The traditional college or university degree still carries a lot of weight when it comes to hiring and to industry recognition of expertise, but most professionals recognize the need for ongoing training and professional development. In the past few years, a number of self-guided online learning sites have been created to assist in this process. Some are reliable, some contain great content by qualified professionals, and others are a great way to waste twenty bucks and a few hours of your time.
This is not an extensive review of all online learning sites. That would be a big task. Rather, it is a preliminary list of a few popular websites that provide self-guided training for graphics and marketing professionals. I provide a quick overview of three of them, with my personal recommendation for self-guided, non-accredited online learning.
The learning possibilities seem endless at udemy.com (for a joke, I typed in “pizza” in response to the Home page question, “What do you want to learn today?” It found a course titled, “Lose Weight While Eating Pizza”). But for those interested in graphics and marketing, here are some key observations and initial impressions:
Categories: Design (web, Adobe, gaming, apps, 3D, video, and more) – from general introductory level (“Design a WordPress business website”) to specific (“Photoshop Flyer Design Secrets”), Marketing, Business, Photography, Web and App Development, and more.
Positive and Negative impressions:
+ Free to sign up (no trial option), a simple pay as you go system. Some courses are free but those that are not are priced per course (as opposed to a monthly subscription)
+ Lots of free content to get started (and get you hooked!)
+ Accessible from any device (computer, smart phone, etc.)
+ “Is this course for you?” – a feature on each course that provides good introductions and course overviews
+ If you share your learning experience on social media, you get 75% off your next course (when your friends actually enrol in a course)
+ Good combination of video, text, and images
– Some tutorials seem overpriced for what the overview outlines
– Some tutorials do not appear to be taught by professionals in the field, but by online marketers or amateurs. You get what you pay for, but some might surprise you!
Presented by Shutterstock, skillfeed.com works on a subscription model, with similar categories as you will find on udemy. In fact, many of the tutorials and courses overlap so it depends on how you prefer to learn: either you are in the habit of doing tutorials and courses every month, or you are an occasional learner. Here are some key observations and initial impressions of Skillfeed:
Categories: Design, Photography, Video, Web, 3D, Business, and more.
Positive and Negative impressions:
+ $19 per month subscription gives you unlimited access to 26,000+ videos
+ Lots of content for designers and marketers
+ You can bookmark courses (to help keep you from feeling distracted or overwhelmed at all the stuff you can learn)
+ Easy to give feedback on a course and rate it (star system)
+ Clean layout, easy to follow, with good overviews to help you decide if a particular tutorial is what you need
+ “Skill Snacks” for short courses – 5min, 15 min, etc.
+ You can filter results in the sidebar – very nice to help narrow your choice
– Some categories contain low quality tutorials. Again, if you subscribe, you need to be selective.
– Does not show number of students that have enrolled in the course like udemy does (although the rating system could be enough).
– Some of the shorter videos seemed like YouTube videos. On a hunch, I searched for some of the short courses online and found the exact same videos on YouTube…for free!
A Personal Preference
For part-time freelancers or for those with less time for learning, I would recommend Skillfeed over udemy. For $19/month, chances are you will take at least a few courses per month. Most of the courses on udemy are at least $20 each (the better ones are much more). If you are a full-time professional, chances are you will spend more time on advanced courses. Some of the advanced courses I checked out on Skillfeed were also on udemy, but on udemy the one-time fee was several hundred dollars. I guess Skillfeed works on the “all-inclusive” strategy: most people are not learn-aholics or do not have time for advanced courses and will only access a few courses here and there. Skillfeed probably counts on the fact that many subscribers will pay $19/month and then not use it at all a few months of the year (it worked on me!).
Of course, for those wanting specific tutorials without the pressure of needing to take extra courses just because you’ve paid for a monthly subscription, udemy is for you.
And then there’s Lynda
Skillfeed and udemy are similar in their course offerings, but for serious creative businesses I would recommend lynda.com. Their courses are taught by professionals and are much more thorough and informative than you will find on Skillfeed or udemy. An apples to apples comparison of the three is unfair since lynda.com is more established and far more professional. Here are some key observations and initial impressions of lynda.com:
Categories: 3D, Audio, Business, Design, Marketing, Photography, Video, Web, and more
Positive and Negative impressions:
+ You can start with a “preview account” so you can see about 10% of any course before committing to a subscription
+ Monthly or annual subscription (2 levels: watch only online or watch both on and offline)
+ Follow-along written transcript (highlighted as the instructor speaks) helps info sink in better than simply watching a lecture
+ Bookmark a video so you can log off and come back later to the place you left off. This is very nice since you often do not have time to sit through a 45 minute lecture
+ More organized, focused, professional presentations (lynda.com screens potential instructors more so than Skillfeed and udemy).
+ At the bottom of each course you will find “Suggested courses to watch next” and “Members also watched” – very helpful for continuing your learning
+ Some videos have downloadable files to complement the lesson
+ Courses seem to be very current, an important feature for courses that involve specific applications or current versions of social media.
– If you subscribe, you will spend a big chunk of your life taking Lynda’s courses. This is not necessarily a bad thing; just be prepared for the time investment!
Other Learning Sites
That’s it for the three featured sites. Here are some other learning opportunities to explore:
Skillshare.com – offers many courses in design and digital media, but also things like film and video, entrepreneurship, and music. Offers free access to some courses or $10/month membership.
learnable.com – oriented more for programmers and web developers, but there are some great design courses here and some excellent books. Starts at $29/month.
grovo.com – subscription based, lots of courses on specific apps and digital work topics (e.g.. Facebook, Kickstarter, eBay, etc.). Personal subscription available, but also ideal for team training ($199/user/year).
Adobe Creative Cloud – if you are paying for a membership anyway, why not use their tutorials? Adobe has SO much to offer.
treehouse – more technical courses – HTML, CSS, iPhone app development, etc. Monthly subscription ($25 or $49/month, free trial option).
marketingprofs.com – specifically for marketing people, but covers a wide range of topics like branding, graphic design, market research, writing, and more. Free membership gives you access to articles, forum, and sponsored seminars. Paid membership (7-day trial available) gets you pro seminars, special reports, MarketingProfs University, and more.
And I’m sure that’s not all the web has to offer. What online tutorial sites have you found useful?