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3 Biggest Myths about Teaching Online Education

Like most of the students who enroll in an online course thinking it’ll be a walk in the park, instructors also fantasize about the simplicity of teaching a course from the confines of their own home. Maybe that’s why the rise of online education went from 3.2 million in 2006 to 12 million in 2009, according to research firm Ambient Insight. But despite the rise in popularity of online degree programs, many instructors still have a skewed idea of what teaching “distance education” truly entails. Below are the top three myths about online education, a must-read before you decide to teach.
Myth1: Teaching online will take less time since you don’t have to be in class 3 hours a week. Teaching an online class – especially for the first time – can be extremely hectic. Because these classes are supposed to be designed to be just as complex and intense as campus-based classes and because there is little or no face-to-face interaction – they require much time, energy, and creativity to transform an online class into a meaningful learning experience for students. It’s important to remember that teaching an online course is no different from teaching a campus-based course: you’ll still need to prepare class materials, grade, and find ways to engage your students.
Myth 2: Everyone who teaches the courses are qualified to teach online. A lot of online programs try to convince potential students that online education is simple for them – the technology-driven generation. However, what might be simple for them might prove very difficult for you, the instructor. As the software for distance education continues to advance at a rapid rate, some instructors are struggling to keep up with the constant changes. Especially instructors who are used to traditional methods of teaching may find it troublesome adjusting to the new software, which will ultimately create problems for students. But you don’t need to be a technology expert to teach a thorough class. Don’t know a lot about HTML? Programs like Dreamweaver can simplify this for you. It’s important to remember that experimentation is key: Prepare your class as you normally would and then search the web to figure out how to do it online. Don’t be too proud get technical help when you need it. It’s your job to find a way to get the information across to your students.
Myth 3: There will be little or less class-participation. A well-developed online class can in fact increase participation from students who might not feel comfortable sharing their views/opinions in a campus-based class. Students who are usually silenced due to language barriers or are merely just on the shy side are given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and strengths through these online opportunities. And in a way, everyone’s ideas are expressed since the information is accessible online and posted for everyone to see. This also provides an opportunity for instructors to have a better connection with students who might have been virtually invisible in a campus-based course.
This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes for online college courses.

17 Responses

  1. I’d have to disagree a bit. Teaching online is FUNDAMENTALLY different from teaching in person (you even admit as much in #1). I’d say the ADMINISTRATION of courses is similar, but I believe you’ve uncovered Myth #4.
    You’ve hit all the major points well, but I think the conclusions are a bit off. The key is in the phrase “well-designed course” (used several times) — THAT’s the real problem.
    And the reason the attendance has skyrocketed has very little to do with instructor preference (I don’t know of many good teachers who prefer teaching at home).

  2. I’dd add Myth #5–that the students you teach online are similar to the students who would take your class in person. Myth #3 starts to address this, but I think the real difference goes further. Whether you agree with Christiansen’s prescriptions completely, his point about elearning addressing a very different market from more traditional education is still valid.

  3. Just as there are myths about teaching online, there are myths about myths ;~))
    Student, teacher, and media must all be “well designed” and suited to the experience.

  4. Many colleges offer deep student discounts on well-known programs. You may need to update multi-media programs already on your computer or Web browser or learn proprietary school bulletin board software. But your courses are offered in formats you should easily recognize from the start.

  5. Some very good points above, especially Myth #3. Well-designed and well-facilitated online learning can lead to rich discussion — and rich learning. Re: your point, Alan, I work with many wonderful teachers who enjoy teaching online (from home or wherever!), at 3rd level, anyway. They enjoy teaching online for many of the same reasons that students choose to study online: ability to teach/study a course that is not offered locally, interaction with students/staff in an online community, and the many opportunities for learning and development.

  6. Myth #6 (in reference to Alan’s comment) All online instructors are forced to teach online and would prefer to teach face-to-face instead.
    In reality, some of us do this by choice. I work (virtually) with many who have chosen to make their virtual classrooms their full time gig. Some of us even *gasp* enjoy teaching online. In fact, we thrive here.
    As in any profession, there are good and bad practitioners, positive and negative evangelists, and two sides to the coin. In my opinion, it’s best to avoid the absolutes and figure out ways to contribute to the growing body of research and best practices.

  7. I have a related blog post where I offer several myths of my own :

  8. I’ve been teaching online for 9 years now. Many of the myths listed above used to be realities. Online teaching is very difficult, if one is going to do it successfully. And yes, one does need to be trained in how to teach online. I find the biggest obstacle to be the students that think taking an online course is the “easy way out” of doing work…it is more labor intensive than taking a class face to face.I agree with Lisa that best practices, as in face to face teaching, are very important in order to be a successful online teacher. It is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding jobs, I have ever held.

