by   on January 30, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Courses Online

how to choose courses online

“I really want to sign-up for these courses online. But is this the right course?”

“Is this course worth the price?”

If you felt like I read your mind, don’t panic! It’s just that I’ve been through it too.

Online courses are getting a lot popular these days.

In fact, as at the end of 2019, there were over 110 million students taking courses online from over 900+ universities. The numbers are much higher when you start to look at platforms like Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, LearnDash, and others.

The point?

Finding an online course that ‘works’ for you is not easy.

It’s Like Finding a Needle in a Haystack.

There are too many courses out there. And it’s easy to get confused.

How do I know if this online course will get me what I want?

Actually, what do I want to learn, in the first place?

You’ll spend too much of your money and time before you figure out if a course is right for you or not.

Even worse, in some cases, you won’t even know if a course is right for you, even after you’ve taken that course.

How much of what you want to learn should you actually learn?

I know it’s so meta. And by now you probably think I’ve gone crazy.

This is only the beginning. It can get a lot crazier than you think.

And by the time you realize this craziness, you’ve probably spent a ‘few hundreds of dollars’ (if you’re lucky), to well over a few thousands of precious green currency notes…digitally spent.

That’s why I decided to write this article.

Presenting to you…

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Choose Courses Online.

So you want to signup for an online course.

You came across this course on your LinkedIn feed or on your Facebook feed that was really tempting. And its priced attractive too.

You’re tempted to signup. Right?

NO. Stop!

Because I’m about to tell you what to do, and you will save hundreds or even thousands of dollars after you finish reading this article.

You will also save several precious hours and days from your valuable life as a bonus!

So the first lesson is…

Don’t Buy an Online Course Just Because It’s Cheap!

No. That’s not how you buy courses!

That’s called hoarding courses.

Then what should you look for in an online course?

Well even before you start looking into what’s inside an online course, look inside your head.

Even before you start looking into what's inside an online course, look inside your head. What do you want to learn? Why does it matter to you? #onlinecourse #elearning #marketing Click To Tweet

Ask yourself:

“What do I want to learn? Why does it matter to me?”

Most often we fail to answer this vital question. And there are many reasons why you might want to signup for an online course.

From my many years of learning and 4 years of teaching, here are just 5 most common reasons why people signup for courses online:

  1. To learn something that’s been on their wishlist for a long time. Eg. photography, magic tricks.
  2. You want to improve your skills in a particular area at work or personally. Eg. negotiation skills, coding, egg-free baking, meditation.
  3. People like business owners and solopreneurs may want to get better at something so they can increase their prices or do something better. Eg. Sales copywriting, pricing.
  4. You might want to learn something that will help amplify some other part of your personality or business. Eg. marketing, writing.
  5. And some others signup for courses for social validation or find better career prospects. Eg. certified by Stanford, Google Certified Ad Specialist.

People trick themselves into buying.

Interestingly enough, these are not the reasons why most people end up buying courses!

Some end up buying courses because it’s available at a deep discount. Because the course was on a sale despite it not being on their list.

And some others buy courses sheerly because of the copy. You would be surprised to hear this, but it’s true.

So first, I’d like you to take some time and make a list of things you want to learn. Write down why it would matter to you. In other words, what would your life look like after you’ve completed a course on that topic?

Take a moment to write them down. Once you have, continue reading.

Before I went on any further telling you how to pick your online course, there’s something important you need to know:

The Online Course Value Ladder is a simple tool to help you look at any online course holistically. Courses for fun, skill, and earn. Using this can save you hundreds of $ and hours of your time! #onlinecourse #marketing #elearning Click To Tweet

Online Course Value Ladder

No matter what online course it is, it’s important for you to look at where it fits in the Online Course Value Ladder. But what is that?

Well, the Online Course Value Ladder is a simple tool to help you look at any online course holistically. The tool is built on the fact that all online courses can be divided into 3 parts based on the nature of the value they offer. Here’s how it looks like.

online courses value ladder

Courses you find online can broadly be divided into 3 kinds of learning goals:

  1. Learning for Fun
  2. You learn Skills to Make Money
  3. You Learn to Earn

Let’s now look at them in a little more detail.

1. You’re Learning for Fun

These are courses that are created with only one clear goal – help you learn something new. These courses are aimed at pleasing the head and the heart.

If you are signing up for courses in this category, your goal is to learn something new. You are not too worried about when you will complete the course. You are neither going to aim to become an expert at what you are about to learn.

Examples here include courses on sketching, snorkeling, photography, cooking, and the like.

2. Learning Skills to Make Money

This category of courses is those that are aimed at helping you master a new skill. Depending on the course, the level of mastery would vary, but that is the bottom line.

If you are signing up for a course in this second category, you are definitely having big expectations. Because you are not just enrolling for fun. You intend to do something with what you learn.

It could be a skill you’d learn that you could sell as a service or skills that help you make products that could be sold.

Good examples here include courses on applying professional makeup, building websites, managing social media, medical transcription, and similar ones.

