7 Most Common Misconceptions About Online Education

Online education is fast gaining popularity, thanks to its easy accessibility, flexibility and variety. Nearly 5.3 million students in the US took at least one online course in fall of 2013 according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Yet, even with this growing popularity and widespread usage of this mode of education, there are several myths and misconceptions circling around. Below is a list that separates the facts from fiction.

Online Education is Easy

This is one of the most common misconceptions that people have regarding online education. They believe it is easier to get a degree online than to get it in a traditional school setting. However, the truth is that the two modes of instruction are just different. For instance, with online education, students would have the flexibility of the subjects they study and what pace they study them with. In addition to that, online courses require more self-direction and stronger commitment as compared to traditional courses. This is because of the amount of freedom that taking an online course can give you regarding class and studying timings. With such flexibility, the student has to be more responsible to get work done on time. It must be kept in mind that online education can be quite intensive – it might take up the same amount of time as an on-campus degree and can also include a few on-campus courses.

The Quality of Online Education is Lower

 The academic standards for online courses are by and large dependent on the school you are considering, since every institute has its own criteria. In general terms, online faculty receives an equally, sometimes even more, rigorous training and certification process to make sure they understand the academic standards required by online courses. In certain cases, online education might actually be more effective than traditional forms of instruction. According to some teachers, the complexity of teaching a distance-learning course forces them to think about greater effectiveness and engagement, which makes them better teachers as a whole.

You Might Not Be Able to Transfer Your Online Credits to Another School –

This concern can occur regardless of the type of education you receive, online or not. The issue can arise over any particular course or program with any institution. Typically, courses from accredited online programs are recognized and accepted by traditional colleges, without any hassle.

Online Courses are not Accredited –

Accreditation is an important aspect for any educational institute. It gives students, parents and future employers the opportunity to evaluate a certain educational institute’s quality of education against set standards. It is also a sign of surety for higher educational institutes who prefer students coming in from accredited programs. The common misconception is that, by and large, online courses are not accredited and hence, will not be accepted by higher education institutes. As with traditional schools, accreditation credentials vary from institution to institution. However, the larger part of online courses is registered with one accreditation agency or the other. As a prospective online student, it is your responsibility to carefully check for accreditation credentials before registering for a course. If you end up attending an unaccredited school, your credits may not transfer, federal and state financial aid might also not be available for you and employers might not view your degree as credible enough.

Cheating is Common in Online Courses –

There is no denying that cheating occurs pretty much in every educational system. But some people tend to believe that it is simpler to cheat in online courses. While cheating can happen in online programs, it is not any more likely than in traditional courses. People believe that since with online programs, you have to do your assignments online from home, you can simply open your notes or ask your friends for answers. Similarly in quizzes, all you need to do is sit with someone who knows the answers and copy. Online educators have taken several measures to control such concerns. For instance, with assignments, instructors usually make them ‘open-notes’ questions for which you would be allowed to refer to  your books and study materials anyway. In tests, what a lot of online schools do is give different versions of the tests to different students and place a timer on every question – making the whole process of cheating a lot more hassle and hence less desirable for students.

In some cases, online instructors may even be better equipped to spot instances of cheating and plagiarism than traditional classroom instructors. For instance, there are a number of websites students can get their college papers written from. If a student submits such a paper to an online instructor, he will be caught through any of the various plagiarism software that online teachers use.

In addition to high quality plagiarism-detection software, certain online programs also have their tests and quizzes at a pre-specified physical location. All the students are required to come in to a test center on a particular day and time, and sit in the exam hall to take the exam. In other cases, students might be required to remain live on a webcam while they attempt a test. This allows for better invigilation and helps decrease the possibilities of cheating.

Online Students Cannot Meet Their Instructors –

Some believe that since the program is online, there is no actually meeting the instructor. This is a myth. Instructors may set up meetings with their students if the need is felt. Sometimes, it might not be possible for students to physically be in the same location as the instructor and travelling across states for just a small meeting would be unnecessary. In such instances, students can simply set up a time for an online meeting on video call and discuss their concerns. Other ways to interact with instructors can include live chat sessions or emails. Some online instructors make it a point to have at least one or two live chat sessions with their students every week, to maintain a human touch and be aware of any concerns they are having.

Employers’ Do Not Prefer Online Degrees -

This is not entirely true. It would completely depend on the individual employer. On average, employers would opt for people who have the right skill set and unimpeachable academic credentials – whether from an online degree or a traditional educational institute. The employability of an online degree would be more dependent on the reputation of the school hosting the program, rather than the mode of instruction. There will always be those employers who will view an online degree with skepticism, just like there will always be people who would not feel secure with online banking. At the end of the day, the employability of an online degree depends largely on the employer and the authority of the educational institute you are graduating from.

Online courses and education systems are improving greatly in quality and numbers. Over the years, this mode of education has become the favored education form for those who cannot attend a full-time college. So whatever your reasons for opting or not opting for an online program, make sure they are not affected by these myths and common misconceptions.


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