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Six of the biggest myths about online learning

Want to try an online course but worried it won’t match up to learning in person? Keep reading to dismantle the biggest myths about online learning.

Online learning taking place at home

Online courses are certainly becoming more popular and widely accepted, with studies from experts even suggesting that the demand for online education is rapidly growing. But, not everyone’s convinced that they’re worthwhile.

We’re here to change some minds and dispel the biggest myths and misconceptions about online learning. Let’s have a go at telling fact from fiction.

1. You won’t get a proper qualification or accreditation

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You may think that online courses are mostly slightly more complex versions of WikiHow pages, giving basic instructions and explanations on very simple topics. After all, surely you can’t earn a proper qualification from home, can you?

Well, yes you can. Online learning can cover a wide range of qualifications, from vocational/practical to more academic qualifications at a range of levels. So whether you want to start at a foundation level or learn something more advanced, there’s a course for you.

For example, some of our FutureLearn courses are CPD-certified, meaning you can receive professional accreditation upon course completion. In addition, if you join one of our Microcredentials, you’ll gain a professional qualification and even earn academic credit that can be used towards a degree.

Even with our standard short courses, you’re able to earn a digital Certificate of Achievement upon course completion if you upgrade or subscribe to Unlimited learning. These will make the perfect addition to your CV and impress prospective employers.

2. You’ll always be studying alone


One of the biggest myths is that you’ll be all alone if you study online. People tend to imagine being sat in bed in their pyjamas for hours on end with nothing but a cold cup of tea and reality TV on in the background – and no one wants that.

However, many online courses will have spaces for students to chat with each other, where you can talk about how you’re finding the course and what you’re not understanding, and even share tips and advice. FutureLearn does just that – in our online courses, there are comment sections throughout for learners to communicate with each other.

If you’re studying for an online degree but are still attached to a certain university campus, some institutions may also allow you to come on campus while you’re studying so you can meet people and use the university facilities, like the library.

3. It’s always very expensive

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Sometimes, taking an online course can be very expensive. Although they’re generally still far cheaper than getting a regular degree (that’s £9,250 per year in the UK), many people who rely on online courses don’t want to pay upwards of one thousand pounds just to get an education.

However, luckily for you, this is definitely not always the case! At FutureLearn, you can get limited access to most of our short courses for free, and only need to pay a small fee if you want to commit – then you’ll be able to learn at your own pace, take part in tests and assessments, and receive a digital certificate.

Then, to get unlimited access to 1000+ short courses, you can pay either a small monthly fee to spread the cost, or get one whole year of access for just £199.99. Micorecredentials, our specialised professional qualifications, are a little more expensive, but well worth the price.

4. You won’t get any support from expert educators


One of the scariest myths is that you have to do everything yourself. And you’d be forgiven for believing this very common myth – after all, you won’t have a teacher in front of you and they’re usually the first person you’d ask when you get stuck.

But not sitting in an uncomfortable lecture hall doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Online courses still provide tutor support, so whether you don’t understand a module or need an extension on the essay you knew you should have started already, there’s always someone to support you through your course.

On FutureLearn, look out for the message Educators are active on this course to find a course with an active member of the course team supporting learners at that time.

If a course facilitator is active while you’re taking the course, they’ll read your comments, reply to learners, like or pin comments, and make small updates to the course content. Find out more about course facilitation in our article.

5. It’s easier and less rigorous than in-person learning

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While some online courses are designed to be an introduction to a new subject, not all online courses are easy. All of our courses have been designed and created by international teaching experts at world-class universities and organisations, so as you can imagine, they’re no less rigorous than in-person courses.

We do have some more fun, light-hearted courses, such as Learn How to Bake Afternoon Tea and How to Write Your First Song. However, we also have plenty of in-depth and complex courses that will require determination and hard work.

From computer programming and cyber security to sustainable development and teaching methodologies, our online courses will provide you with a rigorous education. 

If anything, online learning can require more focus than in-person classes, as you’ll need to be self-motivated enough to work on your own, rather than being nagged by a teacher.

6. You won’t impress employers or land a new job

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The qualifications you get from online courses are just as valid as those you can get studying on campus. In our Future of Learning Report 2022, we found that 81% of respondents who had changed careers since the start of the pandemic said that an online course helped them make their move.

We also did some research on whether employers value online learning in 2021, and found that 75% of hiring managers reported that they rely on online training tools and courses to perform their own jobs, and 44% of hiring managers perceived online education as being extremely valuable to the interview process. 

So, the results are clear – employers won’t turn up their noses at your qualification because it’s an online course – in fact, they’ll probably admire the fact you’re self-motivated and committed enough to do it in the first place.

Get started with online learning today

It’s official – online learning offers an incredible opportunity for learners all over the world to get a quality education, and you shouldn’t let old myths put you off. 

Need more convincing? Read our full Future of Learning Report 2022 to find out why online learning has boomed since the pandemic, how it can help close the skills gap, and why it’s the future of education. 

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