Dec 1, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Online education is up. In the fall of 2014, about 5.8 million students were enrolled in at least one online course. Why? Students have many reasons for taking online courses: enhanced job prospects, flexibility, and cost are just a few.

If you’re considering an online course or degree, but are unsure about what you think, explore these myths about online education—debunked—and decide for yourself.

Myth #1: Online education is easy

It’s not easy. It’s just different from a traditional “brick and mortar” setting. Online courses are about more than just showing up.

 In a U.S. News and World Report article about online education, Lynn Atanasoff, a career counselor at Pennsylvania State University—World Campus said, “At reputable institutions, students have to complete the same material as in-person, except they also have to really manage their time because online no one is reminding them when assignments or projects are due.”

Online courses can be just as labor intensive, just as challenging, and just as demanding as traditional courses—and require your discipline to do well.

Myth #2: Online courses lack personal attention

A good online professor and a classroom professor shouldn’t be so different. Your online professor will connect with you multiple times throughout the week with feedback on assignments. There are also multiple opportunities for other interfaces between you and your professors using chat functions, forums, or other communication platforms.

If anything, you’ll probably interact more personally with your online professor than you will with one at a brick and mortar school.        

Myth #3: Online courses are not as engaging as face-to-face courses         

Fact: you will devote at least three hours every week per credit. What does this mean? For a 3-credit online course, you will spend a minimum of nine hours per week on coursework. Rather than go to a classroom every week, you’ll spend that time engaged in online activities, reading course materials, and working on assignments.

Myth #4: You can’t connect with your classmates

Physical distance should not hinder your ability to connect with your online classmates.

Here’s how you’ll connect with your classmates: class projects, blogs, websites, surveys, class discussions, hashtags on social media, and the use of communication tools like Remind, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, and Adobe Connect.

In an online class, you’ll likely interact with your classmates more than you would in a traditional lecture with live people.

You’ll also communicate more frequently with your professor (see #2).

Myth #5: Employers don’t respect online degrees

Fact: employers respect degrees from accredited programs—online and brick and mortar alike.

Fact: nothing guarantees you a job.

Your online transcript from an accredited school—online or traditional with online programs—will be valued and respected by your employer.

Online education has been around long enough to have a proven track record of successful graduates with valuable life skills—and valuable traits for the workplace.

Myth #6: You can’t receive financial aid with an online course

It’s a myth for a reason and it’s flat-out false. If you’re enrolled in a degree program offered by an accredited institution and take the requisite number of classes that qualify you as a full-time student, then you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Additionally, there are significant scholarships for single parents, working adults, minorities, military veterans and nontraditional students.

How’d we do? Have we dispelled the myths you had about online education? Willing to give it a try?

Take a closer look at the variety of options for online studies available to you today. 



Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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