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How to Choose an Online Course: Researching Before You Invest

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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 do you know how to choose an online course that's legitimate?

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

The answer isn't always black and white, because of your learning style, schedule, and pre-existing experience. Because of these factors, some courses suit your needs better than others. So, by learning how to choose an online course, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about whether or not you should invest your hard-earned money into a particular course.

Step 1: Look for testimonials about the course or the creator

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

Legitimate testimonials are often accompanied by the person’s full name and perhaps a profile picture. If they have a website or company name you can check out, even better!

A good testimonial will tell you how this course made a difference for the person giving the testimonial. If it's vague (for example, “this course was great!” without saying why it was great), it might not be genuine.

Also, beware of seasoned courses that have only high praise attached. If no one has ever been displeased, that suggests the course owner may have paid for testimonials or reviews. Humans being as we are, there will nearly always be someone who is dissatisfied. You should be able to find that feedback, as well, so you can judge it for yourself.

Reading reviews is an important part of finding work-from-home training that meets your needs.
Reading reviews is an important part of finding work-from-home training that meets your needs.

Step 2: Read (Off-Site) reviews to learn how to choose an online course

Most testimonials are located on the course creator’s website, and of course they only publish comments that are favorable. That means it’s important to look for unbiased reviews elsewhere, too.

If you want to learn how to choose an online course, the reviews here on this site are a good place to start. We have beginner reviews like this one for Bookkeepers.com, and in-depth reviews, too. In our full Bookkeeper Launch review, you'll get a comprehensive assessment of the pros and cons and learn who the course is for. The review will also tell you how long you can expect to need to complete it, what it costs, and more.

It's also a good idea to check out the course creator’s Facebook page if they have one. FB page owners can’t delete negative reviews, although they can report any that don't adhere to Facebook guidelines. Therefore, you are likely to find honest reviews there. 

No matter how good the course is, it's likely to have a few negative reviews. If the vast majority are positive, though, it helps to keep the negative ones in perspective. 

While you're learning about the course, pay attention to how old reviews are. Many course creators update their content often. So reading a review from five years ago won't give you the best insight into the course in its current form. Those who know how to choose an online course that fits their needs look for current reviews for informed feedback. 

It's worth noting that some reviewers routinely update their reviews to keep pace with the course changes. Watch for update notifications and not just the publication date. For example, here at Anywhere and Anytime Careers, the date we last updated the review is just below the title.

Step 3: How to choose an online course? Research the instructor

An important factor in how to choose an online course is the course instructor. You'll want to get an idea about who they are, their credentials, what motivated them to create this course, and why you might want to learn from them. If you can't 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. At the least, they typically have an About page on their website. Most also have a social media presence on at least one or two platforms.

If the course creator has an email list, sign up and read through the content they send out. You'll get an idea of their style and if they are someone you might like to learn from before you invest.

Step 4: Get clear on what the course involves

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 a free introductory course that provides a solid idea of what to expect from the full course and the teaching style. You can find some of these here on our site.

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? Take some time to figure out which training delivery methods you prefer, too.

Sometimes, the sales page includes a syllabus of exactly what each unit covers. Look for the FAQ page, if there is one, and see if you can find answers there. 

You might still have some questions after you've gone through these steps. If so, see if you can reach out to the instructor for clarification on anything you’re not sure about. If you can't, this might be a reason to pass this course by. Most reputable course creators welcome contact. For example, Ben Robinson of bookkeepers.com lists his personal phone number on the site. This is also an opportunity to see how helpful the course creator's responses are and how quickly they answer your questions. 

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, tax preparation is a complex skill with annual tax code changes. I would be wary of any course that doesn’t offer some kind of assistance outside of the course material, as TaxBiz does. Likewise, there is a broad range of services that fall under the virtual assistance and freelancing umbrellas, and having support as your business grows and changes can be vital to your success. This is why FullyBookedVA and Freelance University have robust community support built into the programs.

An important aspect of how to choose an online course is to assess whether the investment is worth the value to you.
An important aspect of how to choose an online course is to assess whether the investment is worth the value to you.

Step 6: Investigate the cost and payment options

It’s not a bad idea to check the different training options and do a price comparison for the career you want. Creating courses and running support groups takes a lot of time and overhead. Question the quality of a course that is bargain-priced, especially if it claims to offer ongoing support and lifetime access. 

This is definitely an area where “You get what you pay for” applies!

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

Step 7: Check to see if the course offers a refund policy

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

Some will offer other types of guarantees like ensuring that content is thorough. If there’s anything that a student felt wasn’t adequately covered in the course, the course creator will add that material. That's the case with Internet Scoping School. Since the course offers lifetime updates, you and all other students benefit from the new material that results.

Remember to confirm the kind of access you will get to the course. Is it a one-time payment with lifetime access, pay-as-you-go, or a subscription that needs to be renewed? If any of these are deal-breakers for you, eliminate them from consideration. 

If you've followed our steps , you are on the road to success!
If you've followed our steps, you are on the road to success!

Step 8: Put it all together – now you know how to choose an online course

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

So, once you've looked at all the factors we've discussed, does this course look like a good investment for you? Will it provide you a solid road map to create a successful business?

Conclusion: How to Choose an Online Course

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 it even easier to learn how to choose an online course – before you make a purchase.

You don’t need to jump into a decision right away – and some courses have limited enrollment periods, so you will have to wait for the next one even after you make your choice.

For these types of courses, it’s best to get on their email list as early as possible. That way, 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? Would you like more information? Our recent articles on female entrepreneurship and more ways to find the best online training for your needs can help. And if you’ve discovered any other important factors when trying to choose the right course, please drop us a comment. Let’s get the discussion going!

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