1. Independent student reviews / testimonials
Many companies now display student reviews on their website, and that's fine. However, some may only display the good reviews to give a more positive impression. Independent reviews give a more balanced view of different student experiences. These can be found on social media, Google reviews and independent survey software used on company sites.
2. Accredited courses / qualifications
Those providers who offer qualifications through awarding bodies will have those logos displayed on their website. If you are not sure, you can also check through the awarding body, or ask the provider for more details.
3. Company address
Are the company contact details clearly displayed online? Does the address match up with Google maps or other business directories? Some providers may operate completely online, but those offering accredited courses must meet certain criteria and one of those is proper business premises.
4. Word of mouth recommendations
Know someone who has completed an online course? Ask them about their experiences, what they liked, what they didn't like. For many students studying online, the feeling of being left to their own devices is a common complaint, so try to find out how much support was offered.
5. Background / expertise of tutors
With accredited courses, those who are assessing and marking assignments must be suitably qualified with experience. Your tutor may hold an MBA, but do they also have teaching and assessing qualifications so you know you are being assessed correctly?
6. Number of courses / qualifications offered
Imagine you are about to dine in a restaurant and your waiter hands you a menu that is as thick as a book with different meal options. How do you know that all of them are freshly cooked, or just reheated in a microwave for convenience? Unless the provider has an army of suitably qualified and experienced staff, you may find less qualified tutors covering your course.
7. Types of courses offered
Taking the same example as above, if there are loads of courses from IT to management on offer, how good is the quality in terms of course content and delivery? Online providers with niche markets are more likely to focus on providing high quality service throughout, rather than see a student as just a number.
8. Chat to member of staff
If you're not sure about the company, you can give them a call and speak to one of their team. Are they friendly? Are they knowledgeable? Have they provided you with advice and guidance that suits your needs rather than just try to sell you a course?
9. Responses to your initial email
You may have come across the provider's site in the evening and sent them a quick email regarding a particular course. What's their response? If it is an automated response with a template that doesn't answer your query, how much customer service will they give you once you are on the course?
10. Take the plunge
Having read the above tips you may be thinking that you're never going to sign up to an online course - ever! However, this is not to warn you off online providers, but to get you thinking about the type of online provider you want to share your learning experience with. By doing some research and asking some questions you are sure to find the one that suits you! Happy learning!