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Top Seven Myths About Online Education

Aug 4, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Think you know everything there is to know about online education?  Think again.  Online education has come a long way in the past decade, growing from correspondence classes that mainly consist of printed assignments to online learning centers that include forums, video and phone conferencing technology, and more in their educational arsenals.  Here are seven myths about online education today—and the truth about each of them.

1. You don’t get as much peer and teacher interaction online. 

You’d be surprised at how much interaction you’ll get with an online degree program.  Online instructors are usually available via email and sometimes by phone, and you get chances to interact with your peers on forums, chat, and email as well.  Some classes incorporate video conferencing technology to provide more one-on-one contact.  High-quality online courses are often small, and you usually get more interaction than you would in a traditional lecture-hall class. It’s important to have fast ethernet connections to ensure that you can maintain these online interactions.

2. Online education isn’t as good as traditional school. 

Actually, online education can be just as rigorous and demanding as traditional college.  You’ve still got assignments to complete, books and articles to read, and presentations to deliver.  You’re just doing all these things online and on your own schedule instead of physically going to class. 

3. Online education is a scam

While there definitely are diploma mills and other scams out there, many online schools provide an education that’s just as good as you’d find at a traditional school.  Many online schools—even those that only give classes online—are accredited by the same regional accreditors that approve most traditional colleges.  And many traditional colleges give classes and sometimes whole degree programs online.  However, it’s important to check on a school’s accreditation before you enroll—and be aware that if a school offers a four-year degree in four weeks, it’s probably too good to be true. 

4. Online education is easy. 

Online education can be very challenging.  It requires a great deal of work, sometimes it requires peer participation on forums and message boards, and some programs require a hands-on or residency component.  Most online schools require just as much time to earn a degree as a traditional college demands. Many students who have done both say that they find online education to be even more rigorous than traditional school.

5. You can’t transfer distance learning credits to other universities. 

It used to be difficult, but it’s getting easier.  You can definitely transfer online credits to traditional schools and vice versa.  This is generally easier if the online school you’re attending is accredited by a regional accreditation agency.   Make sure you check your school’s transfer policy carefully before enrolling; if you’re transferring, you can save a great deal of money if the school you’re moving to will accept your prior credits.

6. Traditional colleges look down on online education. 

Traditional colleges may have once looked down on distance education, but today many brick-and-mortar colleges are getting into the online learning game.  When colleges such as Stanford and Yale are offering online classes, it’s tough for other colleges to maintain an elitist attitude about online schools.  And many traditional colleges will accept credits from properly accredited online schools.

7. Employers don’t accept online degrees. 

In the past, there was much skepticism about online education—and some conservative fields are still not very accepting of online degrees.  But that’s changing.  Today, some employers in industries such as tech and marketing actually prefer online graduates—they’re driven, independent workers, and they tend to be knowledgeable about online and computer trends.  In addition, many employers will send their employees to online rather than traditional schools for advanced education, because it’s easier to fit online classes around a full time work schedule.

Online education has grown up.  It’s now possible to get a four-year Bachelor’s degree and even a postgraduate degree entirely online. This is great news for working parents, full-time employees, and others who can’t afford or don’t have time for traditional college.  And as online schools grow in the quality of their education and in their popularity, even the most conservative traditional schools and industries will begin to accept them.  Online education isn’t going away anytime soon, and it’s not unlikely that someday an online degree will be just as accepted as a traditional diploma.

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