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10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

10 Free Online Resources to Help Upgrade Your Career

We live in an amazing time. Within a few mouse clicks or screen taps, we can get the answer to almost any question we could possibly come up with. At any given time, we can reach into our pockets, pull out our phones, and start ourselves out on a quest for knowledge that could end up changing our lives. And, most amazingly, a staggering amount of this information is available completely free of charge. If you’ve been feeling stagnant in your job and want to start advancing your career, you can open up your web browser and head to the following pages:

1. Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website that informs potential employees about the company they’re applying to work for. The information for each company on the site has been documented by previous and current employees, so users know they are getting first-hand data from reputable sources. Glassdoor gives information regarding positions offered by the company, starting and average salary rates, and anecdotal information regarding interviews and the quality of past employee experiences. Use Glassdoor when conducting a job hunt to be sure you’re applying for a job that’s right for you.

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2. Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers lectures on a variety of subjects, at a variety of difficulty levels, as well as practice questions, exercises, and exams for users to test their knowledge and comprehension of each topic. These tests are individualized, meaning the barrage of questions asked is tailored to a user’s specific understanding of content. Using Khan Academy, you can learn anything from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus, the fundamentals of computer science, to advanced programming.

3. Coursera and edX

Both Coursera and edX are well-known databases for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). On each of these sites, students can find actual college-level courses on almost any subject imaginable. MOOCs have taken the Internet by storm due to their accessibility and flexibility. MOOCs usually consist of a combination of video lectures, reading materials, and assignments. However, you can engage in the MOOC as much, or as little, as you like. MOOCs often create learning communities consisting of thousands of students all over the world, so taking full advantage of forums will allow for maximum exposure to a variety of viewpoints, and will expand your thoughts and ideas much more than sitting in a lecture hall throughout a semester could ever hope to do.

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4. Codecademy

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to program, but are intimidated by the prospect of learning a seemingly alien language, you’re not alone. But Codecademy is an incredibly helpful resource that will help you learn programming languages such as JavaScript, and Python. The interactive lessons are scaffolded so you will learn the basics first, then use those fundamental skills to complete projects and activities. By the end of your first session, you’ll have learned enough to create a basic website, and be able to build upon your learning from there.

5. Learnvest

While not everything that Learnvest has to offer is free, the site offers a variety of articles and blog posts which have been curated from all corners of the Internet. Learnvest offers information regarding all aspects of life, from college and career readiness to lifestyle decisions such as weddings, home improvement, and travel. One of the most intriguing sections relates to the ‘Psyche of Money”, which analyzes societal views on money, expenses, and savings.

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6. Investopedia

I’ll be honest: I’m pretty clueless about money. After I finish writing this, I’m going to spend some time on Investopedia, so I can finally wrap my head around this whole Greece situation and increase my understanding of retirement savings. If you’ve wanted to dive into the world of stocks, bonds, and all things money-related, Investopedia offers money management tips, a stock simulator, and tutorials and exam tips for financial analyst certifications.

7. Y Combinator Startup Library

If you’ve ever thought of starting a business, check out the Startup Library. Y Combinator offers long-form articles full of tips on how to start and build a business, and what to do once you get the ball rolling. The Library also offers links to tools to help grow your business, and other organizations that will help develop your entrepreneurial knowledge. Y Combinator has funded over 800 startup companies in the past 10 years, so the advice given in these blog posts can be taken seriously. Thankfully, it’s free!

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8. Duolingo

At a time in which we can communicate with almost any person in the entire world online, many people naturally yearn to gain the ability to understand and speak a variety of languages. Duolingo allows users to take full courses which focus on over 20 languages, including Spanish, French, Polish…and Klingon. Members of Duolingo also are privy to a community of learners who can collaborate with each other on various projects and lessons in order to enhance their learning. Most beneficial, however, is Duolingo’s immersion section, which provides real-world tasks in the language being studied, with no assistance. The best way to learn a new language is to dive right in!

9. Bartleby

Bartleby offers full versions of well-known books and works of literature from various points in history. From Voltaire, to Scott Fitzgerald, to Chaucer, Bartleby offers something for everyone looking to get a taste of culture into their life. Also available are historical non-fiction texts and reference books which offer first-hand insights into different eras of human history. It’s incredible how much Bartleby has to offer, considering the site is named after a famous character who preferred to do nothing.

10. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is similar to Bartleby, but implements a wiki formula while offering ebooks and texts. Gutenberg’s focus is on classic literature. Over 49,000 classic works, to be more precise. With Project Gutenberg, you can check out Kafka, Cervantes, and Whitman all in one spot. And you can download each in HTML format, or as an ebook that can be read using a Kindle or the Kindle app on your smartphone. The bad news is that if you’re a high school student, now your English teacher has a backup plan for the times when you “left your book at home.”

