How Do I Choose the Best Online Short Courses?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye
Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

It is important to realize that online short courses often cover a substantial amount of information. It is best, therefore, to choose courses that concentrate within a subject and that will not require an overwhelming amount of homework. Make sure that you will be able to manage mandatory meeting times and that you will have the access that you need to your instructor. Avoid choosing courses that are too advanced, and do not forget to consider value by figuring in the costs of materials and textbooks.

Before you consider anything else, if you are selecting online short courses to fulfill requirements for an educational program or your employer, you need to ensure that both the institution and the particular class are acceptable. Do not make the mistake of confirming this on your own using the course title. If you do, you may waste your time and money.

As online short courses involve a limited period of study, it is best to select one that has a particular focus. Short courses are generally not the best option for general or broad instruction. For example, if you are thinking of taking an English class, it is better to take grammar, which specifically focuses on a particular aspect of English, than it is to take African-African American literature, for instance, which is a very broad area of study.

Remember to consider any mandatory class meeting times. These may affect your grade, and considering that you will likely have a limited number of grades, absence could have a heavy negative impact. When taking online short courses, you also need to weigh how intensive the workload will be. Some instructors try to cram a substantial amount of information into a short period, requiring a lot of reading and work outside of class times that may conflict with your schedule.

The shorter the course, the more likely it is that you will have questions regarding some of the material. Considering this, you want to make selections that will give you adequate access to your instructors. You can assess this by reviewing the office hours and the class size. You will also likely find it most beneficial to select courses taught by instructors who either are currently practicing in their fields of instruction or who have a substantial amount of work experience.

Although it is your instructor's duty to work with you so that you benefit from the course, you should have reasonable expectations. Taking a short advanced accounting course when you have a beginner's knowledge is likely to be a bad idea. You should not try to take these types of shortcuts, because even if you manage to pass the course, there are likely to be huge gaps in your knowledge when you attempt to apply what you have learned.

Consider the costs involved with any online short courses that you may consider taking. Some require the same expensive materials and textbooks as full session courses. When adding these costs, the total investment for the course may be substantial. In many cases, much of those costs are not justified because the materials are barely used.

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      Woman doing a handstand with a computer