I recently enrolled onto a SmartMajority online course as Littlebird was offering it at a massive discount. It was the “Boost Your Child’s Confidence” course. At £14 it seemed a good deal. The course apparently sells for £199. I can’t seem to find out a lot about how useful or recognised these courses from online course providers like Smart Majority are. Smart Majority lists it’s usual partners as Wowcher and other similar type of discount sites, so I think most of it’s courses, no matter what they say the RRP is, tend to be sold at the kind of price I bought it from. And well, it better be. It’s not like their courses are recognised by professional bodies or regulated by the government!

I do find the course very useful and I feel me and my kids have all learnt quite a few things from doing this. For that, I am grateful to have enrolled on this course. For £14, it doesn’t sound like much. The price only pays for 3-months’ access to the course though. On the learner’s portal I have to log into to access the course materials, they offer course duration extensions that start from £10 for a 3-month extension, to £35 for a 12-month extension. To be honest, 3 months is not enough for me to complete this course with my kids. It is a lot of information and activities to do with them, and after doing it for a month, I have found a good rhythm which is to do a session with them twice a week. Now the course comprises 12 modules in total, and each module consists of about 4 or 5 sessions’ worth of material. There is no way we can complete the entire course in 3 months from the start of enrollment, unless we do a session each day, but that would make it impossible for the kids to retain what they’ve learnt and have enough time to practice and digest the new topics and techniques. I was seriously looking at buying a course extension from Smart Majority so I could complete the course with them.

The course portal is on the site itself, which automatically logs you out pretty quickly if you are not active on the site for a short period- not that I’ve actually timed it, but I do notice it tends to log me out pretty soon. I noticed that it was impossible to copy and paste any lines from the course website. As I tend to write out my own notes from the course material so I could use it on the day to present the activities and info to my kids, and save it on my Google notes, one day I just decided to copy and paste one of the lines I typed out on my Google notes from the course, into Google’s search engine. Then to my surprise, I got this result : http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oVeWOUoJt1QC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Yep it was a link to a Google Books preview of a book which contained the exact same line. I went to view the link and saw that the course material was entirely duplicated, word for word, from that book by Lucy Morgans. In fact, the course left out some material from the book, so actually was a chopped version of the book, but still exactly the same – word for word!

I went to Amazon books and found that only used copies of the book is being sold now. I’m not sure why – perhaps it’s out of print here. I saw the price of the used book was £3.70 at the lowest offer, currently. But I could buy a Kindle copy too, for £6.71. Guess which one I’m going to go for. I’m now definitely not going to buy a course extension from Smart Majority to complete the course with them anymore. Besides, I’ve submitted an assignment a few weeks ago and yet never gotten any feedback at all from the tutor. I’m not quite sure how this works. I feel this is quite shoddy service for what is purportedly a distance-learning course.

I’m not sure I’ve got such a good deal now. I know I was initially very happy to have enrolled because me and my kids have learnt so much from this course. Yet I’m a bit disappointed with the service and at the fact that the course was just all copied out of a book – Smart Majority had charged me £14 for something that is a duplicate (and shortened version) of an actual book that costs as little as £3.70 to buy! However I would not have discovered this book if not for enrolling in the course, so suffice to say, I will just take it as one of those things that cannot be helped.

However I would warn anyone wanting to take one of these online courses that aren’t accredited or recognised by any official government body, especially if they found the deal on Wowcher or any similar discount voucher site, not to put too much hope in using this course to get a job somewhere. Well the kind of course I took wasn’t really something that would lead to a job for me – I just did it because I wanted to it to benefit my children in some way. But I had a cursory glance at many of the other course descriptions in the Smart Majority website and realised they seem to be implying people could get proper jobs in the field just from doing one of their courses, and well I would just like to reiterate that with such a course provider, it’s better if you never paid the full price for any of their courses. Their courses are great for gaining an introduction to the subject I suppose. But always buy the course from a discount voucher site. If you buy from their site directly, you’ll have to pay full price. I don’t know what materials they utilise for their other courses, but if it’s anything like copying and pasting from a book like this course does, then it’s really just not worth the full price.

I may be taking other courses with them if it’s something interesting to me and not something I’m sure I want to take seriously at Open University for instance. For example I’ve been thinking of being a TEFL teacher but not sure if it’s right for me. A friend of mine who actually is a TEFL teacher suggested I do one of these cheap online TEFL courses to as a taster before deciding whether to go to college for a proper TEFL or CELTA certificate. I am intending to sign up for a couple of other cheap online courses – not from Smart Majority though but that’s not because I am avoiding Smart Majority! It just so happens that the other courses are subjects I am interested in, but Smart Majority isn’t offering a discount on those kind of courses the moment! Perhaps by the time I am ready to take them, Smart Majority will do a cheap deal on their’s. Who knows! Anyway I like learning. I take these courses happily because I know what I am getting out of these courses, so I’m not going to complain if I can’t get a job in these industries after doing them!