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Is it really worth paying for online courses?

After inventing the wheel, our ancestors needed something to ease the trade between all of the goods that could be moved faster thanks to the circular innovation. So they invented money — another circular innovation.

The more money somebody had, the higher their status in society. And this holds true to the modern, developed, present day.

Perhaps there are things that money cannot buy, but there are plenty of things that can be bought, and some things are better to be bought. I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd rather pay for a decent product or service than get it for free or for a lower value and be disappointed with it in the end. But at the same time, there's something magic about getting something for free or for a bargain price.

If we zoom in on companies who understand the value of an informed workforce but are not convinced which method of training best suits their organizational learning needs, things get a bit more complicated. But at the end of the day, decision making managers still get their ego tickled by a free service or a bargain price.

To answer the question in the title — is it really worth paying for online courses — I have prepared two answers. We'll explore them both:

Today's answer: Mostly YES!

If your company is small, or only few people have to be trained, and there's a free online course covering these needs, go for that option. It may be the best.

But if your company's learning needs are more diverse and sophisticated and you need detailed reports on the impact of each module over each employee's performance, the decision you have to make isn't whether or not to pay for online courses, but how much to pay for them.

You probably know the saying you get what you pay for. Maybe you know it too well. If you pay peanuts, you get the job done by a monkey.

Experts who know their value usually ditch skeptic prospects with another saying: if you think it's too expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. Costs usually climb up like mercury in a heated thermometer when you have to pay for damages besides the normally expected expenses.

The problem arises when a monkey poses as an expert: you might be paying a great deal of money for a low quality product or service. Nobody wants that.

Finding the perfect balance between what you pay for your company training programs and the outcome of informed employees is a challenging task, but not impossible. As a decision making manager, you need to first determine your organizational learning needs and what you want to achieve through training. Only after you clearly know your business strengths and weaknesses and your organizational learning objectives, should you consider your options in terms of training solutions vendors. And I have to warn you: most of them won't be free.

The price will always be an important factor in your decision making process, but it shouldn't be the most important one and it definitely shouldn't be the only one. Analyze all details and weight in all aspects.

Consider the free options as well as the paid ones, and pick the one that offers the best value for money based on your needs and objectives.

Tomorrow's answer: Hopefully NOT!

Read tomorrow as the future — not necessarily a very distant future, but not exactly the day after today either.

There's a massive reason why I think there's hope for a future with completely free online courses: MOOCs — or Massive Open Online Courses. The great majority of these courses are — here comes the magic — free of charge.

MOOCs promise a front seat in each course, whether it's how to relax with yoga or how to pick up new skills to change careers. They promise to give learners complete control over when and where to learn and to adapt all courses to the modern learning needs.

But a truly personalized learning experience still involves a lot of time and money in our present world, where technology advances at a fast pace and businesses and educational institutions can't really keep up with it.

Besides the constant adaptation to new technology and learning needs, MOOCs need to overcome another challenge: their embarrassingly low completion rates. In 2013, more than 90% of MOOC learners didn't finish their courses, and many of them didn't even start the courses for which they registered. The data for 2015 is better, with an average completion rate of 15%, but still under-satisfying.

MOOCs are not building a massively better skilled workforce yet, but their mere existence is the core of the hope for a future with completely free online courses.


Until this future of massively efficient and still free MOOCs, companies in need of training solutions will have to seriously consider the present vendors that demand payment. On the bright side, some of them offer free trials! Check out MATRIX pricing plans!