7 Myths about Online Education, Busted

“I trained these men…”

Distance learning, e-learning, online learning or whatever you want to call it. Its a joke, right? Sure, laugh it up. You probably think online education is something you get from a Cracker Jack box or the back of an Archie comic. Here is a list of the most common beliefs associated with online learning and the equally simplistic rationale for each one. Then read contributor Jessica Meyer’s article below and find out just how the internet is changing how our world learns.

7 Myths about Online Education

1. Online education is impersonal–

All you are doing is looking at a screen, there is no instruction, no classmate interaction.

2. Online education is only provided by for-profit companies–

These companies are simply out there to get your money, they don’t care about your education.

3. Online education is easy–

You could complete the courses and not even have to put any true work into it.

4. Employers don’t like candidates with online degrees–

They too think online degrees are easy to obtain and require little work.

5. Online education learning material is stagnant–

Course material is not kept up to date

6. Because online education is cheap, it is a waste of time–

If it were worth more, it would cost more.

7. Online education is only for old people with kids–

Young people of actual college-age attend traditional schools


Is Online Education Really Revolutionary?
By Jessica Meyer

Explosive growth in distance education makes for dire predictions about the future of brick and mortar schools and where higher education is headed. Those predictions have proved unfounded thus far. Online education appears to be filling a necessary niche for many college students nationwide.

Online education has leaped over some significant hurdles. Schools in the for-profit sector (like Argosy, U. of Phoenix, etc.) have had to dispel notions that they recruit using student fear-mongering tactics as a way of attracting students. The fact of the matter is that as online schools continue to evolve, brick and mortar institutions are providing more interactive and robust programs. The potential for students to achieve a college degree, that they otherwise would not have, is becoming  increasingly clear.  Now that many traditional universities, such as Stanford, are developing and testing accredited online PhD degree and bachelor’s degree programs, the stigma about online education seems to be evaporating.

In April, 2009, US News and World Report showed that online education was growing at an exponential rate. In 2003, fewer than two million students were signed up for online coursework. By 2008, more than four million students were signed up for at least one online class. Larger online institutions like the University of Phoenix have seen enrollment jump by rates of up to 20 percent in a little over one year. Despite pre-conceived notions, students are clearly tuning on to the many advantages online education offers.

The demographics of the online student have also changed. Courses were originally designed for working adults. Now many high school graduates are switching to distance learning as a cost-effective solution to higher education. As online education becomes more competitive and affordable, and traditional schools become increasingly expensive and exclusive, students are bound to see e-learning as a viable solution for a college degree today.

Affordability  is one of the biggest factors in educational equality and access. More middle- and low-income students are now able to foot the bill for an online college degree and the benefits of higher education become accessible to a wider sector of the population. This moves well beyond the degree process – employment trends show that higher education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and closing the “class gap” running rampant in today’s society.

In a 2006 interview with education policy and labor market expert Anthony Carnevale at theASCD website, Carnevale was asked if college is the only way for disadvantaged kids to dig their way out of their current situations. He responded, “So long as there is no viable alternative to postsecondary education, it is the only option.” Carnevale goes on to explain that American employers today look primarily at an applicant’s potential – which is demonstrated by educational achievement.

A 2007 report in The American states that in 1980, an American worker with a college degree earned approximately 30 percent more than his co-workers without a degree. By the time of the report, the income difference had shifted to about 70 percent. By the same token, a graduate degree earned a person about 50 percent more in 1980, and 100 percent more in 2007. The connection between a college degree and earning potential is clear.

When online learning was first introduced more than a decade ago, no one was sure how it would change the scope of higher education. Now, it seems clear online education is looking like just the thing to close the class gap once and for all.