Busting 5 Of the Biggest Myths about Online Degrees

myths about online degrees

Online learning has grown in acceptance as both a learning method and means of education access. Yet there is still a lot of questions by some about online degrees, both by students (who are primarily working adults) and the companies that employ or are looking to hire them.

Let’s dispel a few of the biggest myths and misunderstandings about online education.


1. Online Education isn’t as Effective or Interactive as an On-ground Degree Program
Just as with an on-ground class, online degree programs can vary in quality. However students in a well-run online degree program can find just as much quality (or even more) as they would attending in person.

In an online learning environment, every seat is a front row seat and each student has individualized access to every word, example, presentation, illustration, video and content piece that is shared by an instructor. Also, in the vast majority of online courses students are required to interact with the instructor and each other, typically via a discussion thread, multiple times per week.

Some online courses are in a synchronous format, meaning students are in a real-time video conference that replicates the on-ground version of a course, plus it’s recorded for later viewing. There are even schools providing mini robots that literally sit in a class for distance students!


2. Online Degree Programs are Easier Than an On-ground Degree Program.
In a lecture course with a couple of hundred students it can be easy to hide, easy to never ask or answer a question or even avoid class altogether until exam time.

In a typical online course your attendance AND participation is tracked, so interaction and engagement is key. Even with group projects there is the ability to determine how much impact and involvement each member has on the project.

Finally there’s the inherent issue of attending school on your schedule. If you have to be on campus at 6pm for class it can be a hassle, but you’re externally motivated. For an online degree program you’ll need the internal motivation to fight one of the most difficult and powerful forces around – procrastination!


3. Online Degree Programs Aren’t as Respected as a Degree from an On-ground Degree Program.
There are plenty of stats showing the growing acceptance of online degrees, but I’m going to focus on two practical reasons online degree programs are respected by employers and managers.

First, as more and more working professionals and executives are taking online classes (with more and more tenured college instructors teaching those classes), they are the also the ones doing more of the hiring or evaluating of talent. They respect online programs because they themselves have done online programs.

Secondly, even if you are manager who’s biased against online degree prgorams, the fact is that you have employees doing excellent work who attended an online program – and you have no idea. Remember, it doesn’t say “online” on the diploma.


4. Online programs aren’t accredited
15-20 years ago online learning was dominated by for-profits (most accredited, some not) along with other institutions with less than stellar reputations. As it stands today, the overwhelming majority of online degree programs and enrollment are at regionally accredited public and private non-profit colleges.

This includes large public colleges such as UCF, Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, UNC, Virginia, SUNY, Iowa, Nebraska and Georgia. Well known private colleges including Penn, NYU, Stanford, Georgetown, Harvard, Creighton, Boston College, Villanova and Drexel. Plus thousands more programs at hundreds of institutions in all 50 states and around the world.

Online programs are accredited, growing and there’s a great program out there for almost anyone.


5. Online Students are on an Island
We mentioned earlier the interactive nature of an online class, from discussion threads to live video to literally sitting in a class via a robot!

One of the areas we also focus on at ClearDegree when interviewing schools for clients are the student support resources. Many adult students haven’t written a paper or done a complex math problem in years. The ability to access an academic advisor, an instructor, a writing or math lab, library or tutor is both important and widespread.

Not only do most colleges provide these resources, there are also several 3rd-party companies that colleges bring on to specifically work with adult students at a distance. In a good program there’s help where you need it.

Online learning is NOT for everyone, but for the right student in the right program it can absolutely be just as rewarding, effective and quality-focused as the on-ground version and more.


If your team needs help finding the perfect online program for their specific needs and situation, you can’t do better than bringing on an Education Concierge.