-to-face courses.

Online courses typically have the same curriculum as that of a face-to-face class. 

With online you also have an added level of self-discipline to login to your course and complete the assignments in the allotted time set. Online course assignments are typically designed to require the same amount of time that one would put into a classroom course. 

A US News and World Report quoted a student saying, “I know initially for me, I didn’t contact my instructor because I felt like the course was going to be really easy for me”.  But after multiple writing assignments were returned to him to revise, he says that he quickly changed his approach to the class.



Online courses are too expensive.


Fact: Online courses are on par with traditional on campus courses.

At some institutions like the University of Colorado Denver, the only additional cost is a 24-7 technology fee that the University pays to the learning management system.  However, each institution is different as far as the cost of online learning goes. 

Besides tuition, others cost factors to consider include fees and lost wages.

Some institutions don't charge the same fees if a student takes all of their courses online. And many online students are able to work more hours than their on campus counterparts. 

According to College Atlas, the breakdown of those taking online courses are as follows:

60%-- Employed full-time

20%-- Employed part-time

12%-- Not employed but looking

7%-- Not employed and not looking

1% -- Retired

Many employers offer tuition reimbursement to their working professionals who are completing their degree while working full time. You can also take a gander at a post about ways to get scholarships to pay for your online schooling.


It’s easy to cheat in an online class.


Fact: With advancements in technology, students are no more likely to cheat than in a traditional classroom.

You may think this is true, but research has shown that there is no difference in percentage of students who cheat in the classroom or online. 

Keep in mind, there are tools that instructors use that can detect cheating, so instructors do hold their students to a high integrity standard. Most tests are timed and include short answer and essay questions, which makes cheating difficult. 

According to the Huffington Post, “32.7 percent of online students admitted to cheating, while 32.1 percent admitted to cheating in a live class”.

So in short, there is no statistical difference that online students are more likely to cheat.



Professors who teach online are not subject to the same kind of evaluations than those who teach face-to-face.


Fact: Depending on the intuition, faculty who teach online go through the same evaluations as those who teach in the classroom.  

Some institutions require professors to pass a competency test before they can teach online.

One test of faculty competency are the midterm and final evaluations given to students to evaluate the teacher. The evaluations go to the Dean of their college, just as all other evaluations. 

On average, the scores for online and on campus professors are equivalent.

And research is showing many teachers who teach online actually spend more time engaged with their (virtual) classroom than many teachers who teach in a traditional classroom.



Online students must be super tech savvy.


Fact: Online courses are designed for students at all learning levels.

According to Educause, online and on campus courses require the same level of technical know-how.

With online being the new normal for such varied things as banking and taxes, technology has become so immersed in our everyday lives and comfort zones that it has become almost second nature to most folks.

And with online courses, there are easy, step-by-step tutorials available for those students who might be a bit technologically challenged. Most institutions also should have a friendly helpdesk number for more in-depth questions.


There you have it. We have just done some serous debunking!

As you can see, there are still a lot of misconceptions about online learning. So, does that mean EVERYONE is suited for online learning? Not necessarily. College success here depends on each individual person and their style of learning.

But it is important to keep in mind that with its credibility, online courses should be considered on the same level as traditional on campus courses.

Take this free quiz to learn if you would succeed with online courses.

And if you'd like, you can request more information or leave a comment below, respectively.

Thanks for reading.



Topics: Education Insight

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