Phone: 609-683-8100

Online Business Writing Courses: The Definitive Guide (2017 Update)

How to choose a business writing course

 

This is the most definitive guide online about how to choose a business writing course.

To be successful in business today you must be able to communicate clearly through written text.

The ability to write clearly and convey complex information logically is a huge competitive advantage in any industry.

Bottom Line? Individuals and teams that communicate clearly succeed at work.

After 19 years of teaching business writing courses, we wanted to create a guide to help you choose the right course.

This guide details how to create a custom corporate writing program and how to choose a business writing course as an individual.

 

Contents

1) Fundamentals of Choosing a Course
2) How to Evaluate a Course
      A) Six Steps Create a Custom Corporate Program
      B) Choosing an Online Course as an Individual
3) Types of Courses
4) Course Structure Analysis
5) Evaluating Instructors
6) Questions You Should Ask

 

Chapter 1

Fundamentals of Choosing a Course

 

Choosing an online business writing course is not only a financial investment but an investment in your professional future.

For this reason, we encourage you to scrutinize and vet each option. It’s critical to your success that you make the right choice.

 

Why are Goals Important?

The first step in choosing a course is to define what your goals are. It will be difficult to choose the best class if you do not identify the outcomes you want to achieve.

Here are a few goals we often see for both individuals and businesses.

 

Common Individual Goals

These are the most common goals we hear from our individual clients:

  • Significantly Increase writing speed
  • Convey complex information with more clarity
  • Professionally disagree and write more persuasively
  • Write in a professional and competent tone and voice
  • Improve proofreading skills
  • Write more efficiently
  • Improve written English communication as a non-native writer.

 

Common Organizational Goals

Your specific documents and goals shape how we create custom courses. After identifying your unique needs, we construct the course to match. View case studies of customized training courses designed for like Citrix, Shell, and the U.S Army.

These are the most common goals we hear from our business groups:

  • Increase technical accuracy in report writing
  • Reduce expensive communication mistakes
  • Clearly convey insights and business opportunities
  • Standardize the writing style across a division
  • Invest in employees growth and develop future leadership
  • Increase professionalism and persuasiveness of the sales department
  • Decrease employees’ time spent writing reports while increasing accuracy
  • Increase employee productivity and accuracy while decreasing cost

 

Determine Your Starting Point

You want to choose a course that helps you reach your goals. To do this, you need to understand your starting point. You probably already know you some of your weaknesses. We recommend taking a piece of paper and jotting down a quick list.

Quickly draw a “T: on a sheet of paper. Then on the top of the “T” write down the goals which you are looking to achieve. Then in the bottom left corner write down your strengths or the strengths of your group. In the bottom right side list out your weaknesses.

This framework will make it easier for you to evaluate the courses, instructors, and providers. You want to ensure that the course you choose matches your goals and is structured to help address your strengths and weaknesses.

Here is an example of what the diagram should look like. You can download a PDF version here to print.

Setting goals for your course

Download a PDF Version

 

Chapter 2

How to Evaluate a Business Writing Course

 

You will quickly learn that there are many options and configurations of business writing courses. This chapter will review what to look for when evaluating your options.

Important: The next two sections are dependent on if you are a company looking to provide a course to employees or an individual looking to take an online class.

 

Creating a custom corporate writing program? 

how to create an online business writing course for your company

Are you an individual looking to choose an individual course? 

how to choose a course as an individual  

 

 

  Create program for your company

Chapter 2.1

6 Steps to Create a Custom Corporate Program

 

Are you thinking of creating a custom writing education program for your employees?

This section covers how to build a custom program in six steps.

At the end of this chapter, you will have a roadmap for the next steps to create a custom program. You can always contact us if you have any additional questions.

 

Step 1 - Create Project Brief

The first step is to outline what your objectives are for the program. The section above outlines how to identify your project goals, team’s weaknesses, and strengths. Expand on this to create your project brief. This brief should detail the requirements for your organization.

A project brief will help you clarify not only what you are looking for but help companies bidding to understand what you are looking for.

We know you have choices, but when the time comes, we hope you will contact us to review your project needs.

 

Step 2 - Outline “Unique Requirements”

We find each custom program has what we call “unique requirements.” These are elements that are distinct to your project. Make sure to identify these beforehand and ensure the course is built to support these.

