Learn on a Dime

I know I won’t be able to do nothing after I retire, both for my pocketbook and for my sanity. But I’m tired of an office environment and want to do something creative and portable. For years I’ve taken classes looking for an avocation as much as a new vocation. But the course content hasn’t always justified the cost or the time required. So I decided to look for cheaper learning alternatives on writing, editing, web site design, photography, and teaching English as a second language.  (I am not endorsing the companies or courses mentioned below; the opinions offered are my own and experiences will be personal, be it good or bad.)

My quest for cheap learning started on Groupon, one of several “deal-of-the-day” websites that sell discounted goods, services, and just about anything you want. Groupon and similar sites play on the impulse buyer in most of us. I’ve discovered some of the deals reappear on a regular basis and aren’t all that limited. But Groupon is easy to use and you can search for deals in your local area. I purchased the four courses discussed below on Groupon. I was looking for self-paced educational courses that allow access for extended periods.

A Groupon search for “learn” will find local and online deals for music, dance, art and cooking lessons, photo tours, and courses on a variety of subjects. If you want to learn to tango, deals on sites like Groupon offer a short series of lessons to entice the buyer to take more. 

I had just finished my WordPress site and loved the experience of putting it together. EwB was offering an online class called How to Build a Website(normally $777 for $79). (web.excelwithbusiness.com/) Even if the course was a bust, I decided I could learn at least $75 worth of something. I would have access to the course for 12 months. I jumped at the offer. I have completed several units. I am pleased with the content, even though the units on HTML and cascading style sheets left me shaking my head and will require more study. So far, I’ve gotten my money back. I don’t know if the course is worth $777—classroom courses on web design at the local community college cost $399. My only criticism so far is that the authors need to take a few lessons on the use and abuse of commas.

The world and how it communicates is changing rapidly. Instant E-Training (www.instantetraining.com) was offering a Social Media certificate training program for $99. I have access for 12 months to the self-paced sessions that normally cost about $1,197. Social media training complements my interest in portable skills. I haven’t started the course yet; I’ll let you know how it goes. I am a twit that doesn’t tweet; maybe I will discover why I should.

This week, I found an inexpensive web design learning opportunity from Udemy, an online training site. For $99 I purchased a Learn to Design bundle, a group of ten courses related to web design. The full cost would be $1,328. Udemy (www.udemy.com) offers online courses taught by experts from around the world. The two courses I have started have been very good, and I have found a number of other courses I hope to take.  Udemy offers both free and paid courses. In addition to taking classes on Udemy,  you can design courses and offer them on the site. 

When my urge to escape and live overseas acts up, I explore teaching English as a second language (TESL) overseas.  Prague or Istanbul appeal to me. There are many TESL programs in the US and abroad. I want to take an overseas program, which generally include in classroom training. But I saw an affordable online TESL Certification class on Groupon. The 150 hour course cost $69, normally $599. For that price, I would at least find out if teaching English was something I really wanted to do. In this case, I should have done a bit of research before I jumped at the offer.

Most reviews of this program I found are negative. It is hard to tell who actually offers the class. According the Groupon offer, the course is offered by TESOLS.com (http://www.tesols.com/). But that slick site appears to be a front to sell the product. The link to the actual course goes to the Global Leadership College, which is owned by Ignitia, a Christian learning company from Alpha Omega Publications. You can only find this out by reading the fine, fine print on the course home page. When I discovered biblical references thrown into some of the lessons I was no happy. Now I don’t mind the babble of other languages, but I didn’t ask to visit Babel.

Knowing little about the subject of teaching English, I will admit some of the content is interesting, but I think the essay questions on the tests are graded based on the character count rather than the content. The lessons are full of distracting ads for other course. I’ll finish the course, but if I do decide to try to teach English overseas, I’ll take a formal course overseas. 

Over the next few months I will continue to explore affordable learning alternatives such as Coursera, a company that partners with 33 universities to offer free online courses.

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