Whether you’re a professional who wants to upgrade your skills, or an ever-curious person who wants to expand your knowledge, you can benefit from taking online courses. Many of these (relatively) inexpensive programs allow you to satisfy your thirst for learning in the comforts of your own home, and at your own pace.
While some of these courses are free, others aren’t. If you’re thinking of signing up for a paid course because you believe that “You get what you pay for”, or because of any other reason, you’d want to ask (and answer) these questions first to help you get the most bang for your buck.
Recommended Reading: 9 Sites For Free Online Courses And Open Courseware
1. What “Value” Does This Course Offer Me Today?
You can also rephrase this question as: “How will this course benefit me right now?“
For example, if you’re a novice freelancer who has yet to land jobs, you’ll get more out of a course called “How to Land a Client in 7 Days” than “How to Re-invent Your 5-Year-Old Business”. Granted, the latter may come in handy in the future, but for now, focus on what you need to know at this very moment. Remember that you’re paying not just for the knowledge, but also for the results you can gain from that knowledge, so the sooner you get your investment back, the better.
2. Does the course facilitator/expert have excellent credentials?
But what if there are at least a dozen “experts” who all claim to be able to teach you “How to Land a Client in 7 Days”? Good question. Of course, you don’t want just any Tom, Dick, and Harry to teach you. You want someone who “walks the talk”, rather than someone who’s “all talk, no walk”.
To find Mr./Ms. “Walk the Talk”, you conduct a background check. You find out who’s facilitating the course you want to take, look them up on Linkedin, and read through anything that supports their claim of being an “expert” (e.g. work history, notable achievements, clientele, groups).
If the course facilitator doesn’t have a Linkedin, and/or it’s impossible for you to do a thorough background check on them, it’s better to err on the side of caution, and look for another course with a more credible facilitator.
3. What do non-affiliate reviews say about the course?
Sometimes, a famous personality in your industry will recommend a paid online course, with the disclaimer that s/he is an “affiliate” of such. When someone says, “I’m an affiliate of so-and-so”, what s/he means is “For every person that signs up for so-and-so, I will receive some form of monetary compensation.”
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Mr./Ms. Famous Personality (FP) cares only about what s/he can get from you, money-wise. For all you know, Mr./Ms. FP may genuinely feel that the course gives great value for money.
Then again, it’s better to look up reviews from unbiased third parties who lurk in blogs, forums, and even your immediate social circle. These people are more likely to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly on a paid course without batting an eyelash.
4. Do you have the time to spare?
After answering the previous 3 questions, you can now decide whether the paid online course is worth it or not. If it is worth it, now’s the time to ask yourself: “Can I set aside at least a couple of hours each day to learn the course material?”
If you find it hard to schedule time to devote to the online course, think of it as another one of your college classes – albeit one you’re taking voluntarily, instead of one you’re taking because an authority figure is looking over your shoulder and nagging you about college credits, career goals, and the Big Life Questions. Set a fixed time and place where you go over the course materials and absorb what you need to learn without distractions.
Read Also: Getting A College Degree Or Self-Learning?
Of course, you can try to study while doing other tasks, but recent research suggests you’re better off not multitasking.
5. Can you afford the course at the moment?
Notice that this question is the last on the list. There’s a reason for that.
If the paid online course is “valuable” to you in the best sense of the word, and you have more than enough time to spare for it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pay – unless you’re really, really broke. In that case, there’s no point sinking yourself further into a financial quagmire, and your energy is better spent looking elsewhere for high-quality free courses.
Price isn’t always a reliable indicator of quality. Paid online courses can be either good or not-so-good, and the same can be said of free online courses. Before you take any online course (free or otherwise), take time to research on it before hitting the “Sign Up” or “Register” button. That way, you’ll get your money’s (and time’s) worth, at least 90 percent of the time.