Berkeley College Online® has provided a global population of students with teaching and learning experiences online for nearly 20 years, and was one of the first higher education programs worldwide to be certified by the United States Distance Learning Association. So, what do we know about online learning? A lot.

And while academic online programs continue to evolve, with Berkeley College applying additional quality measures to ensure excellence in its own online curriculum, many students and higher education professionals continue to misunderstand the benefits and realities of online learning.

In honor of National Distance Learning Week, Joseph Scuralli, DPS, dean, Online, Berkeley College, shares the three biggest misconceptions still often associated with online learning:

Online Learning Misconception #1 – The online learning experience is less rich than onsite learning.

While onsite courses meet a certain number of times per week in a standard location, online courses are not limited to overhead projectors and white boards.

With the help of instructional designers who are experienced in using educational technology to deliver optimal learning experiences, online instructors provide instructional materials in ways that address the needs of all types of learners. Videos, presentations, lectures, and assessment activities are carefully selected and placed in online courses to ensure learners meet all learning objectives. Electronic resources such as eTextbooks enable linking to external resources to provide additional depth to various topics.

In the course HEA 3350, “Long Term and Residential Care,” for example, students on track to receive an Bachelor’s degree in Health Services Management are able to explore long term and residential care services, as well as financing options, through exposure to a panel discussion and Q&A session with members of the Green House Project and Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, MA. The Green House Project is a non-profit organization that is creating alternative living environments to traditional nursing home care facilities. Other assisted living and elder care facilities are explored through the use of company websites and online discussions. Students also learn by viewing a video of a retired professor of broadcast communications at Oregon State University, who shares his experience in an assisted living facility.

Online learners have the ability to use electronic libraries at their fingertips to research extended topics of interest and are often encouraged to share additional resources with classmates.  These resources may be retained by the instructor and incorporated in future courses, further enriching the experiences of the future learners.

(Next page: 2 more online learning misconceptions)

Online Learning Misconception #2 – Online learning is less engaging than onsite.

Learners are able to participate in asynchronous discussions throughout each course week with online instructors guiding these discussions frequently during that time.

Online discussions provide a path for every learner’s voice to be heard, as typical barriers to face-to-face communication are not present. Group assignments are often part of online courses, and although participants may not physically meet to collaborate, they use advanced technology to virtually meet “face to face” online.

No cost audio/video calls, live screen-sharing of documents and files and social interaction are all available. ETextbooks featuring adaptive learning technology customize their content based upon the student’s knowledge by using short assessments. This keeps those who are ahead of the class engaged while those who need more time can focus on the module learning objectives.

Online Learning Misconception #3 – Students learn more when taking onsite classes.

Online classes contain the same learning objectives and outcomes requirements as onsite classes. The content delivery mode, not the academic content, is where the two differ.

Students can learn when they are best able to during the week. With 24-7 accessibility, online learners do not miss material when they do not make it to class on time.  Learners are able to replay course materials and reread resources that are provided. They are able to enter notes online, often right on the resources, which offers learners one location for all study materials for each class.

Advanced techniques such as the use of Quality Matters, specifically designed for Online courses, ensure that the course materials are aligned with the module and course learning objectives, avoiding the issue of “wandering professors” who often go “off topic” in the traditional onsite classroom. When properly designed, Online courses are a very effective and efficient learning modality.

About the Author:

Joseph Scuralli, DPS, dean, Online, Berkeley College.


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