3 ways to figure out which online course is best for you.

Last year, people started to bring me queso at book signing events. I actually found a job where people give me melted cheese. Take that, guidance counselor who told me my dreams couldn’t come true!

If 2014 was the year of queso, then 2015 seems to be the year of the online course.

It seems everyone and their grandmother has an online course.

It’s easy to be wowed by what some of these courses offer. Their sales pages are shiny, their testimonials are compelling, and the promises they make all but assure you a better life is just a few clicks away. The offer of magical “passive income” is a particularly bright carrot that is waved as an enticement. The Internet is littered with get rich quick schemes. There are no shortcuts. Anyone who tells you differently is usually trying to sell you a shortcut.

But the 1.7 billion course options you get when you search Google can’t all be that great, right? So how do you figure out which one is worth your time, energy, and money? Here’s how I do it.

I ask these three questions whenever I’m considering an online course.

Question #1 – Who’s teaching it?

Has the founder of the course done something more than be successful at selling online classes?

More to the point, have they done something that you want to do to? Michael Hyatt should teach a course on building a platform, because he’s built a huge platform and led companies for 30 years. Jeremy Cowart should teach you about photography because according to the Huffington Post, he’s the “most influential photographer on the Internet” and has been on the leading edge of the photography world for 10 years.

If you took a class at a college, you could trust that the school vetted the professor. In the Internet age though, anyone can say they’re an expert. Do your homework before taking a course and make sure the person teaching it is a real expert.

Question #2 – Is it worth the price?

Here’s the truth about pricing an online product in 2015: it’s the wild wild west.

If someone decides their class is $200, you have no idea where that came from. Maybe they’ve done studies to find the best price point for the value they’re delivering? Or maybe they’re having a bad fantasy football season and they’re charging more to support their DraftKings habit. How can you know? When someone says, “You can get this $2,000 class for only $200 today,” you should at least ask yourself, “Why is this worth $2,000?” Where did that value come from? Is it based in reality? Or was it just made up out of thin air and no one has ever actually paid that price?

Ultimately, it’s on you to figure out if the price is worth it. I’ve always believed that price isn’t just about what you’re paying, it’s about what you’re doing with what you’ve paid for. If a class is going to teach you how to book paid speaking gigs and you’ll actually put the lessons into practice, it might be worth $2,000. If you’re going to ignore the lessons in the class, then it’s probably not even worth $50.

Will your actions match the amount of money you’re paying? That’s my favorite way to determine if it’s worth the investment.

Question #3 – Is there a community aspect?

Study upon study shows that it’s a lot harder to get anything done without a community.

If you purchase this course, will you be on your own to learn the material and do the work, or will there be others doing it with you and helping you along?

The truth is, creating and sustaining a community isn’t easy. It’s a lot easier for a course creator to email you a PDF and send you on your way, in hopes that you can figure it out on your own.

Providing you with the help of others takes more work on a number of levels, but it always means more value. That’s why I ask if there will be a community that comes with the material to help me get the most out of it. For me, it’s not a “nice to have,” it’s a “must have.”

I’m skeptical of about 90% of online classes, but the 10% that are good tend to be really good. I hope those three questions will help you sort through all the ones that are offered. I’m sharing them now because I’ve been thinking a lot about courses lately.

For years people have asked me when I would offer something along the lines of an online course, and I think its finally time to do one.

I’ve got a 30-day challenge I’m working on. I want it to provide wicked high value at wicked low cost.

My new challenge won’t make your teeth brighter. It won’t turn you into Scrooge McDuck overnight with passive income.

It’s going to help you do one thing, but that one thing is awesome.

9 Comments
  • Heath Padgett
    Posted at 06:43h, 23 October Reply

    Hit the nail on the head Jon. There are a ton of slime balls out there.

  • Nick Pavlidis
    Posted at 10:16h, 23 October Reply

    How did you know my grandmother had an online course? You must be the other person on her How to Make Spanakopita Like a Native email list…

  • Jayne
    Posted at 10:44h, 23 October Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with #2. I’ve signed up for a couple of courses on Udemy when the courses were $10. I couldn’t believe that they were going for $200. For $10 they were worth it. Remember that you can probably get everything and more on a subject in a $20 book.

    I also thought the same thing. How can you offer a $200 course for $10? Because you can! We have to be informed consumers these days.

  • Kolby
    Posted at 15:41h, 23 October Reply

    Thanks so much for this Jon. I have been wondering lately if I am the only one not making millions teaching an online course. Great perspective!

  • Jennifer Haston (@LadyMcKermit)
    Posted at 09:49h, 24 October Reply

    Very honest as always, good job debunking the “get taught quick” schemes!

  • Kristin Wright
    Posted at 10:46h, 24 October Reply

    Accreditation is another way to check validity and use of courses – which goes right along with the “who’s teaching it?” question. Don’t just check the teacher, but also check the institution, church, governing body who is awarding credit, certificate, whatever. Granted, not all useful courses are accredited, but this is especially important to those looking to take credits towards a degree program or may eventually desire that. Don’t waste time or money!

  • Jonathan Lenahan
    Posted at 10:23h, 27 October Reply

    I would probably lean more in the direction of the large majority of those types of courses being the type that have numbers created off the top of their heads. “I put in some work. My work feels like it’s worth . . . $500. Ish.”

    Get rich quick is just another term for burning money.

    Jonathan

  • KC
    Posted at 14:21h, 27 October Reply

    Great insights, Jon. Everybody and their uncle seems to have a course out there and sifting through the hype to find the gems takes discernment and a little research.

    Excited to hear that you’re turning 30 Days of Hustle into a paid course. However, I think you’re tremendously undervaluing the content (and your hard work) by pricing it at only $30.

    People place more value on what they pay for vs whatever they get for free. I’ve got a Dropbox folder packed with freebie PDFs. The value and cost of a course, computer, or car are directly proportional.

    I’ve bought a few $20-30 courses and don’t know that I’ve actually finished any of them. But the ones I spent $50-500 on, you better believe I consumed every minute of content.

    Charging what 30DOH is worth isn’t selfish or greedy, you’re setting up everyone who buys for success AND eliminating those who won’t take it seriously. The later group are usually the more high maintenance as well.

    Keep up the good work, Jon!

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