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Can we talk about online course sellers?

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If you’ve spent any amount of time online, like Facebook, for example, you may have run into your fair share of online course sellers. Maybe you came across ads for someone trying to sell their course. Or you may have been on another site and ran into someone else trying to drum up business for people to buy their courses. Maybe you even ran into groups where someone’s teaching the members how to create courses to sell.

First and foremost, I won’t be mentioning anyone’s real names or their courses. I’m not in the business of naming them and shaming them. As a solid to me, I want you to leave them alone if you think you know who they are, whether they’re good, bad, both, or neither.

I’ve come across this several times in the downtime I had as my late mom’s full-time caregiver, working on posts for this blog, the few assignments I was able to get from my day-job, and job hunting. Out of curiosity, and out of desperation since my job hunt was going nowhere, I signed up for a “free webinar” promising a ton of information and value, using one of my junk email addresses and scambaiting phone number. While I was hammering out assignments, and caring for my mom, while mentally coming up with ideas for the blog, I’d listen to their marathon webinar.

More often than not, there was no information whatsoever included. Instead, it turned out to be a one to two-hour long advertisement for their course where they’d hype it up, which they’d naturally charge upwards of thousands of dollars for.

I don’t have that kind of money, and I’m doubting that a lot of the people who found them at the same time I did also had that kind of money knocking around. Otherwise, why else would I bother with them?

Several years back, I was going through a difficult time in my life after something happened, and there was this person on a forum I used to frequent. They were selling a course to others on the forum who were also between a rock and a hard place in their lives. I’d forgotten all about them until my sojourn in those free webinars.

For the sake of the story, we’ll say this person has a course in something that isn’t alcoholism recovery. They came onto the forum I was at, and actively promoted their course in virtually every discussion. They even joined the forum with the handle using the name of their misspelled website, and included links to their thousand-dollar course.

I remembered their course name, and looked it up. Sure enough, years later, they’re still promoting it and pushing it like it’s going out of style any second. It doesn’t seem like they have very many takers, though. For the sake of this post, I plowed through their website where they more or less trash-talked licensed professionals, while in the next breath promised faster and better results than anything a professional could deliver.

As a refresher, and as a favor to you readers, I signed up for their little “free workshop,” subjecting myself to an hour of their nails-on-chalkboard-esque voice and grating mannerisms, listening to them promise the moon and quick fixes, while blaming the victim, and then brag lyrical about all the uber-successful people they think they’ve helped.

This person has none of the credentials to offer these kinds of services, and they’re basically playing with fire while taking money from vulnerable people who may not realize they’ve basically been had. If that isn’t adding insult to injury, idk what is.

Sheesh.

I came across another course pusher that claims to be the foremost authority on something that isn’t venture capital. This person claims you can do it wherever, whenever, and make bank off of it, both by words and by implication. Someone I know shelled out the thousands of dollars for this person’s course, and there were dozens of modules, and more modules on top of it. It felt like this person designed their course to be as time consuming as humanly possible.

I listened to what this person was actually saying, and it amounted to nothing we couldn’t learn from Wikipedia for free, and nothing we couldn’t learn from a community college about that same subject. On top of that, I did some homework on this person, and saw some really disturbing allegations related to the way they treat their customers, and other unprofessional behavior toward them.

Yeah, nope. If I’m ever in the market for their subject, I’ll just go hit up Coursera on my own time instead.

Another course pusher I found had a “free webinar” about something that wasn’t about knitting. I signed up with my trusty junk email address and listened to their equally grating voice with used car salesman vibes. Everything this person was talking about sounded familiar, and I knew I’d heard it somewhere before. I’d seen it somewhere before.

After a quick Google search, it was the same exact materials from a series of free courses with good information available on reputable platforms. Only this person was charging people thousands of dollars for it.

Yeah, nope. Get bent, you shameless sleazebag huckster. I noped right outta there, and moved on from them. Looking back, I wish I’d contacted the site they stole the information from to let them know what this person was doing.

I toyed around with the idea of creating a course. I even wrote out ideas in my scratch notebook. But then, I realized that there’s no way I could do you readers like that, and be able to live with myself at the end of the day. I have way too much respect for you as a blogger, and as a human being.

Maybe you readers have come across courses like any of the three I’ve mentioned, or maybe not. There seems to have been an uptick in people creating online courses ever since the pandemic started, and understandably so.

