This article was written by BlogHer and sponsored by Philip Morris International.
Without the Internet, a lot of us would have been lost this year. Personally, I can’t begin to share the embarrassing amount of things I didn’t know how to do until quarantining forced me to learn. There were, of course, totally gratuitous hobbies—like making the perfect pancake—that manifested over time. But the life-altering impact of 2020 also amplified our collective dependency on technology for the most basic things.
According to Marian Salzman, trendspotter and SVP of Global Communications as Philip Morris International, our lives are literally morphing into “paid-for services” as we rely on apps and other electronic services to complete almost anything with the tap of a few buttons.
“We don’t know how to cook because we have Deliveroo. We haven’t learned how to mend clothing because it’s easier to get a quick replacement from Amazon or Taobao. We count on TaskRabbit to hang our pictures and put together our flat-pack furniture,” she writes in her “Zoomsday Predictions” forecast. “Over time, we have managed to winnow down our areas of responsibility and, in doing so, have lost wisdom and essential expertise.”
Fortunately, after a year that forced us into some semblance of independence, upskilling will continue its unexpected but much-needed comeback. So much so, that Salzman predicts a countertrend—specifically, a surge in “adulting” classes that teach the skills responsible parents once handed down to their children. Yes, maybe we’ll finally learn how to fold a fitted sheet or set our bathwater to the perfect temperature but this trend will extend to the needs of creators, too.
Small businesses were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with droves either losing record profits or closing indefinitely. Simultaneously, the hardships of 2020 have also inspired many to quit their day job or make meaningful progress toward a dream deferred. For first-time entrepreneurs, it’s both an exciting and challenging time. Mastering the basics of business ownership—budgeting, branding, and time management, to name a few—is essential.
However, the ways in which we’re taught these foundational skills are more diverse than ever, as we’re commanding more ownership over our education. Plus, nationwide school closures and financial strain tied to the pandemic only support the inevitable “adulting classes” surge Salzman predicted.
If you want to get saved by the Internet in a way that bolsters your independence, instead of diminishing it, online courses are a great place to start because they democratize the learning process. You don’t have to be in a physical classroom, you can complete them on your own schedule, and according to some statistics, e-learning can actually have a positive impact on learning retention.
The online course landscape is also huge, with countless websites that offer both free and paid lessons on everything from knitting to social media marketing. So before you enroll, keep three things in mind as you browse.
Go Back to Your Why
Whether you’re working with other creators or building alone, developing an anchor will keep you from going down a YouTube rabbit hole when you don’t have to. Even if your idea is still just an idea, spend some time thinking about (and writing down) your reasons and goals for doing it in the first place. If you’re able to identify a couple of key objectives before you start Googling or asking for recommendations, your “why“ will be the factor that helps you decide if you should take an online course or not.
Research Before You Commit
Exhausting your options isn’t the answer to every problem but when it comes to online courses—it definitely is. There are seemingly countless e-learning platforms out there, including BlogHer, and you want to make sure it’s worth the investment, especially if you’re paying for it. Take your time browsing courses that align with your “why,” as well as your schedule and budget.
Be sure to always read the course description where you’ll more than likely be able to see a course outline, skill level, time required, and more. While most platforms, such as Alison or Skillshare, tend to let you learn at your own pace, there are others with stricter guidelines so read before you commit.
Learn the Basics With Free Options
Perhaps the biggest benefit of online courses is that they don’t cost an arm and a leg to attend. Most of the popular e-learning platforms offer free courses that don’t sacrifice quality for open access. Free courses also tend to offer foundational skills that almost every creator and entrepreneur should know, like content planning and data analytics.
Don’t waste your money on the basics. Instead, save your budget for those intermediate to advanced courses that may require more of an investment down the line. You and your bank account will be happier for it.
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