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It was June of 2004 and I had just graduated college and earned my first Graphic Design job at a local weekly newspaper. My daily responsibilities included page layout, light ad design, and minor IT functions because we lacked an IT person to fix our outdated equipment and programs. That job was validation that I actually did learn something in school because I was able to use Quark with ease. I was a new graduate with updated knowledge of the latest programs and design practices – seemingly ahead of those that studied Desktop Publishing.

Fast forward over 10 years later and I realize I knew absolutely nothing. Well, to give myself a little credit, I knew about a drop in the ocean of the creative world. And now, to all of the new graduate Graphic Designers, I am the “Desktop Publishing” major I spoke about earlier. The design world is forever changing and new baby designers are being raised by these new rules and advancements. Believe it or not, 10 years is a long time to go without education in the latest design programs and practices. In fact, there have been so many changes, a Desktop Publisher would probably think we were living in 2050.

Working with other designers at an early age brought about inspiration. Not only was it good to bounce ideas off each other, but we taught each other things as well. I started to notice that not many people were familiar with web design. I had taken web design classes in college, but I’m pretty sure my young slacker mind shut down after a while when the complicated things like coding came along. Nevertheless, I still seemed to know more than my counterparts. I knew this was a sign that I should begin soaking up as much know,edge before I became obsolete – or better yet, replaced by a new grad that knew more. 

With my old student loan debt looming, I attempting to return to school for web design, but later realized that we live in the Information Age, and just about anything could be learned online for free, or that didn’t require a student loan. I took to watching YouTube videos to learn new techniques. I acquired many books from Amazon to teach me the latest programs and program languages. I even picked up a mentor to help me when I hit roadblocks. While a degree helped me land jobs, I noticed that it was experience and design knowledge that really propelled my career. 

 Course RA screenshot

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Course RA. While I’ve never truly had the time to complete an entire course, I found the FREE courses to be refreshing and teach me plenty that I was unfamiliar with. Again, the only problem I had was time. Courses are generally 4-6 weeks long and working and martial arts classes prohibited me from having the proper time to complete assignments. I didn’t take that as failure, I just knew I was the kind of student that needs a learn-at-your-own-pace schedule.

If that’s the kind of student you are, I would recommend Udemy. There are lots of paid courses, but there are also plenty of FREE ones as well. I find that the content of the free courses various slightly to that of the paid content. So far, the paid courses I’ve taken had been a bit more juicy, while the free courses were amazing, but seemed to lack some of the more interesting tips. I cannot honestly say that all free courses are this way because I have not taken them all. But for the free courses I’ve taken, I’ve walked away with more knowledge than I started with, and after all, isn’t that the point? 

There are plenty of free ways to continue your education. Remember not to get too comfortable with your career if it means more than just a job to you. Each day there are new designers, developers, photographers, markers and more being made to replace you. With free educational materials available to learn a new skill and earn more money, there are little excuses not to better yourself.