It always amazes me just how much free online training is out there for the taking. When you consider how much time people spend using the internet to scroll through Facebook and play Candy Crush, it’s hard not to suspect that opportunities for self-development are being squandered!
I can also see from my website stats that there’s typically a surge of people keen to learn something new every January. That’s why I’ve decided to put together an article to show you just how much you can learn online for free.
This is also the time of year where training companies tend to run some of their best promotions, so I shall discuss a couple of those too.
The Importance of Ongoing Training
The world doesn’t stand still. That means that if you do, in terms of your knowledge and skills, you’re likely to be left behind.
If you work in technology, there are always new versions of operating systems and new software packages coming out; If you’re a hairdresser, you need to keep on top of the latest trends and styles, and if you’re a virtual assistant, there’s always some new social network your clients will want to get themselves established on.
I could go on, but I imagine you get my point. There’s always something new to learn, and every course you complete lengthens your list of marketable skills. If you don’t learn the skills, someone else will, and they’ll be the people getting work while you’re sending out more and more unsuccessful applications.
So, with that in mind, let’s begin with some training opportunities that won’t cost you a single penny.
Free Online Training
The big tech firms definitely lead the way in free online training. While there are plenty of technical courses that involve class-based training and big price tags, there’s also an awful lot you can learn about (and put on your resumé) without spending any money or leaving the house.
Here are some examples:
An interesting option from Apple for any budding techies is the Everyone Can Code program. It centres on the Swift programming language, primarily used to create apps for iPhones and iPads, and is approachable enough for you to start with no existing knowledge.
It’s free to get involved and there are dozens of lessons online. There’s also a “Swift Playground” app, where you can try out the techniques.
If you’ve ever fancied getting involved in developing and creating apps, this is a great starting point. There’s also no disputing how marketable this skill is, with hundreds of roles out there for Swift programmers and lots of freelance opportunities.
(Side note: Whilst researching this article, I was a little disappointed that Apple no longer offer free training materials for the Apple Certified Associate program. I qualified in this a while back and it definitely helped me win IT support clients. It just goes to show that it’s worth grabbing these opportunities while they are there.)
Google offers all kinds of free online training. Particularly notable is the free training in Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is the tool website owners use to monitor their web traffic, to see where people come from, which pages they visit, how long they linger, and all kinds of other things. It’s a hugely sophisticated tool, and one that most users (myself included) only understand a fraction of.
The Analytics Academy training delves deeply into the service, giving you the opportunity to study it and become a certified expert. You could then market these skills independently or use them to offer an additional service as a virtual assistant.
It should be obvious how valuable this expertise can be. Companies of all descriptions have websites, and if you are an expert in Google Analytics, you’re in a position to explain how they’re being used and could be improved. A quick search on Upwork this morning found over 2000 freelance positions where Google Analytics knowledge was highlighted as a desirable skill.
Google’s also well worth a look for all kinds of other online training, and a good place to explore the options is here.
Microsoft’s free online training options are extensive. There are options for everyone, including small business owners, IT professionals and developers.
Whether you want to learn the ins and outs of Microsoft Windows, find out how to code games, or even learn about how angel investment and company funding works, there’s something to explore.
Needless to say, there are plenty of expensive Microsoft certifications available too, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by just how much material the company puts out there without asking for a dime.
Free Courses from Mainstream Universities
I’m a big fan of Coursera, a huge online training provider that offers free courses from prestigious colleges such as Duke, Yale and Stanford.
I’ve personally taken several courses from Coursera, covering everything from psychology to business writing, and am pleased to display the completion badges on my LinkedIn profile.
The way many Coursera courses work is that you can study for free, but then you pay an (optional) nominal amount if you wish to gain an official certification afterwards. This is good, because it means there are plenty of opportunities to benefit from world-class teaching without paying out. It’s entirely up to you if you want to pay for the kudos of the certification.
In recent times, Coursera has evolved significantly, and now offers multi-unit subject specialisations and even complete online degrees. For example, there’s a journalism specialisation for aspiring writers, and one for Microsoft Excel – something where there’s plenty of market demand for advanced-level knowledge.
Coursera is particularly worth a look during January, as it’s promotion time. There are various offers such as free trials and 10% off specialisations.
We’ve also put together a list of some specific Coursera courses that will particularly appeal to home workers and freelancers, and you’ll find that here.
A Special January Offer
Another training provider to look into this January is Udemy.
Udemy is very different from Coursera (in fact we discuss the pros and cons of each in detail and compare them here). Anyone can create Udemy courses, so the quality can be variable. However, if you’re careful to check reviews, you can access some incredibly cheap yet detailed courses delivered by great tutors.
You can find a list of some of our recommended Udemy courses here.
January is one of the best possible times to check out Udemy, because there are all kinds of promotions in place. They are doing two courses for less than $20 on certain courses, and lots of courses from $9.99. Even if you don’t plan to get started on a course straight away, you can still benefit from the offer and start work when you’re ready!
Making Time for Training
We all have very busy lives, so I accept it’s easy to feel you don’t have time to complete courses. However, as discussed above, if you don’t keep up to date with the skills you need, someone else will.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways in which these training providers help with that. Mobile apps are often available, allowing you to make use of time spent travelling or commuting. I’ve personally been exercising more this year, and use that time to learn from podcasts and audio recordings.
And – let’s be honest – whether it’s a regular reality TV show or 20 minutes of Candy Crush each day, there’s usually something we could drop and replace with some free online training – we just need to be honest with ourselves!
What are you going to learn to do this year? Let us know in the comments.