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3 Myths About Online Learning: The Truth Behind These Common Misconceptions

By Jane Gallagher
After an emergency shift to remote and hybrid instruction in response to the pandemic resulted in mixed outcomes for students’ learning, some individuals and communities have written off online learning as “disappointing,” “a debacle,” and a learning modality that just “doesn’t work.

At VHS Learning, we believe that generalization does a huge disservice to students—especially those who need an alternative to face-to-face instruction for health, safety, or accessibility reasons. The reality is that many students can benefit greatly from learning online—and drawing overly broad conclusions without weighing all the evidence can limit the options available to them.

Here are three common misconceptions about online learning:

Myth 1: Students don’t learn as effectively online.

The Truth: While every online learning platform is different, the best programs provide the right pedagogy and support to help students be successful, including highly-qualified, certified teachers who are trained specifically to guide and engage students in an online setting. Our nonprofit has a long history of proven success: Students taking our Advanced Placement® courses online consistently exceed the national average pass rate on their AP® exams. Also, 98 percent of school administrators report satisfaction with the VHS Learning program.

Myth 2: Pandemic learning loss proves that online learning is less effective.

The Truth: It’s true that students nationwide may have experienced learning loss during the pandemic. This loss isn’t directly a result of the shift online, but rather a combination of two factors:

  1. Technological barriers and inequities.
    Many students still lack the access to a computer or internet connectivity at home and this had an immediate and lasting effect on their education while schools scrambled to go remote. While schools have been able to bridge some of the divide by loaning devices and Wi-Fi hotspots, these technological barriers still prevented many students from learning online at the same rate as their peers.
  2. Emergency remote instruction isn’t the same as high-quality online learning.
    Much of the “online learning” that students have received in the last two years is not online learning by design, but rather remote lecture-based instruction trying to replicate face-to-face teaching via Zoom or other web conferencing platforms. In contrast, high-quality online learning puts students at the center of the learning process, using online best practices developed on a robust learning platform, in combination with hands-on activities that are completed offline.

Myth 3: Online learning lacks interactions with teachers and peers.

The Truth: Strong relationships between students, their teachers, and their peers are at the heart of successful instruction, and online learning is no exception. Even though the curriculum is online, students aren’t learning in isolation by any means: a high-quality online learning program offers a healthy balance of teacher guidance, group work, and collaboration with peers.

Having an online teacher who is certified and trained in online learning best practices is key to students’ online learning experience. When educators are highly skilled and experienced in teaching online, they know how to foster strong student engagement and interaction. They guide and inspire students in their individual learning and bring students together through collaborative assignments that involve active engagement and interaction between peers.

Believing that online learning is inherently inferior to face-to-face instruction is a flawed assumption that ignores evidence to the contrary. Where face-to-face instruction isn’t practical or available for students, online learning plays an important role in filling those gaps. Whether students are taking online courses for convenience, health or safety reasons, or as a supplement to traditional classroom learning, best programs provide the right pedagogy and support to help students be successful.


Read more about these online learning myths, read Dispelling 2 common myths about online learning on SmartBrief.