Earning a degree usually entails sitting in classes, meeting with fellow students in study groups and stopping by your professor’s office to ask questions. But online universities allow students to earn a degree or certificate without attending classes in person or meeting instructors face-to-face. Although some people are still skeptical of online education, more and more students are opting to learn this way. Take a look at these nine common myths about online degrees.
1. THE MYTH: THEY’RE NOT AS VALID AS “REAL” DEGREES.
Contrary to popular opinion, most online programs offer rigorous curriculum and personalized instruction. And attitudes about the quality of online education are shifting; in addition to online-only institutions, many top-ranked universities now offer online and distance learning courses as well.
2. THE MYTH: THE COURSEWORK IS EASIER.
Accredited online programs offer coursework that is just as challenging as what you’d get in a traditional in-person class. While online students may have more scheduling flexibility, they still have to complete assignments on time, participate in discussions and study the same curriculum as traditional students.
Some people think that students opt for an online degree because they’re too lazy to get dressed and show up to class, but most online students actually have high levels of self-discipline. Because they’re not in the same room as their professor and fellow students, online students must manage their time well (often while juggling a job or other commitments) and motivate themselves to engage with the material to do their best.
3. THE MYTH: THEY’RE ONLY MEANT FOR PART-TIME STUDENTS.
It’s true that many students choose online degree programs because they need to continue working while they obtain their degrees. But, just as traditional colleges run on a quarter, trimester or semester schedule, online degree programs follow a set schedule that may require a significant amount of study and class time. Students can typically choose to attend part-time or full-time, and both represent a significant time requirement. Online students must regularly participate in online discussions, work on group projects and meet due dates and deadlines.
4. THE MYTH: STUDENTS SUFFER WITHOUT FACE TIME WITH THEIR PROFESSORS.
Although they’re not in the same room as their professors, online students have plenty of opportunities to interact with them. Besides asking questions about the material via email and online chat, online students may also talk to their professors on the phone, communicate via video chat or have lengthy discussions on message boards. Some professors even offer online office hours to give students personalized attention and another opportunity to connect one-on-one.
5. THE MYTH: CHEATING IS RAMPANT.
It’s definitely easier to cheat on an exam when you take it at home without a proctor. But studies show online students don’t cheat more than traditional students. To prevent cheating, some online students have to turn on their webcam when taking timed tests, and professors use software to detect plagiarism, just as professors at traditional colleges do. And frequent assignments throughout the semester give professors a good idea of the quality of a student’s thoughts and writing, so they can easily spot any deviation from the norm.
6. THE MYTH: STUDENTS DON’T GET TO INTERACT WITH THEIR PEERS.
Online students don’t sit next to their fellow students in class, but they do have opportunities to exchange ideas, debate issues and socialize. Students are often assigned group projects, which provides them an opportunity to learn from each other and collaborate. Students can talk to one another in live chats, discussion boards and video chat.
7. THE MYTH: STUDENTS CAN’T TRANSFER CREDITS TO ANOTHER SCHOOL.
Not all students who start studying at one school finish their studies there, so the ability to transfer credits, which can save students time and money, is important. Different online degree programs have varying rules, but most students can transfer any credits they earn in an accredited online program to another school, online or not. Students should check with their new school to determine specific requirements for transferring credits.
8. THE MYTH: STUDENTS WON’T BENEFIT FROM THE SCHOOL’S AUXILIARY SERVICES.
On-campus students have convenient access to their school’s auxiliary services such as libraries, career counseling centers and job placement offices. But online students can also take advantage of these services. They can access digital books by logging on to their school’s library website, discuss course requirements with their academic advisor over email or talk to a career counselor over video chat. Some online students who live within driving distance of a campus may also have the option to visit a library or have a meeting with faculty members in person.
9. THE MYTH: ALUMNI WON’T GET A GOOD JOB.
Although employers and hiring managers once dismissed most job candidates with online degrees, attitudes towards such candidates are shifting. Today, fewer employers view candidates with online degrees with skepticism. To encourage their current employees to learn new skills, some employers even pay for them to participate in a part-time online degree or certificate program.