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Ten dangerous misconceptions about online learning – what can online learning do for your career?

An increasingly popular mode of higher education, online learning still has its doubters, and a number of misconceptions about it still exist. Here are ten common misconceptions about online learning:

  1. It is easier to succeed with online courses than physical courses
  2. Online learning requires high-level technology skills
  3. It is easier and more common to cheat in online courses
  4. Online courses are quicker to complete than physical courses
  5. Online courses have no interaction with other students
  6. It is impossible to reach your teacher
  7. The quality of online learning is bad
  8. Online courses have no time limits
  9. Online courses are easy
  10. Online courses do not provide the career boost that a “proper” education does

If you are considering pursuing more education to help boost your career but are hesitant about enrolling in an online course, read on to learn why these misconceptions are not true. In addition, this article will also explain what an online course can do to further your career, as well as what advantages an online degree offers students.

Misconception one: It is easier to succeed with online courses than physical courses

Online courses actually require more discipline from students than physical courses. When taking a physical course, students often need to show up in person to attend discussions, which automatically creates a commitment that must be fulfilled. When enrolled in an online course, it is much easier to shirk responsibility. Online courses require you to form your own commitment and create your own schedule. The responsibility is fully on you to turn in assignments on time and to follow your study plan as the course goes along if you want to succeed.

Misconception two: Online learning requires high-level technology skills

This misconception originated in the early days of online learning and no longer applies. In fact, online learning platforms are increasingly becoming more polished and easier to use. What may have been difficult yesterday is now much more streamlined and efficient.

Online learning is not more technically difficult than working on a computer in a standard office environment. All you need is a computer, tablet or smart phone with a working internet connection and access to a browser. For some courses, you may also need a headset or microphone. In terms of software, you will typically need a word processor for completing written assignments.

Misconception three: It is easier and more common to cheat in online courses

This misconception is probably more relevant for employers, but students may have it too.

There is no research showing that cheating happens more often in online courses. Given that all deliverables in the course are digital, it can be easier for instructors to check whether students have violated the honor code. For example, written assignments can be easily checked by plagiarism detection software. This means that it is not easier to turn in plagiarized material. In fact, it might be more difficult than in the pre-digital era.

Misconception four: Online courses are quicker to complete than physical courses

Online courses, whether they are in the form of scheduled classes or free-form learning, may seem quicker to complete than physical courses. However, there is a bias at play here. Online learning may seem to move faster because there is less time wastage. You do not need to travel to class or queue for lunch, and you also won’t be spending any time talking to your classmates in the hallway. Also, many online courses are offered in a compressed format. A typically 18-week course may take place over just nine or 12 weeks. Because online learning allows for more flexibility, you can study at your own pace. You can start and stop as you please, such as studying for longer periods of time without interrupting your workflow. As a result, it can be easier to cover the same material from a traditional classroom setting in a shorter amount of time.

However, as a learner, you must recognize that the amount of information that you can take in over a given time period and with a given effort is the same. That means that you cannot save hours of actual learning during an online course. For employers, this means that online courses should be treated as equivalent to the physical courses. What you gain with an online course is the benefits of flexibility, and with it, more efficiency.

Misconception five: Online courses have no interaction with other students

Why you might not bump into your co-students in the hallway, it is a myth that online courses are a solitary undertaking. In the modern digital learning era, particularly after the pandemic, students are used to collaborating online, and many instructors encourage this peer-to-peer learning in their online courses. You can interact with other students in many ways, both via voice, text and direct collaboration on a group project. Today, many courses require online learners to work together regularly, allowing you plenty of time to collaborate with other students during your course.

Misconception six: It is impossible to reach your teacher

It can be extremely frustrating to not be able to get hold of your teacher when you need them. However, online connectivity is now at a level where it can be easier and more flexible for learners to get in touch with teachers in online courses than in physical courses. The advantage of a physical course is that it is possible to walk up to the teacher and directly ask them questions. However, in many cases, teachers of physical courses have strict office hours and slow reply times, meaning that they may be totally unavailable outside of these set hours.

Experienced teachers running online courses know how important it is to keep in touch with their students, and they offer many ways to do so. Corresponding via email can be a fast and efficient way to have your questions answered. Due to the online nature of these courses, instructors are typically quick to respond to learner inquiries. Many instructors also offer other contact points, such as forums and announcements, and even virtual office hours. You can reach out to your instructor at any time, and they will usually get back to you shortly.

Misconception seven: The quality of online learning is bad

Some people think that online courses are not held to the same standards as traditional courses. Of course, this is false. Online courses can be just as good or bad as physical courses. An online course offered by a reputable institution is likely to be of high quality. Do your research as you would when attending a brick-and-mortar institution. Read up on the learning provider, check out reviews and testimonials by other students, or even reach out to them to hear what the course has done for them and their future prospects.

Some online courses are poorly designed, with poor audio and video quality, a lack of organization or an unqualified instructor. Of course, all of these might also be true for a physical course. Online courses from reputable providers are designed through a streamlined process, making sure that the organization is on point and all content is delivered in a fitting manner. Often, quality control of physical courses occurs after the fact or not at all.

