How to choose an online course?

Melissa is a Client Advisor at a larger software development firm, based in Australia. She is aiming for a promotion in her organisation and hence, is trying to pick up skills which will help enhance her leadership skills. While looking for an online course, she spots a course offered by a premium institute and studies the detailed curriculum. It matches her interest.

Melissa is thrilled and immediately reaches out to her manager and the Learning & Development Team for necessary approvals. She is sure that the certification would be a good addition to her career prospects.

Halfway across the world, Graham is looking for a similar course but for a completely different purpose. He is the founder and director of a Design Thinking company headquartered in the Netherlands. There is a client engagement coming up, where Graham has to lead a large multi-functional team to redesign their service. His business partner Neela, recommends a course that could be useful. Neela has completed it herself and  found it to be  very practical.

Without wasting any time, Graham opens the link that Neela has shared and goes through the details of the course. He is delighted to find that the objectives match his requirements to a T and gets himself enrolled, immediately.

Like Melissa and Graham, are you also trying to find the right online course for yourself? Wondering how to go about it?

Here are some guiding questions that you can consider:

Does the course fulfil your objective?

Easier said than done, this one requires your proper attention. Before you enrol yourself and invest that money or convince your organization to sponsor for it, be clear on the objective. Without a clear goal, you are likely to lose motivation very soon and may not be able to complete the course.

Below are some objectives you may consider:

  • Develop a skill which is in demand in your domain
  • Help you acquire more customers
  • Help you progress in your career
  • Help you grow as a leader
  • Make you feel more fulfilled at work
  • A certificate that will add value to you resume

While Melissa is clearly taking up the course to further her career in her organization, Graham is taking it to help him drive a client engagement.

Does the course offer social learning?

One of the greatest benefits of online courses is the ability to connect with a global community of motivated peers. Not only do they share your passion for the subject, but they are also working on very similar problems that you can learn from.

 Here are some points to consider :

  • Does the course allow you to review peer submissions and receive peer feedback on your submission?
  • Is there a forum to discuss or ask important questions, openly?Does the course and the instructor encourage these conversations?
  • Can you reach out to the course instructor if you have questions or need feedback


Melissa and Graham are likely to benefit through the social learning opportunities being offered by the course.

Will the course help you develop practical skills?

If you cannot use the skills practically, your effort and time will undoubtedly be wasted. But how do you know if the course will prove to be relevant and practical?

Here are some ways that you can evaluate the course:

  • Take a look at what previous learners have said about the course. Have they spoken about how useful it was? Have they spoken about how they have applied what they have learnt?
  • Study the course curriculum. Does it talk about application exercises, live projects, blueprints etc? The more specific the description, the better it is.
  • Does the course offer resources,  tools and templates that you can continue using after the course is completed?


Will the course help you develop long lasting skills?

The online course should not be just an information dump. It should enable you to build long lasting skills through regular connects, bite sized lessons, practice exercises, live sessions with experts, quizzes etc. Many learners may drop off midway through the course, but the ones who stay committed benefit deeply through opportunities for practice and nudges. The course should intertwine with your current work so that you imbibe the skills deeply.

Let’s take Graham’s example. As he progresses through the course, he can apply what he has learnt while engaging with his client.  He can use the tools and templates provided in the course to produce high quality outcomes for his clients. Similarly, Melissa can practice the skills she learns in the course and demonstrate her leadership skills.

Know someone who is evaluating an online course? Share this article with them.

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About the Author

Dyti Dawn

Dyti Dawn

Dyti leads the learning experience design function at FocusU Academy. She is passionate about travel, writing and animal welfare. Reach out to her at dyti@focusu.com