Whispers about online learning: Five common misconceptions

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by Anne Flenner

As a child, did you ever play the game telephone? It starts when one person whispers something into another person’s ear and then the message is passed on from person to person. At the end, the message is completely different from what was first whispered. We see this a lot in real life. Unless a person experiences something for themselves, they typically align themselves with what they’ve heard from others!

Online learning has been around for more than 20 years now, but there are still some messages that have been passed down throughout the years that aren’t always the “real” message.

Top 5 myths about online learning

1. Courses are super easy! 
Many virtual schools, such as Florida Virtual School, provide public school curriculum. That means that these schools follow the same standards as any other school in the state in which they reside. Just like classes in a traditional school, courses are rigorous and require a lot of hard work! Most students find that online courses can actually be more challenging, as learning online requires a different skill set of learning. Online learning tends to be independent, and it is often up to the student to be proactive, stay organized and on track, and reach out when they need help.

2. College/Universities do not like when students take online courses!
Have you noticed that many college/universities are now offering many online courses as well? Learning online is a skill that needs to be mastered. Therefore, most colleges/universities love to see students who have taken online courses. Successful online learners demonstrate to colleges that they have mastered soft skills like time management and organization before they even head off to college.

3. You are on your own!
With many online courses, there is a teacher for every course, so students are supported by teachers and often by other educators within the school. By calling, texting, or emailing, students can get the answer they need to understand the material and move on! Some schools offer live lessons within the courses where a live teacher is teaching the material in real time.

4. Everyone cheats in online courses!
There is no clear data that show that students who take online courses cheat more than students in a face-to-face classroom. Most online schools take academic integrity very seriously. Some have built-in safe guards to make sure student work is original.

5. There are no deadlines!
While some online schools allow some flexibility in pacing within courses, most schools require that students maintain a set pace in every course by working each and every week. Some schools allow students to work at an accelerated pace, and there are oftentimes a set number of assignments due each week to keep a minimum pace toward completion, ensuring the student is continuously engaging with the content and building on his/her knowledge!

Bottom line: It’s a great idea to try something for yourself before you judge what it may be like! When first getting started with online courses, research recommends students take one online course to get used to learning in a different environment.

About the Author

Anne Flenner, School Counselor, has worked to meet the academic, social, personal, and professional needs of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) students since 2011. Previously a school counselor in Alachua County, she has received several awards and serves on multiple state counseling association boards and committees. She has a Master's degree in Counselor Education from UF. Anne loves working with student athletes, supporting college and career readiness, and focusing on student mental health and wellness.