(frequently asked questions)
Wow - getting a rating feels like a big ask ...
First of all, we don't anticipate that the majority of (caring) online trainers will need to make many adjustments to achieve a 'Good' rating. Yes, there has to be a minimum cut off somewhere, but this is about giving learners such a good experience, they want to come back for more - and that's good for everyone, right?!
Secondly, this is about supporting and encouraging online trainers to raise their game - the higher the quality of training, the happier learners will be. Happy learners spread the word far more effectively than trainer-led publicity, which in turn leads to more sales and more people wanting to take courses that are rated - and rated well. All of these things lead to happy trainers!
At OTI we're all about the win-win, so if it feels a little bit too much like hard work to get to a minimum standard, maybe online training's not for you?
Who is this for?
Trainers who want to reassure learners of the quality of their course.
Learners who want reassurance that they are investing in an online course of quality.
What's the point of a quality review?
A quality review is one way to help learners evaluate the value of a course they are considering taking - by having a uniform set of standards, they can make like-for-like comparisons between two or more courses.
In addition, a quality review encourages trainers to keep working on improving their courses, which ultimately benefits learners, but also begins to separate the true trainers from those who only see online courses as a short-cut to a fast buck.
Are there any courses you won't review?
Although we're generally pretty relaxed about course subject matter, there are a few areas we will not review - this list below is indicative, not exhaustive, so if you request a review and we decide your subject matter is not something we're comfortable with, we will give you a full refund (please note that this refund is only available where courses are 'up front' and obvious about their subject matter - if your course is subversively trying to cover a subject matter we don't like, we'll tell you but keep your money ...).
So we won't review any courses that teach others how to commit or have the tools/techniques to commit:
- acts of terrorism
- crimes against minors, vulnerable adults or animals
- actions that promote, encourage or incite any kind of prejudicial behaviour or action against others of a different gender, race, religion (including non-religion), ability, sexual orientation, financial situation or any other way of distinguishing one group of humans from another
- actions that promote or encourage self-harm
We think that should cover most things, but if you want to check your course subject matter will be accepted before submitting it for review, we can do that - simply email email@example.com Please note though that if we say your course subject matter is ok for review after a quick check like this and then in the full review we find you have some subversive content in there, you don't get a refund!
What if what a course is teaching is wrong?
First of all, we need to establish whether the course you're referring to is factually wrong or whether there is a philosophical disagreement at play. The most obvious example of this would be in courses about religion. If you do not believe in the religious teachings of a particular course, that is a philosophical disagreement and we believe all potential learners should have the opportunity to make their own minds up. We are not in the business of telling people what they can and can't believe!
If, however, the course is about (for example) programming computer code and a particular teaching is incorrect (usually through being out of date), then that is a factual inaccuracy. We would want to know about this, and in the first instance we would encourage you to get in touch with the listed course owner as well as with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
How many reviewers are there?
At the moment we don't publish that information, or the names of our reviewers - because some of them want to simply be learners sometimes rather than reviewers! However, if a trainer is approached by someone claiming to be an official reviewer (we encourage our reviewers to offer coaching to trainers to improve their courses), we will confirm whether or not that person is part of our reviewer network.
How do I know if a displayed badge is genuine?
Any time you see an Online Training Index badge, you should be able to click on it and be taken to the full Index listing on this website. If it doesn't lead to the Index page specifically about that course (even if it leads to the home page of this website for example), then it is being used fraudulently - the course owner is trying to trick you into thinking the course has been officially reviewed.
You should also be suspicious of any course that claims to have been officially reviewed by the Online Training Index, but doesn't show a badge! We take any false credibility claims very seriously and will vigorously pursue anyone attempting to take advantage of our reputation in this way. If you believe you have seen a course doing this, please email the URL and/or a screenshot to email@example.com
What if a course doesn't have a badge?
While we would love to be able to review every independent online course, doing that every year would require more resources than we currently have!
Conservatively, we estimate there are more than 50,000 independent online courses currently available through various platforms and marketplaces. This doesn't include the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) typically offered by universities.
