Online Options for Increasing Knowledge and Skills
by Robin Feinland and Jacquie Clermont
One of the best ways to explain those troublesome resume gaps is to say you’ve been “taking courses to update my skills.” Fortunately, there are more options today than ever before for updating skills and picking up new ones. Online courses cost little to nothing and can also provide resume-enhancing certifications.
Online courses usually combine a mix of video lectures, quizzes, online discussion forums, and peer-assessed assignments. They can be live, with new modules appearing at regular times and assignment deadlines, or available on demand. The live classes, which also include interaction with instructors and the sometimes thousands of other students around the world, fall under the category of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. Both types of courses offer a good amount of flexibility, and you typically have a week to listen to the lectures and complete the assignments.
One of the most well known providers of online courses is Coursera, offering primarily MOOCs and a few on-demand courses. Like other similar platforms, Coursera provides free online courses to anyone, in partnership with universities and organizations around the world. Although courses are free, some offer the option to pay for a Verified Certificate to obtain formal recognition for course completion, and this costs $49. There are hundreds of courses covering a variety of subject areas. A sampling of business-related topics includes Marketing, Business Writing, Financial Accounting, Entrepreneurship, and Project Management. A course called Enhance Your Career and Employability Skills started in June.
Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX provides a wide selection of free online courses, some available on demand, some MOOCs. There is a full course schedule that includes many business-related and technology-related courses, as well as several humanities offerings. The list of partners includes “name-brand” schools worldwide: Columbia, Berkeley, and Sorbonne. Companies, such as Microsoft, and organizations, such as the w3schools, also provide classes. edX is nonprofit, so you can sign up for most classes for free; edX asks for a $10 contribution. Certification fees are nominal; this author paid $90 for a Bootstrap certification. Also, according to the experience of this author, course quality is good to outstanding.
One of the best online resources for specific skill development is lynda.com, which offers access to more than 3000 courses for a monthly or annual fee – about $20. Course offerings are heavy on computer skills, including programs, such as Photoshop and InDesign, and web-building technology. There are also business-related offerings, such as time management. The courses are available on demand.