Some organizations and businesses provide free online continuing education courses to both industry professionals and individuals who are simply interested in learning more about a particular topic. Although getting a free course can save you money, it is important that you investigate both the course and the course provider before spending time on its completion. You'll want to first make sure that the information provided in the course is reliable, that the course will assist you in completing any continuing education requirements that you are hoping to meet, and that the course itself is designed so that you can complete it easily and without frustration.
If you are taking a free online continuing education course for personal enrichment purposes only, you may not need to be concerned as to whether any continuing education units are recognized by academic or professional organizations. If your interest in continuing education classes is because you need to complete them in order to maintain professional or trade licenses, membership in a professional association, or your current job, you will need to verify that the courses that interest you will actually count toward your required course hours. To verify this information, it is extremely important that you ask the board, organization, or agency that requires the continuing education hours whether the course is approved for continuing education. Do not rely on what the course provider tells you, as it may give you inaccurate or outdated information, and your licensing board or employer may not accept the excuse that you were misinformed as to the acceptability of a particular course.
Even if you are considering taking a free online continuing education course out of general interest, it is a good idea to investigate the organization that is providing it. If you are going to spend time studying the topic, you should try and make sure that the information gleaned from the course is correct. Check out the reputation of the organization as well as the credentials of course instructors or authors. As the course is free, you may not have ready access to employees of the organization who can help you with technical problems or who can clarify portions of your study that you do not understand. You may want to ask what type of support the organization gives those students who participate in its free online continuing education courses so as to avoid attempting a course that you cannot complete because it is poorly constructed or administered.