Aired Wednesday, August 5, 2015. Episode 140.
I led a conversation about continued learning and some of the best places online to continue growth. We talked about the benefits of online learning and different types of learning platforms including lynda.com, Skillshare, plus other places designers use to increase knowledge and sharpen skills.
A few months ago I was speaking with an alumni who was unhappy in her current job situation. She had been out of school for almost five years and still wasn’t doing the type of work that she wanted to be doing. We had some back and forth through email and then, I asked her,
“What have you taught yourself or learned since you graduated?” She never replied.
Learning should not end when you walk out of the classroom and into the world. (Tweetable) Learning is like breathing you need both to go deep to be able to live a full life.
LEARNING NEVER ENDS
The best leaders know that learning and exploring never ends. Great designers feed that curiosity and it drive us to gain more knowledge while sharpening and expanding our skill base. The more knowledge we receive, the more we realize how much there is still left to learn.
Thankfully we have learning opportunities all around us, books, podcasts, blogs, videos, MOOCs (massive open online courses), and other online course. It’s amazing the availability and access we have to experts in so many disciplines.
BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING
1. No travel.
No explanation needed.
2. At your own pace. (Usually)
While there are online courses that are time based, a lot of online learning allows you to go as fast or as slow as you want. I can dip my feet in anywhere usually there are no prerequisites and I can repeat lessons as many times as I want.
3. Variety of subjects.
Even though you may be a lettering artist you might want to learn how to write code, begin illustrating, learn more about running a business, or countless other options. I think the best designers are those that can apply their knowledge to multiple industries and utilize their knowledge to help their employer or clients build their businesses.
4. There are TONS of options for any kind of learning budget.
From free how-to videos on YouTube and Vimeo on countless subjects to specialized courses in the same subject. The depth of the course and the more niche the audience the higher the price of the courses you will find. I have taken courses that are extremely specialized that are over $1200. To grow my business and my knowledge I have paid for multiple online, self-driven courses that range in price from $30–$1200.
These courses have challenged me and changed the way I operate. Most are lifetime access, which again is critical for me as I am pretty busy and I may not get to something for three months or more.
I also pay for a monthly membership to skillshare ($10/month). Skillshare is a platform that has courses that are general as well as specific niche courses for designers that range from business focused to hand-skills. I enjoy this platform because the courses I have taken are quick and focus on a specific skill. There is interactivity and
[The skillshare link above is an affiliate link. Which means I am able to get a month’s membership paid for when friends sign up using this link. Note: Every member is an affiliate, y’all can share your link to get your month’s memberships paid; another reason I love skillshare.]
The University I work for provides me with membership to lynda.com ($20–$25/month depending on how you want to be billed, monthly or yearly). The lynda subscription is extremely helpful to me because of the transcripts and the in-depth coverage of the courses.
A few weeks ago designer and illustrator, Ben Stafford offered an hour-long, highly-focused, online, illustration class in a small group setting (10 people or less, $20/class). The course was great and I was able to interact with other participants, ask questions, and work right alongside Ben as he was teaching us.
5. Learn from industry experts in multiple fields.
If you have someone you have followed and learn from regularly online, they might have courses available to purchase. Changing up your subject matter is extremely important, that is why I read books about business, psychology, history, art, and of course design books, and even fiction too. I recommend trying new tools and have learned a lot about my process by taking courses not in design. One of my favorite classes was Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s Getting Started with Gelli Printing. Skillshare and Udemy have had courses with Seth Godin, an amazing leader in marketing and business.
I suggest you pick one or two classes per month (or one per week if you are a Design SuperHero).
DRAWBACKS OF ONLINE COURSES
1. Small customer service teams and / or no help troubleshooting. You may have trouble with the lower priced courses having adequate customer service and support staff to answer your questions and needs about the service.
2. Low to no interaction with the teacher. When you are taking a course for credit or auditing a course at a University there is supposed to be high interaction and availability with the professor, so I may have higher than normal expectations. I have found that interaction and one-on-one support comes at a cost. The higher priced courses have better teacher support and will actually engage with you online and check on you, while some of the lower priced platforms have little to no support from the instructor. Skillshare does exceed expectations here, but it is totally dependent on each instructor as to how much they will interact with your questions and visuals that you post.
3. Interaction among other students again comes with a price. The higher ticketed courses usually will have a back-end user-group where comments, and questions are posted and answered by fellow students.
4. Little to no critical feedback from the instructor.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A STUDENT “FOREVER”
1. Forces you to stay up-to-date with current trends and new tools.
Our field is always growing and improving, if you aren’t on the school bus you won’t make it to the next grade.
2. Fuels your curiosity.
If you are always learning, always curious about new topics, new-to-you skills then you will never be stagnant. It is the best fighter of boredom.
3. Builds your portfolio and skill set.
By taking classes in new areas you are building out your skill base, which means you can do more things and offer more to your clients or employer. If your employer will not pay for a subscription get it anyway on your own. It is an investment in your future and your ability to move up and continue on in the field.
4. Teaches you to do something new with an old tool.
Maybe you have used Illustrator since Illustrator 3 (or before) and you are thinking I don’t want to waste my time taking an Illustrator course. Well you’d be wrong. Taking these can give new life to an old love as well as get you working more efficiently and teaches you how to use all the new tools of the program that you use everyday.
5. Less Ego because you are learning all the time.
I hope you are encouraged to take an online class. Here are a couple of classes that I have taken that I really have enjoyed:
1. Almost any skillshare class. It is an amazing platform and is great for quick dip into subjects.
2. Depending on what you want to learn, Lynda.com is incredible for diving a little deeper and has gotten me out of plenty of sticky situations just by watching a course.
3. Find Your Brand Voice by Andrea Goulet Ford (I have interviewed her a few times, she is super smart and comes at branding from a different place than a designer which really helped).
4. Sue B Zimmerman’s InstaResults. She gives tons of one-on-one advice to your instagram account and is an expert at using and teaching Instagram for Business.
5. One of my favorite teachers has been David Siteman Garland. His energy is infectious and their customer service is personal and quick. I have taken a few of his courses and bought other products. He is a class act and super fun.
6. Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s courses mentioned above and her YouTube Channel. She has an incredibly visual newsletter I receive 5 days a week that gets me jazzed for the day. She makes me want to step away from the computer and get my hands dirty/
I would love to know what you think about this article. Let me know in the comments below.