First-time online students: dispelling 3 common myths about online programs

William Woods Adult Degrees

Online degree programs or distance learning continues to grow according to a report released by Babson Survey Research Group. From 2015 to 2016, the number of online students grew 5.6 percent, exceeding the year-to-year gains seen in the years prior. Yet, even as online courses and programs become more common, there are a range of misconceptions about what distance learning is really like.

Below, we dispel three of the most common myths about the online student experience.

 Myth #1: It’s less work.

One of the most common myths about online programs is that they are easier and require less time to complete. While online courses provide the convenience of not being physically in a classroom, the work and effort involved for each course are comparable to that of an on-campus version. In fact, many would argue that in addition to the work that’s involved, distance learning requires greater self-discipline. According to another Babson report “a majority of respondents from institutions of all sizes agreed that more discipline is necessary to succeed in an online course.” Also, as many online students juggle family and career while pursuing an online degree, time management and a strong work ethic become especially important.

Myth #2: There are no group projects or class participation.

Another common myth about distance learning is that it doesn’t involve group projects or offer opportunity to participate in a class discussion. Today’s online courses are designed to promote collaboration and networking, offering creative ways for peers to interact with each other through discussion boards, video, and more. According to an eLearning Industry article, “hundreds of digital education tools have been created with the purpose of …encouraging collaboration and facilitating communication between teachers and learners.”

Myth # 3: One way or the highway.

Today there are many distance learning options. Students can pursue a variety of program formats including those that are 100 percent online as well as hybrid programs that may include few or many online courses as a supplement to on-campus coursework. Some online programs are also offered with a low-residency component that includes an on-campus orientation where students meet face-to-face with fellow classmates, professors and program administrators. As distance learning continues to grow, higher education institutions are seeing an increase in traditional students who are opting to take at least some online courses. According to a recent Pearson study, 30 percent of all students in higher education are now taking at least one distance course.

William Woods University, located in Fulton, MO, offers nationally ranked online programs including Associate, Bachelor, MBA and Master of Education degrees. Whichever path you choose, you can expect to be both challenged and supported through practical coursework taught by engaging faculty.

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