Top 6 Myths About Online Learning

Last updated: Apr 29, 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic spread to every corner of the earth, you may have given little thought to online learning. Or maybe you heard the whispers that online classes were easy, or that your brother could take your calculus final for you and no one would ever know. Now that students at nearly every university in the United States have transitioned to remote learning, it’s time to separate fact from fiction. Follow along as we debunk the top 6 myths about online learning.

Myth #6: You Can’t Interact with Your Professors or Classmates

Despite the fact that EVERYONE uses Instagram and FaceTime these days (including your grandma), rumors persist that you won’t be able to communicate with anyone if you take an online course. It’s not 1990 anymore, folks (aka the Stone Age).  

Remote learning platforms have evolved to include discussion rooms and video chats, and it’s likely your professor will hold virtual “office hours” for students who need a little extra help or have questions. Some course instructors even set up Facebook groups or other online forums to make it easier for the class to interact.

Bottom line: Just like social media, there are numerous ways to ask questions and share with classmates in an online course.

Myth #5: You Have to Teach Yourself the Material

When you envision taking an online course, what comes to mind – downloading a mountain of course material and being left to sink or swim on your own? Banish those thoughts.

As they do for an in-person class, your professors will likely use a combination of lectures, activities, quizzes, and homework to teach the subject matter. And if you have questions, it’s your responsibility to seek guidance from the professor – just as you would for a brick-and-mortar course.  

 A female student in a beige sweater with headphones attends a online course on her laptop

Myth #4: Online Courses Are Easier

Sorry (not sorry), but we have to pour cold water on this myth, too. Yes, you can attend class in your pajamas, but online courses require just as much time and attention as in-person classes. You still need to listen to lectures and do the required reading. You still have to complete assignments and take tests. You still need to participate in course discussions. What you won’t be able to do is click your way to an easy A.

Myth #3: It’s Easy to Cheat in Online Courses

While this may have been true at one time, tremendous improvements in remote learning have made cheating tougher. From browser blocking functions during test sessions to keystroke tracking to online proctors, new technology often makes it more difficult to cheat in online courses, not easier.

Online instruction also tends to require classroom interaction, micro-quizzes and video presentations as part of your grade, so it’s often more of a hassle to find ways to cheat than just doing the work.

 A male college student attends an online course on his laptop

Myth #2: Only Tech Geniuses Can Take Online Courses

Repeat after me: You do not need to be Mark Zuckerberg to take an online class. It’s helpful to have your own computer and a relatively speedy internet connection, but even those obstacles can be surmounted. Many universities and libraries offer loaner laptops and access to eduroam, a worldwide service that provides secure internet connectivity from thousands of hotspots.

To attend class, you’ll typically log in to an online learning platform (like Canvas) from your browser. Your instructor may supplement the online learning platform with other tools like Microsoft Teams, but if you can master social media, you can master remote learning.

Myth #1: Online Courses Require More Self-Discipline

If you managed to make it to your 8 a.m. biology lecture after pulling an all-nighter, you’ll do just fine in an online course. Most courses at USF follow a “live-online” format, which means classes will be delivered at a set time, just as if you were on campus.

Online learning may take a little getting used to, but the skills that help you succeed at traditional learning – good study habits, completing work on time, and taking part in class – will serve you well in this new format.

An overhead view of a professor teaching a remote learning course on a student's laptop

We’re Here to Help During These Turbulent Times

If you’re a current USF student, check out our online learning toolkit to explore trending topics and access learning support, tech services, academic advising, and more.

For incoming students, the Office of Admissions is still working hard (albeit remotely) to answer your questions and provide support at admissions@usf.edu. We’ve also developed a toolkit for new students and parents to welcome them into the community and continue on the path to enrollment.