Today, online learning is more common than ever, with the Online Learning Consortium estimating that 5.8 million students take part in virtual learning.

However, there are misconceptions about online education. Here are five common myths about earning an online degree:

Woman working at her desk.

Myth #1: Online degree programs are not held to the same academic standards as on-campus programs

Online degree programs administered by respected institutions of higher learning are of the same quality as on-campus programs. Students should look to enroll in online programs at universities that are accredited, which shows that the institution and the degree program have met rigorous academic standards.

“If you really want a credential for a job, the most secure bet is to go to a regionally accredited institution,” said Janet Moore, chief knowledge officer at the Sloan Consortium, which has since been renamed the Online Learning Consortium, in an interview with U.S. News & World Report. The consortium is a professional organization dedicated to improving the quality of online learning.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), which is the longest-serving global association committed to improving management education around the world. It is also regionally accredited by SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The university has also been ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report, which named it as having one of the “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” as well as being one of the “Best National Universities.”

When industry-leading rankings and accreditations are backed by a legacy of growth and accomplishment, prospective students and professionals can feel confident that they are choosing a superior online degree program.

Myth #2: An online degree program will not help individuals advance their career prospects

With the growing prevalence of online programs and the improving technological tools that make virtual learning a more sophisticated and robust experience, employers are no longer viewing degrees from online programs offered by reputable institutions as being “worth less” than traditional degrees. The perception of online degrees has greatly improved.

“Things have changed,” commented Susan Fontana, regional vice president of global recruiting firm Manpower, in an interview with U.S. News & World Report. “I think 10 years ago, you probably had a little more questioning, but it really is so much more accepted today.”

Beyond employer perception, online degree programs imbue working professionals or those entering a field for the first time with the knowledge and skills that are helpful for advancing their careers. At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, alumni of the Collat School of Business online bachelor’s degree programs have gone on to work for prestigious corporate, technology and financial companies including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T.

Through its suite of online programs, UAB students gain access to a dynamic network of professional connections and opportunities. The university has built strong relationships with professionals at the top organizations in the state, from Fortune 500 companies to innovative startups. The school is also the largest employer in the state, giving students and graduates access to an exciting alumni network.

With a superior curriculum and professional network, online degree students can feel confident that they can work toward their career goals.

Myth #3: Online degree programs are not as engaging as on-campus programs

Feeling engaged in their studies is key to students’ successfully completing their degree programs and getting a return on their investment. The technologies and tools available today have revolutionized online learning, enabling the programs to be much more dynamic than ever before. The Online Learning Consortium and similar groups have studied, developed and disseminated best practices for online learning models, which has led to the creation of programs that are just as engaging as on-campus courses.

In fact, a report from SRI International for the Department of Education found that “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

A study by the Alliance for Higher Education Competitiveness identified the top factors that influence the success of online learning programs. These include:
• Executive leadership and support. Buy-in from the top helps ensure that an online program is given the time and resources it needs to develop into a high-quality module.
• Commitment from faculty and academic leadership – with this, students can experience courses that are taught with just as much passion and engagement as the courses taught on-campus.
• Student services – for example, round-the-clock technical support.
• Strong virtual infrastructure, and should be built with innovative, state-of-the-art technology which ensures the most intuitive and engaging user experience.

Other factors identified as essential to success were course/instructional quality, financial resources, training, an adaptive attitude and communication.

The Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has designed its online degree programs with these essential qualities in mind. The courses are taught by the same on-campus professors top-ranked in their fields and are developed to offer the most enjoyable and easy-to-use learning experience to students. Participants in the program have access to a 24/7 technical help desk as well as student support advisors and are connected to networking opportunities.

Myth #4: The curricula of online degree programs are not as intensive as those of on-campus classes

The Collat School of Business at UAB offers a suite of online bachelor degree programs that are held to the same rigorous academic standards as the on-campus classes taught at the university. Each curriculum of its seven online bachelor’s degree programs – in Accounting, Finance, Human Resource Management, Industrial Distribution, Information Systems, Management and Marketing – delves into the theories, foundational knowledge and professional skills of each field necessary for success and career advancement.

For example, the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business helps students build skills important to advancing as an accounting professional and competing in today’s job market. The program prepares students to take professional accounting certification exams including Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Fraud Examiner. With this educational background, students can feel confident to take the steps to advance in their careers and gain rewarding employment in a rapidly growing industry – the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that accountant jobs will grow 13 percent through 2022, adding 166,700 jobs.

Every online program at the Collat School adheres to these discerning academic standards. Through the online Bachelor of Science in Management degree program, students participate in courses that build skills beyond financial and organizational abilities. Students develop their business expertise and become leaders through courses like Employment Law, Supply Chain Management, Project Management and Employee Selection and Development. With this rich curriculum – like that of the other Collat programs – students can become not just experts, but leaders in their fields.

Myth #5: The professors who teach online degree programs are not as experienced as those who teach on-campus courses

A strong faculty is essential to whether students’ find online degree programs rewarding and beneficial, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business ensures that its faculty members are passionate experts in their fields. More than 90 percent of Collat faculty at UAB hold academic or professional doctorates, and the faculty is made up of successful academic researchers and professionals who have worked for the Big 4 accounting firms as well as numerous Fortune 500 companies. They lent their insight and expertise during the development phase of online programs offered by the school, helping to ensure that each course reflects the most up-to-date industry knowledge and equips students with the skills and lessons they need to thrive professionally.

As a sample of the faculty expertise at the Collat School of Business, Arline Savage, professor and chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance, has been recognized as a Deloitte Faculty Fellow, received the Enrst & Young Leader in Ethics Award and the Fluor Corporation Excellence in Teaching Award, and is past-president of the AIS (Accounting Information Systems) Educator Association. John Hansen, Associate Professor of Marketing at UAB, has had his research published in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, Journal of Business Research and the Journal of Business Logistics, among various others.

Grow with the Collat School of Business

Learn from these and other industry professionals through the Collat School of Business’ online bachelor’s degree programs. The suite of online programs are tailored to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges, while allowing them the flexibility they need to complete the degree on their own time. Learn more about the online programs offered here.