Yes, there's a sucker born every minute

The Internet revolution has brought forth a glut of online entrepreneurs offering a variety of expedient methods to those seeking a better job or an advanced degree. So-called colleges — not affiliated with accredited institutions — and organizations hawk all manner of certifications and credentials. One’s resume can be upgraded without the accompanying workplace experience. Degrees from high school to the doctorate can be earned without ever stepping into a traditional classroom.

These programs are enticing, seductively designed with grandiose claims of upgrading one’s career and earning power. A word of caution: it is important to read the fine print before embarking on what may seem an expedient way to achieve a long-held goal or dream. Any decision requires serious inquiry about the credibility and efficacy of the process involved since it is apt to require considerable expense and may not meet initial expectations. Online and distance learning also have provided fodder for new fields of endeavors that seem to proliferate daily.

Courses run the gamut. One can earn a certificate as a financial coach, creativity coach, organizational coach, diversities coach and — the most grandiose title — life coach. The later type of coaching has become so popular that a quick Internet search brings up over 10 million entries.

So-ordained life coaches are becoming commonplace in the field of education, offering to organize errant children and, in some cases, virtually co-parent. Working with disorganized students, they may plan schedules, clean out backpacks and make sure assignments are completed and submitted. Students with diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder have been particular beneficiaries of such services. The online “Coach U” is a major source of training and certification for life coaches. Coach U claims to be “the leading provider of global coach training programs.” Online classes are available from the basics to techniques of establishing a successful business.

”After completing this foundational program, novice coaches may upgrade into Coach U’s advanced coaching program or corporate Coach U’s advanced corporate coaching program to learn personal, business and corporate advanced skill.” One wonders about the selectivity of entrants and what prior experience they bring to the field. Life coaching remains a controversial endeavor as minimal standards exist and little professional oversight is available. Yet, at some schools, recommending a life coach has become fashionable as a means of supporting students in danger of failing. Charging upwards of $250 an hour, some schedule three or four sessions a week.

Whether such life coaching actually works and should take the place of more traditional methods of therapy and remediation is questionable. This not to say all practitioners in this new and burgeoning field cannot deliver but just it is very important to make an informed decision before commencing a service.

Years ago, I enrolled my daughter in a questionable program that guaranteed it would teach her to read. She was and is dyslexic, and as a person well versed in effective multi-sensory methods of teaching, nevertheless, at considerable expense, she undertook a year of so-called ophthalmologic training, which is not sanctioned by most ophthalmologists. Needless to say, little on no progress was achieved. More sessions were prescribed and valuable time lost until she began to be tutored by someone recommended through the local branch of the Orton Dyslexia Society.

Every Sunday morning, my daughter was tutored by someone who knew teaching reading to a dyslexic student required a specific skill set not required to teach in a regular classroom. In a similar vein, college counseling sites abound over the Internet. One promises acceptance to an Ivy League college at a cost of $15,000. If a student is not accepted into the first or second choice school, they are promised a full refund.

Translated into Chinese, it is obvious the program hopes to tap the vast Asian market of international students hoping to study in the United States. International student applicants have long employed consulting firms to help navigate the complicated admissions process to schools in the United States.

What is different, however, is the guarantee by self-ordained Internet-based specialists that profess the power to manipulate and determine decisions that are actually made by committee in a painstaking month-long process at a far lesser cost.

Those who choose to sign up for an online program and those partaking of online resources to upgrade themselves need to be extra careful. A glitzy Web site and shallow testimonials may not tell the whole story. Fortunately, many established colleges and universities are now offering distanced learning over the Internet. In the immortal words attributed to everyone from P.T. Barnum to W.C. Fields, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” That sucker need not be you or your child.