3. You Learn to Earn

This is the third and final rung of the Online Courses Value Ladder. These are courses that teach you how to earn something. The courses might teach you how to earn money, save money, earn a following, attention and the like.

Now if you are signing up for a course from this category, you probably already have something of value. It could be a product, a brand, or a service. You also have a tighter timeline within which you are expecting to see results.

Examples here include courses on sales, Facebook Ads, how to grow Instagram following, growth marketing, conversion optimization, and so on.

And now that you’ve seen this, what rung or category does your learning goal fall into?

So now that you know ‘why’ you want to learn something, let me introduce you to…let’s call it the Online Courses Decision Matrix.

Online Courses Decision Matrix

This 3×2 matrix is essentially a set of questions you can use to make a choice whether or not to pick a course. Let’s explore the matrix in detail — shall we?

The Online Courses Decision Matrix is a 3×2 matrix with the top row focused on YOU, and the bottom row focused on the course in question.

Let’s tear down the matrix really quickly. Here are the 6 focus areas of the matrix:

  1. Current Knowledge
  2. Time to Expertise
  3. Additional Costs
  4. Depth of Learning
  5. Offered Price
  6. Instructor’s Expertise

Now let me walk you through each of them. Take a piece of paper and you can start to work on your decision simultaneously.

1. Current Knowledge

In short, the question here is this – How much of what you’re about to learn do you already know?

No matter what type, of course, it is, completing the course is a journey. It’s like walking through your home with your eyes closed versus walking in a forest with your eyes closed.

If you already know something about the topic it gets a little easier to learn.


Let’s say you signed up for a course on Makeup.

If you’ve been applying makeup for yourself, that’s some level of knowledge.

If you’ve worked at a salon, then you’ve got a lot more experience.

2. Time to Expertise

Now your answer to this question is a factor of how much you know yourself, and your past experience. How much of time will you need to go from “learner” to “pretty darn comfortable”?

It’s okay if you don’t have a very clear answer to this. If you have no idea, you are probably going to need a lot of time. Let’s keep it that way.

3. Additional Costs

In simple words, how much more will you need to spend to get to implementing the learnings?

No matter what you plan on learning, you will need to spend more money than what a course costs. Even if the online course is free, there are costs you’ll incur to put the learnings to action.


If it’s a cooking course, you’ll need to spend money on the vessels and ingredients.

You signed-up for a photography course? You still need to spend money on buying a camera and spend time practicing.

Signed up for a Facebook Ad course? You still need to create something valuable so you can use Facebook Ads. Plus you also need to spend money on the campaign.

There are always additional costs. Find out what they are.

4. Depth of Learning

No matter what course you buy, it starts at a place and ends at a destination. Every course takes us through a journey of learning something new. But to what extent will it take you?


If it’s a photography course for beginners, it could be just for indoor photography or could include outdoor photography too.

5. Offered Price

How much is the course offered for? To be exact, how much will you need to pay from your wallet, and what’s on offer?

Is all of that money just going for that course?

Do you get access to any other bonuses?

What’s the deal?


Let’s say you signed up for a podcasting course. If the offer also included a podcast marketing course, that’s a steal!

6. Instructor’s Expertise

Finally, who is teaching the course? It’s important that the person teaching the course has done that before. It would be a bad idea to learn driving from someone who hasn’t driven before. Isn’t it so?

Now you know what the Online Courses Decision Matrix is. But how do you use it to make decisions?

How to Use the Online Courses Decision Matrix?

Let’s finally start to do what we set out to do – decide whether or not to signup for a course.

Early on in this article, you wrote down ‘why’ you want to learn. You decided to signup for an online course. I’m assuming you have found a few courses that seem to contend for your wallet and attention. What next?

You have to weigh your options. Use both the Value Ladder and the Decision Matrix together to do that.

Steps to Follow

  1. Add the additional costs for all of the shortlisted options. Eg. If a home baking course also comes with a handy discount for shopping ingredients and vessels from an online store, factor in the savings.
  2. Find out the average price of all the shortlisted courses including the additional costs.
  3. Write down the amount of money you’ve set aside for learning (online courses to be specific).
  4. If the course is a rung #1 of the Value Ladder, it’s a good idea to not spend too much money.
  5. If the course is in rung #2 of the Value Ladder, understand the additional costs you’ll incur between this course and you actually making money. Eg. Let’s say it’s a course on Sales Copywriting. What else will you need to get before signing up a client? Perhaps some books? A course on selling? Factor-in those costs.
  6. If it’s a course in rung #3 of the Value Ladder, see if the course is comprehensive. Read testimonials and talk to ex-students. Most courses in this rung are priced higher. So make sure you work through the other cells of the Decision Matrix and feel convinced.

It’s Time for Action

There is no magic formula, but certainly, there’s a method to the madness. And here’s mine – and it works.

I’ve been following this for a while now and I’ve not just used it to buy courses but also create courses like this free podcasting course.

Wondering how this applies to free courses?

Remember, we always pay a price for anything. If not money, it’s with your time.

Go signup for an online course. They are fun. If you are looking to learn podcasting + marketing, do signup for mine here. If you have a way of picking courses, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let us know!

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