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The Myths About Distance Learning and Online Study

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Online Education Distance Learning

Although online distance programmes have revolutionised the world of education, many people still seem to have misconceptions about distance learning and online education when compared to ‘traditional’ methods of learning. Here are some of the most common accusations aimed at online courses with answers which dispel many of the myths surrounding distance education.

“Distance learning schools aren’t as good as traditional schools.” – Whilst there are some rogue operators out there, many online education courses have extremely good reputations and you need to do your research first to ensure they are accredited and recognised by a professional education inspection body. However, there are numerous online courses which are equally, and in some cases better, than their ‘traditional’ counterparts.

“Employers won’t accept qualifications from distance learning providers.” – Degrees, diplomas and other online qualifications – provided they have been obtained from an accredited and approved online education provider – will be viewed equally favourably as traditionally obtained qualifications. Employers and industry in general are only too aware that there are extremely talented people out there who either prefer online courses or require the flexibility of a distance learning programme. Therefore, provided the online education provider has a good reputation, students who obtain online qualifications will be treated just the same as conventional students when it comes to hiring a new employee or with regards to opportunities for career progression.

“Online courses are easier and faster to complete.” – The difficulty and duration of an online course will often depend upon the course provider itself and the particular nature of the course. It’s a complete fallacy to assume that online courses are 'dumbed down' as this is clearly not the case. The main difference is in their flexibility. And, where online courses can sometimes be quicker to complete, that is generally down to the fact that the flexibility they offer means that certain core components of a course can be undertaken at times of the day when traditional institutions might be closed.

“Online courses are too solitary and impersonal.” – Whilst it can’t be denied that the ease of interaction is much simpler in a traditional college environment, great steps have been taken to ensure that online students are able to engage as much as possible with their tutors and fellow colleagues. Things like chat rooms, video and audio lectures, teleconferences, message boards and forums are all ways in which students can feel more socially a part of their larger community. This also benefits those who may live in remote locations who might not have the opportunity to go to a conventional college close to where they live.

“Online courses don’t need to be completed and aren’t moderated.” – All reputable online course providers expect their students to demonstrate the same level of commitment and desire to complete their studies as conventional students. Just as in traditional establishments – if assignments aren’t completed on time persistently or you do not have the necessary motivation and ‘drop out’, you will fail the course just as you would at college or university.

“Online courses mean that you miss out on extra-curricular activities and traditional student experiences.” – Of course, you won’t be meeting up with friends each day or ‘hanging out’ in the student union bar nor will you have access to things like sports and hobby clubs that you find at most universities. However, there is nothing stopping you establishing meaningful relationships with your fellow online student community and arranging days/nights out in a mutually agreed location and perhaps meeting people face to face to share mutual hobbies or interests.

Ultimately, online distance learning programmes simply offer an alternative way of learning, one which often provides the flexibility that people need in order to further their qualifications or to pursue a particular interest more closely. Granted, this is a different way of learning than some people might be used to but it’s important to dispel some of the myths surrounding online learning and to focus more on the positive benefits which many people derive from it.

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