3 factors you need to consider before signing up for an online course

Three simple techniques to better assess online courses

If you are  feeling overwhelmed by the number of courses available and are struggling to decide which one to take then we have just the thing for you. Using he three ideas below you can better evaluate whether it is worth spending your money… 

1. Know your objective

First think about why you initially decided to take an online course. You need to understand exactly what you want to get out it. Then consider whether this course is likely to help you achieve this goal. Prior to purchasing look through the contents and identify the key points covered. To get the most out of it you need to know if these will help you  with what you are trying to learn or the problem you are trying to solve. Use the following questions as guidelines to establish this:

What am I trying to find out?

Think about your current goals and what information or skills can help you achieve them.

Why is this information important?

While there are hundreds of courses you could take, try to identify those that will help you solve your most pressing problems. You don’t want to put too much effort into solving minor issues if there are bigger ones you could be working on.

By asking yourself these questions you can quickly ascertain which courses will be the most relevant to your situation. It is more efficient to focus on solving one problem at a time rather than trying to learn everything all at the same time. In order to develop you need to learn and then apply what you have learnt straight away.

2. Content

Once you have a clear idea of your own objective you can then start to evaluate the content of the course. In order to do this look through the contents and establish the basic ideas the instructor is trying to present.

Once you know the range of topics covered you then need to think about what the author has decided is the purpose of the course. Consider what their main argument is and how they are trying to justify this. You may find the following questions helpful in deciding if it’s right for you:

How does it fit with other material you have covered previously?

Ideally the content will build upon your existing knowledge or offer an improved way of doing something. If a course is simply going over the same ground then your time will be better spent learning something else.

Does the material seem too basic or too advanced?

Simply consider who the course seems to be aimed at and assess your own knowledge on the subject.

How applicable are the ideas in the course?

Consider if the skills being taught are applicable in your situation. Advanced courses are often more specialist so you want to make sure you understand the basics and can apply them before taking on something more challenging.

How long does the course last ?

Think about how much time you will need to commit to the course and whether that fits in with your circumstances.


When signing up for a course your goal is to learn something new or enhance existing skills. One of the most frustrating situations is when you purchase a course only to discover you already knew most of what was covered. This feeling is the exact situation we are trying to help you avoid. Seek original work or something that offers an alternative viewpoint.

Unfortunately there are a number of courses out there that simply copy from other sources and try and pass it off as their own. Instead seek out those that offer insightful opinions and go against the consensus. This can help you gain an edge on your competitors by knowing and applying information that they do not have.

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

Haruki Murakami

Now that does not mean you should sign up for any course purely because their opinions are unusual. This is where you need to think critically as having a contrarian approach requires you not only to be different from everyone else but also right. You need to decide whether they can convince that their viewpoint is more compelling.

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8 thoughts on “3 factors you need to consider before signing up for an online course”

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