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.
LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com)
Approximate courses: 15,000
I’ve had a subscription to Lynda.com for many years, starting when it was independent. They are now owned by LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns. 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 specific 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 there and not apply what I’ve learned.
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: 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 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: 3,900
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 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 curriculum 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 have to register 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 Jantsch, 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 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.