Like most people, I consider myself a life-long learner. Though I wouldn’t necessarily put myself in the university environment again (I just talked myself out a Masters), I still love learning. Since becoming a freelancer, one of the ways I have been fighting against imposter syndrome is by doing a lot of learning online. One of the best things about the internet is how much access we have to an innumerable amount of information.
There are a lot of unnecessary politics around what qualifies as “real education”. However, not all learning is valuable just because there is a certificate or diploma attached to it. Much of what I’ve learned of late has been incredibly valuable and I certainly don’t need a certificate to prove it! If you’re thinking about doing some online learning but don’t know where to start, here are 6 of my favourite ways to learn online.
Alison is a free online global learning community geared towards gaining essential and certified workplace skills. According to one of their recent survey’s more than 14% of their graduates got a new job, promotion or college placement from taking one of their courses. What I love about Alison, other than the freeness, is how there are courses on-demand, so you can take them at your own pace.
Through a series of slides, you can learn lots of information about a given topic. There is a quiz at the end of every course helping you test your knowledge, but it also helps students better retain what they just learned. There are diploma programs in addition to certified courses. You can get an official copy of your diploma or certificate, for a fee. Alison is best suited for people looking to gain a background in certain subjects or through their diplomas, more targeted knowledge.
Treehouse is actually my favourite. Though similar to Alison in style, they incorporate video presentations, rather than powerpoint style slides. Their main scholastic focus is on web development, but they also include courses on podcasts, entrepreneurship, and even social media.
You can take multiple courses in a series, called tracks, like “Starting a Business” or “Web Design,” or take courses individually. There are tests after a few videos, which if you do well, points are granted. One drawback of Treehouse is that it is not free, but I think if you run your own business there is value in a paid plan, as they constantly update their library with courses. This will help you constantly stay informed in a constantly changing industry, online business.
Though not exactly online per se because you can download them, I still count Ebooks. Usually, if I’m looking for a more in-depth look at a topic or want something to be able to refer to later, I’ll opt for an Ebook.
Many businesses, like Hubspot, will offer a free eBook on any marketing topic. The catch? You usually have to pony up your email address (though you don’t necessary have to sign up for their blog, though you should!) which is a small price to pay for one of their amazing Ebooks, or any of their resources for that matter.
Webinars are another resource for learning. What I like about them the most is they are a bit more targeted though general ones certainly exist. A lot of the time, they include some top-notch speakers who delve deeper into a topic and provide tips and tools to solve a problem related to the topic.
Though live webinars are an awesome because you get to ask the speakers your burning questions, many are on-demand. The main drawback of webinars is they almost always tend to be during the work day, so even if you freelance, that can be a valuable hour of your time. With on-demand webinars, you can tune in when you’re free, and still gain all the knowledge as if you tuned in live.
This one is a no-brainer, but I don’t think people really see it for what it is: an amazing, dynamic learning tool. Rather than list a bunch of blogs, though I follow many good ones, I think it’s better to focus on what blogs can teach you.
The greatest benefit of blogs is they’re almost always up to date. That said, beginner guides and how-to’s are timeless, and are almost always accessible through a blog's archive. My best advice is to find good blogs on the topic that most interests you, or that you’re most eager to learn about. Then, read them religiously and use the lessons, knowledge, resources and tools in your everyday life and business.
Course by Email Correspondence
Wait, what? You’re probably familiar with courses by correspondence because a TV character in your favourite show did it. Or at least, that’s how I know about it. So in a way this isn’t new. Nevertheless, a seemingly new trend seems to be emerging, and that’s learning through email.
The premise is simple. For example, I signed up for a 3 day course by The Muse. Each day the lesson varied and the “course material” was delivered right to my inbox. Most courses by email function in the same way. You sign up for a course by email. Each day you receive that day's lesson. Some email courses may include “homework” assignments and more resources. There are no tests, making it pretty low pressure. If passive learning is more your thing, I think this is an excellent option.