Debunking 8 of the biggest online learning myths

Posted on: 8 July, 2024

As online learning enters the mainstream, here are some of the biggest myths about this education format you should ignore.

Online learning is on the rise. Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns in the beginning of the decade, today 21% of people in the UK take part in some form of online education. From greater flexibility to easier access to resources and cost-savings, studying online has a variety of benefits that continue to appeal to students, professionals and businesses alike.

However, stigma around online learning remains. Many still don’t view this medium as being equivalent to ‘real’ education, and question the validity of the qualifications offered by online institutions.

Here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions you may have heard about online learning, and why they’re wrong.

1. Online degrees lack credibility (and don’t appeal to employers)

While online education has only begun to enter the mainstream in recent years, reputable correspondence courses have existed since as far back as World War 2. Many degrees have accreditation from the same industry-recognised institutions as their in-person counterparts. This makes them just as appealing to employers as those from bricks-and-mortar universities.

2. The quality of online education is lower

Just as employers recognise the accredited programmes available through online learning, the quality of education is also just as high as it is in-person. For instance, many programme leaders at UCEM are seasoned academics with experience in other institutions. There are also lecturers who have previous experience in the industry, and some that continue to work while lecturing part-time. This ensures the quality of the course and teaching meets the same standards as students can expect from in-person institutions. In fact, a recent Student Experience Survey (SES) run by UCEM found that 91.4% of the 287 students surveyed responded positively to the statement ‘overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course.’

3. It’s just looking at powerpoint presentations

Powerpoints are indeed a prominent part of learning online, but to say this is the limit of online education is to ignore a wide array of other activities, processes and technologies that make up part of the experience.

The need to foster engagement and promote collaboration online has led to a wide range of technologies being adopted by online institutions. UCEM’s new BSc (Hons) Architectural Design Technology, for instance, will allow students to collaborate with their counterparts through virtual design studios.

4. It’s lonely (and you don’t get to form relationships with others)

Most people who have been through higher education will testify that the university experience is as much about the people you meet as the subjects you study. It’s easy to picture the typical online student in contrast as being sat at their desk for hours on end, never interacting with the outside world, but this isn’t the case.

While online study lacks the face-to-face nature of in-person study, students still have many opportunities to connect with one another, network, and form relationships. Many courses, such as UCEM’s MSc in Urban Planning, emphasise groupwork and collaboration. Outside of course-specific collaboration, there are also online forums, like UCEM’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which are host to active communities and engagement.

UCEM also offer roles for students, such as Student Representative, Officer and Ambassador positions for areas like sustainability and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), as well as the Student Trustee role in the Board of Trustees. There are also several initiatives students can get involved in, including Climate and Social Action Week and Responsible Futures.

5. There’s no support

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that, without a physical campus or office to go to, students won’t be able to access support – especially if the institution you’re learning at is based in another city, country or even continent. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one of the most common pieces of feedback UCEM receives from both students and employers is the level of support it provides.

In UCEM’s SES survey, 92.1% of students responded positively to the question ‘how well have teaching staff supported your learning?’. A similar percentage (92.4%) had positive feedback about how well UCEM’s mental health services were communicated to them.

As Sadaqat Hussain, Senior Surveyor at CBRE and UCEM alumni, told us of his experience studying online:

“UCEM’s Apprenticeship Outcome Officer (AOO) system was extremely helpful during COVID. I had Jenny Cairns, who is amazing. She was someone who I never actually met until I graduated, but I built such a great relationship with her. When things did get difficult, she was able to break things down and help me understand things better.”

6. You don’t get to interact with your lecturers and tutors

At UCEM, lectures are often delivered online as webinars which students can access on demand if they’re unable to attend. These webinars are interactive, allowing students to ask questions and engage with their lecturers and tutors. What’s more, the VLE is also used by academics, meaning students can expect quick responses to their queries.

For their dissertation, students get to have one-to-one interactions with their supervisors to guide them through the project. As Esha Bhasin, UCEM alumni and Senior Consultant at JLL, notes of her experience completing her dissertation with UCEM lecturer Dr Graeme Whitehall:

“Graeme was very, very helpful. I would pick his brain a lot. When I was writing my dissertation, my mum was sick. I was quite literally working from the hospital a lot of the time. The whole time, Graeme was so nice and so understanding. He really stuck out for me in my time at UCEM.”

7. Getting an online degree the easy option

As courses like UCEM’s BSc (Hons) Real Estate Management have accreditation from institutions like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), they’re required to meet the same standards as their in-person counterparts, so they’re not any easier. In fact, it presents different challenges and, potentially, different benefits.

Studying online may require students to organise their own workload, particularly if they’re working alongside their studies. However, the flexibility offered by online learning can actually be of benefit for people with busy lives, commitments and unpredictable schedules, and an easier option than having to travel to an in-person campus.

As Ben McManus, UCEM Student Trustee and Consultant for WSP, notes of his experience studying the Quantity Surveying chartered surveyor pathway online:

“The key thing for me is the flexibility of the distance learning model, which I think is really fitting in today’s world. Finding the balance between work, study and personal commitments is tough, so the ‘on-demand’ aspect of UCEM and the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) has been a key positive for me.”

“If I miss something, I know I can go back and watch it via the VLE, which also has a whole host of other information on it as well.”

Learn more: Championing the student voice: a Q&A with UCEM Student Trustee Ben McManus

8. You have to find resources yourself

While an in-person campus often boats a physical library, online institutions have their own equivalent. UCEM’s e-Library is an example of this. It can be accessed through the VLE and is home to 25 online searchable databases, along with thousands of journals, books and resources relevant to the courses UCEM offers. If a student has a reading list for their course, they’ll be able to easily access these online, without worrying about the number of copies that are available.

Click here to find out more about the online learning experience at UCEM: It’s Time for Online – University College of Estate Management (