Online Course Field Guide

Online courses tend to be the muddy work boot on the very bottom rung on the ladder of continuing education. Why? Because for an online course (defined for our purposes as a course created in the past, accessible only via the internet, that does not allow interaction by the participant), quality can make or break the learning experience.

Let’s divide them into three categories:

  • Homemade
  • Public domain
  • Hybrid (a little public domain, a little homemade)


A strictly homemade course is made up of content synthesized by the author or authors and presented in a creative way. This can be wonderful if you, the participant, are tired of reading old or outdated public domain PDFs (think NIMH pamphlets on Anxiety) and want something that hits a little higher on Piaget’s hierarchy of cognitive development. A homemade course may offer interviews with therapists and doctors who treat patients with anxiety or You Tube videos with fabulous case studies and explanations.


Unfortunately, not all homemade course authors are so creative. Material may be poorly written, difficult to navigate, or presented in a way that causes you to miss important material you will see on the exam. The worst? Those same authors may charge you an access fee just to watch/read/listen to their fabulous original material. By the time you decide you don’t like the course, your credit card has already been charged.


Public domain-based courses are what most online course authors offer to CE seekers. This is a good thing because course authors cannot charge a fee to access material in the public domain. Also, the material itself is usually very high quality and well written (albeit a bit dry). Because there is no charge, CE seekers can do a bit more shopping to find a course they enjoy in a format that is pleasing. They can even take several courses for fun without having to commit to an exam or purchase a CE certificate.


A hybrid course consists of some public domain content, some synthesized homemade content, and a homemade exam. Homemade online exams are only as good as the software. At Kate Walker Training we migrated all our exams to another software provider because of irk-some glitches and interruptions in service. Poor exam software makes exams technically challenging, difficult to access, and nearly impossible to navigate. Not OK.


The best online courses will offer free access to excellent public domain AND homemade material, they won’t charge you if you don’t like the material, and they won’t charge you to take the exam. So if you’re going to choose an online course for your continuing education, look for courses that offer:

  1. Free access the course content
  2. Free access to the exam
  3. Support at your fingertips ready to help with any technical glitches


For more information and amazing online courses check out Kate Walker Training!

Leave a Reply