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Tech Matters: How to choose an online learning platform for 2022

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Jan 5, 2022

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Leslie Meredith

It’s that time of year when the future feels like a blank slate, full of possibilities. As we reflect on the past year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions to ensure 2022 will be better. And while so many factors around us feel out of our control, we can control what we do in our spare time. Prioritizing personal time to learn a new skill can open our horizons: advance our careers, develop a side hustle or gain life balance.

If you’re feeling stuck, you are not alone. According to a study by software firm Oracle and HR research firm Workplace Intelligence in October, three-quarters of people around the world feel stuck personally and professionally. We’re seeing record numbers of employees quit their jobs in search of more money, better benefits or more flexibility. Preparation is key and that’s where online learning can help.

There are a dizzying array of online courses hosted by numerous platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Codecademy, Udemy and Skillshare. Before you dive in to select the best platform for you, answer these two questions:

What am I trying to achieve? If it’s a skill that you want to add to your resume, it may be worth the money and time to pursue a certification that is recognized by your industry.

I recently interviewed Tim Killen, executive vice president for international logistics firm deugro group about choosing the most effective online learning program. “Identify training that covers key professional topics that are either relevant to current position or job description or to an aspirational role within the industry,” Killen said. “Ultimately it has to provide suitable career development opportunities and experience that would bring value.”

Talk to your manager or mentor to identify the company’s ideal skill set for the next step in your career. For career changers, seek out someone in the new field of choice for similar advice. If it’s an entirely new skill whether for a side hustle or personal growth, look to experts online for their tips on getting started in the field and keep notes to develop a realistic plan of your own.

How much time do I have to pursue this goal? “As working professionals on a continuous professional development journey, one has to juggle not just day-to-day work and personal life but professional training as well,” Killen said. “Time management is critical to ensure all three are managed effectively.”

The advantage to online courses is that you can do them at your own pace and at any time that fits your schedule. The downside is that no one is calling roll so the temptation to postpone a lesson can be strong.

For career certifications, consider LinkedIn Learning, Codecademy, Udemy and Udacity, which offer online courses, programs and bootcamps, including high-demand subjects like computer programming. Pricing varies and you can usually secure a substantial discount by paying annually rather than by the month. A LinkedIn Learning subscription is $26.99 per month paid annually or $39.99 on a month-to-month basis. The most popular courses focus on Excel, but the platform offers a wide variety of both hard and soft business skills.

For those looking for coding lessons and other high-tech skills, Codecademy offers a suite of free lessons, along with Pro memberships at $19.99 a month billed annually or $39.99 if you pay by the month. The course catalog is well-organized with tags that indicate a career path course, such as Learn Python 3 and Data Scientist.

Udemy offers a combination of business and programming courses, which are available to buy per course, or you can subscribe to a Personal Plan for $29.99/month for unlimited access. Similar to Udemy pricing, Udacity sets itself apart with its Nanodegrees available across a wide variety of subjects, including Blockchain Developer, Artificial Intelligence for Trading and Business Analytics. The Nanodegrees run for four to five months, may require other courses as prerequisites and start at $399 per month or $1,356 if paid in one lump sum.

For creatives, CreativeLive and Skillshare are two of the most popular platforms. CreativeLive courses are offered à la carte starting at $12 when on sale. You can purchase an annual membership for $149, pay by the month at $39 or choose a hybrid option where you pay $15 on a one-year contract. Popular courses include Adobe Photoshop CC: The Complete Guide, Workflow, Time Management and Productivity for Creatives, and Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius. Skillshare offers a similar roster of courses and costs $15 each month if paid annually and $32 a month on the month-to-month plan.

If you’d like to take a course taught by a celebrity (cooking from Gordon Ramsay or chess from Gary Kasparov, MasterClass is worth a try. Annual memberships run $30 a month, paid annually, to $46 a month (annual payment) and include up to six users and downloading the lessons.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.

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