While there is no definite guide so far on how to learn online, but there are surely some tips that everyone can follow. These tips help you quickly eliminate the false positives, and find more suitable course material according to your competency and requirements.
How to know if an online course worth taking:
How to learn online based on number of enrollments:
Every online course has a magic number of enrollments that establishes its credibility.
For a free course, 5000 enrollments is proof that the course has been taken by people beyond the instructor’s own circle of people.
For a paid course, this number is 100. Off-course, you can tweak this figure based on the price, but this is again highly dependent upon the time you are looking to enroll, the relative interest in the subject and so on.
How to learn online based on number of Comments:
Also do not miss to read the feedback comments. They are verbose, but they reveal much more than ratings do. If the online platform does not reveal feedback comments or ratings, it is quite dubious.
On the other hands, if they are too much sugar-coated, too much positive-leaning without much reasoning on why the course is best, it raises an additional flag: those are paid reviews, and you must stay away from such scammer instructors.
Does the overall feedback establish the trainer as a subject matter expert? If yes, it’s big GO GREEN. Again, check for the sugary comments and decide objectively.
How to learn online based on free code Samples:
This is usually the first factor that many students go for, and blindly enroll in a course if it offers code samples. Precisely because code samples are overrated, a word of caution is needed.
- There are courses that revolve around specific code projects. During course progress, you can download and try those projects yourself. This not only a tremendous help in teaching the concept, but also helps remove initial inertia in learning programming and familiarizing with the tool. If a course offers code samples, it’s a sure candidate for shortlisting.
- Sometimes, code samples offered are quite old, and the software tool or API went through significant changes in-between. Check the course description / student reviews for specifics about versions the code samples rely upon. In case you could not obtain this information, check if the course instructor is willing to offer a migrated samples / troubleshooting help.
- Last but not the least, code samples must be things that just work. If a feedback review reveals it doesn’t, it’s a sure RED FLAG.
- On the other hand, skipping course content by completely relying on code sample is depriving yourself of the valuable theory that the instructor imparts.
How price plays important role in online learning:
This is highly subjective thing because it depends on your motivation level behind taking an online course. However, there are some usual guidelines that you must take into account:
- There is always a free course available elsewhere: Even if you are keen to shed a few dollars, make sure that the pricey one offers better value than the free one in terms of quality (more is better – consider factors above) and time engagement (less is better).
- If it is more than $$, think thrice: Above 80% courses are available around or under $30. This should get you familiar with a programming language (eg C#, Java), a paradigm (eg data structures, ethical hacking). If someone is offering less than that for more price, you are probably getting ripped off. Unless they are promising you Apple stock or US Presidential nomination.
- On the other hand, websites like coursera.com, lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning have different pricing model that needs you to subscribe to them on monthly basis for $$ / month – with first month being free. They offer highly specialized learning to justify those prices. If you are unable to decide if you can justify such pricing, you could ask for scholarship option (coursera allows it). You could even ask your employer / educational institute for possible sponsorship.