Back to school with online learning
As a small business owner, there are times when you get stuck, not knowing how to do something. You tend to spend a lot of time on inefficient workarounds, trawling user forums or calling your cousin who “is good with computers”. Know the feeling? I sympathise. My current stumbling block is how to get my scanner to actually send scans to my computer. Time to call my cousin….
However, whilst my scanner problem will require some sort of magic technician to fix, I have come across a number of awesome online learning resources that have saved me heaps of time and frustration in the last year or so. Online learning has come leaps and bounds in the last decade with the advent of online universities and teaching aides, but it is the small stuff designed for business that has really got me interested. Whether I am searching for entrepreneurial inspiration or how to use Hootsuite, there is a lecture or series of lectures put up by experts if you just know where to find them.
Well duh Katie, I hear you think. Have you not heard of YouTube? Indeed I have and I love it. From videos about fixing my fridge door to ones dedicated to cooking the perfect roast chicken, YouTube is a massive treasure trove of information provided by millions of people around the globe. Right there is its problem. For household tasks, you can pretty much pick one of the top three that comes up in your search - as long as it is about a fridge door, who cares? But, if your business needs you to learn how to use a piece of software or take the perfect picture of your products with your smartphone, you need to know you are dealing with an expert and properly presented and delivered information. Sure, you might luck out and find the occasional “how to” on YouTube that fits the bill, but for more in-depth learning I would recommend setting yourself up properly.
I regularly use two platforms:
Recently acquired by LinkedIn, lynda.com is a brilliant resource for learning business, software, technology and creative skills. All the courses are taught by recognised industry experts and have well presented, step by step courses often with full transcripts and notes. I’ve learned how to use Wordpress, Prezi and lots of other pieces of software that I use regularly. Whilst I’m not bad at working this stuff out for myself, it saves me days of wasted time stuffing around by just sitting down in front of the screen for a morning learning how to do something properly. Lynda.com has a number of subscription plans for individuals or groups and you can have a free preview if you just want to check it out first. From my point of view, as I sit here shivering on my lonesome, it is well worth the dosh to have an expert on hand when you need them.
My most favourite expert in the world, Seth Godin, introduced me to udemy.com as I signed up to his course via his newsletter. His course ("Seth Godin's Freelancer Course”) had great content and a modern, easy to follow series of lectures, including breakout worksheets and sharing with other people doing the same course. I paid for the individual course instead of the subscription model of lynda.com, which might work better for some people. Some courses are free and some cost over $300 and they cover everything from ‘pet care’ to ‘selling on Amazon’. Definitely worth a look - how about this free course? Let’s compare moves next week shall we?
Other notables that have been recommended to me are Learnable (a techie/web design focus) and Treehouse. My kids use the brilliant and free Khan Academy for their maths homework and I’ve signed up too in an effort to clear the cobwebs of my high school education (perhaps that is a lost cause).