I’m an insatiable learner. I love to learn about a wide variety of things, even if they aren’t even remotely related to my chosen field. One of the things I love about working with my clients is that they teach me things. As a result of working with clients, I have learned a lot about food and cooking, fire engines, homelessness and poverty, medical care, education, mental health, farming, hair and skin care, government regulations, and a lot more.
No, I’m not an expert in any of those fields, but I feel as though I’m better informed and pretty well rounded.
There’s no reason to be stupid. Or, maybe I should soften that a bit and say that there’s no reason to be uninformed or uneducated.
Whatever line of work you are in, whatever you do, there is a whole world of knowledge attached to it. There are plenty of resources available to help make you highly informed in your field, and perhaps an expert.
While checking in on Facebook yesterday I saw my friend Rebecca post something about taking an online class about the challenges of global poverty. It’s something that fits in really well with her chosen field of work with a nonprofit organization that works in the area of global poverty. But beyond that, it is something that interests me. On further inspection, I discovered that not only was this class free, but it’s part of an entire package of free classes offered by an online platform called edX. Now before you make some assumptions that I’m seeking to get some kind of graduate degree from a “university” that I discovered on the back of a matchbook cover, this stuff is legit. These are courses from places like Harvard, MIT, and Berkley. That’s right: free classes from some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in our country. They offer classes covering a wide variety of topics. And did I mention they are free??
If you’re looking to improve yourself and your knowledge, specifically about your own area of business or interest, here are some things to consider:
1) Free online courses – I already mentioned edX, but there are a number of other platforms, including Coursera, which also offers a wide variety of topics from top universities around the world. A free graphic design class from the University of Pennsylvania? Or how about a songwriting class from the Berklee College of Music? What’s not to like about a free, quality education? I’m sure there are plenty of others out there.
Additionally, there are lots of independent courses you can take. Google offers courses related to mastering things like Google Analytics or Adwords.
2) Paid online courses – Oh, sure you can pay a lot to take virtual classes from just about any university, but sometimes that’s not what you need. A platform like Lynda.com offers more than 1,600 courses related to things like web development & design, photography, audio, video, and animation. And the cost is relatively inexpensive with a variety of subscription options. This is just one example, and I’m betting there are affordable paid options for just about any field you can imagine.
3) Local institutions and businesses – I teach a variety of continuing education classes at the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, some of which are semester long courses, and others of which are just one 3-hour session. My client, Patio at Penn Stone offers free workshops to its customers and vendors on a regular basis. Check your local library, Chamber of Commerce, Community College, YMCA, etc. to see what they might be offering for free or low cost.
4) Your social network – There’s no better free source of information than the people with whom you are connected. I discovered edX from one of my friends on Facebook, then found out about Coursera from Gini Dietrich. If I have a question about something, I’ll often pick the brains of my friends via g-chat, Skype, email, or Facebook and learn a heck of a lot. Try out Facebook’s new Graph Search and see if you can find a friend who can help you out.
5) The Internet and blogs – I don’t care what you want to learn about, but I’m betting you can find answers just a Google search away. My philosophy of blogging is to offer free information to those who want it. And I’m not alone. Plenty of other bloggers do the same thing.
One more thing: while you might be looking for information on a variety of topics online or elsewhere, don’t forget that you can be a source of information for others. Hopefully your customers and peers see you as an expert in your chosen field. Feel free to offer that information up in workshops or online via a blog or instructional videos. Sharing your knowledge goes a long way in building your brand and showing others what you really know. This is one of the many reasons I blog regularly.
Where do you go to learn about the subjects that are important to you? What are your favorite go-to sources of information and education online?
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