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Is online learning right for you?

September 2016 - One of the many challenges for business owners is keeping up with constantly changing systems and best practices. While there’s a plethora of blogs and other helpful content on the web, you may be facing the question in your business of whether you need a little more in-depth knowledge in a particular subject. If so, you might consider online learning.

Is Online Learning the Solution?

If your business is lacking, or falling behind in an area, seeking help is essential. Online learning may be the solution but first you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I hire the knowledge instead of pursuing it on my own? This can take the form of a consultant, freelancer, or full-time employee.
  • Can I hire the knowledge instead of pursuing it on my own? This can take the form of a consultant, freelancer, or full-time employee.
  • Do I have the time to dedicate to learning this new skill?
  • Am I looking for, or do I need, credit for this? Do you have a professional license that requires continuing education credits?
  • Does someone on staff currently have the knowledge or could I assign them the role of learning and then teaching the rest of the business?
  • Is there a local group, like a chamber, that can help me learn more about this subject?
  • Is this knowledge obtainable in a short webinar or will it require hours to master?
  • Is this something I (or the business) need in the long run or something temporary? If it’s temporary, you might be better served outsourcing it.
  • Does the subject matter interest me and am I willing to dedicate the time to learn it? Be honest about this. If you have no interest in the subject, or picking up additional skills/knowledge, you may be better off outsourcing it or making it a professional development goal for one of your employees.

Credible Sources for Online Learning

There are tons of online learning solutions, from formal degree programs to hobby learning. The prices range from free to several thousand dollars. Some online learning portals offer a subscription fee instead of a per class fee, while others price them by credit hours. Make sure you understand charges up front. If you’re not sure of your ability to make time for this additional learning, try a free online course first. Here are a few places for low-cost, quality online learning programs:

Udemy has more than 40,000 courses, many for between $12-20 a course. They are self-directed courses so you can learn at your own pace.

Lynda is a LinkedIn company. It offers a free ten-day trial. Lynda is a monthly subscription model and you can view as many online tutorials as you would like. It offers classes in marketing, HTML, design, business skills, and more.

edX allows you to access courses from top universities. Subject matter ranges from classes in programming to grammar. They have self-paced options and formal, deadline-driven classes. Many of them are free with an option to pay to receive certification.

Coursera also offers courses from top universities in data science, computer science, and social sciences. Coursera uses videos, quizzes, and projects to teach the materials. Courses are priced individually.

Khan Academy uses video to teach concepts at a self-directed pace with interactive exercises to assess mastery. Every course is free and they offer a wide variety of courses from beginner math to college-level economics.

MIT OpenCourseWare offers free access to course materials from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This includes lectures, lecture notes, homework assignments, and tests.

A Final Word About Online Learning

Before investing time or money into online learning make sure you’ve selected the best fit for you and your business. Understand the time required and the expectations of each course. Don’t forget there are many businesses that offer free webinars on important subject matter for small businesses, particularly in marketing. You can also look for how-to’s on YouTube. There are endless options for acquiring new skills so make sure you choose one in a format of your liking.

Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.