What can I learn for $400?
April 12, 2018 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning on leaving my job within a month or so. I have a small "education" fund that I can use for personal development, but I'll lose access to that once I leave. I'm leaning towards online courses/resources. I've got $400. What's the most awesome impactful thing I could spend it to learn?

There's fairly wide latitude in what's allowed: business, language, personal development, etc. Pretty much anything that could conceivably pass for making you better at some job in some way. Something like business or leadership development is going to be an easier sell than, say, European history. Netflix is right out :-)

The catch is that I need to be able to pay for it in full right now, before I leave. So monthly subscriptions are out (although if I can pre-pay for something annual, that's A-OK). There's neat stuff on (for example) Coursera, but since they don't seem to let you pre-pay for most of it, it's harder.

I'm interested in tons and tons of stuff, so I don't want to limit suggestions too much -- please suggest anything you would find useful! However, I'd love to hear suggestions regarding soft skill development: leadership, negotation, influence, etc. I'm also aware that there's tons of stuff out there for free, which is awesome for the world, but since I'm looking to spend money, I need suggestions on non-free stuff. What would you blow cash on if you were me?
posted by captainawesome to Education (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd buff conflict resolution and/or non-violent communication skills. Those will carry over to any setting, and probably make your life better in general too. I don't have specific recommendations, but $400 sounds about dead-on for six-ish week course.
posted by teremala at 11:36 AM on April 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Looks like you enjoy travel, so language would be a top pick. Maybe either a language course that you could get on CD/DVD, or a certificate program in languages from a local university. Reading through a few of your posts, you seem to be a person of some means, probably professional. Sorry you're leaving your job, but that sounds like a choice which might mean you aren't worried about getting another one. So you may not need anything like certificates to bolster your credentials. But anything professional development will serve you in the future, languages included.
posted by CollectiveMind at 11:37 AM on April 12, 2018

Could you justify an annual subscription to either Master Class or Great Courses? Tons of fantastic stuff there.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:42 AM on April 12, 2018

A start on how to build your own aircraft with an EAA SportAir Workshop. Seriously, if you like working with your hands these are great even if you don't have immediate plans to build a plane. I've done four of them so far (composites, sheet metal, gas welding, and fabric covering).
posted by exogenous at 11:50 AM on April 12, 2018

I would not take up a language with that money because the only way to really learn a language as an adult is to have almost constant opportunity to use it until you die.

I was born into a bilingual family. Even when it's been over a decade that I hadn't heard or used my second language, I can always easily go back to it. But the languages I have tried to learn as an adult are different. When I don't use them, I lose them. Found out that this is the norm with languages learned after adolescence. Spent over a year learning German in Germany. Became really great at the language. Then after 4 years back in the US I can barely put a german phrase together. Spending that money on a language course without a plan for continual constant use once the class is done is a waste.

Lynda.com has some great courses that you can choose from that will be applicable to various corporate environments and beyond. (Just realized they are now "Linkdin Learning" so I guess LinkdIn bought them out... I have no experience with the new setting).
posted by fantasticness at 12:00 PM on April 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Public speaking is good, excel classes have been useful (and among the courses I have taken one of the more teachable, I got a lot of good tips, but then, I use excel a lot). The lynda.com courses providing an intro to databases and an intro to programming were pretty useful just to understand some fundamentals and work with engineers. Time management courses can sometimes have useful tips - anything aimed at improving leadership or professionalism will have some tips that are flexible to any situation - sometimes they are slightly more entertaining or engaging than the harder skills-oriented ones.

Here's a recent list of the most popular online courses, maybe some of those will be interesting to you.
posted by vunder at 12:13 PM on April 12, 2018

To follow up on teremala's suggestion, I once took a mediation/negotiation course at my local community college (and summer session is coming up). It was less than $400, maybe you could squeeze in an additional course.

These days my personal bent leans towards learning about / understanding trauma, and how it carries forward through the rest of our lives. That could be spun also as learning about conflict negotiation and resolution.
posted by vignettist at 12:18 PM on April 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to say that I would double check and make absolutely sure that you aren't held responsible for the fund if you leave. Some employers have conditions that if you leave within X amount of time since the class/event/etc. you have to pay for it. You'd hate to get stuck paying for something like this.

And if you don't have to pay, I'd take a study/learning skills type of class - something that will make everything else you've yet to learn easier.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:39 PM on April 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by aniola at 1:10 PM on April 12, 2018

Someone I know did Managing performance through people at the Open University, and found it useful. It's a short distance-taught course and costs £295 which apparently is $419.
posted by paduasoy at 1:54 PM on April 12, 2018

How about a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course? I've seen them offered at hospitals/other medical buildings and universities.
posted by sweetpotato at 2:14 PM on April 12, 2018

The English Woodworker offers excellent video courses on hand tool woodworking. There are free videos to give you a flavour but the paid ones are really worth the money. There’s a couple hundred dollars worth total, I think.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:26 PM on April 12, 2018

Without knowing what you do or what your goals are, I'd Nth the suggestions above about communications skills. Imminently transferable as long as you work with people, and in dangerously short supply. Others not being able to clearly articulate questions or respond to them is pretty much what chews up 50% of my time
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2018

BoingBoing has a collection of online courses, most of which are ridiculously overpriced and then "marked down" to a level people are willing to pay for. A lot of them are "A few dollars for the basic 1-2 workshops; ~$20 more for the complete set."

They're very much tech focused, with a side of business courses. Most of them are collections of videos and tests, with some assignments that are all work-at-your-own-pace. (I've picked up a few, poked at the beginnings, and said, "...someday, I will actually focus on learning javascript.") I wouldn't recommend spending $400 there, but it's worth looking around to see if there's some tech language or app you'd always been interested in but was so far from your normal skillset that you weren't sure where to start.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:33 PM on April 12, 2018

On the tech line, O'Reilly is a place I've always associated with having expensive-ish courses/programs that are probably worth it if you've got the $$.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:00 PM on April 12, 2018

An annual subscription to DataCamp is $300, if some of their courses would fit your skills/interests.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2018

400 is about exactly what an annual subscription to Safari Online (run by O'Reilly) costs, which gets you unlimited access to books, videos, and live web training for various things. It's tech-focused to be sure, but also has a ton of content on business, leadership, project management, etc. It wouldn't have a high ROI for everyone, but I do feel like I get value from it.
posted by shelbaroo at 4:55 AM on April 15, 2018

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