How to Keep Learning When You Work Full Time

By 23/02/2018 December 5th, 2019 Education, Professional Development

This post is for educators and business people.

Let’s be honest – learning might not currently feature high in your life priorities. Your life has probably followed this pattern (there might be a bit of negotiation depending on the specific order and on age, but we’ll leave the second one for now):

  • University
  • Job
  • Family

All of which leave you with very little time. In between those three things happening, the world has moved on and suddenly, without warning, the skills you learned in university or on the job aern’t enough anymore. For some of us, getting through the day is success enough, the idea of continuing learning or professional development gets dropped off the list fairly quickly.

This post is going to look at how you can change that, without needing to fill out a post-graduate study form (i.e. I’m going to completely ignore post-graduate qualifications).

There are a lot of ways you can learn new skills without leaving you home. Today I’m going to show you the ones that I have used personally and explain how they have helped me professionally. And in doing that, I’ll show you how they can help you.

Take the world's best courses, online.

Learning platform: Coursera

Founded in 2012, Coursera offers courses (lasting 4-6 weeks); Specializations (lasting 4-6 months) and online degrees (1-3 years). This site offers the closest to university level qualification as you will receive, without actually going. The smaller scale courses and specializations offer a wide range of topics across the Humanities, Business, IT, Life Sciences and Social Sciences.

I haven't used Coursera for any courses, so cannot comment on the standard, but as the courses offered are from American universities including Duke, Johns Hopkins and Stanford, as well as industry courses from Google and IBM, coupled with the higher price tag, I would assume they are of a good standard. The stats also speak from themselves: 25 million users; 149 university partners; over 2000 courses; 180 specializations and 4 degree courses.

Free online classes & Nanodegrees

Learning Platform: Udacity

Udacity is very much focused on the tech industry, which can be useful if you want to learn to programme; build your own mobile app or develop your own self-driving car. The unique selling point of Udacity is its Nanodegree programme. These are curriculum programmes that will take a couple of months to complete. All are of an industry standard and some carry endorsement from relevant companies. Google endorse the Android Developer programme for example. Udacity are keen to emphasise their industry credentials, with the logos of Facebook; Google; IBM; Mercedes-Benz; Amazon; Bosch and SAP all featuring prominently on the home page and other pages throughout the site.

Udacity also offer free courses, but these seem to all be tech-orientated and are alphabetically organised.

I have recently completed the Google scholarship programme in Android and so can vouch for Udacity. The video content was of a high standard, the tutors are all Google employees and so knew the content very well, but were also able to explain their content at an understandable level. Using Udacity is a bit more expensive, but worth the investment.

Learn anything, on your schedule

Learning Platform: Udemy

Udemy offers more than 65,000 courses that are taught by expert instructors. There are a wide range of categories available on this site, so this might be a really good place to start if you want to learn some new skills that don't involve learning how to programme!

The full list of categories is too extensive to list here, but here are a few of the non-tech categories: photography; health & fitness; music; languages and personal development.

What I've found to be a great strength and a great weakness of Udemy is that anyone can register and put up a course (it has to meet site standards, but you get what I mean). This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I am working through a course on Java and while it is interesting, as a trained teacher I can see that while the tutor knows Java, he does not know how to effectively deliver a course and explain as a teacher would-he explains it as an expert does. Which is fine, but it can present an obstacle to learning.

This site is great for small CPD course-like options. I have used it for courses on Java, games development and learning Python (the computer language, not the snake). They have been very interesting courses but they do not carry the same credibility that Coursera has due to its university endorsement.

Free online courses from the world's best universities

Learning Platform: edX

edX is a site that I would say hits a midpoint between Coursera and Udemy. The site offers nearly all courses for free, or an option for a participation certificate. The number of categories available would be more than Udemy, but are still very curriculum-centric (school or university). This makes this site a very good choice if you are a teacher of a curriculum subject. The courses on offer from edX carry a number of universities who have opened their curriculum to the online learning world: Berkely, MIT, Harvard, Caltech, Cornell University, Imperial College London, Oxford University and Edinburgh University to name a few.

As edX offer most of their courses for free, this is the site I have used the most: blended learning; introduction to Java; Instructional Design and Technology, as well as smaller courses on social media.

The site offers the ability to favourite courses list that you want to take and so can add and save the for later which is a nice feature if you want to build a list and work through them.

Each course offers the choice to upgrade to a verified certificate-which can be useful if you need proof of completion, but can vary in cost depending on the course. I'm afraid I can't work out reason for the varying price, except that some courses form part of a larger group of learning programmes, but even for the stand-alone courses there is a varying price from $20-$99.

I would highly recommend this site for one that you want to update skills within your existing skillset.

That's enough for now folks

So there we have it! Four of the biggest online learning platforms right now that can (re)inspire a love for learning! I would definitely recommend Udemy and edX as I use these myself and have found these good for implementing into my own classroom teaching.

Where edX also offers courses on Education and Teacher Training, I have found these useful for improving my knowledge in pedagogy, instructional design and using data to drive my teaching in terms of improving student understanding, knowledge, competence and confidence.

Michael Johnston

About Michael Johnston

I'm a Lecturer in Computing and the Foundation Degree Director in Computing for the Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland. My research interests in the areas of technology enhanced learning, how we interact with technology, blended learning and professional development. Michael currently specialises in the computing areas of web development technologies, cyber security, software development and IoT. Michael has worked in a range of different roles in IT-from teaching roles to running his own web design company, Michael is equally at home working with theory, as he is conducting research, or building a bespoke IT solution. Michael is currently studying a PhD in Cyberpsychology.

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