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How Do Online Courses Work?

People tend to mix online classes and an online course as the same thing. When, in fact, online classes are bound in time where students are taught something (and usually these involve college or university). And courses are a set of studies, lessons, and modules.

And in this post, we are talking about courses. So let’s get to it. How do online courses work?

Online courses are a set of lessons and modules, and you can study the content in a self-paced manner. Online courses are not bound in time or place, so you can study the content whenever you want and wherever you want. Online courses are digital and passive, so they don’t usually require active participation from you. Study and learn as you see fit.

Online classes are more present in the university and college world, whereas online courses are a set of studies that can be delivered by companies and individuals like us.

The best thing about online courses is the fact that you can pick up the content whenever you want and study as little or as much as you want.

Online courses work online, as the name implies and requires an internet connection from you to get access to the content.

Online courses are more than often hosted on an online course platform like Kajabi, Thinkific, or Teachable, to name a few.

Now we will go through the usual order of how online courses work and how you can start learning from those.

Finding a course creator or an online course

First, you have to know what is the topic you want to learn more from. Is it business-related, something related to your passion or a hobby, or something you are struggling with?

It could be anything really, because I’m pretty sure there’s an online course for your topic, no matter what it was.

When you have settled on the topic, the next step is to find the course creator. 

You can start by visiting sites like Udemy or Skillshare or by typing your topic and online course to Google (your topic + online course). 

This way, you will find a ton of courses, and while everyone might seem like a good fit, here are some things to look out for:

  • Is the course creator a good fit for you?
  • When was the last time the course was updated?
  • Why is the course creator capable of teaching the topic?
  • What kind of results the course creator has?
  • What kind of results did the students get from taking the course?
  • Is the knowledge you gain worth the price?
  • What are the benefits (not the features) you get by taking the course?

These are good questions to ask when you are making a purchase decision. Sometimes the courses can be pricey, but if the results or the change you are promised is worth the price, then you base your decision from there.

If anything, there’s a plethora of courses out there. The only question is, what is the best course for you and why.

Buying or enrolling to an online course

When you have found a course for yourself, and you see that the price is good for your situation, you can go on and enroll in the course.

Sometimes there are these trial periods available for you. These are convenient as you can check whether the material is for you and if you can get value from the course.

Free trial example

Not all course creators or online course programs offer you a free trial, but the ones that do, take advantage of those (Netflix, anyone?). It rarely hurts to try out a course first and then see if you should pay the price or not. 

The online course world is filled with scammy people and ones that just like to take your money and run with it. So you have to be extra careful when you are buying an online course from an individual. 

Make sure you have checked that the course creator is what she says she is. Make sure that the content is valid and that there are needed credit card security policies in place as well as terms of use, and privacy policy pages.

When buying from individual business owners, make sure it’s a safe purchase. 

I’ve bought multiple online courses and ebooks from regular people, but I’ve always made sure the investment and the content were in balance.

I’ve bought a $2000 online course, but before doing so; I made sure the creator was every way legitimate. I also purchased a course that cost $297 and even then made sure that my credit card was secure in every way.

Always take extra caution when buying an online course from someone. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money for you to take safety measures; I do small research for small purchases too.

While it’s somewhat safer to buy an online course from Udemy and Skillshare or Coursera, from these big companies, the thing you should look out for is the quality of the course.

What I’ve seen is that while you can find gems from Udemy, I tend to think that buying from individual online course business owners, the content is a bit better in quality.

I don’t like to buy Udemy courses, so take that as a solo opinion. Just my two cents. 

I want to buy from business owners and support the creator and not a massive company like Udemy.

Before enrolling to a course, check these things:

  • Your credit card is secured
  • There are legitimate terms of use and privacy policy pages
  • There’s a refund policy for the course

Going through the content and completing assignments

Every online course is pretty much different and unique, and that’s because we are all different. So we create different looking courses and teach things differently.

Online courses work in the form of modules and lessons. Modules are these big topics that cover different but on the topic lessons.

So, for example, a course could have a module called muffins, and then there could be lessons teaching you different things about muffins. Then the next module could be donuts, and so on (maybe I’m craving for some sugar currently).

Some online courses have assignments, worksheets, checklists, step-by-step lessons, etc. There is a lot of variation, and before you enroll in a course, it’s good to check what kind of curriculum or course structure there is.

Some courses can be as long as 120 hours or more, and some could be just 1 hour. So there’s a lot of variation. A longer course doesn’t translate to better content. It’s all about the teacher and how the subject or topic is taught or needed to be taught.

The courses are usually structured so that you go through the lessons in a specific order. 

Some courses could have this thing called drip-feature, and what it does is that it drips the content to you. So, for example, you could only get one lesson/day to your disposal, and then the next lesson is dripped/opened to you tomorrow.

That is one way for the course creator to make sure you digest the material at the correct order to get the full benefit of the program.

A community for the online course students

Some online courses offer you a community in which you can take part in. Usually, this is some form of a closed Facebook group.

It has been noticed that people tend to lose focus while taking an online course. People don’t complete the courses they take. And to counter this behavior, course creators have created Facebook groups to keep people engaged and active with the course.

The community itself won’t save you or make you complete the course any better. But it could help you find new friends and get that mental support (when and if needed).

I personally found a very good and irreplaceable friend from an online course community, and that already made the course worth every penny. And yes, I didn’t finish the course either, but I did get a life-long friend from it, so there’s a benefit of having a community for the course.

A final note

Online courses are pretty simple. You have a topic you are interested in, and you find a course that teaches that topic. When enrolled in a course, you go through the content and study it at your own pace. You might also be able to join a community of like-minded individuals to get support in your journey.

All in all, online courses are insanely valuable; the only question is, who are they for. Who benefits from them, and is the education model for everyone?

It seems that people don’t complete the online courses they take, and one reason is the loss of focus. So you need to be a very self-disciplined and highly motivated person to get yourself to the end of the course.

Online courses bring you superb results, but usually, they require a lot of work too. Just enrolling in a course, won’t bring you the results you are looking for, you need to do the work also.

While some online courses fall short on information, there are courses that are so packed with information that you genuinely need to take your time with them. 

Thankfully online courses are consumed online and at your own pace, so all that is needed from you is time, focus, and discipline.

Juha Ekman

Hi there, I’m Juha Ekman. A few years ago, I started my online business selling online courses and digital products. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning, especially learning marketing, sales, and everything about passive income. It’s been quite a ride, and there has been a lot of ups and downs along the way. This is the site where I share everything I’ve learned.