Choosing to embark on an online course is no light decision. Professional development qualifications are a significant investment of both time and money so you should make sure you are 100% sure about your decision before handing over any cash or signing any documents. So, how do you know that a certain course is perfect for you? Before you even start looking for courses, you should sit down and have a think about the following criteria. Once you have a list of exactly what you are looking for, you can make your search much more focused (read quicker and easier).
This is a huge factor you should consider before you get your heart set on doing an online course. Yes, this course might be an investment for your future career but it isn’t going to be much use if you can’t actually afford to do it. Work out your finances and see what is within your price range. If you need to take out a loan then factor this in and try and work out if the benefits of taking the course will make it worth the interest the loan will accrue. It could well be that by taking this qualification you will increase your salary to such an extent that the loan will be easy to pay back.
Online courses are usually by nature very flexible. You can normally complete the modules in your own time from the comfort of your own home. But, there are some courses that will require you to be available for online live tutoring at specific times or to take exams/ hand in assignments on certain days. If you need complete flexibility in your course because you have a job or kids or other commitments then make sure you take this into account when choosing your online course.
Deciding whether an online course is relevant or not really depends on what you are hoping to achieve from taking the course. Are you looking for a complete career change or is your ambition to move up the ladder of the career you already have? Once you understand your motivation for taking a course then you will be able to find one that is much better tailored to your needs. Bear in mind the theory versus practical content of the course and see which is more relevant to you. For example, if you are taking a law course then theory is probably much more useful, whereas if you are hoping to get into construction, then practical experience might be more helpful.
How long the course lasts is an important criterion to think about when you are choosing which online qualification to take. Committing to a course that lasts a year or two is a big deal and can be pretty daunting so you really need to make sure it will be worth it before you sign up. On the flip side, if the course only lasts a few months then you don’t need to give it as much consideration and can, therefore, prioritise some of the other criteria in this list.
The chances are you are that if you have chosen to take an online course then your motivation lies somewhere in the realm of career advancement. If this is the case then you want to make sure that the course you are about to start is going to be recognised by your potential future employers. It would be awful to spend months or years getting a qualification that no-one has ever heard of. Check out who has accredited the course and then see if it is recognised by the industry you are hoping to get into or advance within. The best way to do this is to contact companies and industry professionals and ask them directly whether or not they would recommend obtaining a certain qualification.