How to upgrade your skills with free online courses
Many jobseekers need to upgrade their skills to meet the demands of ever-changing workplaces.
The great news is that you can learn most anything online today, and there are many courses available for free on sites such as Duolingo, Lynda.com and Coursera.
Do employers accept online training as qualifications?
Depending on what the employer needs, they may or may not accept online classes as qualifications. Each industry is unique so it’s up to you to research your field and find the requirements.
Most free courses are not accredited, meaning that they are not approved by a governing body that ensures educational standards. But that’s not to say the courses aren’t good. Accreditation is costly and most online platforms could not afford to offer courses for free if they had to be accredited.
Should I take a course online?
Like anything, there are pros and cons to taking online courses. Here are some aspects to consider before signing up.
The benefits – Scheduling is flexible, courses are self-paced, and free, which makes them a great option if you’re exploring a career and deciding whether formal training or education interests you. Also, courses are delivered in a variety of formats, allowing you to choose one that suits your style of learning.
The drawbacks – If discipline and good time management are a challenge for you, self-directed study can be hard. Also, you usually won’t have access to an instructor to answer questions, or classmates to network, connect or collaborate with.
Practical tips for choosing online courses
- Read job postings that interest you and find out the kinds of skills they require that you may be lacking.
- Note when you say things like “I hate typing” or “It’s just easier to use a calculator, I’m not good with computers.” Noticing this will give you an idea of where you can push your learning edge.
If you know you have weaknesses and have made a commitment to yourself to take some online courses, this can help you prepare for the interview question, “What is one of your weaknesses and what are you doing about it?” It shows that you recognize a weakness and you’re motivated to learn and improve, a valuable asset in today’s workplaces.
- Choose a course that will give you opportunities to practice and apply what you’re learning. You’ll increase your chances of success if you’re passionate and committed, so sign up for only one course at a time and finish it completely before moving onto the next course. The key here is in knowing you can confidently use those skills if you were to walk into a new job on your first day. Ask yourself that question. “Have I learned and practiced enough to be able to confidently say, “Yes, I’m proficient in...”:
Where to find free online courses
Here are some popular websites that offer free courses. If you can’t find a particular topic, then Google “free online [topic] courses.”
- Glclearnfree.org – A site for learning all the basics of computers, math, employment-related learning, and workplace skills.
- Alison.com – This site offers a wide range of courses, much like a college or university. Courses are free and you can download and see a copy of the results online. If you want a parchment certificate or diploma mailed to you, framed or unframed, you need to pay anywhere between about CA$40-180, plus shipping, depending on the course.
- Lynda.com – Lynda offers courses for creative skills such as video production and graphic design. If you have a Vancouver Public Library card, you can register for Lynda courses for free through the library site. See if this option is available where you live.
- Udemy.com – Over 40,000 courses, with a mix of paid and free options.
- Coursera.com - You can browse lectures and non-graded courses for free.
- Duolingo.com – Duolingo specializes in languages.
- Spreeder.com – A great resource if you want to learn how to read faster.
Dana Zaruba is a career advisor at the YWCA’s Westside WorkBC Employment Services Centre and a member of our partnership staff with Family Services of Greater Vancouver. If you’re looking for services and support in your job search, visit one of our centres to get started.
If you’re seeking services and support in your job search, visit one of our centres to get started. Our FREE employment and career services for job seekers ages 16 to 65+ years include specialized workshops and support for immigrants, youth, Indigenous peoples, personnes francophones, persons with disabilities, survivors of violence and abuse, older workers and women returning to work after an absence.