Researching Before You Invest: How to Choose an Online Course

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Woman at her laptop with a credit card, contemplating buying an online course.

You know you want to work from home.

And you figured out the kind of business you think you’d like to start.

You even have your eye on a training course that claims to teach you the skills you’ll need to build a successful business in this industry.

But… how do you know it’s a legitimate training course and not some sort of scam? 

And even if it’s not a scam, how do you know it’s the best training option for you?

It’s not always a black and white answer, because your learning style, schedule, and pre-existing experience means that some courses will be better suited to you than others. However, if you do some research on how to choose an online course, you’ll be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not you should invest your hard-earned money into a particular course.

Step 1: Look for Testimonials

A professional course-creator should be able to provide some testimonials for their course unless it is brand new. If you can’t find testimonials I would be wary of spending my money on it. 

Legitimate testimonials will usually be accompanied by the person’s full name and profile picture. (Even better if they have a website or company name you can check out!)

A good testimonial should also depict exactly how this course made a difference for them. If it’s too vague (for example, “this course was great!” with no specifics as to why it was great), I might be suspicious of it’s authenticity. 

Step 2: Read (Off-Site) Reviews

Most testimonials are going to be on the course creator’s website, so of course, they are only going to publish comments that are favorable. It’s important to look for unbiased reviews that are not on the course creator’s site. 

The reviews on this site is one place you can start. You can also check out the course creator’s Facebook page as page owners can’t delete negative reviews. (Although, they can report it if it doesn’t adhere to Facebook guidelines.) Therefore, you are likely to find honest reviews there. 

Keep in mind that no matter how good the course is, there are bound to be a few negative reviews. If the vast majority are positive reviews and there are a couple of negative ones, go ahead and read the negative reviews but remember to keep it in perspective. 

Pay attention also to how old the review is and when it was last updated. Many course creators are constantly updating their content, so a course review from five years ago might not be the best place to get informed feedback about the course. 

But some reviewers routinely update their reviews so keep an eye out for an update date and not just the publication date. For example, on this site you will find a line near the beginning of our reviews indicating the date it was last updated. 

Step 3: Research the Instructor

It’s important to do a little digging on the actual course instructor so you can learn more about who they are, their credentials, and why you might want to learn from them. If you find it difficult to find any information about them, or they seem to have no social media presence, that’s a red flag. 

Most reputable course creators make it easy for you to learn a little about them and typically have an About page on their website and a social media presence on at least one or two platforms.

Sign up to their email list and read through the content they send out to get an idea of their style and if they are someone you might like to learn from.

Step 4: Get Clear on What the Course Entails

How to Research an Online Course (& Avoid the Scams!) With a free printable Checklist.

Next, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the course itself and what you can expect to learn from it. Some course creators have free introductory courses you can take which should give you a solid idea of what to expect from the full course and the teaching style.

For example, how long will it take you to work through the course or learn the skills within the course? What is the delivery method for the training – text, audio, video, or a mix? (And which training delivery methods would you prefer?)

Sometimes, the sales page includes a syllabus of exactly what each unit covers. Also seek out the FAQ page, if there is one, and see if your questions are answered there. 

Chances are, you’ll still have some questions that aren’t answered on the sales page so you should reach out to the instructor for clarification on anything you’re not sure about. This is also an opportunity to see how helpful their responses are and how quickly they respond to your emails. 

Step 5: Find Out What Kind of Support You Can Expect

Some courses place a lot of emphasis on community support through Facebook groups or follow-ups while other courses are more DIY.

DIY courses may be okay, depending on the complexity of the material. But in most cases, you will likely feel more comfortable investing in a course that offers some form of ongoing support. 

For example, bookkeeping can be a pretty complex skill and I would be wary of any course that doesn’t offer some kind of assistance outside of the course material. 

Step 6: Investigate the Cost and Payment Options

It’s not a bad idea to check around at the different training options and do a price comparison. However, be wary of anything that’s too low. Creating courses and running support groups takes a lot of time and overhead. I would question a course that is lowly priced, especially if it claims to offer ongoing support and lifetime access. 

Most reputable courses will be a significant investment for you, so check also if they offer any multi-payment options. 

Step 7: Check Out the Course’s Refund Policy

Before you pull the trigger on purchasing any course, make sure you read the fine print on their return policy. A 30-day money-back guarantee is quite common but isn’t always the case. Some courses don’t offer any kind of money-back guarantees at all, so this is something you’ll also want to factor in with the cost of the course. 

Some courses will also throw in other types of guarantees like ensuring that content is thorough – and that if there’s anything that you felt wasn’t covered in the course that you needed to be successful, they will add that material in.

Also confirm the kind of access you will get to the course, if it is a one-time payment with lifetime access, pay as you go, or a subscription that needs to be renewed. 

Step 8: Put It All Together

Once you have gotten this far, you should have a pretty clear idea on what to expect from the course and if it aligns with what you hope it can do for you. Remember to be realistic about your own resources and expectations. No course – no matter how robust the training – can build a business for you. At the end of the day, you need to put in the work! But a good online course should clearly map out your path to success. 

So, does this course make a good road map? 

Conclusion

Purchasing an online training course can be a big investment, but one that can be life-changing if you get the right one! 

We want to make sure this decision is as easy as possible for you which is why we put together this free checklist to make sure you’re covering all the bases whenever you consider purchasing an online program:

FREE CHECKLIST!

20 Things to Consider Before Purchasing an Online Course

You always want to do your homework before investing your hard earned money into online training. This checklist will help you make an informed decision on the course you're thinking about taking. Just provide your name and email below for your free checklist!

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You don’t need to jump into a decision right away. Keep in mind that some programs like Become a Pinterest VA Today only open their doors for enrollment twice or thrice during the year. For these types of courses, it’s best to get on their email list now and follow them so that you’ll feel confident about jumping in once the doors open. Plus when you’re on their waiting list, you often get offered a bonus or discount for being an “early bird”. 

Was this article about how to choose an online course helpful for you? Are there any other points that you’ve discovered that are important when trying to choose the right course? Let’s get the discussion going!

Researching Before You Invest: How to Choose an Online CourseResearching Before You Invest: How to Choose an Online CourseResearching Before You Invest: How to Choose an Online Course

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