Education, Education, Education: 7 Free or Low-Cost Ways to Gain More Knowledge or Learn a New Skill

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When was the last time you chose to learn something new or completed some training which was not provided through your employer? Often our learning stops when we leave school or university, or we have become established within our role. For some people Continual Professional Develop (CPD) never stops, for others the prospect of doing any more learning fills them with dread. But, how do you satisfy that need to grow, to expand your mind or to try out something new?

When I was at school, I hated learning. Back then it was something you had to do. Even when I was studying a chemistry degree, it was not something I enjoyed, I think again it was because I felt I had to do it, rather than it being something, I wanted to do. Since then, I have well and truly caught the learning bug and have pursued a variety of courses from English Literature to dog training, which is what I am doing this weekend with my springer spaniel, Mason. Obedience is not one of our strengths when it comes to his behaviour, he's not totally unruly but there is definite room for improvement, and I need to learn some new skills and methods in order to bring out the best in him. I split my learning and growth between what I am interested personally and what will contribute to my professional development. I get fun and enjoyment out of both, which I believe is important if you want to absorb, understand and apply the new knowledge and skills.

If you were to make changes in your career what direction would you take it? Follow the path you always have, or go for something totally different? As you progressed through the years of formal education, the structure of it and how society's expectations of how we move through life, limited the scope of what you could potentially explore. How many times were you asked, "what do you want to do when you grow up?" Whoever replied with, "how should I know? I don't know what's out there." Probably no one.

Now as adults and with the magic of the Internet, we have the scope to learn just about anything from Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation to Learn Jazz Piano to How to Make a Living Selling What You Make. Whatever your interests, your ambitions or if you just want to learn something new for fun and go totally left field to what you have done before, there is a book, course or training out there for you.

The good news is that in order to dip your toe in the water of learning something new, you don't have to spend £100s or £1000s to try it out or gain new knowledge. There are plenty of options out there. Below are 7 free or low-cost ways to learn a new skill, develop an existing one or explore a new hobby or interest. Whilst there are many learning platforms, course providers and resources available online, this list is based upon options I have used in the past in order to give you a good starting point.

  1. Ted Talks: Free to watch and has a vast array of conversations or brief intros into different topics. Great not only for the knowledge you learn but to see people talking so passionately is both motivating and inspiring. -www.ted.com
  2. Facebook groups: Another free avenue to pursue. Whilst many people might think of Facebook as sharing updates and photos with family and friends, there are also many groups on there where you can chat to likeminded people, learn about new perspectives and gain fresh ideas. You can use it to demonstrate your new-found skill and ask for feedback to help you develop further.
  3. Audible: I am an avid reader and do love my books but sometimes, there just aren't enough hours in the day and reading can be time consuming which is why I love Audible when it comes to non-fiction books and trying to get new knowledge in as short a time as possible. Clearly as a coach I am into personal development and I find listening to books as I am commuting into the office or out walking the dogs is an effortless way to learn more. For £7.99 per month, I find I certainly get my money's worth, especially since as a subscriber, I also get access to many free offerings which not only expand my world but are highly entertaining. - www.audible.co.uk
  4. Strong>Lynda.com: This is LinkedIn's learning platform. There are over 13, 000 online video courses taught by industry experts in the fields of business, technology and design. If you're looking to pursue your career goals and want to develop your existing skills or learn something new, then this might be the platform for you. The monthly cost starts from £14.99. - www.lynda.com
  5. Udemy: An online learning platform which has over 100,000 courses with prices ranging from £10 to £300, though often you can use a voucher to get 50% off the price. There's lots of variety, meaning whether you're wanting to learn something new in relation to your job or you have a passion you want to pursue, you'll be able to find something at an entry level, though quality of content does vary. - www.udemy.co.uk
  6. Future Learn: Owned by Open University but with contributors from both UK & International Universities and non-university partners. Many courses are free but if you do want to continue to access the course once it has finished and have a certification of completion then you do have to pay for an upgrade. There is also a series of premium courses specifically for professionals who want to advance their career and have greater interaction with likeminded people. Prices vary depending on the course. Some courses have assignments and an opportunity to get constructive feedback. Also, you can study at postgraduate degree level if you find something which interests you. - www.futurelearn.com
  7. Creative Live: This is one to look at if you are wanting to explore developing your creative side, be it photography, writing, craft work, music and audio or podcasting to name but a few. Prices range from around $13-300 and there are often flash sales where there are high quality courses at a heavily discounted price.

There is something exhilarating about learning because you want to and not because you have to. It's not about the end result but how you feel learning something new or taking something you enjoy to another level. Don't put your days of learning behind you, try something new and see where it leads...it just might surprise you.