Penn State is continuing to respond to the spread of coronavirus. Monitor our Coronavirus Information website for more updates.

5 Online Learning Myths You Need to Leave Behind in 2020

Penn State World Campus Student Advisory Board member Arianna Lynne Fangonilo shared these thoughts on common myths and misconceptions about online learning.

As technology advances, we find that many brick-and-mortar services and physical products are accompanied (or even replaced) by virtual counterparts. Bank tellers can be replaced by ATMs outside of business hours. Junk mail has become spam emails. Even schooling has gone digital. Online courses have been around for a while, and the number of students taking online courses increases every year. In 2017 alone, 6.6 million students took some form of an online course. But some people may still have questions about online education or wonder about common misconceptions they may have heard. Here are five myths about online learning and why they are simply not true, from my perspective as a Penn State World Campus student.

Myth #1: You Miss Out on Social Interaction When You Study Online

One of the things that immediately comes to mind when it comes to online studies is the fear that you will completely miss out on interaction with your peers. However, that is far from the truth. Many online classes require a certain amount of interaction with your peers, including participating in discussion boards and working on group projects. There are even ways to be involved outside of school through virtual clubs and even student government bodies.

Myth #2: Online Education is Easier

Many students, especially adult learners, opt for online education because it is easier to coordinate their studies with any obligations they already have. That does not make studying online any easier. Online students still must manage their time and juggle their studies, social life, work, and personal time. As with on-campus students, this often means sacrificing leisure time in order to have enough time to study for the grades they want. Add this to the fact that students learning online at Penn State study the same exact material as their on-campus peers. These facts make online education just as challenging.

Myth #3: The Quality of Online Education is Lower

When universities go through the process of accreditation, they are evaluated by a peer review board. If a university meets the standards of the accreditation agency, the school is awarded with the accreditation. Many universities that offer online courses are accredited, including Penn State, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Penn State World Campus students get the same quality courses and respected degrees that our on-campus peers get.

Myth #4: Cheating is Acceptable

Universities understand that with distance learners they must use other tools to ensure that students are being honest with their work. In addition to applications that check for plagiarism, many universities utilize a third-party proctoring service, such as Examity, to supervise tests. These proctors will even verify your identity and enforce instructor expectations during a test by asking that you keep your camera and microphone on through the duration of your exam. Proctors will even stop you in the middle of an exam if they suspect that the integrity of the exam has been compromised. Just as any form of cheating is not tolerated on campus, online students are held to the same standard.

Myth #5: Employers Don’t Value Online Education

If your fear of studying online stems from the idea that employers won’t take an online degree seriously, you can put your mind at ease. Most employers today recognize that well-respected universities like Penn State offer online programs and are more comfortable with them than they have been in the past. Employers will consider factors such as accreditation and may ask why a student chose to study online, but these days, pursuing an online education is not an oddity. And remember, when you complete your program through Penn State World Campus, nothing on your diploma or transcripts will indicate you were an online student, so employers will not know how you took your courses unless you tell them.

Online Education is Real Education

Online education has made post-secondary education more accessible for students across the world. As more and more students turn to online universities to continue their education, society has begun to give online education the recognition it deserves. Many of the myths surrounding online education are proving to be false, showing that online education is real education.

Photo credit: Matthew Henry via Burst