The older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know. And in some cases, the stuff 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 makes me do more research, which often leads to online courses.
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.
- Watch sample videos to understand the teacher’s style and knowledge.
- Does the video player allow you to speed up video playback?
- See if any apps 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.
LinkedIn Learning (AKA Lynda.com)
I no longer recommend LinkedIn services because of security and customer support issues. I’m saddened to write this because I’ve taken many of their courses. I know some of their instructors and employees. However, I encountered an issue with their two-factor authorization system not sending the required security codes. Instead of researching why the system no longer works, the company insists I either send them a scanned photo ID or mail a notarized letter.
Approximate courses: 100,000
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 constructive when researching courses as you might have numerous competing courses. They also offer lots of “specials” where the course price drops for a specific duration, so you don’t have to pay full price. I tend to “favorite” courses that interest me and buy them when I notice a sale.
Approximate courses: 7,000
Coursera takes a more structured approach to teaching, and the courses tend to be more academic, lasting between 4 and 10 weeks. This makes sense as two computer science professors started it at Stanford University. They put one of their classes online and had lots of takers. Since then, many universities have put course curricula online. The array of courses is impressive, as well as partner institutions. Over 25 million people have enrolled.
Each course has an excellent 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 it. I can’t just pick it back up but must register again when it becomes available. Some classes also offer language subtitles.
The price structure depends on whether you enroll in a single course, specialization, or online degree.
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 several lessons on formulas, functions, and VBA. The site offers an excellent selection of free interactive content. You don’t even need to own Excel. It’s best to create an account, as you can track your progress, but this isn’t necessary.
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.
This personal development site has been a favorite of mine for years. I first became acquainted when they did book abstracts called Philosophers Notes. Throughout the years they have built upon those reviews and linked them with classes and micro-lessons so you can dive deeply into an area. Presently, they have 35 categories and have covered 600 books. I did an Optimize.ME review which provides more details.