Continuous education (on the cheap) – part 1 of 2

 Diana Varma

The benefits of continuous education are obvious: expand your skillset, create new opportunities for yourself, and simply enjoy the process of learning something new. Never before have there been so many cheap or completely free options for high-quality education; many are facilitated by top-tier educational institutions. Below are two avenues for learning new skills with details about what you can learn, as well as the benefits of learning from each of these resources. Please note that I have not been compensated for these reviews and they are based on my experiences using the platforms.


Cost: ten day free trial (Membership ranges from $19.99 – $34.99 per month).

What you can learn: software skills, social media, marketing, managerial how-to, and much more.

Courses of interest to graphic communications specialists:  there are too many individual courses to list here (4,644 to be exact!) and at least half of all courses are relevant to the graphic communications industry.

Lynda is an incredible resource to learn everything from technical Adobe Creative Suite skills or Microsoft Excel skills, to more managerial-based topics like time management and customer service. The video tutorials are high-quality and many come with demo files so you can work along with the instructor. The most recent versions of many programs have extensive tutorials so you can keep up-to-date with what’s new and improved in important software. Many of the courses are several hours in length but are broken down into manageable short videos so you can play an entire course from beginning to end or you can jump around to the information that’s most relevant to what you’re trying to achieve. The benefits of this platform include learning from visually engaging videos that feel like one-on-one instruction, as well as learning in a very structured sequence from beginner through to advanced skill levels. Learners have the flexibility of watching the videos from their mobile devices and the premium membership also allows learners to download the videos to watch offline. Incredible value is the name of Lynda’s game.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses),,

Cost: Free (or $25-$100 for a verified certificate).

What you can learn: There are courses in almost every subject area.

Courses of interest to graphic communications specialists: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel (EdX), Marketing Analytics: Marketing Measurement Strategy (EdX), Fundamentals of Six Sigma: Quality Engineering and Management (EdX), Big Data (Coursera), Introduction to Project Management Principles and Practices (Coursera), Digital Storytelling: Film Making for the Web (Future Learn), Developing Cultural Intelligence for Leadership (Future Learn).

Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs, as they are known) are university-level online courses offered primarily for free from a variety of universities globally, with many highly respected institutions contributing content (Harvard, MIT, Cornell, etc.). There are typically thousands of students participating in an individual MOOC at the same time and it may be structured so that learners can work at their own pace, or structured weekly to parallel in-person university courses. The learning may also take place synchronously (all learners at the same time) or asynchronously. Most MOOC providers offer their courses at no charge, with the option to upgrade to a “verified certificate” with course registration, which the participant will receive if they successfully complete the course requirements. The certificate option is perfect if you’re looking for official documentation that shows you’ve put in the time and effort to complete a course, or as motivation to work your way through the course from beginning to end. If you’re like me, you can relate to the excitement of starting a course, but seeing it through to the end requires more motivation. Paying a small fee for the certification can be great incentive to complete a course.

Next month I’ll explore three more inexpensive continuous education options, but until then, I encourage you to check out Lynda and various MOOC sites. There’s no better time than present to tackle a professional development goal!


Diana Varma is an Instructor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University and the Owner of ON-SITE First Aid & CPR Training Group, a health & safety company that provides training to the Graphic Arts Industry.