Here are a few examples of unique course requirements we have helped design:

  • Industry-specific elements
  • Company writing models
  • Scalability of the course to multiple geographic areas
  • Integration with internal training programs
  • Specific reporting, tracking, and registration
  • Document compliance for regulatory board review
  • Coaching for major documents
  • Individual coaching and mentoring
  • Ongoing educational program

 

Step 3 - Create Evaluation Criteria

The next step is to decide what criteria you will use to evaluate your training options. We have created a helpful rubric to aid in structuring your decision-making process. Notice we have chosen value instead of price. The lowest cost option does not always offer the best value.

 

Use This Rubric To Evaluate

The rubric helps to visualize your evaluation in a structured manner. Score each item on a scale of one to four. One being the lowest score and four being the highest. You can download and print a high definition PDF version of the rubric here.

 

Choosing a Business Writing Course Rubric

Download PDF Printable Version of Rubric 

 

Content of Course

Content is comprehensive to the needs of the project. It is organized logically and focuses on employee outcomes as outlined in the project brief.

 

Industry Expertise

The company has experience in our industry. They understand the needs and challenges specific to our sector. They have worked with similar companies in our industry and size.

Additionally, the company specializes in business writing, rather than general training.

 

Instructors

The instructors have both academic and practical knowledge of business writing specifically. There are enough instructors to meet our needs.

See the section below on how to evaluate an instructor in more depth.

 

Delivery

The course uses multiple methods of instruction and interaction to reach learning outcomes. The learning management system (LMS) is easy to use and flexible enough to meet our needs.

 

Ability to serve “Unique Requirements”

Ability to accommodate unique needs has been demonstrated. The company is clear about how the training will accommodate these challenges.

Verify that the company will interview some of your employees and review actual work documents. This will confirm that the training will truly meet your unique requirements.

 

Value

The course offers a positive return on investment. It offers the best course for our employees at a fair price.

 

Bonus: How to Calculate ROI - It’s easy to calculate the ROI of our courses. We created a calculator that lets you adjust the salary of your employees and the potential decrease in the time they spend writing. Then the calculator will show the ROI on your new business writing program.

 

Step 4 - Interview, Evaluate, and Select

During the next stage, you want to use your unique evaluation criteria to review the course options. This is a time to talk with the provider and iron out details. Make sure to discuss outcomes, timeline, and budget. Once you have selected the training provider, they can start designing your custom program.

 

Step 5 - Design Course

The fifth step is for the company to create the program. They should work with you to ensure all project criteria are met. This phase should be collaborative between both parties.

 

Step 6 - Kickoff and Execution

Once the course development is complete, it is time launch the program. You can start enrolling students and tracking results. Periodically it is important to evaluate the program and make updates where necessary.

 

Single Enrollment vs. Ongoing

Depending on your business, you may need just one enrollment period or an ongoing registration. This decision will be dependent on your size, timeline, hiring process, and budget.

Make sure to discuss what option is best for your business. Feel free to contact us to help design your custom program.

 

In person workshops and classes

We also offer in-person business writing workshops. These are highly interactive and focus on sample documents and exercises. Training can be taught in one day or multiple sessions or broken up over time.

You can learn more about our onsite classes here.

 

 Chapter 2.2 Choose best business writing course

Chapter 2.2

Choosing an online course as an Individual

 

Choosing an online class can be overwhelming. With so many courses you need to be able to identify what course will put you ahead at work.

If you already completed the exercise in the first section you already have a list with:

  1. Your Goals
  2. Your Strengths
  3. Your Weaknesses

 

Ask For The Outline

When looking at courses make sure to review the course outline. Make sure that it addresses all the weaknesses you have written down on your list. Look for a comprehensive course that uses multiple methods for teaching the contact.

 

Review Instructor Interaction

Look for courses that allow individual interaction with an instructor. This will allow you to ask questions and gain more actionable feedback.

The instructor should not only provide feedback on your writing but also on your skills as a writer.

Students often rate their one-on-one interaction with their instructor as one of the most valuable parts of our web based courses.

Ask how much interaction you will get with the instructor and what their feedback will look like. You can download an example of our instructor feedback here. LINK

We go into more detail on how to choose an instructor in chapter five.

 

Course Structure & Quality

You won’t be able to view the course in its entirety before buying, but there are a few ways to evaluate the structure and quality. Chapter four details how to review the structure of a course.

For quality try to dig deeper than the course outline. Ask if you can watch a sample lesson or view a video that highlights parts of the course.

You can also look at the quality of the articles that they publish on their blog. This is often indicative of the quality of content creation in the course.

 

Testimonials

Review testimonials from the course. Look for individuals that hold similar learning goals as you. If they publish course reviews, read through both the best and worst scoring reviews. As an alternative to reviews, you will often find companies release results from their post-course evaluations. These evaluations may be more valuable as reviews are often given by individuals that had a very good or very poor experience.

