When I was in college, I wanted to take a photography class as an elective.  Unfortunately, I was required to take “Fundamentals of Drawing” as a prerequisite.  I can’t draw to save my life, but I gave it a shot, assuming that the teacher would grade according to the “finance student who wants to take the photography class” curve.

On the first day of class the professor said, “I know many of you are here because you need this class to take the photography class.  I am not an easy grader.  If your drawings are bad, you will fail the class.”  And that’s the story of how I ended up not taking a photography class in college.

Thankfully, we live in a completely different world today.  Most of the rules, roadblocks and gatekeepers are gone and you can learn just about anything you want online, often for free.

Want an example?  Just a few weeks ago I learned how to tile a floor watching a 5-minute YouTube video.  Then I tiled my floor.  It turned out great.  I learned how to adjust my sprinkler heads the same way.  Ditto with how to play new songs on my guitar.

YouTube is great, but sometimes you want a more formal learning process so you can take a deeper dive into a subject.  For that, I’ve been experimenting with three companies that provide thousands of interesting online courses.


What it is.  Coursera is an online education website started by a former Stanford professor.  The company has agreements with more than 120 top universities (e.g. Princeton, Yale and Stanford) to make their most popular and interesting courses available free of charge to anyone who wants to take them.

How it works.  Courses are a combination of videos, assignments and tests and usually take four to six weeks to complete.  You study at your own pace and can go back to review material if needed or pause the lecture if you want to look something up, do further research or cook dinner.

What it costs.  The courses are free for anyone who wants to take them, but you can pay a nominal fee (usually between $50 and $95) if you want to receive a course certificate that you can show a potential employer or list on your resume.

Types of classes.  Imagine a college course catalog and that’s what the list of Coursera courses looks like.  Want to take a nutrition class from Johns Hopkins?  Check.  How about a music class from the Berklee College of Music?  Check.  Computer programming at Stanford?  Law at the University of London?  The history of Beatles music at the University of Rochester?  Check, check and check.


What it is.  CreativeLive was founded by the super talented Chase Jarvis.  If you’ve ever seen an ad or commercial for Nike, Apple, RedBull or Starbucks, chances are you’ve seen Jarvis’ photography and video work.  The idea behind the company is to bring together some of the top creative minds in the world and do live classes in their areas of expertise.

How it works.  Browse the list of upcoming classes and sign up for whatever sounds interesting.  The live classes are often free, but if you miss the class or want to browse the catalog of hundreds of past classes, you can take those for a small fee.

What it costs.  Again, the live classes are often free, but if you sign up for a past class from the catalog, they usually cost anywhere from $29 to $99 (some are more) depending on how in depth the class is.

Types of classes.  There are classes in areas like photography, videography, design, music, money, travel and life.  For example, I recently took a class on travel hacking (taking great trips for less money) taught by a guy who just finished visiting every country in the world.  I’m also signed up to take an upcoming class on travel photography in July.  Those are just a few examples, but there are hundreds of others to choose from.


What it is.  Like the others we’ve discussed so far, Udemy is an online learning platform.  Rather than providing just college courses (like Coursera) or focusing on a narrow range of topics (like CreativeLive), Udemy offers a broad range of skill building classes in a ton of different areas.

How it works: Sign up by creating a user name and log in and then start browsing courses to take.  And if you have a particular area of expertise, Udemy makes it easy for you to create your own course and sell it on their platform.

What it costs:  Some classes are free, but most cost between $29 and $99.

Types of classes:  There are more than 30,000 courses in areas like business and entrepreneurship, academics, the arts, health and fitness, language, music, and technology.

One of our core beliefs here at Intentional Retirement is that curiosity and a willingness to learn will often result in an interesting and rewarding retirement.  The resources discussed above make that easier than ever.

~ Joe

P.S.  A little weekly inspiration from over on our Facebook Page:

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