Online learning is flexible, convenient, and often substantially cheaper than bricks-and-mortar institutions. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to fit your studies around your life, but the sheer volume of choice can be confusing.
#1 Be goal orientated
The chances are that you’re going into online learning with a specific goal in mind, be that a career change or promotion. That end goal plays a large part in the type, of course, you’ll need. Some are more business orientated, others purely academic, some are even designed as supplemental learning to be taken alongside another degree. Going into the process with a firm end goal makes choosing a course much easier.
#2 Browse extensively (and compare)
There are lots of online courses on offer, and more seem to become available every day. Remote learning (spurred on in part by the pandemic) is now hugely popular, so it’s more important than ever to compare. You might want to pursue a shorter calculus course online or opt for something longer. Course content, resources, and support are different between institutions, so it’s always important to compare.
#3 Apply criteria
Comparison will likely yield up lots of similar courses that you’ll then need to whittle down further. Applying filters like length, price, end qualification, and exam type will make the list much more manageable. It pays to be ruthless when you have so much choice. Strike off the courses that don’t suit your needs exactly.
#4 Keep a budget in mind
Online courses are certainly cheaper than their face-to-face alternatives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re free. In fact, course fees can vary quite spectacularly between institutions, even for the same type of course. Compare courses to determine value, work out how much you’re willing/able to spend, and then work from there.
#5 Consider your level
There’s an online course for everybody, but many are pitched at different levels. For example, a course designed for students who hold an MA won’t be suitable if you’re taking your first steps into a new topic. Similarly, you won’t be challenged by a beginner’s course if you already hold a degree in that area. Be exhaustive and find a course that matches your academic level.
#6 Keep timetabling in mind
Remote learning is infinitely more flexible than attending a bricks-and-mortar college, but it’s naive in the extreme to imagine that all courses offer the same hours. Some will be far more labor intensive than others. Even the same subject areas will have different time demands between institutions. Check carefully and be realistic about how much you can do per week.
#7 Get in touch
The beauty of online courses is that they make a lot of information available via the web, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to tutors. Any reputable online course should have a set of contact details for its tutors and professors. If you’re still unsure whether the course is right for you, drop them an email with any questions. You might even be able to schedule a meeting via webcam to discuss your needs in more detail.