The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And in some cases, the stuff that I learned in school has changed. I’m still scratching my head about Pluto not being a planet. And don’t get me going on nutritional changes. All this just makes me do more research, which often leads to online courses.
Disclosure: Some of the items with a mean that at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Here are some of my suggestions when looking for courses:
- Figure out what you need to learn. Your time is finite so make sure you’re learning something that benefits you now.
- Allocate enough time for the course including practice time.
- Try to watch sample videos to get an idea of the teacher’s style and knowledge.
- See if there are any apps that allow you to download content to a device for offline viewing.
- Look at reviews from other students. What were their likes and dislikes.
- If you’re looking at a membership service, see if a trial is available.
- Determine if you want to own the course or have access via a membership. With memberships, you might only have access to the content while you’re an active member.
- Look for when the course was created or in the case of software, which version was used.
- If you’re taking a professional development course, check if CEU or certifications are offered.
Online Learning Platforms
These are online services that I have used and offer a large selection of courses.
Approximate courses: 6,200
I’ve had a subscription to Lynda.com for many years starting when it was independent. They are now owned by LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft. In the last couple of years, they’ve expanded their course offerings to be more than graphic arts and programming.
They now include weekly series such as Productivity Pointers and Time Management Tips. I find the courses to be well structured and there are certain authors I really like. They offer subscription plans on either a monthly or yearly basis. I tend to do monthly for the time I need to complete a course or track. Otherwise, I could spend my whole time in there and not apply what I’ve learned. They usually offer a free trial so you can get a good feel for the service.
Also, check with your public library as they may have a subscription plan that allows you to access Lynda.com courses. Or, your library may have another service.
Approximate courses: 55,000
I think they come out with courses sooner on new topics or technologies. However, I find the caliber of instructors varies more than competing services. Some course authors start here and then go on to develop their own courses. I’ve bought some great courses that I still reference and others I’ve not completed.
One nice feature is they have a mechanism where the authors can send you notices like updates. I also find the comments and feedback people leave to be very helpful when researching courses as you might have numerous competing courses. They also offer lots of “specials” where the course price drops for a certain time duration so you don’t have to pay full price. I tend to “favorite” courses that interest me and then buy when I notice a sale.
Approximate courses: 2,000
Coursera takes a more structured approach to teaching and the courses tend to be more academic with courses lasting between 4 and 10 weeks.. This makes sense as it was started by two computer science professors from Stanford University. They put one of their classes online and had lots of takers. Since then, many universities have put course curriculum online. The array of courses is impressive as well as partner institutions. Over 25 million people have enrolled.
Each course has a nice description along with teacher bios, syllabus, and expected time commitment. There are different pricing options and benefits. For example, you may view lectures for free, but not receive any course credit. It’s also best for people that will set aside the time to do the coursework. For example, I enrolled in a course from Duke University but didn’t complete. I can’t just pick it back up but have to enroll again when it becomes available. Some classes also offer language subtitles.
The price structure depends on whether you’re enrolling in a single course, specialization or online degree.
Approximate courses: 1,500
This service provides curated workshops on a variety of subjects. While most are for creatives, there is a whole category for Money & Life. (Sorry, that category made me think of the great Jack Benny routine with a similar name.) Humor aside, there are lots of topics within that category.
I first became acquainted with them through John Jantch who runs Duct Tape Marketing. He announced to his readers that he was doing a course. What was interesting is that if you watched the on-air broadcast, you didn’t have to pay. You can also view upcoming free classes.
These are sites that tend to specialize and have fewer courses. In most cases, you buy a course, but some of them are free.
Everyone has a different style of learning. I happen to like platforms that are interactive and allow you to practice what you’ve learned. It’s one reason I like to include sample spreadsheets. But, the folks at Automate Excel do a fantastic job. They have a number of lessons on formulas, functions, and VBA. The site offers a nice selection of free interactive content. You don’t even need to own Excel. It’s best if you create an account as you can track your progress, but this isn’t necessary.
Excel With Business
As the name suggests, this UK firm first specialized in Microsoft Excel but have expanded their catalog to include other Microsoft products and competing programs like Google Sheets.
There are lots of Excel classes, but one tool that stood out to me was their assessment filter. It took about 10 minutes and asked my familiarity with certain aspects of Excel so it could judge my skill level. Based on my answers the course syllabus would change. This meant I didn’t have to view lessons where I felt I had expertise. I could still go back and take any section that the system had skipped. They are also one of the few programs I’ve seen where you can become a member or buy a course.
One downside is that you can’t always preview content to get an idea of the teacher’s style. To counter that, the company does offer a 30-day refund or exchange. They also link out to their TrustPilot page so you can see what other students said about the courses.
This site is run by a well-known Microsoft MVP, Jon Acampora. MVP stands for “Most Valuable Professional” and Microsoft defines them as “technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community.” If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ve seen me reference his tutorials in past issues. The site is top-notch and he offers more than just courses. He also has a popular YouTube channel. If you want to level up your Excel education and master things like VBA, Pivot Tables, Power BI etc, check his site out. However, his classes typically have defined enrollment periods so you may have to wait a bit before it opens up again.
5 Days To Your Best Year Ever
Over the years, I’ve gone through a lot of goal setting courses, services, and software. I expected this course to be similar. It’s not, which is good because the previous ones I tried had limited success. One early concern I had on this one was the reference to “5 Days”. Fortunately, it’s self-paced so you can do it in 5 days or 5 hours. It’s up to you. The only thing that has a hard deadline is the purchase date. You can only purchase the course during a small time window in December. If you miss that date, you have to wait until next year’s course.
What I liked about this course is the flexible structure. In particular, each day has a ~20 min video, transcript and worksheet (action plan) with a series of exercises. The lessons are presented in a logical fashion. As a side note, the worksheets are editable PDF files. My suggestion if you use them in this manner (as opposed to printing) is to make a copy and then fill in your answers.