If you have decided to learn new professional skills from the comfort of your own home and purchase an online course, this material is for you. The experts of Writemyessay company have prepared a list of 8 criteria to look for when choosing a course.
When do I need and don’t need an online course?
Before we get to the guide, answer yourself the question – “Do I really need an online course right now?”
If you’re not willing to spend the time or you have a one-time inquiry about a topic, you probably don’t need a course. For example, you can learn about what has changed in Facebook targeting settings in 2021 from a regular article or YouTube video.
But if you want to sharpen your skills for career advancement, you need support while you’re learning, and you need a chance to practice – welcome to online courses!
Now let’s move on to the guide. What to look for when choosing a course? In this article, we will discuss 8 criteria while choosing online courses.
Important points when choosing a course
The first criterion you encounter as soon as you open the course website is the amount of bullshit.
#1. The bullshit on the website
If they promise you a job guarantee or first income in six months, there is a high probability that it is just a trick. It is impossible to guarantee all students that they will be 100% employed. Read the entire contract carefully in this case.
This also applies to money-back guarantees. Check out the terms and conditions for each one and, again, don’t forget to read the contract carefully before you buy.
#2. Course Format
There are three formats of online training: live webinars, video recordings, and simulations. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each so you understand which format is best for you.
In this format, the speaker meets with students in an online broadcast and tells them something, adding examples from personal experience. The format itself is convenient – students can listen to the speaker at home or any other convenient location.
However, the quality and presentation of the material often suffer at webinars. The speaker is a living person and cannot always cheerfully and structurally submit material during a speech. This can be affected by both fatigues after work, and some kind of force majeure that happened to a person before the lesson.
It’s also inconvenient to adjust to webinars. For example, classes are held every week on Tuesdays at 19:00. If the course lasts a month, you can still try to schedule your time. But if it’s 3, 6, or 12 months? The longer the course, the harder it is to maintain discipline in attendance.
You can watch the recording. But webinars are often held in Zoom, where the picture is not shown in the best quality. If you like to watch videos, buy a better course with recorded lectures, where there is good production and editing.
Here the quality of images and presentation is several times better than in webinars. Speakers can prepare for the performance and in the case of an unsuccessful take, rerecord the lecture again. And students can watch the recording at a convenient time for them and quietly learn at their own pace.
But the main disadvantage of this format is that not all courses records of lectures are frequently updated.
The second disadvantage of lecture courses – they do not form skills. This is a passive format of learning, which assumes that people will sit on the couch and listen to other people’s experiences. But to learn something, you have to practice.
This format offers an immersive work environment. You communicate with your colleagues, who send you tasks and give you feedback.
The theory is structured as a text, in a simple way. And after each theoretical block, students solve practical tasks.
Simulations require more involvement than other formats. Here you have to put a lot of effort into solving practical assignments. But this is the only way to gain skills for career advancement or employment.
#3. Course Duration
Online courses of 12-18 months are a conveyor belt of perpetual students. Most people will never finish them because they don’t have that level of self-discipline.
The optimal period is four to six months. This time is enough to get the necessary knowledge and skills in the new profession. And then you already need to look for work, take projects on freelance and internships.
If some course promises that you will master the profession in a month – most likely this is nonsense. In such a short period, it is impossible to form the necessary skills. Even if you study in a very intensive mode, you should not forget that your brain has maximum bandwidth.
#4. Course program
Courses can be divided not only by format and duration but also by the type of program: narrow and general.
If you are a practitioner, narrow courses are suitable for you. But if a person is a beginner and is just about to learn the profession, a course in analytics will not help him get a job. For newcomers, the overall course syllabus must include all the blocks described in the job postings. Analyze 50 jobs in a profession that interests you. Look at the major blocks and match them to the course description.
Also, make sure the course syllabus is not too general. If you are promised that you will learn SEO optimization, email marketing, and web analytics in just 21 days – we have bad news for you. It will be very superficial information.
#5. Course authors
Once you get to the block describing the course authors, look at where they work.
If the descriptions are missing company names and instead say “Millions of $” and “Silicon Valley,” that’s a red flag.
We have no information about what companies the authors of the course worked for, what they did, what were their achievements. So we cannot even roughly assess their competence.
It is a different matter if there are references to projects in which experts have either participated before or are taking part at the moment. For example, this way we can understand in which industry they have experience: whether they were responsible for developing mobile games or created products in the sphere of banking services.
If the author of the course is a junior producer, that’s not very good either. He can tell you what tools he uses in his work. But he doesn’t have enough knowledge yet to determine which tools should and should not be used.
If there are some top managers (CEO, CPO, CFO, CMO, CTO) among the authors, this is also a signal. These people have a super high level of insight. They give little specifics and practical advice. All of their advice boils down to the phrase, “It depends on…”.
It’s important to be taught by either the Seniors or the leaders of their lines of business. These people are not so far from the practice and can tell you about the actual tools. At the same time, they have enough insight to warn you about pitfalls and various nuances.
Everyone writes that you should read the reviews. But few people advise checking the authenticity of these reviews.
If there is a link to people’s profiles on social networks, then it’s good. You can go to their page and ask them personally all the questions about the course. Some courses have chat rooms and groups. You can contact the participants and ask for feedback on the training.
If there is no link or it is not working – it is a reason to think, whether the review is real.
It is worth trusting anonymous reviews on aggregators – an open question. One company may have a high rating on one website and a low one on another. This could mean, for example, that positive reviews are bought by the company itself and negative ones are ordered by its competitors.
#7. Support after purchase
To avoid ending up in a situation where you have paid for the course and are left with it alone, study what the company does to get you through to the end of the course.
Support in courses comes in two types: subject matter issues and career support.
This can be a group chat, a personal tutor, or a course author.
If it’s a group chat, see how active it is, how often questions are answered there. I do not want to add to the chat room, where no one has asked questions for six months.
If it is a personal curator, then specify how many questions you can ask him and what experience he has. What if it turns out to be an inexperienced graduate. Such people are often unable to answer your question if it is outside the scope of their methodology book.
If it is the author of the course – most likely, you will not get as detailed feedback as you would like. If only because he needs to write not only to you but to the rest of the students at the same time. There can be as many as 10 or as many as 50 in one stream.
Clarify how much counseling you will receive on your resume and motivation letter. Will you be coached before the actual interview? Will they give you feedback on your portfolio?
Be careful when you aren’t promised any support and community. In such a situation, you will be left alone with any question. This will prevent you from completing the course to the end.
#8. A number of cases in the portfolio
In most courses, students get one thesis project at the end. That’s not enough to get a job. You’ll have to additionally look for experience in freelance or part-time work.
If you took a lecture course and got a certificate, that’s not the case. But if you ran a test advertising campaign from scratch while taking the simulator and scaled it up, that’s a great example of a case for a portfolio.
Cases are important to employers. They validate your skills. You can write that you are a great UX designer, or you can show a portfolio with your projects.
If you are motivated to learn and you want to buy an online course – that’s great. The main thing is to take your time and make an informed decision. Otherwise, instead of new knowledge and experience, you can get a solid disappointment.
But even if you were able to find “that perfect” course for yourself – that’s still half the battle. You need to invest a lot of time and effort to finally complete your training and achieve your goal.