Misconception eight: Online courses have no time limits

This is partly a misconception, as today, only a small number of professional online courses do not have a time limit. More generally, this misconception is a remnant of times past, when online learning was new and many courses had no set limits, letting you complete them whenever you wanted.

Today, many online courses are part of certification programs or university degree programs, so they necessarily must conclude to allow students to continue on with other coursework in their program. Not to mention, courses with a heavy social element must have deadlines and time limits. Overall, online courses should be taken seriously, just like any other type of education. They are meant to be completed within a set amount of time, so they are not a place for students to slack off.

Misconception nine: Online courses are easy

This is perhaps the greatest misconception that students and employers have about online courses. Students may think that they are an easy way to get a passing or top grade. But when you enroll in a quality online course from a reputable provider, you will quickly realize that they are demanding just like any conventional course. Sometimes, online courses can be even more rigorous, as the teacher expects a substantial amount of work from you, often in a shorter period of time.

Misconception ten: Online courses do not provide the career boost that a “proper” education does

One of the tougher misconceptions to address is the idea that physical education always does more for your career than an online course. Of course, some areas of study require in-person learning. It is difficult to become a doctor without practicing medicine, and it is difficult to become a bricklayer without laying bricks. However, taking the right online course at the right time can absolutely take your career to the next level. Aside from hands-on experience, you can get all the benefits of conventional education, including a peer network, from an online degree. For example, an online BBA can be just as good for your career as one from a physical university or business school.

An online degree will mean a lot for your career

Today, it is perfectly possible to get a job with an online degree. Remember how the pandemic caused much of the world to shift towards remote work? Why would a forward-thinking employer value a physical education over an online one, when 50% of their workforce is already working from home? Pursuing a high-quality online degree from a reputable institution can help you develop the same knowledge and skills that you would gain from a traditional education in half the time.

If you complete your online degree while working a full-time job or taking care of your children, it is a double positive, and something that employers will take note of. Not only do you have useful life experience and organizational skills but you also have grit. Historically, common advice stated that it was best to pursue a degree before starting a family, since once you start raising children or providing for others, it becomes much harder to complete a traditional education at the same time, if not impossible. The same is not true for online education. If you can find the time, at any time, then you can earn the degree you always dreamed of.

In fact, completing an online education says a lot about you as a candidate. It shows not only that you have worked hard to accomplish your goals but that you also have the discipline to self-manage and prioritize your time. By working on assignments every day, you have developed excellent time management skills.

Today, more and more workplaces expect employees to manage their own time. It is not enough to just clock in in the morning and stay all day. It’s important that you’re able to organize yourself throughout the workday. Completing an online degree proves precisely that. After all, you have been regularly meeting deadlines, managing your time well and continuing to be productive. Managing yourself is the first step to managing greater tasks and others, which is a trait that employers will value.

Your technological skills can also be a selling point. Taking an online course involves turning in assignments, watching lectures and communicating with fellow students and teachers, all through an online platform, which demonstrates your digital fluency.

At the same time, completing an online degree shows that you have committed yourself to improving your station in life, by focusing on yourself and your career goals. Successfully earning an online degree demonstrates that you can handle a high workload while juggling multiple tasks. All in all, online education tends to attract individuals who know exactly what they want, and employers covet these driven, dedicated employees.

Advantages for online students

The bottom line is that an online course grants people access to a high-quality education that they might not have gotten otherwise. In the past, class timing and physical distance could get between prospective students and the education they needed to get ahead. These days, it is no longer necessary to consider the physical location of your education nor the cost of relocation.

An online education, combined with the remote work revolution, also offers new opportunities for disabled people. If you have a sensory or movement impairment, it may not be easy to complete a traditional education or go to a physical job. Online education, on the other hand, is more accessible and can be paired with various digital assistants.

An online degree can also be more affordable. Digital infrastructure is much cheaper for education providers to maintain than physical infrastructure. Also, a digital classroom can fit a nearly unlimited amount of people. This allows providers to offer their courses and degrees at a substantially discounted rate compared to traditional education but with the same value to the student.

Flexibility is another significant advantage. With an online education, you can adapt your education to your life instead of the other way around. This is true for both students and educators. You can stay in your hometown or travel the world while pursuing your dream degree. Students in online programs can also come from anywhere in the world. This allows you to take in a broader selection of perspectives, giving you a deeper understanding of other cultures.

Online learning is here to stay

There are many benefits to online learning. It allows students to pursue their studies in the comfort of their own home. Being able to learn what you want when you want offers a lot of convenience and flexibility. You are able to replay content and go through other materials at your own pace, making it adaptable to your style of learning. In addition, the price of a high-quality and reputable online program is often much lower than an equivalent in-person program. While online learning is still young in comparison, the degrees offered by online programs are becoming just as respected as degrees from brick-and-mortar institutions.

Is an online degree right for you?

Whether an online degree is right for you will depend on your personal style of learning as well as where you are in life. Do you know anyone else who has completed an online degree? Talk to them and ask about their experience. If you are not a self-starter or need other people around you for motivation, then an online program might not be the best fit. On the other hand, if the cost of a traditional degree is a deterrent or you have children to take care of at home, or if you are simply too busy to go to campus to attend in-person classes, then an online degree could be the perfect choice.