• Priya Sharma Shaikh

5 sites to upgrade yourself for the future

My mother often asks me, 'Priya where did you learn to be so efficient with computers and its various applications?' And my response is, 'Mama its my curiosity and quest for learning that makes me try new things and thankfully with time the learning is only getting easier.'

The rate of technological change is accelerating. The hottest jobs today are the ones that didn't exist a few years ago. With sustained breakthroughs in technology like block chain, AI and augmented/ virtual reality, the future promises to be radically different from today. And this is not the distant future we are talking about. Those like me, who grew up in the 80’s, have already seen one wave of massive disruption in how the society and the economy works. I heard an interesting talk this morning - it said that life seems to be monotonous with little visible change on a day to day basis. But the moment you look at decades the changes are startling. I suspect I will see at least a few more such waves, and at an increasing frequency, before my career/life runs out. No job is safe anymore, as the chart below attests.

This relentless march of progress in technology makes all of us vulnerable. The onus of keeping abreast with developments and re-skilling inevitably falls upon us. Luckily for us, technology has also made it easier for us to learn and upgrade our skills. All one needs is a will to learn and a good internet connection.

This is thanks in no small parts to the rise of online education and MOOC's which is an abbreviation of Massive Open Online Course - basically a course offered online for anybody to learn from for free by simply signing up. This format of learning has developed over the last few years. Most major universities around the globe have opened up their doors to allow remote students to attend classes and learn almost everything under the sun from some of the world's most renowned academics and experts.

So if you want to learn programming from Mark Zuckerberg’s alma mater all you need to do is log on here to join Harvard’s CS50 programming course to get started. If you want to change career tracks and get into the burgeoning field of social media marketing, then you can join one of the many such courses online. In case you are intrigued by all the chatter about artificial intelligence and want to dig deeper into what many claim to be where the future lies, you may want to enroll in to this fascinating course run by Andrew Ng, one of the foremost authorities on machine learning.

With the burgeoning growth in these online courses comes the attendant problem of figuring out what to do from where. We've shortlisted a few sites that will help you streamline your online education.

COURSERA

One of the earliest entrants into the market, Coursera hosts more than 2000 courses and claims to have 28 million registered users. It was started in 2012 by two Stanford professors, Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller. There is no dearth of courses on the platform and you can select from their large database of courses from almost 150 partner universities in nearly 30 countries.

The Stanford bias is apparent in the preponderance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) courses in its portfolio although to be fair to them, it’s equally true of the other online MOOC sites. Maybe it’s a reflection of where the audience lies or maybe it reflects the growing pull of these courses in the education market. For those who interested in media, there are courses on Journalism, Transmedia storytelling, Viral marketing and PR to learn and broad base your set of skills.

EdX

A collaborative non-profit effort between two of the best American universities, edX is an open source platform that can be used by institutions of higher learning to create their own MOOC’s. It has over 100 partner institutions offering over a 1,000 courses using its platform. Unlike some of the other platforms focused on technology, edX has an interesting set of courses in philosophy, humanities, law and economics & finance.

UDEMY

Unlike other platforms that offer university courses, Udemy focuses on professional adults and provides a platform to experts to create any kind of course, for free or for a charge. Precisely for this reason, the platform has over 55,000 courses on it. The quality of the courses varies and user ratings are the best way to gauge their efficacy. But the range of courses means you can learn anything from Photoshop to 3D modeling to Google Analytics. These courses could be very useful for those looking to add skills to boost their resume.

UDACITY

With a heavy leaning towards digital and tech, Udacity offers multiple courses on data analytics, deep learning, web development and software engineering. Its focus however, is on vocational courses for working professionals. While you can learn for free on the site, you will have to pay to acquire the certification.

CODECADEMY / code.org

As the names suggest, the sites are focused on spreading programming literacy amongst populations, young and old. Considering how valuable these skills are today and how useful they might become tomorrow, it might serve most, if not all of us well, to learn a little. So that we don’t end up becoming chicken-feed for the emerging wave of automation that threatens to make redundant a large number of jobs. Both these sites are beginner friendly, which is important for those like me who might get dazzled by seemingly intimidating looking courses on some of the sites listed above.

Lastly, its never too late to learn and as long as you have an interest in a subject matter go ahead and click and enjoy the learning experience :)

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