Lean Learning: A guide to online learning on the cheap

by Kristy Bolsinger February 1st, 2013 

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest" – Benjamin Franklin

If there's one thing Internet marketing does is move and change. Quickly. It's a challenge for even those whose full time jobs it is to keep up with it all – let alone SMB owners or marketers whose time is divided across 100 or so other hats. Not to mention our constant drive to develop ourselves professionally and satiate our innate curiosity. Learning could easily be a full time job and a half, am I right?

While we are starting to come to terms with the fact that college education just doesn't pay off as well as it used to. Tuition costs are rising RAPIDLY and the payoff just doesn't seem all that great.

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I recently read an interesting article that shows that "rich people" don't look at formal education as a means to higher income, but rather specialized and focused learning. Seems to make sense I suppose – a fairly functional approach.

If you combine these two concepts it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps the path to success is a more focused quest for knowledge and tactical education, rather than a broad adventure in traditional academia.

Not to mention this could be an insanely great way of researching ideas and topics for content creation. Get on it.

Kahn Academy

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In their own words: The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We're a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

This was once primarily a science and math driven source of knowledge. Now the content is much more vast. Most all of the content is created by one man and an electronic chalkboard, it seems to have evolved into a pretty massive knowledge depository. Topics range from Macroeconomics, to Valuation and Investing even all the way through to a series called Lebron Asks (sports related questions initiated by the basketball start Lebron James.)

Udemy

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"What do you want to learn today?" is the line greeting you when you land on Udemy's website. A source of educational content on a remarkably vast number of topics – Udemy claims its key differentiator is its world class set of instructors. Not all of the content is free but even the paid modules are priced very reasonably. If you're also skilled in your own right it can also be a source of income generation if you're interested in becoming an instructor.

Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas

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The Knight center has recently begun offering what they are calling "Massive Open Online Courses", or MOOC. The school of Journalism within the University of Texas launched in 2012 with their first offering Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization. While the offering set is still small, this is a place to keep an eye on as traditional education begins to evolve and open it's doors to the web.

edX

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Ever wanted to attend a school like MIT, Berkeley, or Harvard? Yeah. Me too. Unfortunately they are incredibly cost prohibitive for most of us. edX has erupted as a way to solve for that. The organization, which involves many universities, is the product of a partnership between MIT and Harvard. They have built the edX family to bring to the web free online-based educational content to people of all means and from any location. Courses currently include Computer Science, Electronics and SaaS offerings among others. Offerings are slated to grow over time.

Udacity

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If you're interested in Computer Science, Statistics or Physics you will surely fall in love with Udacity. Founded by a couple of robotocists who believed that the online environment was the perfect platform to bring education to the masses affordably. They have classes from beginner to advanced helping to satiate the curiosity and hunger of all ranges of capability.

Coursera

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With over 207 courses covering everything from applied statistics to the history of the world – this is a great place for the curious minded to explore. A social entrepreneurship company has been able to get a rather impressive list of universities on board.

If you're looking for something more specific, check out:

Distilled U

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A wealth of information from Distilled for those interested in learning more about SEO from some of the industries leading experts. You'll see many of the agency's speakers on the conference circuit…or here at DistilledU for $40/month. The content walks you through from basics, keywords research, on-page optimization and even information architecture. It's not free like some of these other sources, but it is very specialized and comes from highly vetted instructors. Worth checking out especially for in-house marketers looking to gain an edge.

Code Academy

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Always wanted to learn to code? You'll love CodeAcademy. Totally free and built in a way that really engages users through gamification techniques and social elements, the site is gaining popularity and I'd argue largely in part to the fact that they've made it incredibly easy for anyone, even those with zero skills, to learn how to read and write code. And with many believing we should all learn at least a little code – this site couldn't be better positioned!

So I don't know about you – but with all of that incredibly and FREE (or very reasonably priced) knowledge out there just waiting to be consumed – I'm ready to get started. I encourage you to find a site that offers up content in a way that you can consume, set a goal and put it on your calendar. Make your education a priority and watch what happens. Your business, your career and your colleagues will all benefit and for basically no cost. Win win!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Importance of SEO Education Within a Company

Kristy Bolsinger

Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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2 Responses to “Lean Learning: A guide to online learning on the cheap”

  1. Jey Pandian says:

    Hey Kristy,

    Fantastic post. I've been using some of these sites already and I liked your review of each one as well as new additions. I've always been a proponent of free learning.

    As my mentor Kris Roadruck, once told me: "In today's day and age, there should be no excuse for why you can't learn something."

    Best,
    Jey

    PS We've met a few years ago when I used to work for C2R. I hope you are well.

    • Kristy says:

      Hey Jey!

      There is definitely very little excuse in this day and age. I'm a fan of formal education and still think that the classroom is irreplaceable but this new format is great for adding to one's tool belt and deepening interests in specific areas.

      And yes – I remember meeting you :) I hope all is well!!