In the lead up to National Online Learning Day on Sept. 15, I thought it would be appropriate to take this opportunity to debunk a few myths about online learning in higher education, which persist despite the growing number of distance learning students.
5 Myths About Online Higher Education:
Myth #1: Online courses are easier
There is a common misconception that because online courses can be completed anywhere and at anytime, they must somehow be easier. This is not true. Most online courses cover the same topics, require the same readings, include the same assignments, and maintain the same academic expectations as the course taught at a physical campus. In addition, the majority of online courses are accelerated, meaning they are taught over a shorter timeframe than the traditional classroom format.
Myth #2: Faculty don’t know their online students (and/or online students don’t know each other)
Some students may be concerned if they take an online course, their instructors won’t actually get to know them. However, nothing could be further from the truth. With the small class size typically associated with online courses (Baker College online averages about 13 students per class), faculty get to know each and every student personally. Also, keep in mind that most of us communicate with family, friends, and other important connections using e-mail, text, and social media, so it’s easy to imagine that students in online courses develop and maintain strong professional and personal relationships with their fellow students using the same means.
Myth #3: Employers don’t value online degrees
Decades ago when online learning was new to the higher education scene, some employers were skeptical of the quality of an online education (and to be sure, not all online programs are created equally). Fast forward to today, however, and that skepticism of years ago has turned into preference for many employers. Graduates who have completed online courses or programs show self-motivation, can manage a fast-paced environment, know how to meet deadlines, and can use technology to communicate effectively. Some definite pluses for any job candidate.
Myth #4: It can’t ALL be online … online degrees still require some time on campus
Online course requirements vary from college to college, but in most cases, online students are not required to physically visit a campus while pursuing their degree. The benefit of online education is that it allows students to complete coursework around work and family obligations. It also allows students to travel, whether for work or pleasure, while completing a course. As long as students have an internet connection and access to a computer, they can stay on track and off campus.
Myth #5: Online programs are all the same
Just like on-ground programs, online programs differ from college to college. The technology used to deliver the courses, length of the course, course requirements, and class sizes vary. Online students should select a course, program, and/or institution that has experience in online education, and look for recognition by external agencies such as the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) or the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA).
Jill Langen is president for Baker Online and Baker College Center for Graduate Studies and has 25 years of experience in higher education. She joined Baker College in 1999 and has filled a variety of positions which include faculty member, department chair for marketing and HR, and dean of the MBA program, and chief academic officer for Baker Online. In her role as president she is responsible for providing leadership, strategic direction, and administrative oversight for all campus departments including academics, admissions, business/financial services, and career services.