Back to School: The Best Free Courses You Can Do Online to Improve Your Skills

Do you remember that whole Christmas thing? Well it’s over and long gone. 2016 has begun. It’s time to put away the eggnog and sweat pants, and start focusing on your career goals ahead of you.

In the present day job market students and graduates are more skilled than ever. Just having a degree is no longer enough to get you those highly sought after positions. As a candidate, it’s ideal if you bring more to the table than your competitors. Particularly if you’re seeking new-age jobs in dynamic companies, having technical skills that may not have been a part of your coursework will put you ahead of the pack.

And we only want you to be in the lead position.

To add to your skill set, we’ve compiled a list of great FREE courses that you can complete online. Whether you want to do one that takes a couple of hours, or gain in-depth knowledge over the course of a few months, there’s something in here for you.

1. Make a Website with Codecademy (3 hrs, 5 lessons)

This is a great one for those new to coding. Not only is codecademy’s interface a pleasure to use, they teach you in a practical way which is absolutely essential when learning how to code. The lesson gets you to build a recent version of Airbnb‘s home page and learn the fundamentals of web development in the process.

WHY? If you haven’t realised yet, code is one of the most important languages to learn in the digital age. Many employers value highly the capacity for you to at least have a basic understanding of what HTML/CSS means. It’s fast, and not to complicated to get a grounding in the basics. The potential for it to make an employer pick you over someone else who doesn’t have coding skills is 100% worth your time.

2. Beginner’s Guide to Photoshop with Pluralsight Creative (1.5 hrs, 10 Lessons)

This intro course to photoshop will give you the low down on the essentials of editing images. You’ll finish with a sound knowledge of terms and definitions as well as basic tools and techniques. Specifically created with beginners in mind, the pace of this program is easy-to-follow. You’ll start with learning how to resize and resample images. The course then moves on to correcting the color and tone of an image, making specific pixel selections, and removing unwanted information from images. The great thing about this course is its focus on teaching you to apply these skills in a non-destructive way. Anyone can correct an image on photoshop, but it takes skill to do it in the right way.

WHY? Being able to communicate visually will get you very far in many industries. This basic guide will allow you to render and manipulate even the most basic of images, so whether you want to make a presentation much more visually impressive, creating marketing material for your boss, or layouts for a publication to go to print – Photoshop is your go to software.

3. Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator with Yale University (11 hours over 9 lessons)

This course will help you become a better negotiator. The focus is on understanding and empathising with other people; you’ll learn to predict, interpret, and shape the behavior of people you face in competitive situations. You’ll also master making ultimatums, avoiding regret, and dealing with someone who has a very different perspective on the world. There’s also an advanced level of the course for those that want black-belt verbal combat skills.

WHY? Apart from these skills probably helping every interaction you’ll have with difficult people ever, it has been well documented that mastering negotiation is crucial to business success. Knowing how to work with others, particularly when there is a conflict of interests, is a highly desired skill by employers (and one many employers need to master themselves). For some people, negotiating with others comes second nature, but learning to do so in a business environment is a whole different kettle of fish. This course is extremely helpful with providing frameworks for better mediation and arbitration.

4. The Analytics Edge with MIT (10 hrs over 12 weeks)

The world-leading MIT has produced this course, and though its a lot heftier in length and content than the others, you can come out with a legitimate accreditation from the institution. Over the 12 weeks you will learn the power of data and an applied understanding of many different analytical methods, including linear regression, logistic regression, CART, clustering, and data visualization. What’s more, the course will teach you how to put these skills to practice. You need a basic level of maths to do the course (if you did it in high school, you should be fine).

WHY? In this day and age, statistics drive almost every decision, and remaining numerically illiterate is a real risk. Numbers talk, but they often need you to interpret them. This is exactly what this course will do. You can back any claim that you make with proven data in an eloquent way. Not to mention, employees love those who are statistically minded.

5. Fundamentals of Business Writing with ALISON (2 hour lesson)

The final course we included intends to hone in your business writing skills. This ALISON course will give you the theory and practice of writing in the modern business world. On completing the 2-3 hour lesson, students will be able to express thoughts and ideas in clear, concise, and efficient prose. It will take your writing to the standard expected at a professional level, so that you can communicate effectively, whether writing a professional business letter, sending an inquiry to another organisation or applying for a job.

WHY? It’s remarkable that many people can finish higher education, without being taught the principals to clear, coherent, formal writing. There is no two ways about it: no matter how great your ideas are, if you can’t communicate with the appropriate skill, people just won’t listen. It’s a pain to both employers and employees alike, who enter their career daunted by the task of writing a letter to a client or manager. This course is short, but the knowledge taught has the potential to reach far into your profession. You will be surprised how effective having the confidence to communicate in the right way will gain the ears of those around you, and effectively propel you forward in your career.

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