This fall, it is expected that over 22 million students will enroll in college either on a full time or part-time basis in the United States. Each of them are probably trying to figure out what to major in, who are the best professors, and what is the best time of day to take classes.
But there’s one more question on the minds of these students: Should I take a class online?
The answer might be “yes”–after all, it may cost less to you than traditional college. And you won’t be alone: according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, a whopping 5,200,000 students took at least one course online in 2012 (including 205,000 students in New York State alone.)
But if you’re still on the fence, it might be because you’ve heard some crazy stories about online learning. Here are seven that I debunk:
Myth: Online courses are easier than face-to-face courses
Truth: Online courses are often more demanding and take more time than traditional face-to-face courses.
One reason: you have to write evveeerrrryyyyyttttthhhhhiiiiinnnnnggggg!
Think about how many thoughts are expressed verbally in a face-to-face course. Now, imagine having to write out all of those thoughts. Writing, in and of itself, is a time consuming process.
In an online class, all your interactions with professors and classmates are done through the written word. Emails, essays, worksheets, and class discussion boards require careful and often analytic thought. While some assignments can be through audio or visual media tools, most online assignments are primarily written.
Additionally, because you do not meet at a designated time and place several times a week like a traditional class, you often have to be clear with your language to make sure the instructor knows you are learning the material.
Myth: There are no due dates in online courses
Truth: Online courses often follow the same semester schedule as traditional face-to-face courses.
This means your instructor will still give you a syllabus and schedule covering the course topics and the requirements for check-in, discussions, readings, tests, and other activities.
While your instructor will set expectations at the beginning of your course, it is up to you to keep in regular contact with him or her to receive announcements and understand assignment directions and deadlines.
Myth: I can complete all of my work for a module in a single online session.
Truth: In an online class, instructors don’t see you at a designated time several days a week. Therefore, courses are designed to keep you active and engaged in the material.
Since most online courses are not self-paced, your instructor will likely require you to log into your course several times per week to participate in discussion boards, check mail and announcements, and complete online assignments and activities.
Your assignments will come in all shapes and sizes. They may require offline work that can be submitted online later, they may involve group discussion and participation, and there may be different due dates for different portions of the same assignment. By regularly logging in, you can make sure you are meeting the requirements of your course.
— Open SUNY (@OpenSUNY) June 16, 2014
Myth: Since the class doesn’t meet face-to-face, I can remain anonymous and don’t have to participate
Truth: Your teachers want you to know their course material by the end of each semester. So… you’ll have to participate.
Because they are not meeting with you in a “real-time environment,” there are activities that help you think about the course material beyond what is written on a page.
Most online activities – whether they are discussion boards, group work, or anything else – involve some kind of interaction with your instructor or your fellow classmates. It is up to you to make sure that you are proactively participating in conversations to meet the requirements of the course and understand the material.
One bonus of not meeting in person is the luxury of time. As an online student, you have the ability to reflect and form well-reasoned responses to your classmates’ statements, rather than the need to respond immediately to their ideas.
Myth: My instructor will teach me all of the computer skills I need in order to take this course.
Truth: You’re taking an online course. On a computer, So, ideally, you should have the necessary computer skills to be able to take a course already.
Your instructor may have great technical ability in a learning management system but instructors are there to teach you subject matter and to make sure you meet the outcomes of the course.
If you require any additional support in knowing basic computer operations and functions, there’s a really handy “Basic Computer Operations” guide you can use.
Myth: Online course discussions should be easy for me because I post on online discussion boards and text people all the time.
Truth: Internet discussion boards and course discussion boards are not created equal. You probably can’t use emojis.
Online chat rooms or discussion boards often allow you to use shorthand “text speak,” emojis, and there are often not many rules for posting.
Online course discussions are more formal than you would typically find on any other internet forum. They require you to think about a topic or questions and answer clearly and thoughtfully. Most instructors will provide you with guidelines or rules for posting and you should review these before you post anything.
The other big difference between posting on an internet site and posting for a course – it is graded!
You should treat each post as a short essay assignment. That means following all of the directions and answering each question set by your instructor. Everything you say (or don’t say) will count. Before you post anything, proofread your work; poor spelling and grammar will typically count against you.
Myth: As long as I log in, I have “attended” for that day in my online course.
Truth: Just because you are not meeting face-to-face doesn’t mean your instructor doesn’t notice your attendance and participation.
Instructors look for more than logging in and just logging in doesn’t count as attending. Participating in discussion, submitting an assignment or quiz, or other content-based work is used by your instructor to measure your attendance.
It is important to read the syllabus provided by your instructor at the beginning of the semester to find out what the attendance requirements are for your particular course. And if you still aren’t sure – ASK. Professors want to help you learn the material. But if they see that you aren’t submitting work or participating, they may just assume you aren’t interested. It is up to you to keep in touch with your instructor.
Do you have any to add? Leave them below in the comments!
Emily Schwartz is the Coordinator of Open SUNY Communication and Projects.