5 Online learning myths

Are you hesitant about online learning? These five myths about learning online might help you feel more confident about taking your next step.

5 Online learning myths

Online learning has changed over the years, and with those changes came myths. If you’ve ever considered pursuing an online education, here are some statements you may have heard or even believed.

Myth #1 Online learning is about technology.

Technology makes learning online possible, but that is not the focus. Online learning is about people. The reason online learning exists is to make learning accessible to everyone, especially those who want or need to learn something new but also have other important responsibilities to balance.

A working mom with three kids may sense a calling to move into a leadership role in a business, and the knowledge acquired through an MBA can help her do that. She is willing to work just as hard for that degree as someone in a traditional, face-to-face program, but the time she has available is nine p.m. to midnight (after the kids are in bed). Online learning allows universities to accommodate such needs while maintaining the same high academic standards expected of all students.

An exciting aspect of online learning is that this format of teaching and learning offers a way to honor the many callings in a person’s life while promoting increased access and opportunity to high-quality college degrees.

Myth #2 Online learning is all online.

Yes, a lot of learning opens online in online courses, 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.

Myth #3 Students don’t learn as much online as they do in person.

Now that online learning has been around for over 20 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.

Myth #4 All online courses are the same.

We hear comments about online learning versus face-to-face learning, and we often treat online learning as if all online learning experiences are equal. We know that isn’t true for face-to-face courses, and it certainly is also not true of online courses. There are hundreds, even thousands, of ways to design and teach online courses.

If one style or approach doesn’t work for you, don’t be too quick to rule out online learning; doing so would be like deciding to never walk into a school again because you had one unpleasant teacher or course.

Myth #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, the communication and interaction with others can be rich, personal, and substantive online.

Related: How to Build Rewarding Relationships with Online Classmates

It’s true that when you learn online, there are differences in communication and interacting with other people. These differences are better than traditional classes in some ways and not as good in others. 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. At the same time, you can’t usually read the body language or nonverbal messages from others in the online class. That doesn’t mean that it is impersonal. It is just that you need to develop a different approach to building and maintaining relationships.

These five myths persist about online learning, but with your help, we can dispel them. How can you help? You can start by sharing this article with others. If you are already taking online courses here at Concordia or elsewhere, take the time to talk about your experiences with the people around you. Your experience can encourage others to try this unique avenue of learning.

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

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