Separating the facts from misconceptions about online learning
Online learning has a range of benefits, from studying at your own pace to making it possible for people who otherwise couldn’t attend regular in-person classes at a brick-and-mortar university. However, some people still have a negative view of online learning. Many of these opinions are based on misconceptions or outdated notions. Here are some of the mistaken ideas people have, alongside the actual facts and how you can make remote learning work for you.
Is a degree studied online worth any less?
A degree gained online is worth just as much as the same degree received from a physical university. There is no reason why studying online should decrease the value of your degree.
For example, online MSN leadership programs, which are offered by Rockhurst University, will qualify you to work in the same jobs as an identical degree studied offline would. If after gaining your degree you find that some hiring managers are reluctant to hire you because you studied online, it may be worth omitting how you gained your degree or talking more about the accreditation, so they can see there is no difference.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant part in more universities adapting their courses for online study and helping students realize the benefits of this type of learning. The major difference is being able to study in your own time. This is especially appealing to people who want to switch careers but can’t afford to quit their job until after they graduate and begin their new career.
The misconception that students get no support
Some people wrongly assume that studying online means foregoing the level of support that offline students have access to. This is simply not true. Any reputable university that offers online degrees will also provide the necessary support for its students and prospective students. This includes advice before enrollment to ensure you are choosing the right degree that fits your needs as well as access to your professors throughout the course.
Although you won’t have in-person classes like you would with a physical university, you will still be able to contact your professor or other university staff when needed. This includes reaching them by email, telephone or an online portal. They will often get back to you within a short timeframe, so you won’t be left waiting for long.
Of course, studying online means having to motivate yourself more than you would with regular in-person classes. You will have to set your own study sessions and hold yourself accountable. However, this doesn’t mean going without support if you find this difficult or are struggling with some of the assignments. It can also be helpful to set up independent study groups online and meet with fellow students via video platforms or discuss course materials through social media groups. Because your cohort is also studying remotely, the support gained from each other can be more in-depth than you might get from students you see and sit next to almost every day. The emphasis is placed on the remote students to find ways to make this method of learning work, but the support is definitely there if you need it.
Employers prefer degrees from traditional universities
There are some employers who prefer candidates to have a degree from an in-person university. However, the acceptance of online studying is rising, and this increase seems likely to continue.
One major concern employees may have is about the quality of the degree program. This is why it’s important to talk about the intensity and thoroughness of your course. Online universities such as Rockhurst provide students with a supportive and flexible way of learning. Highlight your achievements and the qualities you have developed to gain your degree, such as self-motivation, determination and time management. A good employer will see the value in these qualities and understand how you can be an asset to them.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students studying online rose by 97% in 2020. Of course, the pandemic was responsible for this dramatic spike, and students enrolled in physical universities had little choice about this change. However, this has made it difficult for employers to favor offline degrees over those gained online. A higher number of recent graduates have completed some or all of their degree online.
Can studying online be a lonely experience?
Whether you feel isolated in your online studies partly depends on you. One way to approach your coursework is to form an online study group, as previously mentioned. These can provide you with both support and encouragement to help you continue with your studies.
Although friends and family might not understand the specifics of your chosen degree, they may have studied online or be able to understand some of the universal difficulties when it comes to studying, whether it’s online or offline. Regardless, it’s important to make time to catch up with them. Achieving a balance between setting time aside for study sessions and having a social life can be challenging. However, it is rewarding to give yourself a break and can help you come back to your studies feeling refreshed and ready to learn.
It’s also important to take any opportunity offered to interact with tutors or other university staff. This could be before you sign up for the course, even if you’re already certain this is the right degree program for you. By talking to student support, you can confirm your decision and may also learn information that helps you be more prepared for the start of your classes.
During the course of study, you will often have the chance to do a work placement. This can be the perfect opportunity to meet professionals and other students, even if they are studying at a physical university.
You can learn more from a book
Although some of your learning may come from extracts or chapters of books, an online degree from a reputable university will rely on a mix of course materials. This includes video and audio, textbooks, online tutorials and practical experience if you do a work placement. Your education will be more comprehensive than simply reading a book.
Your degree will prepare you to work in your chosen career and will be accredited and recognized by employers who have a strong understanding of the work and commitment that goes into achieving an online degree.
During your coursework, you’ll likely read numerous books on your chosen subject. Some of these will be part of the course materials and others will be those you select yourself, based on a specific interest or desire to know more. Nevertheless, your online degree will provide you with skills and knowledge beyond what can be learned from books alone.
Do you have to be an IT expert?
It’s true that you will need some IT skills, equipment and software to access and study your course online. However, unless your degree is related to a technical subject, you definitely don’t need to be an expert. For example, if you want to work in nursing, you would only need to develop IT skills that help you to study and perhaps to use some of the technology required in your role.
