An online education can come in a variety of forms and it can mean a lot of different things. It might mean a traditional college degree offered via the Internet. It could come in the form of a single unaccredited course taken simply because it offers an opportunity to grow one’s skills. Even a two-minute video can be considered an online educational tool.
Regardless of the form and definition, an online education affords an ecommerce merchant the opportunity to improve his or her business by learning from others in a convenient and efficient manner.
In this “Ecommerce Know-How,” I’ll introduce you to several online education options that vary in terms of cost, course emphasis, and goals of the student (whether the merchants considers him or herself a “student” or not.)
Still think of YouTube as merely an entertainment venue? Think again.
YouTube offers countless tutorials on an array of subjects.
Let’s say, for example, you want to add podcasts to your website but you don’t know where to begin. A YouTube search will reveal tutorials on how to use audio editing software, how to submit a feed to Feedburner, or how to get your podcast published on iTunes. And it’s free.
A would-be podcaster can easily follow along with the “teacher”—likely just a helpful stranger—and pause the video at any time to test the instructions or rewind to see and hear it again.
YouTube has its limitations. There isn’t an opportunity to ask questions and the videos may be of poor quality. You are not receiving college credit or any type of certification. But if you’re goal is simply to understand a difficult concept, see a demonstration of a technique or skill that can’t easily be outlined in book form or via audio, then this is a tool to be explored.
One of the more popular online tutorial sites is Lynda.com. Named for co-founder Lynda Weinman, Lynda.com claims it can offer you an opportunity to “learn all the software skills you need to gain a competitive edge.”
Lynda.com has more than 700 courses available which are taught by individual authors who are experts in their given fields. Subjects range from web design and development, motion graphics, to mastering the use of Excel.
Lynda.com differs from YouTube in that the courses are generally more professional and consistently well organized, and are more in-depth. To use the previous example of the merchant who wants to learn podcasting, he or she could search “podcasting” on Lynda.com and discover several courses ranging in total video length from four to eight hours. (Each individual video file is typically 5-15 minutes long, focusing on one sub-category of the course title.)
While not free, Lynda.com is an inexpensive option for the ecommerce merchant who wants to broaden his or her software skills. Monthly subscription rates range from $25 to $37.50 or $250 to $375 on an annual basis. A subscription to Lynda.com gives you anytime access to more than 42,000 tutorials.
If your goal is to earn a traditional college degree or to study subjects outside the software field then Lynda.com is not for you. Its focus is on software skill development to make an individual more marketable. Lynda.com does collaborate, however, with institutions of higher learning, equipping select campuses with access to its entire library of tutorials.
Full Sail University
Full Sail University, with a physical campus located in Winter Park, Florida, is an accredited University which puts a strong focus on the online learning experience. The school offers online degrees in fields of interest to ecommerce merchants such as Internet marketing and web design and development. Students take part in interactive live class sessions and video presentations.
Full Sail is one of the institutions of higher learning that utilizes Lynda.com. It also utilizes tutorials offered via YouTube. But unlike YouTube or Lynda.com alone, Full Sail educators are tasked with offering students a complete education aimed at the development of critical thinking skills and a broader range of coursework.
The cost of an online education via Full Sail ranges from $53,000 for a bachelor of science degree in Internet marketing, $54,000 for a bachelor’s degree in website design and development, to $28,000 for an online master’s degree in those respective fields.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of the educational opportunities and resources available online. It is an example of the range of possibilities for an ecommerce merchant wanting to sharpen skills used in association with his or her business.
Once you’ve determined your focus of study, what you’re hoping to achieve, and how much you are willing to spend, you will likely discover there are numerous resources available online that will allow you to further develop or learn new skills.