If you see a course that you think deserves a badge, please do encourage them to apply for review through this website. Occasionally, at our discretion, we review a course without the trainer applying - so email us the course details and you never know!
Doesn't this just lead to 'identikit' trainers?
No - and that's definitely NOT something we want. The way the assessment weighting and scoring works allows us to find standards for common elements that we know are indicators of quality, without losing the individual 'X' factor that makes some trainers good and others, well, outstanding.
In addition, we want learners to be able to feel a connection with their trainer - so if two courses deliver the same material to the same quality standard, there is still an important differentiator between them - the trainer's style and personality.
Why isn't price part of the assessment criteria?
The price of an online course is too easily manipulated to be a consistent indicator of quality - with online courses, you don't necessarily get what you pay for! By taking price out of the equation, learners can decide if the course quality is worth the price they are being asked to pay.
Why isn't length part of the assessment criteria?
Along with price, length is another factor that can too easily be manipulated. An online course is a short-cut for a learner to get the information they want. No-one wants to have to wait longer than necessary to get that!
If it only takes half an hour to learn a basic concept or skill, then that's how long the course should be. It makes sense to assume that a more complicated skill or higher level of skill is likely to take a longer period of time.
We would expect learners to apply their own common sense to using length as well - if they expect to learn brain surgery in half an hour for example, then they may not be the learners you're looking for ...
Why aren't learner reviews part of the assessment criteria?
Not so long ago, a major online marketplace had a purge on learner reviews shown against courses - purely because they recognised that too many instructors had been using 'underhand methods' to get '5 star' reviews (such as review swaps, paid 'student' reviews and other tactics), which jeopardised the credibility of the whole system. Any incentive to leave a review begins to go down a slippery path - some instructors were incentivising people to only leave glowing recommendations (sometimes without the reviewer having taken the course at all!).
While consumer reviews can be useful for many purchases, unfortunately there are too many ways to 'game' the system, so although we will look at them if available, they don't carry a massive sway on an assessment score. There are some 'independent' learner review websites, but these tend to be biased towards the university-led MOOCs and in some cases are a result of a partnership between universities and the review site itself.
Online Training Index is proudly independent and not tied to any marketplace, platform or online course provider - our assessments are the closest you can get to impartial and objective!
What if I disagree with the review rating - can I appeal?
Of course - although we would strongly encourage you to take a good look at the report you receive and see if you disagree with the recommendations for improvement 🙂
If you are convinced that the review process has missed vital elements of your course that would give it a higher rating, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a copy of the appeal process, an appeal application and payment details.
The payment is nominal but necessary to deter frivolous appeals! If your appeal is upheld, you will be refunded the appeal fee. If not, you won't. In most cases your appeal will be reviewed by the most senior reviewer available (and someone who hasn't previously reviewed your course).
Why is a review done annually?
We think one year is the maximum amount of time any online course should be left without some kind of update (or even a full overhaul for some subject matters). We want to encourage online trainers to factor updates and refreshes into their courses and the annual renewal of a review of quality is one way to do that.
Do you review courses that are not in English?
We don't currently review courses that are not in English, but we are interested in talking with anyone who would like to be a reviewer in another language. Please get in touch through email@example.com
How can I become a reviewer?
This is by invitation only for students of the full bundle of quality courses available through the OTI Academy.
Hand-picked reviewers receive additional (free) training from us into what it takes to be an Online Training Index reviewer. After training, they are annually licensed as an official Online Training Index reviewer. We offer up to 40% commission for every course that is submitted for a full review.
Outstanding reviewers (those who submit reviews of a consistently high standard) are invited to the Senior Reviewer grade, where commission rates are even higher and there are opportunities to offer OTI-approved 'train the reviewer' packages.
In addition to earning commission on courses in review, we encourage our reviewers to offer their services as coaches to online course creators, to help them reach the standards of best practice. We offer a package of support, including a number of free and discounted reviews for them to offer in setting this up.
All reviewers are required to bring in a (nominal) number of courses for review each year. The free and discounted course reviews available to reviewers are included in this number.
