You’ve decided to study for a further qualification, to develop your skill base or perhaps just to challenge yourself. Maybe your portfolio needs broadening or you’re being passed over for promotion. WORRY NOT…. You could take an online course. It’ll be easy, RIGHT? Well, it can be as easy as ‘latte’, but only if you think logically through your options first.
It’s true, there’s been a huge increase in online courses worldwide in recent years and you can study almost anything on the internet nowadays. But, just like there is great coffee and then there’s that cheap jar of instant that they keep at the office… so there are undoubtedly some amazing online courses out there, but equally there is some real rubbish. So, why not fix yourself a FRAPPE*, find a comfortable chair and use this great 6-letter checklist to locate your best online provider?
F- is for Flexible. Is the course flexible enough to work around your commitments, needs and work schedule? If it constantly disrupts you, then you will find it hard to stay motivated when the work gets tough (which it will…I promise).
R- is for Rigorous. Will the course challenge you and also keep you to deadlines? One course I read about recently noted that ‘students may hand in studies whenever they wish’. You might think that’s heaven, but believe me, without deadlines and regular submission requirements that you can’t avoid, you won’t make it. (You can’t complete the whole course submission in one last night of coffee-fed panic!)
A- is for Accredited. I know this might seem obvious, but don’t just take the website’s word for it. Cross-check, look for back-up information about where and how it is accredited. Many online courses do not lead to any formal award. Further, check if the course is recognised by organisations like the European Council for Business Education or whether it has a European ranking or online ranking from a respected source, other than itself?
P- is for Practical. There is little point in learning about coffee but never tasting it. And similarly, there is certainly no benefit to be had from the plethora of online courses that are simply a reading list of facts, ideas and theories, with no practical outworking basis. Choose a course where you will put your knowledge and learning to the test in the real world.
P- is for Peers. The lack of classmates and of a learning community can isolate you and simply add to the pressure. Check that the course has some kind of successful peer community where you can work with others, learn cooperatively and keep each other motivated when the work gets hard.
E- is for Employers. This may not seem so obvious, but, for your institution, do local or national employers recommend and value this institution? Are you able to verify that the course you are going to study is valuable to local businesses?
SO, good luck in your studies, take care to choose carefully and, of course, remember to keep a FRAPPE* nearby for the moments of pressure that just might come along!
*For those of you feeling lost, FRAPPE is a Greek foam-covered iced coffee drink made from instant coffee and water. The Distance-Learning team at CIM (BVI) has several FRAPPE a day!