8 questions for choosing an online course
min video //
min read //
October 13, 2022
Choosing the right course for your specific needs is one of the most important elements contributing to your success. But, as we've learned, there are more than a few pros and cons of online learning, but it's not something students typically consider from the outset.
Most students, especially those new to online learning, see all courses as the same… and boy, do they have a lot to learn!
There's a huge variety of online courses out there. So let's see what the differences are here.
What types of online courses are there?
The main difference between most online courses is when and how you take them.
1. Asynchronous online course
Sometimes called "async," these are the kinds of courses that you'll do entirely on your own. They'll usually include a timeframe in which you must complete segments or assignments. The most common is allowing students access to the course material week-by-week.
Important to note: while "lecture" style videos may be included in the course material, none of them will be live.
2. Synchronous online course
This is probably the online course that replicates the in-person experience best. Synchronous courses will have live lectures and specific times when students come to learn together and collaborate in a classroom environment. Important to note: like many in-person courses, attendance may make the online experience slightly less flexible than expected.
3. Hybrid online courses
As the name suggests, hybrid learning combines both asynchronous and synchronous elements. You may have some recordings to watch with a few live lectures—but it depends entirely on the individual course. Some may even have an in-person element to them.
Reading through these core differences, you may already be able to categorize some of the courses you've already done. Or you may already have a preference of which kind of course.
But wait… there's more! Outside of these differences, a few more components will play a role in selecting the right course for you. Let's address these with a few questions.
Questions to find the best online course
Here are the 8 questions you should be asking to find the online course best suited to your needs.
1. Is the course run/provided by an accredited and legitimate organization?
Make sure to check who's responsible for the course curriculum and who's teaching it. It doesn't necessarily have to be a university, but the organization should be credible and trustworthy. It's always worth a quick google to find reviews or additional information about the course provider.
2. Will I get a certification?
Not all courses offer certification at the end. And if they do, they may not be widely recognized. Of course, the primary aim of any study should be the skills gained; however, certification is vital when you're investing time and money.
3. How much contact will I have with my coursemates?
A lot of learning is not only done out of the classroom (practicing your skills in real life!) but done with your classmates. Though they are no instructors, your classmates will come from different backgrounds and view the course information differently, which—if you engage with them—can expand your views too.
4. How much dedicated one-on-one time will I get with the instructors?
Not all courses offer one-to-one interaction with your instructors or course advisors. Managing your expectations is absolutely critical. If the course material is easy for you and comprehensive, you may be just fine going through the course on your own. However, if it's a stretch topic—one that you may be more unfamiliar with—you may need more instructor support.
5. How much does the course cost? (And is it comparable to similar courses?)
Not all courses cost money (though many of them do). Shopping around and comparing prices before you commit to a single course is essential.
6. How long does the course last?
Even asynchronous courses will have suggested timeframes in which to complete the course. Timeframes can keep you accountable for finishing the course. At the very least, it will tell you how long you'll have access to content.
7. How many hours will I have to commit to study?
Just like an in-person course, you'll have to manage a fair amount of time to balance the workload required for any course. Before you commit to a single course, understand how many hours (on average) you can expect to dedicate to your study outside of potential lecture/classroom hours.
8. How will my progress be monitored?
Look out for assignments and assessments in your course selection process. It's a good move to understand how you will be assessed (especially if you earn a certificate at the end). You should look out for the practicality of these assignments and how they set you up for using these newfound skills in real life. While testing is historically popular, it's not always a practical measure for skills development. Instead, look for courses that require projects that practice your skills.
Hopefully, after answering a few of these questions in your research to find your next online course, you'll feel a little more confident in your selection.