Finally, OTI reviewers receive an automatic discount (25%) for getting their own courses reviewed - or they can use up their free/discounted package on this if they choose to!
Surely you don't have expert reviewers in every subject?
We've actually got pretty good coverage of many subject areas, but we also don't like to only have 'experts' review particular subjects either. This is because someone with a high proficiency in a subject is likely to have forgotten what it feels like to learn about the subject for the first time. They will therefore find it more difficult to review a course from a learner's point of view.
Naturally some courses will only be suitable for those who already have a high proficiency in a subject (such as a course taking someone from intermediate to advanced level), in which case we will assign a reviewer with a suitable level of proficiency to do the review.
How long does a review take?
Once an application has been made (assuming all the required information is given), we aim to turn a standard review around in ten working days. Each review goes through a Quality Check with a different reviewer, before the result is finalised and the review result and report are sent out. It is possible to fast-track a review, but that's by special request and will likely cost you 200% of a standard review price! This is not available for the Sample Review option.
Any course which achieves a rating of Excellent or Outstanding at the first review will be checked by a more senior reviewer. Having a Quality Check stage is not only best practice for reviewing services, it also ensures we are maintaining the high values and standards of OTI that learners and trainers expect, trust and rely upon.
My course isn't quite ready - can I still get a review?
Yes, but should the course rating reach 65% or above, we will not issue an electronic badge until the course is published.
What if my course is hosted in different places?
It's not unusual for instructors to have content repeated on different platforms, however, any rating review received and subsequent badge awarded is generally for the single course on the single platform. For example, you may have some 'teaser' free videos from your full course available on YouTube, which act as a lead magnet for your paid course on a hosted platform. If you have a review completed of the full course with a rating and badge given, you cannot imply that your YouTube videos are 'badged' as these are not what has been reviewed. You can of course mention that the full paid course is 'badged'!
If you have a course reviewed that is available on different platforms that has EXACTLY the same content, availability, bonus material and opportunities, then please get in touch so we can check this and give you formal approval to use the badge in more than one place. Please note though that ANY difference in the offering that is part of the review assessment process means it is effectively a different course. This means you will need to apply (and pay for) for a separate review.
Do reviewers review their own courses?
Actually, if a potential reviewer has a course, they can use that in their reviewer training - and the result (once moderated through a Quality Check) would stand.
We're also happy if reviewers want to submit their own courses for review; they get a discount for this, but no commission 🙂
Hang on - that's MY course under someone else's name!
We will do as much as we can to establish that someone requesting a course review is authorised to do so and have the course listed with their name, but if you are sure that there has been a mistake, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org with links to as much evidence as you have about the true course owner identity.
If you don't have any proof, there's not much we can do - and of course that won't help you with any requests to Google or wherever the course is hosted (if applicable). Please don't make any claims on behalf of someone else - we will only deal with someone who believes (and has proof that) their personal IP has been compromised.
Why are all payments in US dollars?
The largest global market for online training is currently the United States of America - this is also where the majority of major online marketplaces and platforms are based (there are some notable exceptions). However, many digital products and especially online training, whether it originated in the USA or not, is priced in USD - it is the (currently) commonly accepted universal currency for online courses.
At some point in the future, we are planning to be able to offer payment in local currencies, but until that time, we will stick with USD, As our payment gateway is PayPal, you will find that you are charged in your own currency at a rate of exchange determined by PayPal on the day of withdrawal.
If you live in a country that does not allow PayPal, but you want to make a purchase from OTI, please get in touch through email@example.com and we will work something else out.
How do you know what you're talking about?
Great question - and definitely the right one to ask! Online Training Index is a culmination of real experience in training both offline and online (with outstanding feedback from learners), best practice as published by a wide range of expert educators and evidence from other trainers and online course providers.
In addition, findings from published reviews and studies of online learners' thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviours with online courses have been added into the grading mix.
Last but not least, our founder's last corporate role before setting up her own successful independent training company was Head of Insight and Performance for a globally respected organisation with a $200M/pa turnover - so she knows a thing or two about analysing performance-related data 😉