Why is Deciding So Hard?

An All-You-Can-Eat Course Buffet

So you’ve decided you want to learn something new. Great! There’s plenty of brain-food to choose from. In a previous post, we talked about all the amazing resources available to modern learners. But that privilege comes with a price—the selection process can be overwhelming.

Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and YouTube host countless courses. Private individuals and companies also offer specialized online training. And then there are factors like cost, time commitment, quality, and learning style.

Do you have a headache yet?

Selecting Your Own Menu

I struggle with decision-making. I routinely spend seven minutes staring at the menu agonizing over whether I should order Vegetable Korma or Chicken Tikka Masala.

Deciding what to eat is one thing. Choosing the right online course is even harder.

But there’s no need for you to stay knowledge-hungry and stressed. Instead of grabbing your plate and diving right in, take the time to contemplate what you need and what’s on the menu.

13 Questions to Ask When Choosing an Online Course

“Can I get fries with that?” is an important question, but it probably won’t help you here. Unless you’re hungry for more than just knowledge.

You need to think about your needs, the course, and your gut feelings before you hit the sign-up button. For lengthy or expensive courses, you may want to go through each question. We’ve created a free printable questionnaire to make this simpler for you.

Even if the class isn’t expensive or time-consuming, take a chance to think it over. Your time and energy are precious—and finite.

Setting the Stage

Imagine doing a word search with no word bank. Sounds hard, right? Answering these questions will give you a clearer idea of what you’re looking for in an online course.

1. What do I need or want to learn?

This may seem like an obvious question, but getting specific will save you from wasting time. You wouldn’t spend 60 hours studying the history of carbon filaments if all you need to do is change the lightbulb above your kitchen sink.

When you define what you need, you’ll be able to focus on what’s most important.

2. Why do I need or want to learn about this?

Do you need a skill-boost to get your company off the ground? Do you just think this subject is wicked cool? You may find that the answer is different than you expected.

3. What is my background on this topic?

Have you studied this before? Take note of any experience you have in this topic—or even a related one. Any background you have will help you later on.

4. How much time and money can I invest?

If this is a casual first dip into a topic you’re interested in, consider a conservative investment at the start. But if this is an important career move in an area you’re passionate about? You might be ready to put more into it.

5. What do I want to get out of this?

This is the ROI—return on investment—that you desire. Imagine you’re planning a trip to Spain, but you know your high school Spanish is no bueno. You find a great online course, investing $200 and eight weeks of diligent study. Your desired ROI would be a summer of pleasant conversations with the locals in Seville.

Once you know what your ideal ROI is—be it conversational Spanish or awesome Javascript skills—you’ll be able to spot the courses that will get you there.

Digging into Your Options

Have you had a good talk with yourself? Congratulations, you’ve created your “word bank.” Now you’re ready to start the search. As you consider various courses, keep these questions in mind:

1. Who is offering this course? How involved are they?

Look into the instructor or company’s background. Newer programs may have limited online reputations. In these cases, you can still gauge the professionalism of the site, course preview, and instructor information.

Instructor involvement also varies. Where possible, look for an instructor whose teaching style matches your learning style.

2. How much time and money will be required?

This is where it helps to have set your personal baselines. Of course, nothing is set in stone—you can always make adjustments where needed.

3. Is the level of difficulty appropriate for me?

Be honest with yourself. Selecting a course that is far too easy or advanced will limit your ability to progress. It could also mean a waste of your time and energy. The ideal course will provide a healthy level of challenge without causing you undue stress.

4. Will this give me the return on investment I want?

Course providers often post previews, student testimonials, or FAQs to show you what to expect. Weigh these results with what you want. If the two align, the course is a good candidate for you.

5. How does this compare to similar courses?

You may have many options or just a few. Look for the pros, cons, and unique features of each course.

Following Up with Yourself

Once you’ve chosen a potential program, ask some follow-up questions. This is a vital step in the process. The questions above are mostly factual—head stuff.

Now you need to listen to your heart. Cue the violin music.

1. Will I be able to do what’s necessary to succeed in this course?

You’ve assessed the time and resource requirements. And nobody knows your strengths and limitations better than you do. There’s a lot that goes into succeeding in an online course—take a moment to ask yourself if you’re truly prepared for the one you’ve selected.

2. Is there anyone I want to discuss this decision with?

You know what they say: two heads are better than one. If this is a big step for you, find someone you trust and talk it over. And if the course will mean a big change in the time you can spend with your family, friends, or coworkers, you might want to discuss it with them too.

3. Do I feel good about this course?

This is the last question. And honestly, it’s the most important. What does your gut tell you?

It’s natural to feel some nerves or apprehension when considering a change. But listen closely to your feelings about this course. Are you inspired and confident underneath those butterflies? Or do you still have troubling reservations lingering in the pit of your stomach? Those feelings can point you to important insights.

A Word of Reassurance

You are the Most Important Factor

Use these questions in a way that helps you make a well-considered decision, but don’t stress too much over it. In the end, there’s no special magic in any online course.

Choosing the best program out there won’t guarantee your success. What’s far more important than any class or program is you. You have the smarts. You have the determination. The right course can show you a path, but only you can choose to walk it.

There’s a whole lot of brain-food out there to choose from. And you have one unique, marvelous brain to feed. So download our free questionnaire and start the conversation with yourself—what’s on your menu?