Upskilling with Free Courses: 5 Tips for Effective Learning

Now's a good time to learn more skills: make your online learning more strategic and effective by picking the right free courses. By Rhea Claire E. Madarang.

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With many of us still working and staying mostly at home in this pandemic, now may be a good time to learn new skills and take current ones further for possible new opportunities – be it for a new job, a side hustle, a new client, or just for basic self-improvement.

All sorts of free courses can be found online, from content writing and social media management to programming and development of smartphone apps. But you shouldn’t pick and choose willy-nilly; here are some tips to make your online learning more strategic and effective.

Be clear on what you want to achieve. Why do you want to learn or upgrade on particular skills? Are you exploring in general, or do you want to upskill to be more qualified for a future opportunity? Knowing your “why” will help give you direction on your learning.

Decide which skill you will learn or upgrade first. What do you need or want to learn first? What can you commit to now? You may think you need to learn and improve on many skills, and with the wealth of free courses available online, it can be tempting to enroll in many at once.

To make learning and application effective, though, focus on one skill and course at a time, or only as many as you can commit to without sacrificing your time with others.

Note your learning style and pace. Do you learn best at your own pace, or within a set time frame? Would you prefer taking a series of short yet related courses, or one long and intensive course instead? Knowing answers to these will help you choose which kind of course best suits you.

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Explore available course options and learning platforms. Guided by your reflections on the items above, take a look at and compare free courses. While a plethora of choices still abound, you now have some criteria for choosing.

For example, learning platforms and communities like Coursera, Domestika, and Udemy have free practical courses for two hours and even less for those who prefer to take short courses at a time. Coursera both has self-paced courses and courses with a particular time frame.

The Philippines’ Technical Education and Skills Development Authority also has free self-paced courses for subjects like Android app development.

If you want to explore specific courses and not just the general learning platforms, here’s an article listing some free marketing and business courses. Here’s another article recommending not just marketing and business courses, but also design, conflict resolution, environmental law, and other fields.

Check if the course is reliable and meets your goals. A simple Google search will show the experience and credentials of the course teacher. Reviews by other students help, too. Also check the course description and content, and see if it helps you meet your goals.

While free courses provide substantial learning, at some point, you may need to pay if it helps you achieve your goals. For example, Coursera and other platforms like EdX and Hubspot offer certifications for a fee. You may want to invest in this if you are building your portfolio for a job opportunity.

If you are looking for more in-depth learning after finishing some free courses, taking a paid intensive course might be the next best step. Look for authoritative leaders in the skill you want to learn and check out their courses. If they have a free course or webinar, you can attend first to assess before going for the paid option.

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