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

5 Learning Management Systems (LMS) for Effective Learning

Businesses rely on talent to generate and sell value. Without skilled people to create its products, manage its operations and execute its strategies, a business would inevitably fizzle out of the game and leave better-staffed competitors to take the field.

This is the reason why ambitious companies go great lengths to attract top talent,[1] shelling out millions of dollars in the process and bending traditional work policies just to bring highly skilled but demanding candidates into the fold.

Clearly, the contours of business are changing. But so are the demographics of work.

Millennials have become the dominant generation in the job market in terms of population, and some have already transitioned into leadership roles. Most millennials consider opportunity to learn and grow more important than overall compensation.[2]

Companies also today expect employees to come equipped with razor sharp business acumen.[3] Unfortunately, there is an alarming discrepancy between the actual skills businesses need and those currently possessed by job candidates.

To stay in the game, employers need to continually upgrade their training and skills development strategies to cover the entire employee lifecycle.

What are Learning Management Systems (LMS)?

Learning management systems are software-based solutions for authoring, presenting, consuming, storing, and tracking educational content and training materials. These systems aim to centralize all instructional content (e.g., lessons, training modules, instructional videos, presentation slides, worksheets, online quizzes, ebooks, takeaway notes, etc.) in one place.

LMS enable instructors to design and deliver learning experiences to students, with the added capability of evaluating the effectiveness of the instructional materials and grading the learning progress of students.

On the other side of the equation, learners use LMS to develop skills and acquire new knowledge virtually anytime and anywhere via the different channels and content formats made possible by digital technology.

Over the years, a wide range of features and technologies have been integrated into learning management systems to help enhance the experience of training designers, instructors, and learners. These include cloud and mobile technology, artificial intelligence, responsive design, scheduling, gamification, data analytics, and interoperability with other applications.

5 Best All-Purpose Learning Management Systems

There are dozens of LMS vendors catering to the general market or to specific segments such as K-12 learning, higher education, and corporate training.

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With so many options available, selecting the right LMS solution for your needs can be complicated and costly, especially when you end up adopting a platform that doesn’t exactly match your goals or requirements.

Short of conducting a comprehensive audit of your needs and finalizing a learning roadmap, the safest bet would be to adopt full-featured but affordable LMS solutions.

Based on user reviews, here are the 5 best LMS to help people gain knowledge, build skills, and achieve mastery:

1. Canvas Network

Launched by Instructure as an open source software in 2011, Canvas is an end-to-end cloud-based service originally engineered for the education sector.

Widely adopted for K-12 and Higher Ed learning, Canvas can be repurposed for anything that involves an instructor, a subject matter, and a student.

Used around the world by people of all ages and organizations of all types, Canvas arguably has the largest learning and support community in its class. It works on desktop computers, tablets and mobile phones.

To get a glimpse of the platform’s fresh interfaces, you can visit the Canvas Network, a learning community that provides educational and instructional materials created by colleges, universities, corporate businesses, independent course developers, and other knowledge-sharing entities around the world.

Hosting hundreds of interesting topics from data science to horticulture, the learning network also serves as evidence to the scope, capabilities, and popularity of the Canvas LMS platform.

Canvas is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure, which enhances the platform’s reliability, speed, scalability, and overall online performance.

Additionally, platform adopters enjoy a low-risk environment since cloud-based solutions require no hard stops for version updates, upgrades, or system migrations.

The Canvas website does not show a price matrix but says the service adopts a simple formula for computing fees: a one-time implementation fee and an annual subscription fee based on total number of users. It also promises free basic services for teachers who want to use the platform.

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In addition to Canvas, Instructure also offers Bridge (an LMS designed for corporate environments), Arc (a video platform for online learning), and Gauge (an assessment management system).

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Canvas Network:

2. Google Classroom

This free service from Google aims to improve the teaching and learning process using cloud technology, web apps, workflow simplification, and seamless communication between students and instructors.

Using Classroom, educators can easily create and schedule classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and grade quizzes all in one place. By streamlining processes, Classroom helps teachers save time and organize classes more effectively. Both students and teachers can also work using any device anytime and anywhere.

Classroom works perfectly with other Google tools, having been launched initially as part of Google’s G Suite for Education. This LMS solution taps Google Drive for content storage and distribution, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for the creation and sharing of instructional materials. Meanwhile it integrates Google Calendar for scheduling and Gmail for communication.

With G Suite, other communication channels such as chat messaging, video conferencing, and a dedicated website are enabled.

Easy to set up and manage, Google Classroom is free to use. One of my very first courses was actually hosted on Google Classroom.

