Let’s Bust Some Myths About Online Learning

January 29, 2024 - Olivia Torres Jojola and Rick Robb

Online Classes and Programs

mythbusterz-logo.jpgWhile distance learning has been around for decades, online classes and degree programs have come into their own over the past 20 years. UNM Online facilitates an array of standalone online classes as well as undergraduate degree-completion programs, fully-online graduate degrees, and graduate certificate programs.

Despite some setbacks during the pandemic, instructors and course designers were able to focus on a larger population of online learners and identify areas of improvement.  In the end, that unexpected shift to helped increase awareness of both the opportunities and challenges associated with online learning and opened up the possibility of a quality education for those not able to attend college in-person.

One other thing that came out in that time were myths about what online learning was and wasn’t. Many new (and sometimes recycled old) stories about the flaws in getting one’s education without being in a physical classroom emerged. We want to look at nine of those stories and see how valid they might be.

Myth 1: You’ve got to be tech-savvy to succeed in online courses 

It’s true that you need basic technology skills, but in general, once you learn your way around UNM’s online learning management system (LMS), Canvas, most other tools and software are fairly straightforward. UNM has a Canvas Support team and a 24/7 hotline, along with various workshops and resources offered through the Center for Teaching and Learning to assist online students. Your instructor can also provide you with support if you run into trouble navigating course assignments and activities. Although there can be a learning curve when it comes to getting used to them, online courses in Canvas are intuitive, well-organized, and easy to navigate.

Myth 2: Online classes are easier than their face-to-face counterparts

Online learning can be challenging. The 8-week or accelerated online courses contain the same materials, lessons, and learning outcomes as their in-person counterparts but have been redesigned to meet best online teaching practices; they can be intense and fast-paced. Not all online courses require meeting times, so the discipline and focus lie on the student to attend class and designate study time. Some students also need to adjust to the fact that there is not a professor in the classroom to keep them on track.

Myth 3: Online learning is all lectures and no interactions with other students

Online learning is a dynamic environment with student interaction and discussions, group work, quizzes, assignments, reading, and more! The Center for Teaching and Learning works with instructors to incorporate regular and substantive interactions in online classes, ensuring a high-quality online learning experience for everyone in the course. And while they are the exception to the rule, some courses may require synchronous online class times for one or more meetings during the semester. You should examine the required meeting times before registering for a class to make sure it works with your schedule.

Myth 4: Online courses require less time

Online courses require just as much or more time as in-person courses. If you’re taking a traditional three credit-hour 16-week course, a common rule of thumb is to dedicate 6 hours a week to studying and completing assignments for the course. However, we recommend that you plan to devote four hours per credit hour of class for 8-week courses (or about 12 hours a week for a typical 3-credit-hour course.)  Online students work just as hard as in-person students to earn their degrees!

Myth 5: Online courses are not as high-quality as in-person courses

In addition to being created and taught by top-notch instructors, all online courses receive instructional design support from the Center for Teaching and Learning to ensure that instructors utilize best practices for teaching online. Accelerated Online Program courses are quality reviewed for UNM Online best practices, with some courses even receiving Golden Paw certification for excellence.

Myth 6: Anyone can succeed in online courses

While online education makes learning more widely accessible, not everyone enjoys or succeeds in an online environment. It takes a high level of perseverance, commitment, and time-management to be a successful online student. Online degree programs offer the flexibility some students need to balance work, caretaking — including self-care — and more.

Myth 7: Online classes are completely self-paced

While there is autonomy regarding what location and time of day you will complete your work, there are still weekly deadlines that you need to meet. Finding those study times and locations that work best for you to complete online coursework is something that comes with a little experience. 

Myth 8: Online classes are more expensive

You may not know that students enrolled in one of our Accelerated Online Programs pay the same per-credit-hour rate regardless of whether they are residents of New Mexico or not. For non-residents, this represents substantial savings. Eligible New Mexico residents working on their first bachelor’s degree may qualify for the Opportunity Scholarship that will cover up to 100% of their tuition and fees.  

Myth 9: Degrees earned online are valued less by employers than traditional in-person degrees

Online degrees from The University of New Mexico have the same weight and relevance as traditional in-person degree. They also have the same learning outcomes as in-person courses; just offered in a different format. UNM does not indicate that your courses were completed online on official transcripts or on your diploma. Future employers also won’t know that your degree was earned online unless you choose to share that with them.

Online learning isn’t for everyone, but it is doable if you are willing and able to put in the time and to take advantage of your many resources and support options.

Want to know more about online classes at UNM and whether they’re right for you? We have a blog post titled What’s it Like Being an Online Student at UNM? that gives an overview.

UNM Online’s Student Success Specialists are ready to answer your questions. Call 505-277-9000 or email  online@unm.edu. Join them on Zoom for Virtual Advisement Hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to Noon (Mountain Time). Meeting ID: 967 7118 3893.

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