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4 myths and realities of studying online

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

With the myriad of benefits offered by online study – from its flexible delivery to the varied options available – it’s no wonder such programs have had increasing popularity among Australian students. In a 2018 study by Grattan Institute, one-in-five domestic students were found to be doing their studies online. Earlier statistics from 2016 discovered that even 45% of on-campus students reported to be doing half or more of their studies digitally. 

Despite its success, this mode of education is yet to be fully accepted as traditional university programs, with a few misconceptions that act as a barrier for many. SkillsTalk debunk the four most common myths surrounding online study, and the facts that lie beneath.

4 most common myths of online study

  1. Myth: Online qualifications aren’t as prestigious. 
  2. Myth: Online study isn’t as effective.
  3. Myth: You have limited access to resources.
  4. Myth: Online study is the “easier” route.

1. Myth: Online qualifications aren’t as prestigious. 

woman studying online taking notes on book

A common misconception surrounding online qualifications is that they’re a subpar counterpart to a traditional university degree; a pathway that isn’t recognised or taken seriously by prospective employers.    

Reality: Most employers hold online and traditional degrees to the same standard.

On the contrary, research shows that most employers view an online qualification as equal (if not greater) in value to a traditional degree. In a U.S.-based study released this year by Northeastern University, 61% of 750 human resource managers held this belief. Additionally, 52% believed that most advanced degrees would be completed online in the near future. 

Out of the organisations they surveyed, 71% revealed that they had hired a job applicant with an online degree in the previous year. 

Australia’s leading online education providers are regulated and approved by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) – providing courses that are Nationally Recognised and held to high academic standards. This ensures you receive top-quality training that meets industry and employment standards, akin to that of a typical university degree. 

Melanie Gibson, a recruiter at the Sydney-based agency Keegan Adams, explained that on top of holding online courses to the same standard of those on-campus, an online qualification may even be an asset; showing that the individual is capable of managing their time and commitments with a clear career goal in mind. 

However, studies also reveal that employers evaluate the credibility of one’s online degree based on the institution and the quality of its graduates. Ensuring that your provider offers Nationally Recognised Training, thorough, practical course programs, and a proven track record of successful alumni.

2. Myth: Online study isn’t as effective.

With the lack of a traditional university campus and face-to-face learning, many are quick to assume second-rate educational outcomes with online study.

Reality: Some students learn more efficiently through online courses.

With the full control online study offers students; the academic outcomes may prove even greater for some. 

In an online course, individuals can choose to accelerate their work in areas they feel most confident in, while taking their time in more challenging aspects. They can learn at their own pace, in methods that best suit them.

According to U.S. statistics, online courses have also displayed an increase in student retention rates – ranging from 25% to 60%. It’s suggested that the presence of more engaging multimedia content, along with its flexibility benefits, are the leading contributors to this. Furthermore, a study by IBM found that its participants learned five times more information through e-Learning courses than they did through a traditional, face-to-face classroom setting.

Plenty of online study providers equip themselves with industry experts to conduct their courses, ensuring you receive the best quality education possible. Again, it’s crucial to opt for a reputable institution with training that adheres to high academic standards.

3. Myth: You have limited access to resources.

education concept

There’s then the false impression of minimal support, social interaction, and educational resources. General concerns on online learning surrounds the absence of a more “personal” or supportive learning experience, one shaped by face-to-face discussions and interactions with other fellow students.  

Reality: You’re offered a solid support system and wide range of educational tools. 

These days, almost everything is available digitally – and study materials are no different. On top of the resources available on your e-Learning platform, the internet provides an endless world of journal databases, books, and scholarly articles, plenty of which are available for free. In an online learning environment, the information you need is just a click away. 

Along with academic resources, online students also have access to a wide range of communication tools to seek the help and support they require. Forums or discussion boards are common on most e-Learning platforms, allowing students to connect with trainers and other fellow learners in the same course. Some argue that while a traditional classroom may be dominated by a subgroup of vocal students, all online students can share and have their ideas heard.

Upskilled, for example, is a registered training organisation (RTO) that offers just this; along with an exclusive messaging system for trainers and students to keep in contact. Exclusive Facebook groups for certain courses are also available, allowing students to conveniently connect with others in their field.

4. Myth: Online study is the “easier” route.

The ability to study when and where you please may leave the impression of online learning as an “easier”, more laidback alternative. With absence of direct teacher supervision and sit-in exams, these digital courses should be a breeze – right?

Reality: Online study demands plenty of effort and time management.

Online degrees and qualifications ensure you receive the same quality of education as you would in an on-campus setting. This is what gives them the academic value that lends to statistically positive employment outcomes.

A successful online course will provide a robust, in-depth curriculum that equips you with the right knowledge and practical competencies to pursue a career in your field, much like a traditional degree. While sit-in exams are a rarity, you’ll still undergo a variety of assessments that include written reports, portfolio projects, case studies, and summative assignments. There’ll be critical deadlines set for each task to ensure your progress in the course; some programs, such as Upskilled, may even require you to attend online tutorials.

Online trainers offer guidance and support throughout your online student journey, though the lack of direct supervision demands plenty of independence, self-motivation, and top-notch time management skills on your part. Extra effort is often put forth to balance both your life and academic responsibilities accordingly. 

So, think online study is the path for you?

As discussed, the advent of online education offers plenty of personal, career, and academic benefits often
overlooked in favour of the conventional university degree. 

If you’re a full-time employee or looking to work as you study, the flexibility of e-Learning may just suit your needs perfectly. Additionally, plenty of online courses are skills-focused, ensuring you receive the practical competencies required to excel in your field. 

Upskilled offers a wide range of over 80 courses in Australia’s leading industries – from information technology to community services. Enquire today, and discover the ideal course for you. 
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