Elance Blog

Insider Tips: Choosing The Best Online Courses.

Occasionally we invite our partners to discuss issues of importance to businesses and freelancers who work on Elance. Below are some thoughts from Brad Zomick, Chief Content Officer at SkilledUp. Here at Elance we’re excited to announce that SkilledUp is our strategic partner in delivering online course to the Elance community.


In the past couple months there have been some nice enhancements to Elance University. This includes the educational content on Elance, which has been supercharged.

You’ll now find some 25,000 online courses at Elance – each ready to help you upgrade your skillset, while helping you land higher-quality and higher-paying gigs.

Online courses are a great way to upgrade your existing skillset. Here’s why:

  • They let you focus - Hone in on a niche subject and master it. I.e. Ruby, SEO, Photoshop.
  • They go where you go - Sign in from home, Starbucks, your laptop or iPad.
  • They’re affordable – Many courses are free and most retail for $100 or less.

So are you are ready to “Get the skills to pay the bills?”

Not so fast. With 25,000 courses to choose from, selecting the right courses is of paramount importance.

Online courses are wildly popular right now and platforms like Coursera (free college theory classes) boast enrollments of over 5 million students. However, the quieter story is that only 10% of students are completing their coursework. With premium courses, you are spending your hard earned money and the last thing you want to do is pick the wrong course and kiss that money goodbye.

Do not let this deter you. Much of your success is contingent on proper course selection.

5 crucial factors worth considering in your hunt for the optimal course.

To help you pick the right course, I’ve highlighted some insights we’ve learned here at SkilledUp:

1. What’s your desire? This might be a no brainer, but make sure you have a passion, interest, or need to learn the subject matter. Picking a course you’re feeling “meh” about is like taking a college elective to just satisfy a requirement. For example, if you’re a marketing specialist and you have a fleeting interest in JavaScript, you may not take it seriously and you’re more likely to cut corners and eventually drop out.

2. Is there Actionability? Will you be able to apply the learnings of the course immediately? If you don’t have any related project, it will be difficult to apply in a practical situation. For instance, if you don’t have a website it will be hard to follow a class in Google Analytics. Maybe you’ll take the course and still complete it, but as time passes you’re less likely to put that insight to action.

3. Does the format fit? With the recent explosion in online education, courses come in many shapes and sizes. It’s important to know what you’re getting and test the goods.

  • Do you prefer to learn via reading or video? Content is a factor as well. Subjects like graphic design are better learned by watching video.
  • What if any exercises and testing is available? For beginners, learning a technical subject like web development is easier with an embedded interactive code editor.
  • Do you need a one-off course or a full-blown learning library? A one-off course will satisfy a very narrow demand, but if you need a structured learning path or help in other subjects, a larger library of content is helpful.

4. Is the price right? The obvious consideration here is your budget. Fortunately there are many great options at a reasonable price point. There are even many courses on Elance that are 100% free. Although, without any investment, you may be less likely to take the learning seriously. With zero marginal cost, it’s easy to just stop going (which is why the dropout rate of free coursers is 90%).

5. Does it meet your final needs? The ultimate consideration is whether the course provides you with the skills you need to land a gig and successfully complete the job. Make sure to research the provider and look for course reviews. If you can’t find reviews, look for forums, discussion on Reddit, or even questions on Quora about the course.

Make the right first step.

Online courses can be invaluable to upgrading your skills and helping you get the best gigs. But it all starts with appropriate course selection. Follow the guidelines above, and you’ll be well on your way.
Over the next few months I’ll be posting here again, bringing you more strategies on how to get the best out of your online courses experience. In the meantime, happy hunting.


Brad Zomick is Chief Content Officer at SkilledUp, our strategic partner in delivering online courses to the Elance community.



Thanks for these tips, will consider these.

Well written and very useful, thank you Brad.

Very candidly explained. Thank you.