How to Choose an Online Course

by CJRose

Online courses are becoming more popular. With so many to choose from, how do we know which one is right for us?

Online education gives us more choices than we have ever had. But with these choices comes lots of decisions. What subject should I study? Which course provider is best? Should I do one-on-one or group class? This article aims to help you answer these questions, so you can find the best online course for you.

My Experience

From Student to Online Teacher

As the technology gets more sophisticated and reliable, more students are studying online.  You don't even need to be a college student to enroll on an online course.  Adults of all ages are choosing to study online too. Learning on the internet isn't limited to traditional classroom subjects.   You can even study jazz piano and origami online. 

I have participated in online education as both a learner and tutor to English as a Second Language students.  I got into online learning early on.  I had an interest in creative non-fiction and did a class on memoir writing with an online learning provider in the USA.  At the time it was very low-tech, these were the days before Skype.  All the we had was email.   We would just copy each other in to comment or discuss topics.  A few years later, I took some teaching training with an online school, this time through Skype.  I was so impressed by this experience that I now teach students on Skype.

I love learning, and am always looking for new courses on the internet.  But sometimes I get overwhelmed by the number of choices available.  As a tutor I also see people struggling with the same issues.  I ask myself the following questions to help me choose an online course.


What Subject Should I Study?

How to Prioritize Your Learning Goals

The answer to this question depends on your priorities.  I had Skype coaching this year to help me with career issues.  One of my goals was to take an online course.  But I had a long list of courses I wanted to study.  The list would have taken me years, and cost thousands.  So I had to prioritize.  For example, I wanted to study for a Teaching Business English qualification.  However it would not be helpful for the current direction of my business.  I also want to study career coaching, and it fits in with my future goals, so I am planning to take a coaching course next year.



How Is The Course Provided?

One-on-one or Group Tuition? Self-Paced or in Real-Time?

There are several options.  Do you want group or one-on-one tuition?  This will depend on the type of person you are.  The advantages of group tuition are that you have the support of a class and you may even start a friendship with someone from a totally different background.  

One-on-one tuition is more intense, however you will get individual attention from the tutor.  If you have a specific goal, one-on-one tuition is best, and the tutor will go at your pace.  

It is important that you get on with your tutor, especially if you are doing one-on-one classes.  Many tutors offer a free or reduced priced taster session to help you make a decision.  One-on-one tutors can also be more flexible about scheduling a class at a time that suits you. 

If timetabling is an issue you might want to consider doing a self-paced course.  In a self-paced course you are given all the materials and work through them yourself, as opposed to meeting your tutor in real-time, for example on Skype.  

The advantages of a real time course is that you get direct interaction with the tutor. But you will have to arrange a time that suits you both.   You may also have to deal with technical difficulties.  For example, occasionally the audio quality or picture on Skype isn't good, and may cause disruption to the lesson.  

A self-paced course will allow you to fit your work around your schedule, but you need to be disciplined about time management.  Some self-paced courses offer email support from a tutor.  If your course has assignments, these will be marked by a tutor.  Sometimes it is difficult to maintain motivation on a self-paced course.  There may be forum support where you can talk to other students and your tutor.  This will stop you getting discouraged.     

Who Should I Study With?

Choosing the Best Learning Provider for You

This depends on whether you are studying for professional reasons or pleasure.  If you are studying for professional reasons, find out if you are required to take an accredited qualification.  Professional associations usually provide a list of recognized qualifications and approved training organisations on their websites.  

Whether you are studying for business reasons or for pleasure, look at the provider's website.  Is it professional?  What are the testimonials like?  Do you know anyone else who has studied with them? Does the site seem trustworthy? You might want to Google the name of your learning provider and look on social networking sites to find out what former students say about their learning experiences.   


Is It Worth It?

How to Decide Whether the Course Will Be Valuable

Cost is a major factor for most of us.  Does what the course provider offer seem good value for money? How do prices compare with other training providers?  

Value isn't just about money, but how useful the course will be.  Will you actually be learning skills you can use?  Do you feel it's worth the time you will spend on studying?  Do you have enough time to complete the course without getting stressed out?  Do you actually need to take a course?  Could you find out what you need from the internet and e-books instead? 

Of course you may studying for leisure purposes.  Be sure to pick a class which fits your interests and that will keep you engage.  Be honest with yourself.  Will the course add value to your life, or just more stress? 

Final Decisions

Answering these questions should give you a clearer idea about which course to choose.  Do you homework first.  Don't be afraid to contact tutors or training organizations and ask questions.  There are no right or wrong answers, only what works best for you and your needs.

Further Resources: Books about Online Learning

Online Education For Dummies

This practical reference not only helps you get the most out of an online course, but also offers a wealth of advice to help you pick the one that matches your interests and needs

View on Amazon

The Online Student's User Manual: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Successful Online College S...

Not sure if you have enough computer skills or know how to navigate in cyberspace? Intimidated by all the new terminology? The Online Student User's Manual will help you successfully traverse the online halls of learning.

View on Amazon

Updated: 01/17/2014, CJRose
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
CJRose on 01/02/2014

Hi Mira Thanks for your comment. I'II be writing more detailed articles in future and will give it some thought. Thanks for your feedback.

Mira on 12/31/2013

Hi Rose, I liked this intro, but are there any sites you have experience with that you could review? It's a big world out there and hard to know where to turn.

CJRose on 12/29/2013

Hi Frank It's great that we have distance learning available to us now. It opens so many more doors. Thanks for your comment.

frankbeswick on 12/28/2013

Since finishing my masters degree all the courses that I have done have been by distance learning/correspondence. I find that it works for me.

CJRose on 12/28/2013

Hi Abby I am definitely a fan of the self-paced option. No mad rush to do your homework the night before. Thanks for your comments. Carol

AbbyFitz on 12/27/2013

This is good to know. I would love to have some continuing education in the near future. I'm definitely a self-paced student though!

You might also like

Find Free Online Courses

Find free online courses. Some even use free textbooks. And some are from q...

Learn How to Read Chinese and Have Fun Too

If you are wondering how to learn to read Chinese without tears, frustration ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...