  9. Good points all. I think it’s important to realize that not all subjects, students or instructors are best served by online delivery. I’ve been teaching for over a decade (live and online) and find that some students really need a classroom setting, especially those who are not tech savvy or who don’t own computers–a fact many administrators miss when pushing content online. I enjoy teaching online most when the topic and students match the platform. I’ve insisted that one of my classes next quarter be hybrid–part online/part live. It’s an entrepreneurship course and these people need to network and do some mastermind group type tasks.

  10. I agree. It’s important to know who will be teaching you when you enroll in an online course. Great post. Thanks!

  11. Teaching on line actually takes more time. 70% more to put it up on line. Emails take longer to write than answering a question verbally. Feedback is more in depth on daily assignments as it is our teachable moment. (I teach grade 9 online). Also, much of our time is eaten up with click time with the software and the need for record keeping far exceeds anything I did in face to face teaching. Sorry to bust your bubble but teaching is more labour intensive. After 15 years of teaching, I can walk into a classroom and numerous strategies I have in my head to conduct a lesson. I can’t do that online. Sorry to bust your bubble but teaching is more labour intensive. The idea that it is a cost savings is true if you download the time/cost onto the teacher without compensation.

  12. You have shared good food for thought Angelita!
    I have been an online instructor for a short time and had many learnings from my own experience.
    I have captured some of my views in my related post here –
    I have found that facilitating online training is quite intensive on several factors:
    1) the need for a good design that invokes learner engagement and participation
    2) the use of appropriate technology in building and maintaining the learning experience
    3) a solid dependence on the facilitator’s ability to connect with the participants, draw out their learning and experience, and share continuous feedback along the way
    For new online facilitators, I recommend that you hear some ‘war-stories’ from the experienced folks..and I say this in a good way! And also try an online course yourself to really experience the difference. Whatever you miss or crave in your course, be sure to include it in the course you facilitate!

  13. I have to say that I have trained both Live and Online classes in my 12 years and found the Online training MUCH more difficult. Myths 1 and 2 are just that myths. Even though I could train a 4 hour live class in just 2 hours online, that was simply because of the lack of participation. Which turns me to myth 3. It is not a myth but a fact, participation WILL be lower. Those shy people will still see their name on screen and hear you (the trainer) address them by name (a must if you are going to maintain any participation at all) and remain shy. The language disadvantaged will now be further disadvantaged by having to rely solely on their language skills to understand the message in class.
    What I think is missed here is that the trainer must work harder in Online classes than in live classes. Start with facts:
    – Nearly 70% of human communication is done through visual interpretation the speaker. That is completely lost (unless you are training via video conference) in online training.
    – The trainer is in competition with the participants Phones, email, coworkers, and bosses who can and will interrupt them for “business” needs.
    – Attention spans on an online class last a maximum of 1.5 to 2 hours. This leaves much less time for practice and repetition which is how we as trainers make sure they “get it”.
    To support Angelita on myth 2, 4 hours of training online (if done well) is similar in effort to an 8 hour live class. This is because the trainer must be extremely actively in attempting to engage the participants due to the competition I mentioned above. Likewise, there is no control available to the trainer in an online class. There is a constant effort to recognize what is “happening” with the participants. Are they typing, ruffling through papers, speaking to someone else, on the cell phone (it makes a unique noise over the computer) etc…
    My point to all of this is simple. I have more respect for the online trainer’s energy and commitment because it is necessary. I know from being there. Best wishes to those that perform this daunting task.

  14. Between the years 1997 and 2009, I worked for one of Australia’s largest TAFE institutes. The Institute Director set forth a plan that within 10 years, 30% of the Institutes courses would be delivered online. Staff were given training in the use of the Learning Management System “Blackboard” and encouraged to develop at least one unit for online delivery. One of the major problems was the average age of teachers (around 52) and therefore the relative illiteracy in all things to do with computers. By the end of the period, there were some successes as younger teachers replaced older teachers.
    As a teacher regarded as having excellent technology skills, my own personal attempts to develop materials seemed to others to be wonderful and exciting. But in reality, the materials developed were no more than converted classroom materials with just a few extras such as online quizzes thrown in. However, these days online courses can be far more engaging and can appeal particularly to the younger generation who are glued to their computers and mobile phones night and day.
    Software such as Camtasia enables the teacher to capture anything on a computer screen, record a voice over and turn it into a video presentation. The teacher can capture and move rapidly between PowerPoints, web pages, documents, illustrations, photos and all manner of visual instructional material and create excellent video productions. It is really quite easy.
    I agree with Lisa’s statement of the three myths. There is a lot of work involved but the beauty is that once it is created, it becomes a wonderful digital asset.

  15. It is imperative that you are aware of who is your trainer and whether you are going to achieve your training goals based on their teaching style and personality. Thanks for the post.

  16. Hi ,

    I’m an avid subscriber of your blog and I thought you might like this piece about ” 30 Myths About eLearning that Need to Die in 2013″. You can find it here: [


    Chenee Marie

  17. Fantastic site you have here but I was curious
    if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about here?

    I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!