Why is it Important to Evaluate Sources for Online Courses Before Gathering Them? – A Guide to Fact-Checking with Tips & More

Unless you create an online course about an entirely new topic, you will find a plethora of information relevant to whatever your course topic is. 

While this can definitely be good, you have to be cautious about where you want to pull information from. 

This is because not every source of information is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. 

In this post, you will be able to understand how to identify credible sources of information and ignore the ones that may be inaccurate or unreliable. 

Why do I Need to Evaluate My Sources Before I can Gather Information from Them? 

While it may be very tempting to just add information to your course content that you immediately found on the internet. 

It’s highly important that you take a step back and spend time evaluating whether or not the source is credible or not. This is because your students will expect you to back up your ideas and assumptions with credible evidence and resources. 

If you use ideas or content that isn’t coming from a credible source, your students will lose faith in your online course and may not even finish it. 

This will then mean that they will be dissatisfied with your course, they won’t buy future online courses from you and of course, they will never recommend you to their friends, peers, and colleagues. 

Gathering information is the stage where a lot of online course creators quit because they’re at a fairly early stage of the process and the onslaught of endless information can get overwhelming for a lot of them. 

However, with the right tools and approach, you can easily organize the content you find into digestible chunks which you can then use to effectively build your online course. 

How do I Evaluate the Credibility of Sources of Information? 

There are a number of different methods that researchers apply when judging the credibility of sources. 

One of the simplest methods that we’ll be talking about today is RADAR


RADAR stands for Relevance, Authority, Date, Appearance, and Reason. Let’s go over each of these one-by-one: 


The first thing you have to look for in the source is relevance. 

Is this information relevant to the topic of your online course? Does it directly serve one (or more) of the learning outcomes, goals, and/or objectives of your online course? 

While this won’t directly serve to evaluate the credibility of your source, it’s still a very important observation to make because you never want to include irrelevant information within your online course. 

That would just make it bloated and not worth going through for your students. 


The next step is to look towards who published that piece of information. 

Who is the author? What are their credentials? Do they have the authority to publish the information that they’re sharing? 

Looking at who came up with the information makes it clear (in most cases) whether or not the information is credible or not. 

For example:
If you come across an article on “Effective Writing Techniques for SEO” on Ahrefs’ blog, it’s likely that the information in that article will be credible. This is because Ahrefs is one of the leading SEO tools on the market. They would not share information about writing techniques for SEO if they were not properly tried and tested. 

On the other hand, if, let’s say, you found an article that said “These writing techniques will drive traffic to your website within 2 days!” and the domain of the website is “www.getrichquick.com”, it’s a good idea to be a little skeptical. 


Next, you have to look at the date of when the information was published. 

Why is this relevant? Well, for a couple of reasons: 

  • If the publication of the information coincides with some trend or movement related to the topic, there’s a high chance that the information could be biased. The author could be trying to project their own views through fabricated facts in order to promote their own opinion. 
  • Your online course needs to have up-to-date information. If the source of information you’re looking at was published years ago, there’s a high chance that a portion (or all) of the information may be outdated. 

Keep these two factors in mind when looking at the date or “timeliness” of the information you come across online. 


The next factor you have to look at is the appearance of the information. 

When we say appearance, we mean more than just the visual aesthetic of the website that the information is published on. 

Indeed, there are a lot of knowledgeable professionals out there with credible information but they publish it on websites that look like they’re from 1995. 

When we say appearance, we mean how is the information presented: 

  • Does it support its claims with statistics, graphs and figures? 
  • Is it formatted well with zero typos and/or grammatical errors? 
  • Does it contain citations and references? 

If the answers to these questions are yes, then there’s a high chance that the source of information you’re looking at is credible. 


Finally, you have to look at why the author decided to publish this information? What was his motive behind it? 

Was it merely just to share information on their findings? Did they discover a better way of performing a process that they wanted to share? Or do they have an opinion on a certain topic which they want to assert by using facts and figures? 

If the reason seems like it’s the last one, there’s a high chance that your source of information is not credible and they’re merely trying to push their own agenda using made-up facts. 

Of course, that isn’t always the case but it’s highly likely. 

Getting into the online course business can be daunting. Therefore, we have compiled a complete step-by-step guide for you to follow and make the best of your business. 


Wrapping Things Up… 

It’s understandable that you may just want to breeze through the information-gathering stage of your online course journey so you can get to the actual writing of course content. 

However, we urge you that you take your time when gathering information

Don’t just include everything you find as most of it may not be relevant and more importantly, it may not even be accurate. 

We hope we’ve convinced you to inspect all your sources for credibility when creating an online course

Not only will it make your online course more effective but you’ll also prevent yourself from passing on inaccurate or unreliable information to your students.