Personal and Professional Development from Home
Like so many of us, I’m doing my best to look forward. While everyone’s situation is different from family to family, community to community, and even from country to country, one thing I hope is that you have the chance to look forward too—like what you want your life to look like once we’ve moved past the days we’re in right now.
That’s what inspired this article. I wanted to share some online resources that can help you take this time to do something for yourself and pursue some degree of personal or professional development if you can. After all, if we can work it in, now’s the time for a little self-improvement.
For me, I’m diving into subject matter that largely takes me outside of technology and my daily work. One of my favorites right now is gardening. I’m taking a Master Class on gardening from Ron Finley, a man who started planting vegetables in the dirt parking strip outside his home in South Central Los Angeles. At first, Ron was cited for gardening without a permit. After that, he got the local laws changed so that public planting could not only continue but also thrive. In short order, his urban gardening readily turned into a movement based on the idea that everyone in every community can grow their own healthy food.
The class is absolutely inspiring, as is seeing Ron do things like turn an old dresser drawer into a garden. He has plenty of tricks like that he can show you. And I can tell you this—I certainly look at my garden (and what I’m eating!) through new eyes now thanks to him.
Along those lines, I’ve put together a few resources for those of you who want to pursue something that’s always interested you or something new altogether. Once you start researching all the personal and professional development options available, you’ll see plenty of opportunities—and ways to look at your world through new eyes too.
Free Classes from Open Culture
First off, Open Culture is an amazing resource overall. It got its start about 14 years ago with the mission of scouring the web for high-quality educational and cultural resources, all of them free. Today, it’s a massive curation effort packed with hundreds, and even thousands, of movies, lectures, eBooks, videos, university courses, audio books, and so much more across numerous collections. Again, all free.
For example, the page dedicated to 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities is everything you’d expect it to be. And then some. The categories range from Art & Art History to Writing & Journalism, with Business, Economics, Literature, Psychology, and more in between. If picking up a new language or dusting off an old one that’s been on the shelf since your high school days is on your mind, they also have links to learn 48 different languages. In addition, Open Culture keeps a growing list of dozens of free textbooks as well.
Numerous higher learning institutions have offered free coursework online for some time now. They’re an outstanding resource for personal enrichment, with lectures, projects, and materials often drawn straight from campus classrooms. For example:
Open Yale Courses
Open Yale Courses offers “a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets.” Classes range from history and econ to literature and psychology.
Stanford University offers free courses as well and on an interesting blend of topics. If you’re interested in “Child Nutrition and Cooking” or an “Introduction to the Internet of Things,” Stanford’s free course catalog is a great place to start.
Open Learn courses are part of a platform created by the UK’s The Open University as part of its Royal Charter commitment to support the wellbeing of the community. Here you’ll find thousands of resources spread across eight broad categories.
edX has more than 2,800 online courses from roughly 140 institutions across the globe—including MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Boston University, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Tokyo, and Oxford to name a few. Many classes are free, and some offer a formal certificate of completion for a fee.
Mixes of Free and Paid Learning
Udemy has 100,000 online courses. While the emphasis is on paid content, simply filter your search for “free” items and you’ll find numerous options there.
Coursera provides free courses from university and industry partners with access to on-demand video lectures, homework exercises, and community discussion forums. Degrees and certificates are available through their paid options as well.
iTunes U provides yet another learning opportunity for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users. While the app is designed to help teachers create lesson plans and collaborate with students, it’s also great for the rest of us too., It offers free access to a large collection of free educational content in “public courses from leading schools, universities, museums, and cultural institutions.”
Codecademy focuses on web development, programming and computer science, and data science. It has a free option for a limited number of classes, plus a paid monthly membership offers more content and guidance. As of this writing, a free trial membership is available.
Big ideas for small business
Maybe you’re taking this opportunity to launch a little side business or you’re looking to brush up on some business skills in general. If so, you can visit the U.S. Small Business Administration Learning Center, which is packed with great content that covers broad business topics. Although some of the content is specific to the U.S., plenty of it can benefit all—such as articles on business planning, social media marketing, and other programs for mastering daily operations.
Learn Safely Online
As always, give your security a good look as you embark on any classwork online. My recent article, “How to Stay Secure While Distance Learning” offers some great advice for university students, yet it certainly applies to the rest of us too as we learn online. Also, consider using protection that keeps you safer while doing your reading and researching online. That’ll help you go about your studies without worrying about sketchy links, misclicks, typos, or bad downloads that could land you on a malicious site or drop adware, spyware, or viruses on your device.