Larry Moore.

Continuous Education (On the Cheap) – Part 2 of 2

ar2Last month we took a look at two different platforms for learning something new without breaking the bank: and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Not only are they cost-effective options, but they also allow you to work at your own pace, learn as much or as little as you’d like, and access the content from anywhere with an Internet connection. Let’s continue the journey by exploring three more fantastic platforms for continuous education.


Cost: Free

What you can learn: A new language

Courses of interest to graphic communications professionals: Learn up to 19 different languages from Spanish, French, and German to Dutch, Russian, and Hebrew.

Duolingo was born from the same mind as “reCAPTCHA” technology: Carnegie Mellon University Computer Scientist and Researcher, Luis von Ahn. Even if you’ve never heard of a reCAPTCHA before, you’ve probably used one when making a purchase online or submitting a form to authenticate that you are, in fact, a real human. reCAPTCHA’s present themselves as a distorted sequence of characters and when you retype them, you (and two hundred million other people everyday) are helping to digitize printed books!

Duolingo works with the same massive-scale online collaboration in mind. Luis von Ahn asked his graduate student: “How can we get 100 million people translating the Web into every major language for free?” While you’re learning a new language on Duolingo, you’re also helping to accomplish this massive undertaking and translate the Web into different languages quickly and accurately. Once you choose the language you’d like to learn, you’re guided on a visual and auditory journey from the very simple basics of the language to greater complexity and sentence structure, all while being provided with instant feedback. Learners can also take their language studies with them wherever they go by downloading the Duolingo app for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Follow this link to watch Luis von Ahn’s fascinating TedTalk all about his reCAPTCHA and Duolingo projects:


Cost: Free or upgrade to Codeacademy Pro for $19.99 per month

What you can learn: Up to 11 different programming languages interactively, online

Courses of interest to graphic communications specialists: Make a Website, Make an Interactive Website, Deploy a Website, HTML & CSS

Learning code can be a scary undertaking, especially if you’ve never done it before. Each Codeacademy course provides specific learning objectives and includes the estimated time and technical skills required. For example, the estimated course time for the “Making a Website” course is four hours with beginner technical skills required. To take learning code to the next level, users can upgrade to the “Pro” paid version, which provides a personalized learning plan, access to quizzes, realistic projects for experiential learning, and help from experienced coders.


Cost: Free

What you can learn: Just about anything

Courses of interest to graphic communications specialists: Managerial topics of interest, how-to videos, keeping up with the newest equipment and technical information

YouTube has come along way since the first-ever video was uploaded in 2005 called “Me at the zoo”. Today more than one billion people use YouTube for entertainment and learning. You can find information on just about every imaginable subject on YouTube with the video quality ranging from amateur to professional and everything in between.

The benefits to using YouTube to learn something new include the infinite choice in content, as well as the low price tag – free! The drawbacks include having to seek out high quality videos (versus having them expertly curated for you) and assessing video content for accuracy and legitimacy, which is not always easy. Knowing how to cut through the clutter and find what you’re looking for is half the battle.

I hope that this overview of inexpensive continuous education platforms has expanded your horizons and inspired you to tackle a new challenge. Mark Twain said it best: “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

Happy learning!


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.