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Back to School - 4 Ways to Access Affordable Professional Development

 Sep 3, 2019 12:00 PM
by Debra Yearwood

For North Americans, September is back to school season. Ads for school supplies dominate television and internet sites and despite our age of technology, stores are still filled with books, binders and other traditional classroom tools. Thinking about learning, however, shouldn’t be limited to “students”. Regular professional development is good for employers, employees and customers. 

Continuing professional development ensures that employees keep apace with evolving methodologies, standards and knowledge. It can also mean that employees are continuing to contribute to their teams and business by introducing more effective approaches and depending on the nature of your business, perhaps more safety.

One of the limiting factors around maintaining regular professional development is cost.  The cost of courses, the cost of time and perhaps the cost of travel. While not every opportunity can come at a lower price, you can find ways to mitigate costs and stay informed and up to date. Consider the following ideas when the budget is low or it’s not a big-ticket year. 

Free Lunch and Learns:  Numerous tech and other entrepreneurial hubs across the country offer courses at lunchtime. In Ottawa, Invest Ottawa schedules numerous free or reasonably priced educational courses at their facility every month.  You can check out their calendar HERE. They also promote activities provided by others on their site so it’s a great one-stop-shop.

Bring in Professionals: If the cost of taking your staff to conferences is too high, then bring in professionals to deliver workshops. Using your own site or organizing your own rental space can offer a much cheaper alternative while still providing high-quality content. Look to professional associations for ideas on what to offer and don’t forget to check out Top Sixty services HERE https://www.topsixtyoversixty.com/Programs.

Do it for Yourself: Don’t overlook homegrown talent. If you have employees who have knowledge that would be worth sharing, then consider creating a lunch and learn series where individual or paired employees teach their colleagues. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable presenting; make sure that employees have the support they need to make the experience a positive one for everyone.

Online Courses: Online courses offer a flexible and cost-effective way to continue learning. There are numerous courses offered on a range of topics by recognized universities directly or through sites like Udemy or OntarioLearn. Some courses even offer certification. There are also many online courses offered privately by subject experts on platforms like ThinkifIc or Teachable. You can also consider creating online courses from your lunch and learns that will allow everyone to access or revisit content at their leisure. Remember that people have different learning styles and not all online courses will offer the flexibility some people need to learn effectively.

Below is a list of some of the sites to check out for online learning opportunities. Money doesn’t have to be the reason why professional development is halted. It may simply require initiative and curiosity.

Learn at these sites:

  • Udemy https://www.udemy.com/
  • EdX https://www.edx.org/ 
  • Coursera https://www.coursera.org/
  • OntarioLearn https://www.ontariolearn.com/

Create courses at these sites

  • Teachable https://teachable.com/
  • Thinkific https://www.thinkific.com/
  • WizIQ https://www.wiziq.com/
  • Ruzuku https://www.ruzuku.com/

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