There are many ways of learning valuable skills like coding or data science. Options vary wildly: there are undergraduate degrees, master’s, online programs, and even lots of free material out there.

In the world we live today, most of the existing information and knowledge can be found online for free, in places like Youtube or blogs (like this one!). So, why it could be worth paying anything for content you can get for free?

There are actually a few reasons:

Reason 1: Save time.

While searching online for free content, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lost with so many options. It is most likely that you will be exposed to material which is seriously unorganized, outdated, or even wrong.

All of these problems combined can waste a lot of your time.

You might well be in a position where you should consider spending some money in order to save some of this trouble. Curated, streamlined, systematic, and credible curriculums do offer great value.

Reason 2: Stay Focused and Avoid Procrastination

It is a well-known fact that if you have paid some money, you are also less likely to procrastinate, as you will be more inclined to try to get the most out of your money. Following a program should help you stay focused, self-motivated, and on-track.

Reason 3: Learn Fundamentals, not Just Hot Topics

The best programs will cover fundamentals, not just hot topics.

For example, any serious data science program will cover some fundamental statistics, in addition to the latest trendy techniques in AI, which, at a fundamental level, hinge on statistics.

Reason 4: Get Feedback

Full programs will provide you with some feedback as you go along.

In online courses, this usually comes in the form of automatically-graded coding assignments and peer-grading.

Reason 5: Build a project portfolio

Today, skills are more valuable than degrees or certifications. For this reason, good technical programs will encourage and help you build and showcase an original project portfolio.

Reason 6: Get Certified

Some programs will also offer some form of certification. While this might not get you an interview, it will nevertheless help you start marketing your skills and inspire some trust. At the very least, a certificate will show that you are constantly trying to improve yourself.

Reason 7: Get Career Services

Some programs will even go as far as providing a bundle of certifications and employment services, such as resume writing and interview coaching. Importantly, there is actual people helping you out here, personally. And not just with the technical aspects, but with soft skills.

Reason 8: Start Networking.

Online programs usually offer contact with other students. This will help you meet other people, and opportunities to collaborate with them along your learning journey are likely to arise.

What Massive Online Programs Generally Lack

Don’t get me wrong on this one. I don’t think there is any fundamental problem with online learning. I have been an online teacher myself, and I’m absolutely enthusiastic about where the digital education trend might lead us.

I do think, however, that we have to acknowledge that the massive scale that commercial online learning companies are striving for, comes with certain unavoidable limitations, when compared with the more personal, one-on-one, experiences we have in a traditional classroom.

  • Accountability. If you have a coach or teacher you meet at least once a week, with whom you have a personal interaction, you become accountable to them. Instead, one of the key advantages of online platforms is that they let you “learn at your own pace”. This also means that you are only accountable to yourself.
  • Personalized and Credible Feedback. Automated grading and peer-grading is far from an ideal replacement a real teacher personally looking and grades your work, and pointing out whatever difficulty you might have encountered.

Conclusion

So whether you choose a DIY approach based on free online material, enroll in online training programs, or even go for a full University degree, I hope the experience will be rewarding for you!

Of course, if you want to move past intermediate-level, and you want to move to more advanced roles withing the Data industry, you’re probably going to switch back to a DIY approach and read books, and/or consult free online content in blogs like this one ;).