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Choosing a Course | 03 April 2017

03 April 2017

03 April 2017

Are you a business professional looking to upskill? Know what you want to learn, but feel spoilt for choice about how to learn it? Well, of course we'd love to have you on a Celerated course - but to help you make your decision, here is some unbiased advice: ten vital questions to ask in evaluating a course. By answering them, you will be much more likely to sign up for the course that is right for you.

1. Do you have the time?   When we sign up for something new and interesting, most of us are prone to thinking that we'll make the time for it, but when the rubber meets the road, we remember that time is frustratingly finite! Think about whether your work and personal life will really accommodate the hours that the course requires. And don't forget to add in a buffer for all the unpredictable tasks that will suddenly emerge in your calendar between now and then.

2. Will the course keep you motivated?   On any course, staying the course is hard. This is why many courses have awful completion rates. First, you must find the material interesting and personally rewarding: if the value isn't evident from the course description, then that's not a good sign. Second, the structure of the course deliverables makes an enormous difference: tasks should be frequent and challenging, but not too much at once. With regular and manageable re, you re more likely to maintain your impetus to keep up the good work.

3. Are your personal learning needs addressed?   Some people are social learners, others solitary. Some absorb information best via text, whereas others prefer sounds or images. There are even people who favour a physical approach: they like to move around, to feel and interact with objects. And, no matter what your natural preferences, your commitments might dictate that you'd be better off by blocking off a few days for an intensive short course programme. Or maybe your life would be more suited to a more flexible online course, giving you many small but regular bites of the apple. Think about whether a course will meet your needs, both pedagogical and practical.

4. Should the course be specialised or more general?   If your aim is to become better at some specific task - say, working with Excel pivot tables or managing projects - then the course you choose should be focussed and risk wasting none of your time. Or do you just want to understand a broad area? If so, make sure you look for a more generalised course that doesn't risk leading you down a path that is ultimately too narrow.

5. Does the material lend itself to certain methods of delivery?   Some of your learning goals lend themselves to one optimum learning environment. Say you want to learn to use a new piece of software. A sensible approach would be to see what the vendor has to offer. A coordinated series of videos and online quizzes might well work best for you. Whereas if you're looking to improve your interpersonal skills, you would benefit more from sharing a room with other delegates, having to negotiate other personalities and gaining insight into your own responses to them.

6. What are the indicators of quality?   Registering for a course with a sub-par provider of training is a waste of your time, and probably also your money. There should be feedback available about providers who have been around for a while, so take a little time to do your research. New providers are harder to assess, but if you look closely, shoddy operations will usually give themselves away. If they don't give you enough information to assess them, if they aren't interested in feedback, if there is nothing extra to impress you, then rather steer clear. On the other hand, new entrants can be some of the most energetic and committed trainers, so if your homework shows that they are committed to excellence, consider them viable alternatives to other, more established offerings.

7. Do you have the required qualifications and experience?   Many courses, especially at universities, have educational and/or work experience prerequisites. They are there for good reason, so if you meet them the course may well be the right one for you. Similarly, if you don't meet them, then you know that the course isn't suitable. Your career is long enough that impatience is entirely unnecessary. Look for a course that is more inclusive, and be happy in the knowledge that you are moving one step closer to that corner office.

8. How much should I be prepared to pay?   Bear in mind that when you sign up for training you are investing in your future. A carefully selected course might ultimately pay higher dividends than your pension contributions this year! Many courses are free, or at least very cheap, but assuming you can somehow make it work financially, it's best not to skimp. What they say is usually true: you get what you pay for. Of course, ideally your employer will pay, but bear in mind that for this to happen, they'll need to be convinced that the course will improve your immediate work for them, not just your own career plans.

9. Must the course be somehow endorsed?   If a training authority or a professional body has endorsed an offering, this is generally a good sign, and completing an official qualification can be a valuable point on your resume. But don't be overly concerned about endorsements if your main concern is with your specific requirements rather than the stamps on the certificate that you receive at the end. A trainer who unimaginatively sticks to the mandated script won't teach you nearly as much as someone who has the freedom to tailor the material to your own unique needs.

10. How does this fit into the story of my working life?   Taking a course is a big commitment, so you should do it wisely and strategically. Think about what contribution a course will make to your next few years. They say the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts, but it's helpful if each part adds a lot. It doesn't always have to be dramatic or thrilling, but the next course you take should be a meaningful chapter in the story of your working life.

Blog archive

National Teaching Award
16 April 2019
Co-founders Win Award
10 February 2018
The Purposeful Professional
10 August 2017
How to reach the Moon
21 June 2017
Choosing a Course
03 April 2017
Distinguished Teacher Award
19 March 2017
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