 

Schedule a Discussion

Scheduling a discussion can help answer any remaining questions. See if they have a phone number where you can call or schedule a call. Make sure to create a list of questions before the call.

 

Find a Course

Make sure to review multiple courses to ensure you are choosing the right one. Providers often have multiple courses that address different learning objectives. In the next chapter, we review our business writing courses and detail the differences between each offering.

 

 

Chapter 3

Types of Courses

 

Note on Customization

For companies, we can customize any of the courses listed below or work with you to create a unique course. Please see the Chapter 2.1 above about how to create a custom corporate program.

Below is a short overview of the most popular business writing courses offered online and in-person.

After 19 years we have determined ten courses that cover almost every aspect of business writing. If you are interested in a course that is not listed below, you can let us know on our contact page.

 

 

Effective Business Writing Techniques

This course is our most popular online business writing course. It teaches you a process to write faster and more effectively. It covers all major documents in business writing. This course is offered online and can be customized for groups.

View Course

Download Outline

 

Effective Business Writing for Non-Native Writers

This course is similar to the Effective Business Writing course, but it is focused on teaching non-native writers. All the instructors have experience in teaching adult English-as-a-second-language students. This course has an increased focus on syntax and sentence structure that is used in business English. It is offered for individuals and multilingual teams.

View Course

Download Outline

 

Executive Summary Writing

Our online executive summary writing course teaches how to distill long and complex documents into succinct and actionable executive summaries. It focuses on strategic business writing techniques that are necessary for many analytical and management positions.

View Course

 

Technical Report Writing

Report writing is key to many technical industries. This course instructs you the optimal report writing process for increased speed and accuracy. Participants at some of the world’s top companies have taken this course. It is a practicum course where participants work on an actual report from their job with guidance from their instructor.

View Course

Download Outline

 

Proposal Writing

This course teaches how to write proposals that win more business. The course focuses on a process to plan and organize your proposal. It is a practicum course where participants plan and write an actual proposal from their job. They will receive instructor review and feedback while creating an actual work proposal.

View Course

Download Outline

 

Business Writing Skills Course with Major Document Coaching

This course is designed for mid-to-senior level business executives responsible for writing unique or especially important documents. This may include performance appraisals, regulatory reports, sales email templates, etc. The course includes an online course and individual coaching to focus on the document you are writing.

View Course

 

Business Grammar

The Business Grammar course focuses on how to use correct business grammar. It is an ideal complement to our Non-Native Effective Business Writing course. It focuses on teaching a process to reduce errors and minimize time spent correcting.

View Course

Download Course Outline 

 

Managing Information Flow

This course is for individuals who feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they needed to review and process for their job. It focuses on improving your workflow for gathering and recording information. Then we will discuss how to streamline the process of archiving, analyzing, retrieving, and synthesizing information.

View Course

 

Professional Email Writing Course Online

Workplace email doesn’t have to be a huge time drain. Our online email writing course teaches a process to manage your inbox more effectively. We teach methods to reduce the time you spend writing emails and make them more effective.

View Course

Download Course Outline

 

Proofreading Course

Our proofreading course is designed for business people responsible for proofreading business documents. The course teaches a step-by-step process for proofreading and then provides instruction on common business grammar issues. This includes important topics like gender considerations in business writing.

View Course

Download Course Outline

 

Personal Coaching

If you are a rising executive looking to advance your career, then coaching may be the most convenient approach for you. We offer three coaching packages that are customized to your needs. You can view our coaching programs below.

View coaching packages

 

 

Chapter 4

Course Structure Analysis

 

Why is Pedagogy Important?

Pedagogy is the theory and practice of how to best teach. This is important because it dictates how your online course is structured.

You want to ensure courses are developed by experts in both the content and adult learning theories.

As an adult, you learn differently than a child. Our courses are based on Robert Gagne’s theory of adult education. Our courses are designed for high-performance individuals in professional industries.

Here are the essential elements to look for in the structure of a course.

 

Feedback

Instructor feedback is the most valuable part of an online course. It ensures that you get personalized feedback and support that will change the way you write at work. Make sure to carefully review the level of engagement that you will receive throughout your course.

Don’t assume all courses come with instructor feedback. Many courses do not offer detailed feedback.

Don’t accept merely submitting a document you’ve written at work for instructor feedback. That feedback will be language editing only. You want feedback that is more holistic, which addresses your ability to assess your audience, plan a document, present relevant content, organize it well, sequence it appropriately, extract what is truly important, and assess the words you use and the way you use them. You want more than mere editing.

