Stylized green and purple 'G' with "Global Society of Online Literacy Educators" in purple.

  • Home
  • Three Myths about Online Literacy Instruction

Three Myths about Online Literacy Instruction (OLI)


If you have never taken or taught an online course, you might be feeling anxious about moving your course online--and prone to believing the naysayers. However, research has found that students can learn and write well online.

Let’s dispel a few myths about online instruction.

Stylized purple laptop graphic depicted open, facing right at an angle; on the screen is a depiction of the GSOLE Just-in-time Hub splash section.

Myth 1: OLI leads to less engaged learning and higher dropout rates

Just as any well-designed course can facilitate student success, any poorly designed and poorly delivered course can lead to less engaged learning and higher dropout rates—whether face-to-face or online. A number of factors can attribute to student dropout in an online course, including the student’s support system and motivation to persist, institutional support for online students, the degree to which online students feel they get meaningful interaction with instructors and peers, the usability of the course design, access to technologies, among others.

The key to engagement and retention in an online course? Instructor presence and intentional opportunities for students to interact with each other and with the instructor. An organized and easy-to-understand course site. Clear expectations for assignments and due dates. Want to learn more? Check out the resources below:

Relevant Resources

O'Leary, A. (2000). Get wired, go digit, build a web-based learning community. Educational Technology Review, 13 (Spring/Summer) 28-33.

Park, J.-H., & Hee Jun Choi. (2009). Factors Influencing Adult Learners’ Decision to Drop Out or Persist in Online Learning. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 207–217.

Phirangee, K. (2016). Students’ Perceptions of Learner-Learner Interactions that Weaken a Sense of Community in an Online Learning Environment. Online Learning, 20(4), 13–33.

Youngju, L. (2012). Discriminating factors between completers of and dropouts from online learning courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(2), 328–337.

Myth 2: OLI disadvantages vulnerable populations of students

This myth assumes that face-to-face instruction is totally inclusive. Can OLI can disadvantage students who do not have reliable access to internet and technologies? Yes. But OLI can also be an inclusive pedagogy for students who have constraints in their ability to travel onsite for education.

Further, instructors can take measures in designing their courses that increase accessibility:

    1. Design and test materials across devices (lap top, tablet, cell phone) and take measures to assure materials can be read using assistive technologies (screen readers) by adding alternative text and using embedded formatting (such as the heading system on Word and Google docs).
    2. Ensure that the technologies you are using are inexpensive for students and work across devices and with assistive technologies.
    3. Make students feel as if they are interacting with you throughout the course. Teacher presence is an important aspect to consider: You can provide it with one-on-one or small group conferences, email correspondence, and regular course announcements.

Want to learn more? Check out the resources below.

Relevant Resources

CAST. (2018). Universal Design for learning guidelines version 2.2.

Composing Access. (2019).

Dunn, P. & De Mers, K. D. (2002). Reversing notions of disability and accommodation: Embracing universal design in writing pedagogy and web space. Kairos, 7(1). N.p.

IBM. (2019, June 3). IBM accessibility checklist.

Nielsen, D. (2013). Universal design in first-year composition: Why do we need it, how can we do it? The CEA Forum, 42(2), 3-29.

Web AIM. (2019). Web accessibility for designers.

Web AIM. (2019). The WebAIM million: An accessibility analysis of the top 1,000,000 home pages.

Womack, A. (2017). Teaching is accommodation: Universally designing composition classrooms and syllabi. College Composition and Communication, 68(3), 494-525.

Myth 3: OLI is best done when it mirrors face-to-face instruction

OLI is best done when it takes advantage of everything OLI has to offer! The OLI learning environment is different from the face-to-face classroom. Instead of trying to replicate face-to-face instruction, look at the possibilities that come with teaching online. These affordances include flexible timing, the ability to differentiate learning, opportunities for struggling students to practice applying knowledge multiple times.

You can overcome some of the things you may miss in face-to-face instruction by designing meaningful online learning. For instance, if you are worried students will not have ample practice applying concepts, create scenarios that ask students to practice applying concepts to real world situations. If you are worried students will not interact with their peers, design collaborative learning opportunities or peer review activities.

Relevant Resources

Dell, C. A., Dell, T. F., & Blackwell, T. L. (2015). Applying Universal Design for Learning in online courses: Pedagogical and practical considerations. Journal of Educators Online, 12(2), 166–192.

Gilliland, B., Oyama, A., Stacey, P. (2018). Second language writing in a MOOC: Affordances and missed opportunities. Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language-Electronic Journal (TESL-EJ), 22(1), 1–25.

Hill, J.R. (2006). Flexible learning environments: Leveraging the affordances of flexible delivery and flexible learning. Innovative Higher Education, 31, 187–197

Privacy Policy | Contact Information  | Support Us| Join Us 

 Copyright © Global Society of Online Literacy Educators 2016-2023

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software
!webmaster account!