How to Know When an Online Course Is Worth the Money

Written by  //  2012/09/11  //  Academics, Online Instruction  //  1 Comment

Distance education is one of the best ways to study at your own pace, on your own time, and from any location across the globe. It’s also a great bargain, compared to the cost of tuition at most traditional colleges and universities. If you’re trying to save money on your college expenses, completing a requirement or two online (or opting for an entirely online program) can really help the strain on your wallet.

However, not every online class is made equal, and there are plenty of things that can alter the quality of the education you receive. And, if you’re looking to make a strong financial investment, you will want to make sure that you get your money’s worth for your education dollars. So what can make some online courses stand out from the rest, and what should you look for to make sure your class will be worth every penny? Read on for some of the top indicators of a high-quality online course:

Direct contact information for your professor.

As a student, there is nothing worse than not being able to contact your professor. Make sure that any course you choose has a teacher who actively encourages students to contact him or her with questions or comments. Handing out a personal email, social media handle, or personal phone number are great signs, but what’s most important is that your professor makes him or herself accessible from the first days of class. If he or she seems M.I.A., you may want to consider a different course.

Real-time communication opportunities.

Most course participation in online classes happens on forums, where students can enter comments and questions 24/7, and the entire class may or may not be online at the same time. Access to real-time communication opportunities is a mark of a great online class. Whether it be occasional virtual meet-ups or the ability to chat with other students, any kind of real-time contact is beneficial.

Graded participation.

In most online classes, online discussion participation is a major part of class activity. Students have to rely on their own discipline to write in course forums and keep up with studies. In fact, in many online courses, the only real class communication happens in the forums. When a large amount of students are not participating, it makes it very difficult for those who are to get the full learning experience, so participation as a grade is very important if you want to get your money’s worth.

Multimedia lectures and course materials.

There is nothing worse than excitedly signing up for an online course only to learn that all the course lectures are simply uploaded PowerPoint presentations and there really is no need for a professor at all. Students should have access to many different kinds of learning materials, from lecture videos, to real textbooks and novels, to infographics and diagrams.

A fast and user-friendly learning platform.

Because your entire course will take place over a selected online learning platform, make sure to do your research and see that it is accessible, steady and fast. You won’t want to lose important work all the time due to program malfunctions or have to wait forever for forum discussions or course materials to load and re-load.

Katheryn Rivas is a freelance writer and professional blogger who frequently contributes to and other education and technology sites and strives to give her readers the most accurate and up-to-date information in distance higher education. If you have any comments or questions, drop Katheryn a line at

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