But are online courses worth it? My verdict, and this is only my opinion, generally speaking, no. However, there are some reputable, ethical, and great people out there with online courses I’d love to have the chance to take sometime. Those are the ones I’ve got respect for, and they’re truly in their ventures to help people. If that’s you, keep on doing you, and keep on killing it!

Maybe consider sending along your information via PM, and I’ll check it out so I can tell my readers about how great you are? Just thought I’d throw that out there. No pressure.

That said, I’ve come across far too many other course pushers with questionable ethics and motives at best for me to even remotely feel ok about recommending them as a broad generalization. It really sucks for the reputable ones on so many levels.

Some of these course pushers may honestly think they’re helping people, but they’re dealing with subjects way above their paygrade. They’re basically playing with fire, and ultimately harming those who find them and buy their courses.

Others are transparent af in their M.O. They know what they’re doing, and they don’t care. All they want is your money, and if I had to choose between these and the ones who think they’re helping people but aren’t, I’d say the ones who know and don’t care are the lesser of two evils.

At least I know what to expect from the ones who know and don’t care, haha.

Before you make that purchase, often in the thousand-dollar range, and before you invest your time in them, give yourself time to think about it. Mull it over for a few days. Weigh out the pros and cons. Do your homework on the person offering the course. If their motives are good, and they legit want you to succeed, they’ll totally understand.

Are you finding reviews mentioning results nowhere near what the course pusher promised, and is it in a consistent pattern over time? Or are you finding reviews mentioning same-same but different results? In the latter case, proceed with caution.

Are those reviews on sites independent of the course pusher’s website? How did the course pusher respond? Was it with professionalism, petulance, or ice-cold radio silence?

Are they asking you to “act now, this offer won’t last,” or “come with me, I have what you need,” or “are you all in and willing to spend money?” Run. Don’t waste another second of your time on them. These tactics are similar to those who hook people seeking to better themselves into harmful groups, and that rarely (if ever) ends well.

Are they telling you that you need to spend money on their products, and that you need them in order to succeed, or else? Maybe it won’t be in these specific words, but if that’s your takeaway, run. Ghost the bastards if you need to, block their emails and their phone numbers if you gave them your info, but run.

Does everything seem to check out, but something just doesn’t feel right about them, and you don’t know why? I’m here to tell you, there’s probably a reason, even if you don’t know it yet. All the more reason to keep it moving, imo.

If you’re in the market for online courses, I suggest hitting up Coursera. They’ve got some free options, but any certificates will cost some money if you need the paper to show someone that you know the skill. If you have the money to spend on these courses, you’re better off exploring your options at a community college instead. If your local library has Kanopy, there’s selections from The Great Courses Plus. I’ve heard some good things about Masterclass, Udemy, and Skillshare. Harvard and Stanford even offer free courses, so those are also options to consider.

But for the love of all that’s holy, if you’re seeking out online courses to recover from a season of crisis in your life, steer clear of anyone promising quick fixes, while denigrating professionals in the same breath, and find a trained professional to help you instead. Whether that’s online or in-person, or even a trained volunteer on a hotline, it’s better than someone selling thousand-dollar courses with no training or expertise in your needs.

The way I figure it, anyone who thinks they need to resort to dogging on licensed, trained professionals in their selling points isn’t worth your time or your money.

Are there licensed and trained professionals who have no business being in their line of work? Unfortunately, there are, and sad to say, I’ve come across some of them. They’re outliers, and not the norm. But some course pusher seeking a quick and easy buck at the expense of someone in a difficult season in their lives isn’t the answer. (BTW, I wonder how people like this can live with themselves.)

To play devil’s advocate, maybe they have some nuggets of wisdom in their little free webinars. I’m not gonna doubt that for a second. But you know what they say about broken watches being right twice a day. Nor does it change the fact that their message is ultimately meaningless to the customer at the end of the day.

I promise you, no matter how bad things are in your life, and no matter what kind of dire straits you’re in right now, you don’t need some self-styled guru in your life in order to make things ok, and you definitely don’t need them in order to succeed in your ventures.

Over to you, readers. Have you ever had experiences in online courses, or with online course sellers? If so, I’d love to hear about it. No names or real course subjects, though! If not, have you ever considered buying one? Either way, I’d love to hear your takeaways below, so drop ’em like they’re hot.

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