Much better is receiving feedback on your writing based on a scenario. This will allow your instructor to assess your planning, organization, sequencing, and the words you choose and how you use them.

Demand a full, holistic review of your writing, not a mere edit.

Instructors should also use this time to expand the lessons and include supplemental resources based on your writing.

Ideally, you are also receiving full support for the duration of your course.

Most importantly you want to look for a course that offers feedback to your goals and you as a writer. Verify that the course asks you submit your course goals. To become an advanced business writer, you need feedback on your skills as a writer that is specific to your goals. Specific goals allow your instructor to provide feedback that will immediately improve your writing at work.

Individual feedback of is the most important ways to hone your business writing skills, so make sure it’s meaningful.

 

Varied methods of Instruction

It is important that there are multiple methods of instruction in the course. This makes the material easier to understand and ensures participants stay engaged. Below we include the methods of instruction we include in our courses.

  • Video Examples - Video walkthroughs show step-by-step the skills being taught.
  • Model Writing - Mock writing allows you to apply new concepts in an optimal situation. This is an excellent way to practice new concepts.
  • Discussion - Discussion is an opportunity to test new ideas and explore complexities of the content.
  • Case Studies - The case method was pioneered at Harvard Business School. Using case studies allows students to reflect on the situation and explore alternative actions and outcomes.
  • Scenario-based exercises - These exercises focus on learning by doing. These exercises are practical and focus on solving real world problems.
  • Written Text - Written text is used throughout the course to teach major writing concepts.
  • Visual Infographics - Graphics can aid the explanation of a concept that is difficult to understand through written text.
  • Document Models - Annotated examples of weak and strong typical documents illustrate challenges and improvements.
  • Current business writing research and best practices - We also provide links to current research and best practices published by educational institutions and colleagues we trust. This content augments the course material.
  • Presentations - Slide presentations allow information to be taught in a chronological manner with visual aids.
  • Annotated Documents - Annotated documents help you get personalized feedback on your writing. These are key to identifying and correcting the mistakes you make in your writing.
  • Quizzes - Quizzes not only test that you understand a concept but help cement recently learned material. They also link directly back to the material if your score indicated more help is needed.
  • Individual Feedback - Individual feedback ensures you fully apply what you learn to your writing.

 

Class Size

It is important to ask the class size of the course you are taking.

All our online courses are individually paced and instructed. This allows you to progress at your preferred pace and interact as needed with your instructor.

 

Job Aids

In addition to learning materials, some courses offer example materials to help you after the course. We call these job aid documents. They are quick reference guides that you can print out and keep at your desk. They ensure you are reminded of key concepts taught during the course. Each of our courses comes with multiple job aids.

 

Post-Purchase Support

Does your learning stop after the course is completed?

Our courses offer vetted support after the course. This ensures you successfully apply your new writing skills to your day-to-day work.

For example, ongoing support after our courses includes:

  • One year of question and answer support via email.
  • Monthly business writing newsletter for clients.
  • Client-only web form to submit ongoing business writing questions.
  • Access to exclusive webinars

 

How are the Courses Taught?

Online courses are delivered in our learning management system (LMS), which allows you flexible login access, and links to all integrated resources. This allows us to track, support, and assess your writing properly. Our online courses allow you or your team to train any time, pace, or place.

 

In-Person Seminars and Workshops Structure

We offer onsite training for corporate groups. These allow you to train a group of individuals at the same time. We have presented customized workshops to companies around the world. If you are interested in an onsite training, please see this page.

In the next chapter, we will walk through how to evaluate the instructor who will be teaching your course.

 

Chapter 5

Evaluating Instructors

 

The secret to our courses effectiveness is the instructors who teach them.

An outstanding instructor is the difference between a good course and an outstanding course.

The instructor's teaching and feedback will be key to your success. For this reasons, it is important to evaluate the instructor you will be working with.

If you are creating a corporate writing program, it is important also to evaluate the scalability of the company you work with. Will their staff be able to handle increasing enrollment numbers without compromising quality?

We thought the best way to help you evaluate an instructor is to share what we look for when hiring an instructor.

Here are the requirements for our staff.

 

Theoretical and Practical Experience

It is important to us that our instructors have both a deep academic and professional background in writing generally and business writing specifically. This ensures that they understand both the theory and the application of writing in business today.

