Online Degree Programs: Reality Vs. Virtual Reality
There are a lot of urban myths floating around out there. Like the one that says a tooth left in a glass of pop overnight will dissolve (it won’t). Or the one your older brother used to tell you about how your face would stay like that if he hit you in the back. There are also a lot of myths about online education. It’s natural for people to be suspicious about new ideas or new ways of doing things, and the incredible growth and development of online learning over the last ten years was bound to attract scepticism. This article tackles some of the bigger fish stories out there.
Myth: Online Distance Education Is A New, Untested Way To Learn
Actually, online distance education has been a reality for the better part of 20 years. Right from the beginning of the World Wide Web, businesses, universities, and researchers have been using the Internet to pool information and deliver training materials to students or employees. Throughout the 1990s, universities began to use their school Intranet networks to disseminate course information, and later course content. Eventually, they began to deliver courses to remote students via the World Wide Web, and finally, complete online degree courses.
Also, distance education itself is nothing new—the University of Wisconsin, for instance, started offering correspondence courses beginning in 1892, long before most households even had telephones. The rapid development of multimedia Internet technology and the expansion of Internet access has improved this old approach to education, by making it possible to complete coursework and connect to instructors and classmates wherever you can access the Internet.
Myth: Online Learning Isn’t “Real”
Some people have the idea that online learning is like one of those virtual reality social sites, where you have a virtual house, virtual friends, and virtual pets. But with schools like Stanford and the University of Michigan offering online degrees, it’s pretty easy to rebut that idea. As long as you are attending a regionally accredited institution, you’re earning a degree that counts as a credential.
Some online students find it reassuring to attend the online outlet of a college that has a bricks-and-mortar campus. When researching online degree programs, you can always check the accreditation status of a school by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s website: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation.
Myth: Online Degree Courses Aren’t Academically Rigorous
There’s an incorrect notion that when you take a degree online, the curriculum isn’t as challenging as it would be if you attended class on campus. This isn’t true: most universities are now able to deliver video lectures, readings, and other course material via the Internet that are the same as or equivalent to the materials students in face-to-face classes receive. And because you’re online, you can review the information as often as you need to. Try getting a professor in a campus-based course to deliver the same lecture twice.
Also, there’s generally more reading and writing in online coursework. Like any student, you have to complete readings and then discuss them in class. But because your class discussions take place on a message board or chat program, you’re actually writing out your responses. Many online classes make responding to discussions mandatory, so you can’t hide in the back of the classroom. You have to think about what you’ve read and compose a response to it.
In fact, the level of reading and writing in online courses, along with the fact that you can review materials at your own pace, may lead to better learning. 12 years of evidence about the outcomes of online education suggests that degree-level students who attend classes online (whether fully online or partially online) actually perform slightly better than students whose entire education is classroom-based. This probably wouldn’t be the case if the online students were receiving a less academically rigorous education. The analysis of this evidence, conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, can be read in the report “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices In Online Learning”.
What Online Learning DOES Make Easier
Online learning doesn’t make the academic side of earning a degree any less challenging. But online education does make it easier to take college courses while you’re working. It makes it easier to finish your degree while you’re at home with your kids, or deployed with the military. It makes it possible for you to complete your education or gain new skills without having to give up your current responsibilities or lifestyle. In other words, online education is convenient. If that convenience will help you achieve your academic goals, don’t be afraid to go for it.
This article is presented by Colorado Technical University, a network of online and on-ground campuses offering career-focused education at the associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate levels. To find out more about CTU’s online degree programs and campus locations, visit http://www.coloradotech.edu
Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60602-2504).
CTU does not guarantee employment or salary.