Written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks
How many online courses have you paid for and not completed, or, perhaps, not even started? It can be tempting to snap up an interesting online course as soon as you spot it, but, without any time pressures or deadlines, other demands on your attention may win. This blog explores how you can make focused and informed choices to get the best course for you each time so that you will want to complete it.
Curiously perhaps, you can increase your learnings from a course before you even purchase it. Rather than buying courses reactively, such as when an advert pops up on Facebook, it can be good to periodically conduct a knowledge and skills assessment. Firstly, have a think about your work with clients and how you work. What knowledge and which skills contribute to your work. Now think about that same client work. Are there any gaps in what you know and how you work? Is there a particular technique you wish you could do? Are you missing the knowledge to work with certain clients or conditions? As well as identifying gaps, it can be useful to spend time thinking about what you aspire to, whether that takes the form of gaining deeper theoretical knowledge on a particular topic or being able to engage with a certain protocol. What would this add to your business?
It can be helpful to write a list of what you would like to learn and then take an objective view of that list. However, whilst it might be ‘sensible’ to prioritise the approaches and concepts that would immediately be utilised in your work, at times it can be work to add in to your shopping list something that will push or stretch you. Whether that is something that lights a fire in you to work with a new type of client or work in different ways with existing clients, or even boosting how you run your business. A good course can motivate you in so many different ways.
With your shopping list to hand, then you can start to create a short list of possible courses. You might take a triangulating approach to this and seek possibilities from a number of sources, such as an internet search, asking your peers and asking in social media groups. Especially in the latter you will find that people will often share information about both good courses and those to avoid (and why). All of this can give you a useful range of information so that you can make a more targeted short list.
When you have your shortlist, carefully explore each course’s details/prospectus before making your final decision. There are several categories that are worth considering.
Content: It is worth checking whether the course offer sufficient depth of knowledge for your needs. If you already know something about topic, you are likely to need more depth. In contrast, if you know very little, then something too advanced may either confuse you or not give you enough at a foundation level to be able to apply it to practice. If the course is a protocol or a specific technique, then consider if there is an explanation of why and how to apply it. After all, it is one thing being able to reproduce a technique with a client. It is something else (and more) to be able to critically evaluate whether a protocol is the right approach for your client. Even better is where a course explains how to adapt a technique or protocol to most appropriately suit the specific needs of a client.
Delivery: Some topics, such as theory, can be presented in text form, such as an online presentation (e.g., PowerPoint or similar). This may be fine as part of a course, but on its own, would it give you anything more than a book might? If there are ‘to camera’ presentations, is the delivery supported by resources, such as a training manual, or would you have to keep pausing to take notes? If the course has practical elements, such as techniques, are there demonstrations? Even better, are there breakdowns of the technique as well? This can certainly help you develop a greater understanding of how it works and what needs to happen.
Trainers: Are the course writers or trainers apparent and ‘checkable’? If so, look at their biographies (if available) and/or conduct an internet search. You are looking for evidence of their experience, not only in the field in which they are presenting, but also something to show that they can actually teach. Some therapists get awesome results with their clients, but cannot truly explain why and how, nor convey the specifics to an audience. It’s important that your chosen teachers can actually teach!
Duration: You might think that a short course will be highly focused, and often this is the case, yet it might just have little content or low engagement. At the other end of the scale, a long course may not necessarily have masses of depth, or lots of activities, it may simply be tedious. Ideally, the duration is directly related to what is being taught. You may be able to learn some simple or key concepts in 1-2 hours, whilst learning a new protocol is likely to be longer and learning more broadly will tend to take even more time.
Support: Regardless of how well a course is designed, written and presented, it may not immediately be fully understood by everyone. Therefore, it is useful if there is ongoing support from your trainers. You might like to consider how that support is provided as well, such as a contact form, by email or by phone/Zoom. A good way of checking out support is to contact the course providers with a question. Notice how they respond and the quality of their response. This can give you an indication of their reaction times.
Reviews: Ideally you will be able to read reviews about several aspects of the course, exploring comments about the company, the course and the trainers. This gives you an overall impression of what others have experienced. If the reviews are hosted by an external platform such as ‘Trustpilot’, you could even pick perhaps the best and least good review and check the reviewer on that platform. Notice if they have any other reviews on there. This is particularly useful for any really glowing reviews or terrible comments. Some people will only review if they find something exceptional (in either direction).
You might have read this blog to this point and wonder why price isn’t one of the key criteria that has been discussed. Whilst it can be true that ‘you get what you pay for’, a really expensive course doesn’t always guarantee quality and could be weak in one or more areas, whilst a less costly course could end up being ideal to meet your needs. The price can be a distraction when making a course selection. It can be better to have your final selections based on your needs and what you are likely to get from the course, and then consider whether you can afford it, rather than be swayed by the price.
The final point to consider, after your logical and factual assessment, is whether you are drawn to a course. Sometimes, a course might look OK on paper but you might be more attracted to it on an emotional level, whether that is something about how it is presented, the reviews of previous course participants or even what that particular course will add to your therapy practice. If a course interests and excites you, then it is much more likely that you will complete it.
Feel free to check out our range of online CPD courses, to get a good idea of the kinds of things you should be looking for (and the information that should be available to you from course providers) when looking for ongoing CPD training:
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog on how to choose a GOOD online/CPD course, and if you have any more questions about this topic, or anything else for that matter, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks