The longer I work in the education sector, the more weird fallacies I hear. As I teach forensic psychology and criminology, it is perhaps not surprising that I shatter the illusions of students about crime and policing on a regular basis (e.g. “murder is not common”, “there isn’t usable forensic evidence at all crime scenes” and “most violent offences are committed against men not women”).
What is perhaps less obvious is that I spend a considerable amount of time trying to dispel myths about education as a whole. For example, that lecturers are evil and want students to fail. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wholeheartedly want my students to succeed – nothing gives me greater pleasure than awarding an excellent assignment with a high grade. However, I can’t just pass assignments that don’t come up to standard – I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I did. Even if you are a total cynic, this myth about evil lecturers just doesn’t work – why would lecturers create extra administrative work and marking for themselves voluntarily?!! The answer – they wouldn’t, they would much prefer to read lots of good quality essays and be able pass every assignment they mark. And so-called “evil lecturers” isn’t the only myth I’ve come across. I’ve outlined some of the most common myths I’ve heard about education and training below and hope my little hits of reality help dispel some of these.
Myth: All courses start in September.
Reality: Whilst some courses only start in September each year, many courses have intakes at different times of year, and some have rolling admissions meaning you can start at any time.
Myth: Courses take a long time to complete.
Reality: Courses can be anything from a few days to a few years. The length varies depending on the type of course (e.g. topic, level of accreditation) and mode of study (e.g. full or part time). Have a look at the different options available when choosing the right course for you.
Myth: Once I’ve started a course I have to finish it within the advertised timeframe.
Reality: Universities, colleges, and other training providers recognise that things can happen in life which impact on students’ ability to complete courses on time. There are options for deferral and interruption of studies (or similar) with most institutions if needed.
Myth: I will have to write lots of essays.
Reality: It is common for people to think that all assessment is essay based, especially if they are enrolling on a University course. Assessment will vary by course but many courses do use different assessment methods. For example, the Masters in Forensic Psychology course at Birmingham City University uses presentations, exams, reflective reports, and research projects alongside essays for assessment. Also, for students who struggle with writing, there is usually support available (e.g. study skills classes, mentoring, tutors etc.).
Myth: There would be too much work to take on at once.
Reality: Many courses can be taken in modular form. This allows you to “pay as you go” and build up the credits for a qualification. The more accredited modules completed, the higher the qualification you could gain. The added benefit of this is that, if you reach a point where you decide you don’t want to complete all the modules you originally sign up for, you might be able to exit the course with a lower qualification (e.g. a postgraduate certificate instead of a full Masters qualification) – this means the work done up to that point is not in vain as a qualification is still achieved.
Myth: Education won’t help me in my career.
Reality: The workplace is more diverse than ever now and employers appreciate it when employees can clearly demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Courses cannot only be linked to Continuous Professional Development schemes at work, but may also support applications for membership to professional membership organisations.
Myth: The course is only available face-to-face/online and I’d prefer the alternative.
Reality: Whilst it is true many courses are either face-to-face or online, some learning providers do have face-to-face and online versions of the same course so it is worth asking.
Myth: Face-to-face courses are better than online.
Reality: To be honest, this depends on the student. Some people prefer face-to-face courses, but this does not mean that online learning has no value. Many topics can be successfully taught online, perhaps with the additional of email/telephone support from a tutor/mentor and/or the option to attend face-to-face elements if desired.
Myth: It is not worth the investment.
Reality: Courses can be expensive but this does not mean they are not worthwhile. In fact, if a course is too cheap then this should be a red flag (in a feels “too good to be true” kind of way). However, to a certain extent, courses are what you make of them. If you don’t commit to a course then the benefits of completing it will be limited. When you are thinking about spending money on a course (or spending your boss’s money on a course!), I recommend thinking carefully about which course to do. Do you find the topic interesting? Will the course help you in your career? Is it accredited? Will the course help you develop transferable skills (e.g. communication skills)? You should link the course directly to what you actually want to achieve in life and career if you want to be successful. Doing this will help you justify the investment.
Myth: It’s expensive.
Reality: Whilst it is true that it is worth investing in high quality when choosing a course, there are often different payment options. Some courses can be paid for in instalments making them more manageable to pay for. There are also funding opportunities and/or discounts available in some places, e.g. loyalty discounts, or discounts associated with professional membership organisations.
Myth: Studying is boring.
Reality: If you have found education boring in the past, this is probably because you have done a course that is not right for you. We have all been there – the standard courses we are made to complete by employers that are dull and don’t add value (I’ve lost count of the number of data protection courses I’ve had to do). However, this is not how all courses are. If you are enthusiastic, commit, choose a topic you are interested in, and have good trainers/lecturers, I promise you it won’t be dull. It might be difficult at times, or even frustrating, but it won’t be dull.
Myth: I’m not clever enough.
Reality: Self-doubt is something I come across all the time. Starting a new course can be overwhelming and sometimes we think we can’t do things when the reality is that we can but might need a bit of guidance to get us there. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for support.
Myth: I’m too old.
Reality: This is the stupidest excuse I have ever heard. You are never too old for education – end of story. I firmly believe we should all strive to be lifelong learners. If you have particular concerns about feeling out of place, have a look at the student profile of the institution you plan to study with and see how many mature students they have (e.g. I know this is 60% for Birmingham City University, granted they count anyone 21 or over as “mature” but you’ll find mature students of any age have similar concerns whether they are 23, 53, or 73!).
It is easy to find excuses not to engage in education and I am not a fan of forcing people to complete courses they are not interested in. However, it concerns me that people might be put off education by the myths that surround it. I personally believe that myths about education is one of the biggest barriers to people enrolling on courses, particularly in Higher Education. I hope that by dispelling some of these myths might encourage a few people to consider further education. If you do decide to get involved – good luck!
By: Dr Amy Burrell