What to look for in an online course
If the coronavirus has got you stuck at home or in isolation, or maybe (I’m so sorry to say) that you may not have a job right now and you feel you want to make good use your time, then you might be looking to do an online course. It’s a smart thing to do. But, what do you look for?
What are you interested in?
Do you want to do a course in interior design, or an RSA course, or even a course in business? Obviously, you’ll do a search under these subjects, but you might even want to drill down into these courses a bit further. For example, business courses can be about customer service, or business admin, or Leadership & Management. So, have a look at the course content and be quite confident that this is what you want to do.
Can you design your own online course?
Good online course colleges should allow you the flexibility to design your own course. That way, you can pick and choose the subjects that interest you the most. Better still, you should be able to drop a subject if you made a mistake by enrolling in it in the first place, without any penalty.
Try before you buy
Starting out without much knowledge about what you want to do can be a bit unnerving. A really good online college should also allow you to try a subject (or unit, as they call it) before you enrol, to make sure it’s the right course topic for you.
When can you start?
For some strange reason, some online courses won’t let you start straight away. This seems crazy because unlike Uni or TAFE where you need to get everyone together at the same time, there is nothing to stop online learning from going ahead at any time. Actually, a good online course should be ready when you are, so look for these courses if you want flexibility.
What should you pay for an online course?
Prices vary quite a lot in the online space. It might come down to the reputation, or even what the market determines, but it doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do with the quality of the course. It’s a good idea to shop around and search for the right course, with the right price tag for you. And, a good online education college should allow flexible payment options, so look out for these as it might help with your cash flow.
What content can you expect in online courses?
If you see on an online course that asks you to download a Word doc or a PDF, read something, answer with a pen, then scan and upload back … walk away … quickly! That course lacks imagination and will be likely to bore you to tears. You really should be looking for an interactive, engaging and visually stimulating online course. These are much more fun, interesting and actually help you to learn better because all your senses are stimulated and active, so you should absorb more.
How hard are online courses?
A lot comes down to what level course you do. You can do a Certificate II, Certificate III, Certificate IV or Diploma level. A Certificate II is really like a Year 10 level; pretty simple, straightforward. Certificate III is like a Year 12 or first year out level; if you’ve done Year 12, you should have little problems with this. Certificate IV is a bit more like when you’ve been in a job for a year or two; it’s a bit more challenging but, if you’re reasonably smart and you can put in some time to understand, then you should be fine. Diploma level is really designed for those who either have three to five years of work experience and/or you back yourself to put in the time to understand new ideas and you feel capable of handling the more involved theoretical concepts.
What level of an online course is best?
Obviously, a Diploma is the best. It looks great in your resume and you’ll be really well respected by employers. But, if you’re not ready for a Diploma, then don’t do it. You may not complete it, and you’ll waste time and effort. A Certificate IV is also well regarded and tells the employer that you’re very capable and clever. A Certificate III is becoming standard these days. It says that you have the skills and knowledge to do the job and gives the employer reassurance that you want to pursue this type of work (otherwise you would not have done it, right?). A Certificate II is not recommended for an employment position; it’s really just a basic course and designed to give someone an introduction.
What level of supervision should I expect in an online course?
This is my favourite! Some online courses offer ‘supervision’ but really hide behind the technology, which can punch out words like ‘great!’ or ‘excellent work!’ or ‘try again’ without a real person even doing this. It’s automatic! You really want a real person providing real, qualified, and substantial advice that will help you to learn! Even at Uni level, feedback is somewhat limited, but you can find some online education courses that are really personable and valuable and they give feedback on all the work you submit, so look out for these.
How long should an online course take?
Just like the point about ‘when can you start’, you can also ask, ‘when can you finish?’. The answer to this really should be ‘it’s up to you’. Most face-to-face and some online courses will only allow progress as fast as their pre-determined schedule will allow. But a good online education college should allow you to progress at your own pace. That is, if you want to whiz through it – and you can be marked as competent in the assessments – then you should be able to get through as quickly as you like. As a rough idea, a Certificate III should take 6 months, a Certificate IV should take 8 months, a Diploma should take 12 months.
So, look around for the right course. It’s a reasonably new industry (maybe 5 years?) and has come a long way in recent years, so you might need to look around to find the right course for you. If you follow these tips and do some homework upfront, you’ll find a really good online education college that can really help you get the qualification you want and need to get your career moving forward.