Regina Garson's Blog

Changing Times: Update Your Skills With Online Classes

For some reason beyond all comprehension, except my hoarder tendencies, I have a T-square on my desk. Not that I need it as often as its proximity would indicate, but it somehow helps to balance some files, on which I have placed a cat blanket, and it provides a nice place for the cats to nap while I am working.

When I finally settled on my first degree, which was in Advertising/Communications, I figured that it was a realistic way for me to combine my writing, art and music inclinations all into one career. I am not sure that worked out exactly how I envisioned, but I have enjoyed and continued to use all three areas in various ways. In the scheme of things, I have had a pretty satisfactory career. Made a little money, paid a few bills, learned some stuff and met a whole lot of awesome people along the way.

As to the T-square though, one of the hardest things for me with some of my graphic communications especially is that my eyes never have been worth a flitter, and no matter how hard I tried or how often I pulled out that T-square, my alignment on the graphics was always a little off. Always has been. You can imagine my paste-up layouts, and I did my share of those as well.

None of that is much of an issue doing graphic layout on the computer. For low-level graphic communications, the T-square is pretty close to obsolete, people use computers for many of those jobs now. Sometimes, the changing times and job requirements really do work to our advantage, even though we might not realize it at the time.

I remember when everybody was scrambling to learn data processing and key punch card technology; me too, I was on it, and I punched quite a few of those cards when I was in school at the University of Alabama. I have one of those cards around here somewhere, for old time’s sake, antiques and all that, I used to pass it around my computer classes, when I taught at Virginia College. I still have an old Pickett slide rule too but I do not use that anymore either. It could be that it was time to move on though, since slide rules were invented in the 1620s or so. The tools, trades, jobs and career options change with the times. In no way do I want to go back. My math is better with a calculator than a slide rule and my graphics are better using a computer instead of a T-square.

Nothing is magic though, somehow or other we all have to figure out how we are going to keep up with the times and keep our work skills current when the tools of our trade change. Times change and jobs do too. Keeping up with the times takes some doing on the part of us all.

Sometimes change is not that bad at all, my eyes never were that good and as hard as I tried, even with that T-square, my graphics never were that great. Of course, that could be why I do more writing instead of graphics. We all have to find and make our own place, whatever that place is.

Online Training Options

In addition to going back to school, I have headed out for various political training as well. A little bit of seminary too, I have those inclinations as well. In the process, I also discovered online courses. Coursera is one example; they have online courses from top universities from all over the world. They have a whole lot of courses available for free, non-credit, but if you would like or need the credit, they have a credit option, for a fee, as well. They even have certification programs in various areas if you need a certain certification for your job, a little extra training to polish your skills, Continuing Education Credit or maybe to go in another direction entirely.

They have a lot available in a whole lot of different fields. Coursera is just a start; there are many others out there too. The thing that I really like about such as this is that, in addition to keeping up in your chosen field, if you are thinking about some changes, you can also check things out in another field, get a good solid background, before you go deeper with live, in-person classes and major investments in time and tuition.

MIT, yes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is another source of free online courses. Back when I was doing contract work at NASA, I signed in there for some aerospace engineering coursework. Yep, the real deal. If you do not need college credit but you need to get some solid background in a technical area, MIT is about as top notch of an option as you can find.

Those two online learning options are a good start. There are many others as well. Whatever work you do, and no matter how much you love your work, over the course of your life and career, there are almost certainly going to be a few changes. Sometimes, all you need to do is update a few skills; at other times, you may have to go in a different direction entirely. In my experience though, even though my beloved T-square is now relegated to napping cats, the computer, the Internet and online courses have been valuable tools in the process of keeping up with the times in my work.


Leave a Reply