This year Dea started taking some online courses. Some are for personal interest, but others are for school. The only online courses she's taking for school this year are Writing courses. Writing is her weakest area, and she gets a bit sensitive to any criticism toward her writing, from me. However, an online course allows someone else to handle the grading/assessing aspect, which she deals with much better.
There are many free Writing courses available online (as well as many free courses for other subjects). However, most don't really have what we're looking for. We need a course that actually has an instructor, someone who can offer advice & constructive criticism, as well as assess Dea's work. Many of the free online courses don't have that. They may provide you with required readings, assignments, rubrics, class notes, etc., but we need courses that have teachers, for Writing anyway.
She has been doing Writing classes at Universal Class, an online, continuing education school that we get free access to through our public library. I have to say that I don't find the classes to be very rigorous, unless you go a bit beyond what is asked. The instructors, at least the ones whose info pages I've read, are actually qualified in the areas they teach, which is a big plus. The best thing, though, is that each class has an instructor. So, I don't have to be the bad guy, giving constructive criticism about her writing.
She'll be taking a few other courses through there next year. Aside from the 2 Writing courses she'll be taking (each class has a max time limit of 6 months, so I require 2 for Writing each year), she'll be doing Government, Economics, Accounting, and Geology. All will be spines, with additional resources and work added by us. Gov & Econ will likely be supplemented the least. They will be supplemented on an as-needed basis. Though, Dea will be following the election, as well (that's why we're doing Gov this year). We have an entire Accounting program, plus several Accounting textbooks to supplement that course, and I'll be searching for some additional online resources, as well. Geology will be supplemented with additional reading, documentaries, and online resources. As for the Writing courses, I may supplement those, too. If I do it will be with online resources, as I already have her doing written assignments for other courses.
We do utilize many of the free courses available online, but they are just supplements for us, unless they are extra & not for a credit course. I simply don't feel that many of the available online free courses are complete, comprehensive, or rigorous enough to earn her a credit on her transcript. That's just my opinion, though. I don't mind that, either. It means that we can supplement, go more in-depth, personalize it a bit. As I've stated several times, I prefer it that way. I would rather utilize a less rigorous course that I can personalize, add to the areas we want/need to add to, go as in-depth as we want, making it more complete & rigorous. My problem with the expensive, 'complete' courses that may seem more rigorous, is that they never seem to meet our needs or what we're looking for.They may have too much emphasis in an area we don't feel needs much emphasis, not enough coverage of an area that needs more coverage, a strong bias that prevents any attempt at covering in a neutral way or that forces misinformation/missing information, or even teach in a way that is totally illogical and simply makes no sense for us.
Of course, there are some that may be great, but that I, for whatever reason, refuse to try. It could be that we have been less than impressed with other resources from the same company. It might be the price is simply too high to fit our budget. It might be that I consider it to be over-priced for what you get and would prefer to find another, more reasonably priced option. It could be that I simply don't have enough reliable reviews to get a feel for it. It's usually a combination of reasons, though.
So, we use UC because we have free access to it, it gives her the opportunity to learn from someone else & in a different way, and I can always supplement a course if we don't feel it is rigorous enough or is missing a specific element.