How to choose an online course (because you can’t visit the campus)
Jane McGuire

How to choose an online course (because you can’t visit the campus)

Finding an online course

First published date March 10 2016 Amended date April 11 2016

When it comes to finding a college or university the process is simple, complete your research, order the prospectus, go and visit the campus and sign up for the next academic year. With online study it is not so simple. Obviously whichever course you chose, you will still be studying at home, but despite this there are some important things to consider when choosing your virtual provider. To make things a little easier, take a look at our top ten questions to ask yourself when finding an online course.


Will I get a recognised qualification?

If you want to do a course to put on your CV or get onto a further education programme, it is worth looking for one that will give you the qualifications that you need. Whether you want to pass that maths GCSE you failed at school, or do your Bachelors degree from the comfort of your living room, make sure you are getting what you need before signing up to the course. It might be worth contacting the course provider to find out more about the qualification and examination procedure. You can do this from our site by using the ‘Send email’ or ‘Visit website’ buttons.


Is the provider reputable?

You wouldn’t pick a college or university without reading the prospectus blurb, finding out more about its history and graduate success rates. The same applies for choosing an online training provider. Read impartial reviews about the provider, find student reviews and stories and make sure you find the one most suited to you.


Can I get hold of a prospectus?

Believe it or not, many online providers realise that not being able to go and visit the campus puts a lot of learners off. To get round this, you will now be able to order a prospectus from many online colleges to get a feel for the different options and support provided. Do your homework – ordering a provider prospectus is a great way to get all the information you need in one place, but don’t be swept in to the glossy advertising prose and make sure you shop around before signing up. For some providers, you can order a prospectus through Hotcourses, so it couldn’t be easier to get clued up.    


Does the course suit me?

Don’t find out too late that the course isn’t exactly what you were after – unlike attending a college, swapping onto a different module might not be so simple. Be sure to take a thorough look at the course details and ensure it has the modules you expect. If you want to know more about an element of the course, do not be afraid to get in touch – you can never ask too many questions.


Will I get any support from tutors? 

Even though you will not be travelling to the classroom, online learning does not mean you are alone. Some courses will give you unlimited contact with a tutor who you will be able to get in touch with via email or telephone if you need extra support or tuition. On the other hand, other online courses will have no contact with tutors aside from the learning materials provided, so this is something to consider when choosing a course.


How much will it cost?

The cost of the course will vary depending on the subject and qualifications offered, so this is definitely something to weigh up when making your final decision. One of the benefits of learning online is that it is often a cheaper option, once tuition fees and travelling costs are considered. However if you are still struggling, certain online course providers will let you pay for the course in instalments, or offer advice as to whether you are eligible for a discount, loan or grant. So it is well worth asking before running yourself into great deals of student debt.


Will I need any extra materials?

Something many students forget when signing up to an online course is that they may be expected to purchase their own materials. From textbooks to tools, anything you might use when learning in a classroom will have to be purchased or loaned when learning at home. This is something to find out before you enrol and budget for when choosing the course.


What happens if the software doesn’t work?

Pretty similar to the tutor support, when learning online it’s often nice to know you will have someone to talk to when experiencing IT problems. If the software breaks, you cannot access virtual tuition or materials, so it’s well worth checking whether the provider has a technical support team you can phone or chat to online in an emergency.


Will I be given deadlines on this course?

Fitting learning around work or family commitments is a great benefit of studying online, many students favouring the flexibility. Something to consider when choosing a course is the potential deadlines ahead and the number of hours you are expected to put in each week. Find one that fits in best with your life, even if this means studying for longer.


What are the provider’s subject strengths?

When it comes to a college or university, they will be well known in the education world for a handful of subjects be it sports and engineering or science and psychology. Online providers also specialise, so it is worth finding out which are most renowned in the industry you are trying to get into.


So get online and start learning! Search for a course and filter by subject and price to ensure you choose the best one for you.

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.