When Everything Can Be Found Online, Should You Pay for An AI Course?

People today are blessed by the convenience of the Internet since they can practically learn (almost) anything online, and this is especially true for artificial intelligence considering how popular the topic is in recent years. As a matter of fact, the related information you can find on the net about AI is so abundant that it’s totally possible for one to become a self-taught expert on this subject. Yet, even in such situation, paid courses on AI exist! And that brings up the question we’re addressing here: Is it worthy to pay for any of them? Or, to phrase it in a less provocative way: How to choose a paid course about AI that will not make you regret in the future?

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of how to assess the quality of a paid AI program. In fact, we went so far as to make a checklist for you to score them! Are you ready for this? Then, let’s begin.

First of all, you should know why you’d like to learn AI!

But before we go any further, the first, and arguably the most important, thing you must figure out is that why would you like to learn artificial intelligence? I know this sounds straightforward, but I’ve found that many didn’t give enough thought to it. Generally speaking, the reasons to take an AI course can be categorized into one of the following three grand purposes, each has its own unique requirements to meet. Please do take some time to consider which one fits your condition best:

  • Purpose 1: You just want to know what AI is.

Sometimes, people want to know the concepts of artificial intelligence for some relatively trivial reason (like satisfying their thirst for knowledge, or simply finding something to brag about in front of their friends, etc.). They are not aiming to use the tech to solve any practical problem, nor to make progression to this field. If this sounds like you, then you’re in this category.

For people who attempt to learn AI out of this purpose, you probably shouldn’t be spending too much (both time and money) on these courses. In fact, in most situations, free online materials (including blog posts, videos on YouTube, articles shared on social media, or even papers found on Google Scholar, etc.) should be enough to fulfill your desire.

  • Purpose 2: You want to use AI to solve some problems.

People who learn artificial intelligence based on this purpose are typically software developers or engineers, who’re expected to possess skills to build a functional AI program on their own and use it to solve real-life problems. Because of that, before you get to the territory of AI, you should know how to code in at least one programming language first. Note that although the majority of the AI courses today use Python (because it’s succinct and supported by many powerful libraries), this is definitely not the only choice you can go with, especially considering that Python itself is actually written in C language. But you should also be aware that if you’ve already mastered one programming language, Python should not be a trouble for you at all; and by adopting this language, you can have a much wider choices when trying to pick an AI course to take.

  • Purpose 3: You want to make academic contributions to the field of AI.

Among the three purposes aforementioned, this is definitely the most demanding one. It requires learners to have prior knowledge in not only programming but also many rather challenging areas of mathematics such as linear algebra, statistics, and so on.

Moreover, you have to learn how to conduct a scientific research and know the way to turn your achievements or findings into an academic paper. These tasks may seem simple for you in the beginning, but they are in fact very difficult and typically take an individual a few years to master.

Due to these reasons, for people who are motivated by this purpose, you should seriously consider enrolling yourself in a university to receive proper training from academic experts. We sincerely doubt that any online courses out there will meet your requirements.

Evaluating an AI course

After realizing your own needs, you can start probing into the courses available to you and evaluate their qualities. Below, things that you should check before signing up for a paid program are discussed. Note that we’ll do so with the premise that you do not possess sufficient understanding to the topics addressed by the course in review (otherwise, you won’t need to take it) so that you can’t assess the correctness of the material taught directly. Relax! That will not disqualify you from evaluating a course if you’re looking into the right places.

  • About the creator(s) of the course:

The following two questions concerning the credibility of the course’s creator(s) are considered to be the most crucial questions of all. If you can’t find too much information about who is responsible for the course, or the creator(s) of the course is untrustworthy, we strongly suggested you not taking it, especially when they are not free of charge.

(1) Can you find any information about the creator(s) of the course?

(2) Is the course created by a trustworthy person / group / platform / organization?

Note that a trustworthy creator can be a well-known company or platform, a group of people that have received official certification, or individual / group / organization whose abilities on the topic has been well evidenced by his or her past achievements, etc.

  • About how the course is promoted:

Studying about how the course is promoted can sometimes help us to spot scams since many of their advertisements include hyperbolic marketing language, empty promises and misleading messages. Some also fail to provide (or deliberately hide) important info such as curriculum, schedule, background about the instructor(s) and so on.

(1) Does the promotion contain any hyperbolic description?

The following are some examples of hyperbolic descriptions: "This is the only course you will ever have to take." Or "The best course in the word. Enroll now!"

(2) Is the promotion full of empty promises with no sign of evidence at all?

The following are some examples of empty promises: "The course will make you become an AI expert!" Or "Learn how to build an artificial neural network like pro in 1 minute."

(3) Does the ad provide sufficient information about the course?