Level Up: Online Courses to Grow Professionally and Personally
by Kenneth Medford III
Knowledge is power. The majority, if not all of us, have heard this ad nauseam since we were kids. The unfortunate truth that parallels that nugget of cliché is knowledge (and the power associated with it) is gated behind debt incurring costs. Or is it? Outside of Twitter beef and YouTube drama, the interwebs is an awesome resource.
The internet is host to quite the collection of supplemental educational options to level up professionally or personally. We’re gonna break down a few of them.
Now, these may not be able to land you a major promotion or the job of your dreams alone but employers are starting to focus more on you having the skills, and not how you got them. This combined with an associate or bachelors from an accredited school or even a certificate from some online programs I’ll touch on here as well, you can find yourself with the edge you need to get into the career you want and get the raise you deserve.
Google Digital Garage
This is a personal favorite of mine. Considering how much of the internet is Google (which I’m totally not panicked about), being able to learn about AI, machine learning, digital marketing, etc from their own team holds quite a bit of weight. The digital marketing course, in particular, is a free, 40-hour course that sees those who complete it get official certification from Google.
Not just Google courses and products
More like an index, Google Digital Garage offers a variety of courses by other schools and websites that cover tangible concepts like coding, presented by Grasshopper to more abstract concepts like mindfulness for wellbeing and peak performance, presented by Monash University. Both these sites and the others available have more content on their individual sites as well which can kind of lead you down a supplemental education rabbit hole, but you can never know too much, right?
Overall, the Google Digital Garage is excellent for creating a foundation towards seeking a new career and comes with the tempting price tag of Free.99. Typically, the stress of spending money on something you may or may not even enjoy or have the aptitude for keeps so many people from taking that first step, but this lowers that barrier making it ideal for people looking to dip their toe in a new lane. . .pool. . .you get it.
This is definitely THE site when it comes to remote learning and supplemental education. Hosting the likes of Facebook, Intuit, Google (yep, they’re back again), and a host of others, you can gain skills for working with the biggest and most common platforms in a variety of businesses. My favorite part of their site is a fair combination of free and paid content.
Free Content at Coursera
As of this writing, there are 1802 results under the “take a free course” tab. Here are the top 6 subjects. And yes, I know 6 seems weird, but each subject has over 100 results so I figured it was worth noting.
Social Sciences (310)
Physical Science and Engineering (257)
Arts and Humanities (233)
Computer Science, including coding (127)
Basically, if you’re looking for skills that are going to get you into a new career, this is the move. No cost, comprehensive information that will educate you not only on a particular industry, but also give you enough insight to let you know if it is something you even want to truly pursue.
Paid Content on Coursera
For those with some extra bucks, there is a myriad of degree programs that can put you on a completely different level in your career. The University of London, the University of Michigan, and more offer the same knowledge you’d get from campus from the comfort of your own home. Comparatively speaking, you even get quite the discount. According to their site, you can see as much as a $30,000 difference between an on-campus experience and taking online courses.
Now, it’s not completely separate from the normal college experience. You do still need to be accepted into your program of choice, but you have the ability to start your courses ASAP, and whatever you complete before your acceptance counts towards your degree. You don’t have to worry about wasted time or losing progress in your quest for knowledge.
If you’re like me and spend an amount of time on Youtube that could be categorized as. . .mildly excessive, you’ve heard of Skillshare from your favorite Youtuber. For creatives and content creators, this is the place to be. Though they do have classes for business and technology, the true draw is from their creative and lifestyle courses. Animation, graphic design, music, culinary, crafts I mean, they really kill it when it comes to finding a new hobby, turning that hobby into a side hustle, and turning that side hustle into a career.
While there is a free option with Skillshare, the real meat comes from the paid account.
*Free (But not really) from Skillshare
When you sign up, you are given a free account and a 7-day trial of the premium membership because, you know, money is the motive. If you happen to catch a link via Youtube or a website like Skillscouter, you can usually extend it to 30 days. After that, you will find yourself extremely limited unless you’re looking for videos to improve your Skillshare classes.
Here, you have a choice. You can either pay $180 up-front for the year (which breaks down to $15/month) or you can pay $32/month. With month to month you can opt out whenever you see fit. With the premium subscription, you get unlimited access to ALL of their classes, the ability to download videos for offline learning, and discounts to other sites that may help with your newfound skills (like Squarespace).
My favorite feature here is definitely the community. With a premium account, you can actually get feedback on projects you post to continue your growth and possibly even find people to collaborate with. All and all, great bang for your buck that can create some cool networking opportunities as well.
Courses of Note from Skillshare
Photo & Film
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Finally, since we all spend so much time here anyway, we might as well learn something, right? With a premium LinkedIn membership, you have access to more education than one may ever truly need. With certificate prep courses for companies like Adobe, Cisco, Microsoft, Unity and so many more, you’ll be prepared for whatever, wherever you decide to go.
The division of available courses is also excellent. Be it business, creative, or technology you can find an almost innumerable amount of paths to take. It’s so well organized and accessible that if you’ve just heard of a topic (i.e. cloud computing) and know nothing about it, you’ll find more educational materials through LinkedIn than a Google results page.
Also, for those who keep an up-to-date profile, LinkedIn suggests courses based on the skills you have listed on your personal page. For instance, when I log in, I’m greeted with courses regarding copywriting, SEO (search engine optimization), and copy editing. This is an excellent feature that helps keep your skills fresh and ready for new opportunities.
From full-time, part-time, and online, General Assembly focuses on offering courses in the most in-demand fields from Product Management, Data Analytics, to UX Design, and Data Science.
Things to keep in mind before diving in
You may not NEED to take a new course or class to get to the next stage in your career. Consider talking to your supervisor or human resources department or a mentor to find the right next step. Career mapping is a great way to get focused and figure out what steps you should take to level up. Also, once you’ve found courses you’d like to take, search across ALL of the platforms and read reviews.
Keep learning and keep growing
I hope that you have been able to see that education doesn’t just come from traditional institutions and schools. (Although, even when it does, it can still be available online). If you want or need supplemental education to reach your goals, level up professionally, or switch to a new career, know that there are options out there at a variety of price points. Even if you just want to dip your toe into something new or become more familiar with a particular topic, you deserve access to the information you need to grow. Keep learning, folks. And keep growing.
Writer, rhymer, gamer: the easiest way to define the man known as Kenneth Medford. I’m a simple man who loves to learn and loves to help and I wander the digital world trying to find ways to sate my hunger for both. Basically, I’m Galactus but helpful.
Check out my other work here or reach out to me on LinkedIn.