Online enrollment increased for the 14th year in a row in 2016, and a third of college students now take at least one class online, according to an annual analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.
But despite how common online learning has become, myths about online learning persist, reports Goldie Blumenstyk for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Blumenstyk spoke with higher ed professionals about the most common misunderstandings surrounding online learning. Here’s what she found:
Myth 1: Online classes are just a “passive transfer of information”
Online classes aren’t a one-way educational street, points out Glori Hinck, an instructional designer at the University of St. Thomas. Students enrolled in online classes can still debate and form a learning community.
In fact, online learning may be more conducive to meaningful discussion than traditional on-campus classes, adds Jane Sims, director of academic technology at the College of St. Scholastica. She points out that online courses often require students to participate in discussion threads. And because those threads are typed out online, students have more time to reflect and craft thoughtful responses.
Myth 2: For instructors, online classes come second
Online classes often require more careful planning by instructors than traditional brick-and-mortar classes, explains Christine Mueller, senior executive associate dean for academic programs at the University of Minnesota‘s School of Nursing.
“Our faculty are actually learning about how you construct courses and curriculum,” she says. “Honestly, most faculty, and I’m one of them, never learned that. We learned our discipline. But we didn’t learn how to teach.”
Myth 3: Online learning doesn’t foster meaningful connections
Students enrolled in online classes are often more diverse than students in traditional classrooms, say online learning experts. “As a faculty member, I’ve seen my online classes become increasingly diverse in practically every way possible—in race, age, region, people with disabilities, veterans currently on active duty in other countries,” explains Martin Springborg, director of teaching and learning at Inver Hills Community College.
And these students are able to connect online without the time constraints that interfere with traditional classroom discussion.
Many colleges and education providers are working to provide online students with physical spaces to connect in-person. For example, online-degree provider 2U recently partnered with co-working firm WeWork to provide online students with a space to gather and hold meetings (Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/7/18).