Myths about Taking Online Classes

The following information entitled “Myths About Taking Online Classes,” is an excerpt from a list prepared by Professor Christina Mainka of the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and edited/amended by Professor George Harding (also of UMUC). Professors Mainka and Harding offer it to assist others.

Myths about Taking Online Classes

By Professor Christina Mainka as edited/amended by Professor George Harding

There are more similarities than differences between online and face-to-face (f2f) classes, including the material, assignments, and in a modified form, discussions. However, some individuals expect online classes to be easier than f2f classes. In reality, online classes may be more difficult for some students, primarily because it is so easy to “forget to go to class” (i.e., log on). Below are a series of prevalent myths about taking online courses, along with the facts concerning the myths.

Myth: My work schedule is demanding and variable (I can’t be in a classroom regularly), so the online format is great for me. All I need to do is hand in homework assignments and keep up with the reading (I don’t need to waste time in discussions).

Fact: If you are not an active participant in the online discussions (if required), you will not successfully master the class material, and there is a high probability that you will not earn a passing grade.

Myth: Online format means I have time for more classes, which should be manageable after work.

Fact: Online courses require more diligence and heavier participation than their f2f counterparts. Online course assignments have been designed to require approximately the same amount of time as you would spend if you were attending a traditional class (class time plus homework time). The savings are only in frictional costs: transportation time to and from class, class time not directly related to content — breaks, chitchat, etc. The rule of thumb for homework-to-class time for both f2f and online classes: spend 2-3 hours of homework for each hour of class time. For a 3-credit course, expect to spend 9-12+ hours per week or 1½–2+ hours per day, 6 days a week, to participate in online discussions and complete the readings and assignments. Note: After work, sleep, meals, and a modicum of personal time, it is only with utmost discipline that most people can fit in 2 hours per day for studying. Students must budget/prioritize their time carefully.

Myth: Why think about something that someone else has given much thought? Copy-pasting a few paragraphs here and there from the Web saves me time and never hurts anyone.

Fact: Most university policies expect that students advance their opinions in their own words and where others’ words or thoughts are used, to give appropriate citation. While the Internet makes it very easy to plagiarize, sophisticated tools are available that make it easy to catch cheaters. Therefore, students always should be diligent about citing sources. Myth 8: I am busier than everybody else in the class, so I can’t be expected to contribute as much to the online or discussion sessions. Fact: Enrollment in a class is a professional commitment/business relationship on the part of the student, which needs to be treated very seriously. Life events will intrude, but it’s the student’s responsibility to make whatever adjustments may be required to fulfill this responsibility.

The ultimate fact?

To get the most out of your class, participate thoughtfully, professionally, consistently, and often! What you get out of a class is directly proportional to what you put into it. If you do not actively participate in all phases of the classroom, you cheat yourself out of the learning experience.