Buyer Beware! 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an Online Course

Written by Stephanie

May 8, 2023

Caveat emptor.


Ever heard the term? Well, if you’re looking to buy an online course (or buy anything online or even offline for that matter!), then you should know it! Caveat emptor is a Latin legal and commercial term or ‘disclaimer’ that essentially translates as “let the buyer beware.” It means a buyer should show extreme caution whenever they buy something.


Although primarily used in real estate or insurance, it’s still worth remembering caveat emptor with any purchases you make, including an online course.


This article is going to explore five common mistakes that aspiring learners make when buying a course online. We hope to make you more aware!

Mistake #1: Getting the Course Details Wrong

First and foremost, make sure you know exactly what course you’re buying. Yes, it’s that obvious that we’ve made it the first mistake covered! Because all too often people will not look into the fundamentals of an online course when buying it. The result can be a blunder of epic time-wasting (and costly) proportions!


So, what basic course details should you always look out for?

  • The course topic: does the course have a title? If so, is it aligned to what you’re seeking in a course? If the course title is vague, can you ascertain further information about the course elsewhere?


  • The focus or intent of the course: what are the stipulated outcomes of the course? What skills or knowledge will you acquire by taking the course?


  • Length of the course: what time commitment does the course demand in terms of hours, days, weeks or months? Is the course explicit about exactly how long it should take?


  • The cost of the course: How much a course will cost seems an obvious one, right? But is there a fixed, ‘all-inclusive’ price or are there any other additional, even hidden costs?

Mistake #2: Getting the Course Level Wrong

Usually, the three most typical ‘levels’ for online courses are ‘Beginner,’ ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’. This is especially true of non-university/college courses considered more ‘informal’ or that are not accredited. It’s critically important that you do an online course pitched at your level of knowledge or expertise.


So, for example, make sure you know at least some French grammar before doing an intermediate French language class! Likewise if you’re a confident guitar player – you’re simply going to be bored out of your mind with a ‘basic’ class in guitar!


It’s also a good idea to know what type of online learning the course offers. You may want something very interactive and yet what is being offered is not.


There are four different types of e-learning:

Level 1 – Passive Interactivity: there is little to no interactivity, as you as the student are just meant to listen to the instructor and take notes.


Level 2 – Limited Interactivity: basically as above, with just a little more interaction with the instructor and the incoporation of some media in the learning.


Level 3 – Complex Interactivity: classes are interactive, with a lot of student inputs and quite heavy reliance on media as part of the learning process.


Level 4 – Full Immersion: this is when classes use technology-driven learning such as gamification or simulations for learning. These are usually going to be very expensive courses, often done at the corporate level.

Mistake #3: Not Using A Trusted Platform

Most credible online courses today are found on learning platforms for that very purpose. Some platforms offer a wide range of course on various topics, while others can be on more specific topics. The important thing is that you choose a bona fide platform that is trustworthy and that offers good-quality courses.


Red flags…


You need to be on the lookout  for those when deciding what platforms to use – and avoid. There are many red flags that should warn you that a learning platform is best avoided. These can include:

  • extremely vague course details
  • very little to no information about instructors and their expertise
  • a lack of customer or student services
  • program costs that are vague, difficult to pinpoint or have to be requested ‘upon application’ (yeah, right!)
  • pushy or aggressive recruiters from the platform
  • promises regarding course outcomes that are simply too good to be true


That is why you need to trust a learning platform such as Yip. As a learner or ‘Yipee’ on our platform, you are guaranteed of excellent customer service and transparency regarding course costs and outcomes. You also get useful insights provided by instructors themselves.


Another way to ensure you choose the right platform is to make good use of search engine optimisation, or SEO. This is the means by which your organic searches (i.e. with search terms to type into Google, Bing, Safari or whatever search engine you use) takes you to the right courses and providers. SEO is not only essential for websites and online businesses; it can be invaluable for a prospective student too.

Mistake #4: Not Actually Having the Time for Learning

It is true that online learning allows you more flexibility than real-time courses. You are absolutely more in control of when you do online sessions – and from where. However, you still need good time management in order to make the most of your online course.


Oh, and don’t fall into the ‘illusion’ of thinking that your online classes will somehow be ‘easier’. Your online instructor will still be a professional who takes pride in their work and will need you to be committed to the learning process, whether the learning is 1-on-1 or in a group.

Mistake #5: Not Trusting Your Instinct

We’ll keep this one very short: Trust your gut. If something feels ‘off’ about a course, platform or instructor, then don’t buy the course. As with any purchase (or decision) in life, big or small, we do well to listen to our instincts. Fail to do so at your own risk. Remember caveat emptor!


We hope that you as a future learner/student/Yipee will remember the above mistakes when scouting for online courses. After all, being cautious when parting with your hard-earned cash is always a good idea, right!


Join the fun on YIP, and create amazing online experiences