Mini Guide to Online Learning

How to Choose an Online Class

These days new online courses appear just about every time you blink. For me, some rank among the best educational experiences I’ve had in my life, while others have been a complete and total waste of time and money. So what’s the deal here?

Online classes have many advantages, especially for those of us interested in lifelong learning:

– They save time and money.

– You don’t have to drive to a classroom.

– You can study at your own pace.

– You have access to the best teachers in the field.

But the quality of online schools and classes varies — a lot! Anyone who’s taken a few would probably agree with me that some online classes rank among the best educational opportunities we’ve had in our lives, while others have been a waste of time and money.

So here’s the upshot of a little (sometimes painful) experience. Here goes:

Without doubt, the best way to evaluate an online class is to learn about it from someone you know — someone whose judgment you trust. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. If you’re trying to evaluate a class without a reliable recommendation, you might want to ask a few questions.

Does this course meet my needs? I know, this sound really obvious. But it’s important to have a clear idea of what you really want before committing yourself. Do you need professional accreditation, or are you simply taking a class for the joy of learning? Two courses might be equally “good,” but for different people — a professional healer will likely need some kind of certification, for example, while a non-professional exploring a new interest might be more interested in lively conversations with fellow students. Even if your dream class doesn’t exist in the real world, a clear mental picture of it will help you find something that fits.

How qualified is the teacher? This is probably the most important question. Of course you’ll want to know what kind of accreditation and references the teacher has. But beyond that, it’s worthwhile to do a little sleuthing. If you can’t find out anything about a teacher online, it’s probably not a good sign. Look over their website and/or Facebook page, find out what they’ve published, check out their blog, get on their mailing list. (At least half of these mailing lists will be really obnoxious, but that’s a lesson in itself, right? Unsubscribe and forget that mess!)

What kind of access will you have to the teacher? No matter how qualified the teacher is, they won’t do you much good if you never have any contact with them. Does the teacher provide feedback on assignments, interactive lesson plans, office hours? Features like live chats and online student groups can be an added bonus.

┬áIs the price right? Of course you don’t want to spend too much, but a too-low price can be a red flag too. Some online “courses” turn out to be not much more than a few article, podcasts, or YouTube videos, with no ongoing connection with the person who made them. While these courses can be very cheap (free, even), why bother with a “class” that doesn’t give you anything you couldn’t look up on your own?

Is there a free trial and/or money-back guarantee? A free trial is probably the best way to evaluate whether a course is right for you. And while you’ll probably never use a money-back guarantee, it’s good to know the instructor has enough self-confidence to offer one.

Will their technology work for me? This is where a free trial can come in really, really handy. For example, if you’re going to access the class via cellphone, you don’t want to give anyone your money without knowing it’s going to work. Likewise if you have a slow internet connection. And if the attraction of an online course is that you can study in your bathrobe with a cold one and a bag of Cheetos, Skype is probably a bad choice, yeah? (Just kidding, we know you would never do that. But just in case…)

If the class is interactive, what is the class size? Look for an upper limit.

Here are a few sources of online classes you might want to check into:

Of course our favorite will always be Love and Light Healing School! At Ashley’s school, you’ll get great classes, plenty of personalized attention, access to all kinds of free materials, and a very enthusiastic student forum. This is a place where students are excited about learning.

Cherry Hill Seminary is a pagan school with a variety of courses in aspects of nature religions and leadership. I was really impressed by their website and ready to sign up for a class, then the link didn’t do anything– grrrr! But Mari has taken classes there and knows some of the teachers, so we’ll forgive them a small techno-glitch.

Morningstar Mystery School Thorne T Coyle’s school has some classes on community building and restorative justice coming up, in addition to study groups and ongoing education for pagans.

DailyOM has an interesting variety of classes, including home clearing, animal communication, chakras and channeled writing. What I’ve heard about them is that the classes aren’t the most engaging, but the content is good. has online classes with Doreen Virtue, Judy Hall, Diana Cooper, Marianne Williamson and other well-known experts. Gotta say, though, I’m a little leery of the “I Can Make You Thin Online”! But if you’re a fan of these authors, this could be a good way to gain access to them.

The Learn It Live Spirituality Center has a huge variety of classes in psychic development, meditation & mindfulness, chakras, tapping, crystals, a variety of personal development topics, and more.

Our good friend Christina Wilke-Burbach teaches an Online Aromatherapy Class.

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