The online learning sector has been growing exponentially over the past few years, and since the lockdown, when many people tried it for the first time, it has grown stronger. New technologies have allowed it to expand in previously undreamed ways, making it accessible to students in different circumstances. Despite all this, however, negative myths about it persist. This article examines some of those myths and sets the facts straight.
Myth: it’s a lightweight version of the real thing
Online learning is sometimes portrayed as an easy alternative to the serious business of traditional, college-based education. It’s as rigorous, if not more so, because online course providers have had to prove they can deliver the same quality to their graduates. Furthermore, because online learning allows larger class sizes, students often have access to top professors who otherwise would not be available to them. Academic institutions now recognize this kind of study on an equal basis when it comes to admissions, so graduates are not disadvantaged if they wish to further their education. Indeed, even Ivy League universities now run online programs.
Myth: employers don’t think that it’s good enough
Some employers didn’t take it very seriously in the early days of online education. However, that resulted from ignorance, and attitudes have changed greatly. Large companies with graduate programs are now just as happy to recruit online graduates as others. Some employers even display a positive balance towards them – this is because people who got their college degrees in their youth often did so just by going with the flow. In contrast, people who studied online actively chose to show initiative and ambition. What’s more, employers know that regardless of the subject learned, online courses require students to have a decent grasp of IT, which is an asset in most workplaces. They know that employees with that background can do without somebody looking over their shoulder all the time, and they know that they can be relied upon when working or working on business trips is required.
Myth: There’s no practical element
Studying online doesn’t just mean sitting in front of a phone or computer or reading books. Many courses also contain practical elements. Upon becoming a second career nurse, your system often lines you up for a clinical work placement. These can be arranged at a hospital or clinic convenient to your location. These can be set at a hospital or clinic suitable to your site. This provides valuable experience but could also lead to future employment following graduation.
Suppose you’re studying one of the classical sciences. In that case, you will be required to undertake a set amount of lab work, and your course provider will usually direct you to a suitable facility, such as a local educational institution – the difference from a traditional study is that you will do all this at once. If you are studying sports science or physiotherapy, you will usually do practical work with a local sporting organization, and so on. This ensures that you will complete your degree with the same valuable skills and competence as somebody who has learned traditionally.
Myth: less commitment is needed
Online learning can be a more pragmatic, easy-access choice for some students, such as single parents and those with major disabilities. However, this doesn’t mean that no serious commitment is involved. Even if nobody monitors your attendance, you must pay the hours and pay attention to all your classes if you expect to graduate. You will also have assignments to complete, which must be delivered on time.
As noted above, there may be practical work to complete, and there’s usually a great deal of reading in subjects where that’s not the case. Depending on the level you’re studying at, you may also be expected to carry out original research and produce a thesis or a series of papers. This is incredibly time-consuming and may require you to develop new skills. When you’re studying online, you need a lot more self-discipline, which employers recognize so that it can give you an advantage.
Myth: people only do it when they’ve failed elsewhere
Because some people still haven’t caught up with the changes referenced above and think of online learning as second class, there’s an assumption that it’s something that people resort to when they’ve failed to get the grades needed for in-person education at a traditional institution. This is not the case at all. People choose online education for all sorts of reasons. It might be because they don’t want to commute daily or move to a small community they love. After all, they need to fit education around family commitments because it makes it easier for them to work around a disability. It might be because combining it with a job or an otherwise busy lifestyle is easier. It might also be simply because they prefer it and achieve great access to top-level resources. It is many people’s first choice, while others will move between online and in-person education at different points in their lives with no particular preference for one. Regarding niche subjects taught at an advanced level, an online class can bring in people from a wide geographical area to make up numbers, keep costs, and ensure a positive learning experience. Whatever you’re studying, it’s a great way to meet people from different backgrounds with mutual interests.
When all these myths are swept aside, the reality becomes clear: online study is as good as traditional learning; it offers great opportunities for those who want to broaden their academic horizons or further their careers. There has never been a better time to explore what it could do for you.