12 questions to ask BEFORE buying a course!

By Simon Buehring on 22 Mar 2019

Selecting your training provider can be a tricky task. There’s so many to choose from, so how do you choose?

We’ve provided this list of questions so that before you purchase your training course you take a sensible decision which you won’t regret later. There are too many dissatisfied students out there for you to take this decision likely.

1/ Who’s the trainer and are they experienced?

Having a great trainer makes all the difference when it comes to your learning experience. A bad trainer will either bore you to tears, not care about your learning needs, or be so tired of delivering the same course that they have no enthusiasm for the subject.

You need someone who is both a great trainer and has practical experience of the subject. Once you’ve got their name, check them out on LinkedIn to see what their experience is.

  • Warning signs: They can’t or won’t tell you the name of the trainer and how experienced they are.

2/ Can you view some sample course materials?

Training materials vary hugely between companies. Some haven’t been updated in years, whereas others are minor works of art. If they cannot provide you with a sample, ask yourself why not? What do they want to hide from you?

View the range of materials to see whether the materials appeal to different learning types. For example, do they have visual aids such as colour diagrams or mind maps to help students who learn visually?

  • Warning signs: They can’t or won’t share samples of course materials with you.

3/ How much pre- course study and homework is there?

On a multiday course you will expect both pre-course study and homework. Find out how much. Having to spend too much of your precious time prior to the course indicates the company probably doesn’t know how to efficiently help you to learn.

  • Warning signs: They ask you to spend over 25% of the course time on preparation beforehand.

4/ How big is the class?

This is a very important question. We’ve heard that one of the largest providers in the UK regularly crams 30 people or more into one class. You never want to be in a large class because that means the trainer has no time to attend to your needs.

  • Warning signs: Being vague about class sizes or refusing to offer a refund if the numbers exceed what they tell you.

5/ Are you speaking with sales staff?

Remember who you are speaking with. Are they a sales person trying to sell you a course by promising you everything you expect, just so that they can get their monthly sales commission?

Trust your instincts because they’re probably right. If you get the impression that you’re speaking with someone chasing sales targets, then don’t be surprised if your training experience doesn’t live up to expectations.

  • Warning signs: Rushing you to make a purchase, or not being able to answer detailed questions about the course.

6/ Are its reviews consistent?

Spend some time to dig a bit deeper to understand what students really say about a company. Check out different review sites including Google. Be aware though that some widgets added to a company web site (the one from TrustPilot does this) allows it to only show 5-star reviews.

Look to see how many 1 2 or 3-star reviews the company gets and then read these to see if there’s a pattern. Often, the complaints are about poor customer service, changing terms and conditions, poor trainers, bad venue, cancelations and not getting a refund.

  • Warning signs: Lots of 1, 2 or 3-star independent reviews indicates it cannot be trusted to deliver consistently good service.

7/ What’s the venue?

Not only do you need to know where the course takes place, but you need to know the type of room. We’ve heard companies claim to offer ‘luxury venues’ only for the class to be in a hotel bedroom with the bed pushed on its side sitting crammed like sardines.

  • Warning signs: They tell you the venue will be confirmed just before the course date.

8/ How ethical Is the company?

Read the company’s “About us” page on its website. Try to find out about its values, what drives it, then make a judgement about how ethical the company is. If its values don’t convey trust, then stay clear of them, even though they might be cheap.

  • Warning signs: No “About us” page or no explanation about its values or ethics.

9/ What’s the exam pass rate?

The answer to this question requires a lot of scepticism because it’s one which can easily provoke a false answer. The fact of the matter is that there is a correlation between all the things listed above and exam pass-rates. Studying in a large class with an inexperienced trainer using poor quality training materials will lead to lower than average pass-rates for exams.

  • Warning signs: There’s no way to tell if the company is lying, so make a judgement call after weighing up all their answers.

10/ How big is the company?

Some companies boast of being the “largest” of its type or running more courses than any other provider. Think about your own experience of big businesses. Do they always provide great customer service? Probably not. It’s the same with training companies. Being the largest training provider probably means they are very good at selling courses, but this doesn’t mean their courses are any good. You’re more likely to get a better, more personalized service from a smaller provider which treats its customers as people, not as sales targets.

  • Warning signs: The bigger the company, the less likely it is that they will give a good customer service.

11/ Do they have an overseas call centre?

For a larger company, if you find yourself speaking to staff located in an overseas call centre, it’s a sign that the company is cutting costs. If they do that for your customer service department, it’s likely they’ll cut costs when it comes to trainers, materials and venues too.

  • Warning signs: A cheap, overseas call centre is a sign the company will cut costs on trainers, materials and venues too.

12/ What’s the course timetable?

Ask for a copy of the course timetable so you know exactly what time the course starts and ends each day. If your course contains exams, look to see the times of the exams.

Some obvious things which you’d expect are not always included. We’ve heard stories about students being told not to come back on the last day because they’d be sitting their exam at home.

  • Warning signs: they won’t share with you a detailed course timetable.

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