The second best practice I want to mention here is making sure your expectations of taking an online course are somewhat aligned with the program you sign up for. I say "somewhat" since there is no program out there that can meet one's expectations entirely. We all have to bend a bit- that's reality. How much? That's a different matter.
So here is how to approach expectations:
1) Read every bit of information you can on the institution's course outline, their policy and procedures, schedule, study costs and more... . For instance, UMA offers a prospective student a clear prospectus concerning the course. You can find most of what we are about and the UMA course on the left hand navigation of the homepage (see: http://unitedmontessori.com).
2) What are the teacher's expectations? This is a tough one. Some schools list the expectations upfront on their website. Others, want you to contact them with specific questions you may have based upon your individual needs. You know your lifestyle better than anyone and will it fit the time, effort and interest necessary to take a particular course? When in doubt, contact the school and talk with someone.
3) What sort of support does the staff offer? This is crucial. Some schools consider themselves just that: Distant. The less they hear from you the better. They are offering you a course, an instructor and perhaps a certification or degree. That is it. For some, that is all they want. Others like, almost require, more frequent communication from the teacher, school or prof. Bottomline, you have to know your learning style and what you prefer when it comes to support. My personal bias is that most of us want to know there is someone on the other end of a phone or there is a quick turn-around time via email. The more interaction or interactivity with a program is usually better.