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Lawyers, medical personnel, mental health professionals, engineers, social workers and the like have long been required to pursue continuing education efforts each year of their career. Staying up to date with medical technology, new health discoveries and research, as well as changes in the law, are vital for ensuring these professionals are informed and able to do their jobs well.
In the world of technology, continuing education was always encouraged—especially after the dot-com bubble of the late ’90s and early 2000s, when we all had to keep up with what was happening in the tech world—but it’s rarely been a requirement for IT, networking, and developer professionals. In some instances it may be because employers do not want to make it a requirement and then have to financially support absences and time spent studying rather than working. Or maybe because employers assume tech professionals are naturally curious and will remain in the know on the latest and greatest without prompting and/or pressure from their superiors.
In my years spent working in the tech industry, I have to agree that the typical mindset of those of us in this industry is prone to seek out new information and opportunities for learning. Finding the time to devote to mastering a new programming language or seeking a certification in the latest security best practice, however, isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve not only created Courses, an online directory of e-learning courses, but Course of the Month—a new program where Premium Members and Team Accounts get one free course in a leading technology each month. Our hope is that these opportunities will help our members who want to pursue continuing education through online learning do so at their own leisure. We want you to learn faster, through easier circumstances, and be able to choose from many subjects to expand your tech knowledge and skills.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your online learning experience.
1. Pick a Specialization
In order to truly make the most of your time spent learning new technologies, it’s important to pick a specialty. That way, each course you enroll in and each certification you gain works toward a greater purpose. Want to become certified in the latest networking security technologies? Make that your goal, and pursue courses in cloud computing, cybersecurity, learn how to set up and secure databases, and so much more.
2. Budget Enough Time
Some of these courses are long—with multiple videos and hours worth of content created to help you work toward a certification or comprehensive knowledge of a topic. If you sign up for a CompTIA A+ course, for example, with more than 40 hours of learning before the course is complete, make sure you allocate time in your schedule so you can appropriately devote the needed effort and concentration to learning the material. When it comes to the Course of the Month program, it’s important to also be aware of the 30-day expiration timeline. Once you enroll, the course is available to you for 30 days. If it’s a long, comprehensive course, you need to make time before the free access has expired.
If you’re taking a certification course, take practice exams along the way. Schedule the real test shortly after completing the course while the information is fresh and your test-taking skills are at all all-time high.
3. Know Your Learning Style
Understand how you best retain information, whether it’s through listening to a video and taking notes as you go along, or pausing the video in the middle of the instruction to practice the tips they’re guiding you through. Take into account the method of learning that works most in your favor to ensure you understand the subject matter, retain it, and can confidently apply it in your everyday work once you’ve completed the course.
4. Add it to Your Resume
I’m a firm believer that continuing education efforts in our field are partly self-serving and partly selfless; we want to remain on the top of our game with technology so we can properly code, protect, develop, and iterate programs and technologies for our employers. But selfishly, it also looks good on a resume when applying for jobs—and when asking for promotions—to show strides taken to remain well-versed in the latest trends and techniques. So make sure you add enrolled courses, completed courses, and certifications gained on your resume, as well as stating your intent to continue toward new skills and certifications.
Practice these steps in your next e-learning venture to make the most of your time spent expanding your knowledge. My hope is that you’ll continue forward with different courses and goals of specialization to become a well-rounded, well-informed member of the tech community. With greater knowledge and certification you can influence the future of technology and help others better solve their technology problems.
What learning methods work best for you? Tell me in the comments below.