As more and more people aspire to change careers, develop their existing www.skillset or find alternatives to university and the £27k tuition fee deficit that it leaves in its wake, online training courses are becoming an attractive option for many. The benefits include flexible learning to fit around your life, work and family, no travel costs, online 1-on-1 support and substantial savings on traditional education courses/university study. It all sound too good to be true and unfortunately this can sometimes be the case. We look at what online educational course providers don’t want you to think about and suggest some questions to ask them before you sign up.

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Who will be teaching it?

As with all knowledge, it is only as credible as the source that it comes from. A lot of online courses seem to be taught by self-proclaimed “experts” in their field, but how can you know how qualified somebody really is? Universities and colleges go through a rigorous hiring process to ensure that their staff are the best suited to the job; you can never be 100% sure that your online educator has been through the same. It pays to do a little research into your course tutors. If they are working professionals, there is a good likelihood that they will be on LinkedIn or have a published paper searchable from within Google. You wouldn’t get into an unmarked taxi offering you a ride for a cheap fare so be careful with bogus online educators too.

What are you actually getting out of the course and what is it worth to you?

A course is only as valuable to you as what you will get out of it. This may be a set of www.skills that you need to further your career or perhaps you just have a curiosity that you would like to invest some time and money on. Try to set an amount that you are willing to spend and try to find a course close to this price. If you see a course advertised at a price that seems too cheap, there is a good chance that it will not be the quality that you want. Find out what support is available for you before, during and after the course and in what format (telephone, email, instant online chat).

Do you know anybody who has taken this course or a similar course from the provider?

Online testimonials are a great way to boost your credibility online. However, if you can never meet Terry E. from Huddersfield, how do you know that he really exists or said what he is quoted to have said? Nothing beats the opinion of somebody that you know and trust who has taken a course with the provider, even if it is not the exact same course. Failing that, try searching for third party reviews on external sites and see if what they advertise matches up with other feedback.

How is the course assessed?

It is important to pick a course that tests your abilities in a way that suits your learning style. This can vary from practical examinations for courses like photography to online quizzes/weekly assignments for more knowledge-based rather than www.skill-based courses. Why not get in touch with a provider and ask for example questions to help you gauge the format of the assessments?

What level is the course aimed at?

It can be hard to ascertain what level a course is aimed at. Terms like “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced” are quite generic and are often not quantifiable. This is a good reason to read the description carefully and drop the provider an email or better yet, give them a call to see what they say. It is generally better to call if possible as then you are more likely to get a truthful answer rather than a polished email reply. As a general rule, if you saw a course advertised on a general website such as Groupon or the like, it is unlikely to be very specific. else why would they market it at the general public. If you find out about a course through an academic journal or magazine, the course is more likely to be aimed at people with a decent background already.

Which other courses are available?

When shopping around, it is usually better to go to a retailer who specialises in the product that you need, rather than a Jack of all trades. The same applies to online courses. See which courses your chosen provider offers and see if they claim to be an expert in all of the subject areas in a similar way. It is also important to shop around to see that you get the most for your money.

Can you Google it?

Finally, something to consider before splashing out your cash is “can I Google it?” If the information provided in the course is something that you can learn online for free, or from a book that you could pick up for cheap second-hand, then perhaps these could be a better use of your time. There are often free webinars from professional experts available online so make sure that you are not paying for what other people can get for free.

Photo by GotCredit

by Ian Shaw
May 5, 2015