Despite the increasing popularity of online learning, misconceptions persist.
You should drink eight glasses of water a day.
Carrots help your vision.
Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
We use only 10 percent of our brains.
It's dangerous to wake a sleepwalker.
Why common myths such as these persist despite scientific facts to the contrary reveals something interesting about human nature.
According to Canadian psychologist James Alcock, "We become attached to beliefs that seem to serve a function for us and we don't like to give them up even if they're false because they seem too true to be false."
Consequently, even though we enjoy checking out sites like snopes.com to get to the bottom of the latest urban legend, once a myth is out there, it's tough to change it.
Take some of the myths about online learning, for example. Despite the ever-increasing popularity of online courses to meet the market demand for professionals with college degrees, numerous misconceptions persist.
Here are some common myths about online learning – and the truth behind them.
Myth #1The quality of online courses is lower than on-ground courses.
Facts:Schools offering online degree programs that are regionally accredited are subject to the same review process as brick-and-mortar schools, and to keep their accreditation, all of their programs must maintain high academic standards. If you choose an online program offered by a regionally accredited university, you can be confident of the quality and rigor of the teaching and of the education you receive.
Myth #2 Employers don't respect degrees earned online.
Facts:Nothing, including any accreditation, guarantees employment after your graduate. But if you attend a regionally accredited school, you shouldn't have to worry about your degree being accepted by employers or graduate schools. At Saint Leo, grades for online courses are not identified any differently on transcripts than campus-based courses. In addition, more and more, employers are recognizing the commitment and discipline it takes to complete an online degree – valuable traits in the workplace.
Myth #3 Online courses are easier than face-to-face courses.
Facts: Actually, online courses can be more rigorous than traditional classroom-based courses. One reason is they require more reading and writing. A second is that without the structure of a traditional classroom, online students must assume more responsibility for staying on top of assignments. In addition, online terms are typically shorter than on-campus semesters and, therefore, more intense. Students usually spend about 9-12 hours per week on each course.
Myth #4You're anonymous in an online course.
Facts: There's no hiding out in the back of a large lecture hall or flying under the radar in an online course. Online courses are engaging and participatory. Many include group projects and other activities to encourage interaction among students. Additionally, students are expected to contribute to online discussion boards and the quality of your post counts toward your grade. The good news is that if you tend to be reluctant to engage in a discussion in a traditional classroom, you might be more comfortable online where you can carefully research, organize and edit your response before posting.
Myth #5 You have to be a technology expert to take an online course.
Facts: You don't need tons of tech knowledge to be successful in an online course, but you must be comfortable navigating online and know the essentials before getting started. Keep in mind that you will not be taught how to use a computer or the internet. So brush up on your tech skills before starting. You don't need sophisticated hardware either –a relatively up-to-date computer and a reliable, high-speed internet connection should suffice.
Myth #6 You're isolated in an online program.
Facts: Students enrolled in quality online programs are never on their own. From enrollment counselors and academic advisors to financial aid experts, tutors, and career services experts, online students have support from many sources. Online clubs and associations bring students together and provide opportunities for networking and building relationships. And given the frequency of communication online, some online students feel more connected to their faculty than campus-based students.
Myth #7 Online courses are self-paced.
Online degree programs fit the busy lifestyles of working adults because they provide the flexibility to study when it best suits your schedule. However, online courses are not self-paced. They include assignments with weekly deadlines that your instructors expect you to meet. You cannot take as long as you want to complete courses; academic terms have definite start and end dates.
Myth #8 Online courses are boring.
Online education is not about replicating a classroom lecture and reading it on a computer screen or watching a video. Quality online courses are carefully designed to directly involve students with the content, each other, and the instructor. A wide range of tools and technologies is used to do that. In addition, professors, such as those at Saint Leo, bring real-world experiences and knowledge to their virtual classrooms that make courses relevant and engaging.
Myth #9Online students can't receive financial aid or find scholarships.
If you enroll in degree program offered by a regionally accredited school and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), it does not matter if you take your courses on-ground or online; you will still be eligible to receive financial aid from the Department of Education if you qualify. Additionally, you will be surprised by how many scholarships are earmarked for single parents, working adults, women, minorities, military veterans and all sorts of nontraditional students regardless of learning or delivery mode.
Myth #10 Anyone can be successful in an online program.
Given the challenges of balancing family and work responsibilities with educational goals, the flexibility of online degree programs makes them appealing to a growing number of adults. Online learning, however, presents different challenges than traditional classroom learning and is not for everyone. In addition to strong reading and writing skills, you need discipline, self-motivation and solid time management and organization skills.
Myth #11 You'll never set foot on a college campus if you take online courses.
While it is definitely possible to complete a degree totally online, there is one time when you might want to travel to campus, regardless of how far away you live.
For your graduation!
Many online students take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the pomp and tradition of commencement on campus. They meet faculty, students and staff face-to-face, don academic regalia, and walk across the commencement stage to celebrate the achievement of a lifetime – their college degrees.
Are you an online student? What else has surprised you about online learning?
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