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The Arizona Online Corporate Partnerships Series Presents: Top 10 Myths About Online Learning

The Arizona Online Corporate Initiative partnered with the Office of Digital Learning to create a webinar that dispels some of online learning’s most common myths. Here we will break down the top 10 myths in online higher education as discussed by the presenters.

Our presenters are experts in the online learning field and are ready to separate fact from fiction.

Meet the presenters:

Cali Metallo, Client Manager for Arizona Online Corporate Partnerships smiling

Cali Metallo, Client Manager for Arizona Online Corporate Partnerships

Melody Buckner, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Online Initiatives smiling headshot

Melody Buckner, Associate Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Online Initiatives

Matt Romanoski, Associate Director of Instructional Design for Online Learning in the Office of Digital Learning smiling headshot

Matt Romanoski, Associate Director of Instructional Design for Online Learning in the Office of Digital Learning

Luis Carrión, the Office of Digital Learning Videographer and Producer has 13 Emmys under his belt.

Myth #1 “The faculty teaching online are less qualified than those teaching face-to-face.”

Arizona Online courses have always been taught by the same world-renowned faculty that teach on the University of Arizona main campus. They also receive additional specialized training in online teaching and support from the Office of Digital Learning!

Myth #2 “Course content is static and formulaic – just reading and lecture slides.”

Arizona Online has interactive courses that bring the learning experience to the learner. Engaging online learning tools include:

  • Story-driven videography and field shoots with experts that bring the world to the online classroom. 
  • Digital whiteboarding technology that allows the instructor to interact with the content on the screen. 
  • Recently, podcast production was added to the Office of Digital Learning studio capabilities. 

Myth #3 “Student participation is static – just written responses with no interaction.”

Arizona Online courses do have discussion boards. However, we also have technologies that allow for visual and auditory communication to go on between peers and their faculty. 

  • VoiceThread and Zoom support create engaging discussions, collaborative group work and project-based learning.
  • Assignments and activities are interactive and include speaking, listening and writing.

Myth #4 “You can't teach hands-on disciplines online.”

Online learning environments can (and should!) include real-world, project-based tasks.

  • Arizona Online has online science labs and courses wherein at-home lab kits are sent to the student to perform lab experiments at home. Having an at-home lab is more advantageous to the student.  If a student has a setup at their house, they can recreate lab tests again and again as opposed to performing tests in a classroom where the test is performed once or twice.
  • Some Arizona Online classes also have VR simulations to recreate a lab environment.  

The Office of Digital Learning has an instructional designer on the team who has a background as a lab scientist who is leading development in our online lab courses. 

Myth #5 “The online classroom is confusing and hard to navigate.”

The Office of Digital learning strives to establish a smooth flow through online courses. They encourage faculty to have a “start here” module to introduce students to the course. 

  • Arizona Online Design Sets provide clear and navigable course design.
  • Students focus on learning critical course content, not navigation.

Myth #6 “Technology is used as bells and whistles - there’s no functionality to the technology.”

  • The Office of Digital Learning uses real-world tools that will benefit students in their future careers like Adobe Creative Cloud. The technology used is based on best practices and the Office of Digital Learning finds ways that they can be most effectively used in the classroom.
  • Tools are embedded straight into the learning content so that the student can automatically and seamlessly plug into the tool. 
  • It is required that technology be integrated into the learning management system so that students don’t have to go outside of the classroom to find it.
  • No steep learning curves. You don’t have to be a technology expert!

Myth #7 “You have to be a tech expert to be an online student.”

  • Arizona Online students get the same 24/7 tech support as main campus students.
  • Additional support is provided for unique tech tools.
  • Staff and faculty are here to help!

Myth #8 “The curriculum is out of touch with the skills required by the job market.”

Arizona Online aligns all our learning experiences and feedback to real-world, marketable skills development. For example:

  • Experts in the job market are contacted to find out what current skills are desired of candidates.
  • Premiere Pro is provided to students to enhance proficiency with video editing software.
  • The Office of Digital Learning has produced a set of Adobe FastTrack workshops to address all the creative cloud products. 

The Office of Digital Learning has partnered with the Office of Student Engagement to develop badges for students who learn new tools and products. They also help students with finding future job prospects. Arizona Online is committed to staying current with real-world job requirements especially since the majority of our students are already in the professional field. 

Myth #9 “Online students are disconnected from the university community.”

  • Since Arizona Online students are already working adults, most of the time they have little time to engage with university activities. Where the Office of Digital Learning puts in the most effort for students to engage with one another is in the online classroom community where their attention is focused. This is where students can connect with their peers. 
  • It is mandatory that online faculty have synchronous office hours once a week.

Myth #10 “An Online degree is a watered-down version of the ‘real thing’ offered on main campus.”

  • Arizona Online students graduate with the same exact degree as main campus students (It looks exactly the same).
  • Courses are just as challenging and rewarding as on-campus classes. 

When asked if the presenters or webinar attendees had heard any other myths about the online experience, there was one worth mentioning.

Myth #11 It’s easier to cheat in online classes.

  • While there are some barriers we have to overcome in this department, Arizona Online does offer online proctoring and this technology is available to the student at no cost.
  • Melody also points out that she likes to have authentic assessments in her classroom because those are harder to cheat in. Projects, presentations, peer reviews, and low-stakes quizzes can help to evaluate students’ writing styles and gauge where they are at throughout the course. 

Follow Up Questions From the Audience:

Q: Do online students get access to online resources if they’re in town?

A: Yes. Students have access to everything on-campus students; sales at the bookstore, tutoring, the library, the SALT Center, etc.

Q: Are textbooks for online classes digital or hard copy or can students choose? 

A: It depends on the course and professor but the Office of Digital Learning encourages faculty to use open source as well as Online Education Resources (OER) which is mostly digital to reduce the cost on students. 

Q: What is the furthest year back that transfer credits will be accepted? 

A: There isn’t necessarily an expiration date on credits. Enrollment is looking to see if the class being transferred meets the core competencies of Arizona Online classes and if the class is from a regionally accredited school. Learn more about transfer requirements

Sometimes if there’s a prerequisite for a course, credits could expire. Placement tests can address those prerequisites.

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