While online learning has been around for many years, it really took a new twist when Coastline Community College launched the first “virtual college” with no physical campus. Over the past 40 years, online-course delivery has exploded in a positive sense. But there are a lot of myths that still are associated with online learning.

Myths and facts about online learning

1. Online learning is not recognized by industry as a viable learning.
At one point, when correspondence courses were on the forefront of learning, many people did not recognize distance learning as the “correct way” to learn. But as technology has evolved, more tools were developed for a digital learning environment. Online learning appeals to working individuals who need flexibility as well as lifelong learners. As institutions move towards SMEs (subject matter experts) to teach, the attitudes toward online learning has shifted to a positive means of learning.

2. Online learning is easier than face-to-face learning.
When you’re in a face-to-face course, you can listen, not participate, and blend into the environment. In an online learning environment, you must participate in discussion board postings and work with your peers as a means of assessing learning.

3. Online instructors spend less time teaching online than face-to-face.
Engagement between instructors and students online is very different than face-to-face. There is more concentrated time in the seat during a face-to-face course. Online instructors teach and reach students many times throughout the week—including weekends, when most online students are active. Online instructors will tell you they invest more time in teaching online than teaching the same course face-to-face, which can be a “wash and repeat” for each course.

Related: 8 students spill the tea on their online learning programs

4. Online students spend less time learning online than face-to-face.
Most online students are connected to a mobile device and are constantly learning about the world. Siri is our best friend these days. In a face-to-face course, many times mobile devices are banned from the classroom. But in online learning, if a student has a questions about a topic—Bing!—just open another tab and search Google for an immediate answer. In an online class, a student must prove with written word what they have learned. Writing takes much longer than speaking.

5. There is no quality assurance with online course design.
Many campuses and universities do have quality assurance matrix for online courses. The Wild, Wild West thrives in institutions that do not take quality assurance into consideration, leading to frustrated students as well as frustrated faculty. Quality assurance, by no means, contributes to lack of creativity on an instructor content and expertise as an SME.

6. All students learn the same.
Students learn differently and it is important to deliver content in multiple means before assessment. One topic could include a discussion board posting (writing), a journal article (reading), and a video (audio). All learning modalities are addressed regarding the same content; it is just delivered in multiple ways.

7. Cognitive overload is not a problem for students in online learning.
Cognitive overload is defined as not being able to process information because there is too much information to process. It is alive and well with learning in general but more specifically in online learning. Chunking out content that is sequential as well as consistent in layout and has real life meaning will help with cognitive overload. We make millions of decisions in a day and having to decide where to click next because of poor course design leads to frustrated students.

Related: Does your online program hit the right notes?

The future of online learning is still exploding with new programs that are accessible for those who do not have the means to sit in a seat in an on-campus setting. Take time to participate in an online course as a student. You might be surprised! It really can be a lot more rewarding than you think.

About the Author:

Rebecca Graetz, Ed.D., is an instructional program manager at the University of Wisconsin Superior. She spends her days consulting with faculty on quality and innovative online course design, focusing on student engagement and student success. She is also is an ally for the TGNC community and an instructor for the MOOC What does it meant to be transgender or gender non-conforming? in partnership with the University of Minnesota and Coursera.


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