 

Similar Industry Experience

Business writing differs depending on the application and industry. We look for instructors that have a diverse background of industry experience. This ensures we can staff business writing experts in all major industries. To see the industries we have worked with before please view our client list

 

Content Knowledge

Outstanding instructors have a comprehensive understanding of their area of instruction. When we hire instructors, we look for successful college-level teachers.

 

Communication Skills

The teacher must be able to organize and articulate their ideas clearly. They must be able to clearly answer questions and explain concepts through a variety of approaches. To be engaging, they must be passionate about the topic.

And, they must be warm and caring.

You can view the bios of our instructors on each course page as they are unique to the course subject.

 

Is there Instructor Feedback?

Once you have vetted your instructor, review the level of interaction you will have.

Many courses fail to provide the opportunity for you to work with the instructor.

We have different instructors who support specific courses and student types. This ensures that your instructor has both practical and theoretical expertise in the course material.

We offer a detailed biography on each course page about the instructors that teach that course. Our instructors all have years of academic and business experience. If you have any question about which instructor you will be working with, please feel free to contact us. We are here to help.

 

 

Chapter 6

Smart Questions You Should Ask

 

These are some of the best questions we have been asked by individuals and companies when looking to choose an online business writing class.

As an example, we have provided a brief answer below each. These are different than our frequently asked questions which can be found here.

 

Can you create a custom course for my business?

Pro Tip: If you are choosing a custom course, make sure they can teach to industry-specific topics.

Our Answer: We offer custom business writing programs that are available both online and onsite. We have worked with some of the largest companies in the world to develop business writing programs for their employees. You can contact us about a custom program.

 

Can you scale courses for large corporations?

Pro Tip: If you have a large company make sure that the provider can scale the number of students enrolled without decreasing quality.

Our Answer: We have worked with major companies to provide online courses to thousands of corporate participants.

 

Have you worked with all the companies listed on your website?

Pro Tip: Some companies list logos of companies when they’ve worked with an individual employee of that company only. This is misleading and does not mean they worked directly with the company. Make sure to ask if they have actually worked with all the companies listed on their website.

Our Answer: Yes! We have worked with all the companies on our representative client list – and more – to create custom business courses.

 

Can I speak with a reference?

Pro Tip: If you are signing up for an individual course, testimonials are probably enough to make your decision. If you are choosing a provider for a custom business program, then asking for comparable corporate references may be important.

Our Answer: Yes, you can view our testimonials here or contact us to speak with a reference.

 

Can I see what your instructor feedback looks like?

Pro Tip: You want to look for individual feedback that goes beyond proofreading your documents. Look for feedback that focuses on improving the writer not just their writing.

Our Answer: Yes, you can download and see our real instructor feedback. It includes both an objective and subjective review of your work. Download an example of instructor feedback here.

 

If I have a question can I call you?

Pro Tip: Not every company offers full support for their courses.

Our Answer: You can call us before, during, or after your course with a question. Our number is: 1-609-683-8100.

 

What other companies have you worked with?

Pro Tip: Look for businesses and case studies that are in your industry.

Our Answer: You can see our client list organized by industry here 

 

What resources do you offer after the course?

Pro Tip: Your education shouldn’t end after the course. Make sure to ask if you will receive continuing resources after the course.

Our Answer: We offer multiple resources for clients after their course is completed. You have access to our exclusive client-only monthly newsletter. It includes in-depth articles, writing tips, and further training.

As a client, you have the ability to request clarification on a particular writing topic for the next newsletter.

We also offer clients continuing question and answer support for one year after the course. This ensures your new skills are being fully transferred to your work.

 

There are more questions in our online writing course FAQ page.

 

About Us and Next Steps

We have been delivering online business writing courses since 1998, following optimal online and adult learning principles. We develop all content ourselves, based on our expert credentials and ongoing research. You can be confident these are the best online business writing courses available.

 

Key Outcomes

  • Proven results from thousands of participants
  • Specific instructor feedback linked to course goals ensures skill gains
  • Interactive, tracked training delivered to a global audience
  • Train anytime, pace, or place

 

See why Instructional Solutions has been an industry leader since 1998:

 

 

Sign Up for A Course

View our full menu of business writing courses here. If you are not sure what is best for you, we recommend scheduling a free consultation. Don’t worry these are “no-sales-calls” where we help you understand what your options are. You can schedule a call here. Or, call us at 609-683-8100.

 

Create a Custom Employee Program

If you are looking to create a custom corporate business writing program for your employees, it is best to contact our founder, Mary Cullen. Set up a time to discuss creating a program here. Or, call us at 609-683-8100.