Going beyond the classroom environment, Google offers G Suite Enterprise for Education for large institutions. This suite provides enhanced search and analytics capabilities as well as advanced tools for enterprise communications.

3. Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment)

If budget and capability equally top your list of LMS adoption criteria, then Moodle might just fit the bill. Which is to say there’s none (i.e., bill).

Moodle is a free and open-source learning solution for distance education, workplace training, flipped classrooms, and other pedagogical environments.

It is also a full-featured LMS supported by a robust community and a thriving developer ecosystem. Not surprisingly, Moodle is used in more than 15 million courses by more than 130 million users in 230+ countries.

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Among other things, Moodle enables administrators and educators to create a dynamic and dedicated website to host organic, easily accessible, and highly customizable courses that can be experienced on desktops and mobile devices anytime and anywhere.

Moodle provides a personalized and intuitive dashboard as well as a host of collaboration tools for content designers, teachers, and learners. A universal calendar, an efficient file management system, an automatic notification system, multimedia integration, and a progress tracking tool all come with the package.

Check out this video if you want to learn more about Moodle:

4. Absorb

This platform recently bagged PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award for Best LMS.

Co-designed and built by former course authors, Absorb takes learning experience to the next level. This turnkey LMS solution is responsive, full-featured, and highly customizable for maximum impact.

Course developers can orchestrate a wide range of experiences depending on audience or learning situation. In addition to surveys, polls, and e-commerce integration, Absorb supports formal online learning and certifications standards such as AICC, SCORM, and Tin Can.

The user interface can also be modified to match the learner’s location, group, or department, allowing for a different look and feel for customers, channel partners, management trainees, and newly hired employees.

Absorb supports all personal computing devices from desktops to mobile phones. There are also native or hybrid apps for iOS and Android.

The only possible drawback to the platform’s powerful feature set is its pricing. The service reportedly implements a flat, one-time setup fee depending on your business and training requirements. According to the site, any plan comes with a dedicated success team for your account.

Although small companies are welcome to try, midsize to enterprise-scale organizations are probably the best segment to readily adopt this LMS solution.

Take a look at some examples of Absorb in this video:

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5. Watershed Collaborative

Created by a group of educators, this nonprofit rethinks the priorities of an LMS, asserting that too many systems miss the most essential elements of what makes learning stick. They promise a better user experience – emphasizing Learning before Management and System.

Watershed aims to support an inquiry-based learning experience through an integrated mix of online and in-person learning strategies and interactions designed expressly for teams – including collaboration, reflection, and dialogue.

While Watershed was founded initially to serve the K-12 education market, the company has since expanded its scope to cater to all types of teachers and learners with its video-rich, state-of-the-art platform.

If you’re a mission-driven educator, content creator, institution, or business, this LMS may be the one for you.

Watershed specializes in assisting you with the instructional design of courses and provides content production services to ensure top-quality video assets with lasting value. Their LMS makes it easy for course creators to continuously update and tailor content to support small and large groups, while ensuring the technology and instructional strategy supports communities of learners.

Pricing varies based on products and services, but revenues support the nonprofit’s ability to make its platform and courses available at little or no cost for high-need educators and educational settings.

Honorable Mentions

There are dozens of LMS vendors in this growing market and the brands included in foregoing list are by no means the only viable options for companies or learning institutions looking to upgrade their learning infrastructure.

Many other excellent services are worth checking out. These include:

  1. Docebo is an LMS designed for hyper-engaging students, employees, customers, and other learners. The system helps organizations identify and resolve competency gaps with strategic learning interventions.
  2. Cornerstone OnDemand is a talent, training, and performance management solution offered as an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service). This service enables learners to create personalized playlists of instructional content.
  3. Lessonly is an LMS solution that makes it easier to recall and reinforce whatever skills or knowledge you have learned through quizzes, coaching, and constant practice.
  4. Skillsoft is an online training and corporate learning platform developed by a two-decade old and billion-dollar company with the same name.
  5. D2L BrightSpace is a learning management system that has all the basics for delivering excellent, rich-media experiences for classroom or workplace training.

Conclusion

There are many ways to learn but some are more effective and meaningful than others. Whether you are a teacher looking to enhance classroom learning or an HR manager creating a long-term talent development plan for employees, the key to impactful learning is to understand and bridge the needs of learners, the goals of your institution, and the actual capabilities of the learning tools you are considering.

Note that using multiple LMS platforms is possible although not recommended. On the other hand, adopting other learning solutions beyond LMS (such as podcasts, mentoring, and onsite in-person workshops) may significantly improve learning outcomes. Always go for products and plugins that seamlessly integrate into your core LMS tool.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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