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In the post-COVID world, e-learning breaks new ground. With AI and VR on their rise, the edtech industry offers tons of courses on almost any topic. Willing to master new skills in dev or upgrade current ones, you face tough choices, like in supermarkets.

The only difference:

When buying cheese, you know what's there inside. When choosing online courses, you doubt: Most training programs look the same. Their promotion is professional and promising, and you can't understand which particular data to consider red or green flags.

More than that, the term "online course" itself doesn't have any specific definition. It can be either an interactive project with high-quality webinars, creative tasks, and a tutor who'll work with you and answer any questions or just a set of videos made by a webcam.

How to get the maximum benefit from e-learning today?

These four criteria will help you make the right online course choice for upgrading your skills.

1) Formats

Most online courses are of two formats: timed (synchronous) and self-timed (asynchronous).

  1. Synchronous ones, such as webinars, for example, take place in real-time. Choose this format if you expect a personal contribution from the speaker and a competitive spirit from the course. Here you'll need to be present and meet deadlines. Also worth noting is that such classes are more expensive: Besides technical support specialists, here's a teacher working in real-time and getting paid hourly.
  2. Asynchronous online courses provide access to educational materials and study when it's more comfortable for you. Choose this format if you are motivated and self-disciplined enough, and your time management skills are neat.

The critical data to consider here:

Regardless of the format, your access to educational materials should be open even after graduation. So if you read a course description and see something like "the content will disappear in two weeks after the training ends," think twice before spending time and money on it.

2) Testimonials

When choosing a course, consider what other students think of it. The best feedback is that of friends and peers: They are people from the same cultural field, creative mood, and educational background as you, so the chances are that you'll like what they like. With no suitable recommendations among your surroundings, search for reviews online.

But don't rely on them much.

Not only can online courses bring knowledge, but they also motivate and inspire attendees. And if a person writes a positive review on how feel-good the course was, it doesn't mean they gained any knowledge or skills there. A primary example is Tony Robbins, who tells copybook maxims to the audience but has millions of admirers. Try ignoring the emotional color of a review but pay attention to constructive feedback.

3) Topics

Before choosing a course, define the area and the depth of study material you need to gain knowledge. Is it for beginners, middle-specialists, or experts in the niche? Also, pay attention to course hours. If, for example, you want to master a new skill from scratch—let's say it's web design or big data—then 2 or 3 months won't be enough.

Go through the course program to understand the thesis statement and issues it will cover. The program should be clear, logical, and comprehensive.

Also, consider the balance of theoretical and practical lessons. Both are significant, but the practice is preferable to have while learning.

4) Educators

The edtech market is full of coaches promising to educate you about a new profession in short order. The problem is that most of them don't have any licenses or certificates for such practices. So, do your best to find the data about a course author and a school providing education services.

  • How long have they been teaching? The longer, the more reasons to trust them.
  • Ask for the license confirming the compliance of their training program with the required educational standards.
  • Find out what documents you'll get after finishing their online course.
  • Check how often they run a course and how many students they have. It will help to understand their relevance and demand among the audience.

The speaker who will be conducting the course should be an expert in his field. Give preference to online classes led by practitioners rather than theorists.

To make the right choice, chat with a speaker directly or visit some webinars with his participation. Most authors offer free manuals, such as books or short video courses, which can help you better understand their topic and the methods they use to present it.

And last but not least:

Never judge a course by price. Expensive doesn't equal proficient.

Some authors may overprice their courses to increase their income, while many valuable educational materials are available via free website builders for reasonable costs or even for free.

It doesn't mean you should always choose the cheapest option. Professional educators share the knowledge they have been gaining for years, so it stands to reason that their skills are worth something.