To get started on your degree, the basic skills you need include being able to use the internet, creating and using an email account, understanding Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and the ability to access video platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
You will also need access to a laptop or desktop computer and a reliable internet connection. Next, you’ll also need to purchase word processing software such as Microsoft Word – there will often be subscription offers available for students. You may also need to purchase and learn how to use a printer. None of these things require advanced IT skills. Regardless of whether you ultimately decide to enroll in an online program, these basic skills are quite useful to learn if you don’t know them already, because most careers involve using technology on some scale. As a result, studying online can actually help to prepare you for your chosen career.
Making it work for you
Many of these misconceptions apply to uncredited qualifications and badly managed courses. These have unfairly given respectable education providers a poor reputation. As long as you choose a reputable education provider such as Rockhurst University, you can feel reassured your degree is worth just as much as it would be if you studied offline.
There are still differences between online and offline courses. That’s why it’s important to make online learning work for you. There are several ways to do this. One way is to treat your program with the same commitment as you would if you were studying in person. This includes taking thorough notes and reviewing them often, contributing to your class discussions whenever you get the opportunity and making the time for studying. To achieve this, ensure that those closest to you understand the importance of your online program and the time you need to yourself to study effectively. This can involve setting boundaries and creating your own study space.
There are also several other ways you can make online learning work for you more effectively.
Setting aside regular time
Setting aside time to study isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Some ways you can successfully carve out enough study time include blocking out distractions, ensuring you get enough sleep and planning ahead.
If you have a family, then distractions might seem inevitable. However, with pre-planned study sessions, you can make arrangements ahead of time for your family members to carry out tasks that will be minimally distracting to you. This may be the ideal time for them to do their chores, and you can reward them and yourself later by spending quality time together.
If you don’t have enough space to adapt a room into an office, you may end up studying at the kitchen table. If this is the only place where you can study, make sure your family knows to avoid this room at the specific times you are studying. Make sure they get any food or drinks they need beforehand to minimize interruptions.
If you find it easy to get distracted by the sounds from other people in nearby rooms, you could invest in some noise-canceling headphones and may find it beneficial to listen to some soothing music as you study. The important thing is to find what works for you. If you haven’t studied for a while, this can mean trying several things until you discover your most efficient way of studying.
Set goals and reward yourself
When studying online, there are no specific time requirements like there would be for in-person classes. This means setting your own goals but also sticking to them. One way of doing this is to reward yourself. For example, you might decide to spend two hours studying in the evenings. After a week or two of sticking to this, you can reward yourself with your favorite takeaway or by adding a specific amount of money to a savings jar towards something bigger.
Goals should be manageable but at the same time should challenge you to push yourself. If it feels too easy, you might not be achieving your full potential. However, if sticking to your goals becomes too stressful, it’s possible you have aimed to do too much at once.
Try breaking study sessions up into smaller, manageable chunks. If two hours at a time is too much, see if breaking this up into smaller study sessions throughout the day works better. This can also give you time to absorb what you have learned.
Ask lots of questions
Asking questions is important to get the most benefit from your degree program, particularly when studying online. This is a great way to engage with the tutor and develop an understanding of the course materials. It avoids misunderstandings and helps you expand on your knowledge.
Speaking up also helps you connect with the other students in your program. Some may be self-conscious about asking a question. By asking something similar to what they were thinking, it shows them that they were not the only person who needed clarification.
If you choose to work in a career dedicated to helping people, asking questions is even more important to prevent mistakes or misunderstandings, which can cause irreversible problems. Asking for clarification shows your desire to help reduce the risk of any problems. Not being afraid of asking questions also prepares you in health and science roles, where questioning everything can lead to discoveries and improvements in the field.
Plan your career
One of the misconceptions we mentioned earlier was that students don’t get support when studying online. As discussed, there is plenty of support available to you before signing up for a course. To ensure online learning works for you, it’s important to spend some time thinking about your career goals and planning out a career path before you enroll.
Besides ensuring you’re studying for the right degree, knowing the specific career you want to apply it toward can help motivate you. If you’re serious about earning a degree, then you may also be thinking about switching careers. For many students, changing careers later in life can be challenging, so it’s important to remind yourself of the desired goals of your study when you face difficulties along the way.
Highlight your achievements to employers
Some employers will always have doubts about the validity of online learning. In your application, you can try to ease some of these concerns by highlighting your achievements, including those made while studying for a degree, if there is a suitable space for this. These achievements could be successfully balancing study with family and other commitments, finding time and the right environment to study, and any particularly noteworthy achievements made during times of crisis.
Although many employers prefer their staff to keep their personal life separate from their work life, we all experience personal and family problems from time to time. By showing you have overcome these adversities and have gone on to complete your degree, you can prove yourself to be a valuable employee.
The application may not be the best place to go into in-depth details, but if the subject comes up during the interview stage, it may be worthwhile to talk about these challenges. Some of the most popular questions asked during an interview are about specific examples of a time when you overcame a challenge. Although some of the answers should relate to work, you might be able to talk about gaining a degree online during a difficult time. The best option is to try to read the room and have a few examples ready, then use the one that feels right at the time.
Some people will always believe the misconceptions about online degrees. Regardless, as remote learning continues to rise in popularity and a higher number of people learn to fit online study into their busy lives, more people will realize the validity and usefulness of these degree programs.