Find Courses Faster: Tap into the Full Potential of Search Filters

By Denton Zhou | Published June 28, 2018

A simple search can help you find many relevant courses quickly. However, there are times when being just "somewhat relevant" isn't enough. Search filters can help you find only those courses that meet your specific needs.

In this post, we explore these filters and look at some use cases for them you might not have thought of.

Stick to one or two filters at a time

There are thousands of courses to choose from, but that doesn't mean you'll get thousands results from your search queries. Before you get too excited about filters, know that you can often eliminate 70-90% of courses by turning on just one filter. Turn on two, and you're likely left with just a small handful of search results. Add more and you'll likely get empty results.

For best results, stick with one or two filters with each search (and don't do what the illustrative screenshot below shows).

Finding a course on the right level

The "Level" filter lets you see courses that fall under one of three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. This might seem like a straightforward filter, but there's a bit of nuance to it.

For one, there isn't a clear-cut standard that instructors have to follow about labeling the level of their course. I've personally taken advanced courses that seemed just a notch above what I would expect from an introductory course. Similarly, I've taken courses meant for beginners that seemed impossible to keep up with by Week 3 of lectures.

While you can't control how instructors label their courses, you can make the most of this filter by evaluating your own background. This is easiest to do when you're completely new to a topic—you're likely going to search for courses at the introductory or beginner level. The waters are a bit murkier at the intermediate and advanced levels, where you'll want to rely on a mix of this filter and your own personal judgment.

According to your budget

Online courses might seem affordable with most priced well under $100. However, if you're working under a tight budget and/or plan on taking many different courses, you'll definitely want to check out the "Cost" filter. This filter lets you see only those courses that are priced within a range you set.

We do advise learners to note that while most courses have a price tag, many courses also have a free option (sometimes called an “audit” track). Some course providers also offer financial aid to qualified learners. Note that while most free variants contain much of the same content as their paid counterparts, some preclude you from earning a certificate or completing certain assignments or projects.

On your schedule

Need to learn ASAP? Need a quick crash course or prefer a comprehensive epic of a course instead? Then you'll want to investigate the "Length" and "Start" filters, which respectively let you search based on how long a course takes to complete and when the next course session begins.

More specifically, "Length" lets you filter courses based on how long they take to complete in hours. On average, courses take about 25-40 hours to finish, spread across 4-8 weeks. That works out to something between 4-6 hours each week, about an hour each day of the week, or 2-3 hours for each day of the weekend. You might think of length as a proxy for how much effort you'll invest (but note that length isn't always positively correlated to value or how much you learn).

The "Start" filter lets you find courses that start within a certain date range relative to today. For example, if you're swamped for the next week or so but know you'll have a pocket of free time in two weeks' time, you might filter for courses that start "in 14-30 days." 

On the other hand, if you're riding on a surge of motivation, perhaps it's best to start as soon as you can, in which case you'll want to look for courses that start either "in 7 days" or "within past week." The latter, interestingly, lets you find courses that just launched where you still have enough time to catch up—perfect for learners who are ready to dive into a course immediately.

In your language 

Most courses are presented natively in English. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't find a course in your native language. Our "Language" filter lets you easily narrow down courses presented in a certain language. Use it to see courses only in English or in your preferred language.

There are less obvious use cases for this filter as well. Certain languages are more closely associated with certain topics, especially cultural or historic ones.

For example, China scholars might set a language filter for Chinese in searching for "history" to see what academics in China have to say about their own history. Similarly, fans of Latin American literature might toss on the Spanish filter to find a whole course devoted to the works of Gabriel García Márquez that they might not otherwise discover without the filter.

At present, this filter only applies to the spoken language of a course. We're hoping to have more data about transcript/subtitle languages for those who want to search for courses properly subtitled in a non-English language. 

Have an idea for a filter?

We created these filters based on feedback we’ve received from you over the past year. Is there a filter you wish you could use to find your next course that we don’t have yet? Tell us by contacting us.

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