When searching for the right online degree or course, there are so many options it can be challenging to find the one for you. As an adult learner and working professional, your time is limited and I am sure you aren't enrolling in online education just for fun but rather to learn a new skill or build on what you already know.
You need relevant and actionable solutions for real-world problems. To help you along your journey in finding the right online program, I would like to debunk three common misconceptions about online learning:
1. Online Instructors Are Not as High Caliber as On Campus
Making the decision to pursue online education is a big step and commitment on your part. You deserve to learn from the best, experts who have extensive experience in their respected fields. UMass online faculty are leaders in their fields, bringing real-world experience and applications to the class. Many of the same faculty who teach on campus, also teaching online.
At UMass, we believe whether a student is taking classes in person or online, they deserve the same level of high-quality education, resources and support in order to be successful. One big difference with learning online is that it empowers the student to decide when and where they study since they aren't required to be in person on location at a set time and place to learn. This flexibility allows our online students to continue working as they pursue their online education.
2. Online Learning is Not High Quality
For online education to be high quality, the curriculum must be specifically designed with the online student in mind. The reason some people are wary of taking online classes is because they either know someone who didn't have a great online experience, or they took an online class at one point and didn't enjoy it.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to online learning. The way a professor might teach a course in-person is not the same way it should be taught online. This is why outcome-based competency is critical when creating an online course or an online degree program. Having specific outcomes each student is expected to learn throughout the course is a measurable and tangible way for students to showcase what they have learned and how to apply those learnings in the real-world.
For example, did you know the average attention span when online is only 8 seconds? Students, especially adult learners, are busy between managing work and family life. What does this have to do with online learning? Understanding the realities of the distractions coupled with the needs and time constraints adult learners face on a daily basis, means information must be visually compelling, insightful, and formatted into bite-sized chunks so it can be quickly and easily digested. Instead of presenting for 90-minutes, an online UMass professor will breakdown the presentation into short videos with graphics, examples and interacgtive opportunities to provide the learner more context and relevance. This student-first model is how UMass Online sets itself apart when it comes to creating high-quality, relevant, and insightful content.
3. The Online Student Experience is Not Engaging
It's important to remember that "you-get-out-what-you-put-in" with online learning. What this means is if you sign up for online classes but don't put in the effort to participate in discussions with your classmates and professor, then you are selling yourself short on the true online experience. Participating in online class discussions means you are no longer passively learning. Rather, by responding to and asking questions, you are encouraging your classmates to think about and reflect on what you are learning from a different perspective.
Many online learners are adults who have years of real-world experience working in a certain field or industry. By participating and engaging with your classmates, you are challenging yourself to look at things from a different perspective that you may not have considered before. Learning alongside working professionals means each person brings a unique wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom that everyone can benefit and learn from. Not to mention, since you're learning with working professionals, it can be a great networking opportunity! The benefits of online learning can be invaluable to you as long as you put in the effort and time to actively learn and participate.
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