8 Online Resources to Sharpen Your Marketing Technology Chops

Chris Horton
Chris Horton Digital Strategist, SyneCore Tech

Posted on May 19th 2014

8 Online Resources to Sharpen Your Marketing Technology Chops

online learning platforms for business

A few weeks back I wrote how the influence of digital technology is fundamentally redefining the marketing function. It is no longer enough for marketers to be marketers, I noted, they’re now expected to be marketing technologists.

Given the complexities involved with running today’s digital campaigns, many businesses and agencies are seeking out marketers with a number of new skills which are decidedly foreign to most marketers.

Competencies like mathematical thinking and knowledge of basic programming are expected to complement traditional marketing proficiencies such as the ability to write well and think creatively and strategically.

Now some good news for all you marketers feeling left behind. A growing number of free or inexpensive online learning platforms now exist that you can leverage to sharpen your marketing technology chops. Here are eight that come to mind.

Udacity

One of the original MOOCs (massive open online courses), Udacity was started by Stanford Research Professor, Google Fellow, and overall uber-techie Sebastian Thrun, whom Fortune magazine dubbed one of the 50 smartest people in tech. Thrun helped build Google’s driverless car ( a recommend you check out his 4-minute Ted Talk about it here).

Much like sister MOOCs Coursera and edX, Udacity’s overarching mission is focused on using the internet as a medium to offer high-quality, affordable and applicable educational experiences to the masses. The following snippet taken from Udacity’s “About” section reflects this notion:

…education is no longer a one-time event but a lifelong experience…We are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment. Our students will be fluent in new technology, modern mathematics, science, and critical thinking. They will marry skills with creativity and humanity to learn, think, and do. 

Udacity’s course offerings tend to focus on the techier side of MarTech. Here are a few examples: Intro to Data Science, Intro to Computer Programming, Web Development, Intro to Point and Click App Development, Intro to Statistics. Udacity offers both free courseware and subscription courses for a monthly fee; the latter include more personal guidance and coaching, as well as a verified completion certificate.

Coursera and edX

In the interest of saving space, I’ve decided to just briefly touch on the other two major MOOCs with similar mission’s to Udacity’s: Coursera and edX.

Starting as university experiments (edX was originally a collaboration of Harvard and MIT), both Coursera and edX have grown into massive conglomerations of free online learning classes and resources offered by some of the biggest universities throughout the US and abroad.

I encourage you to visit each site and marvel at the sheer volume of free, high-quality online learning materials at your fingertips. As a longtime lover of learning, I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I do so myself.

Side Note: For those looking for certificate options, I know that Coursera at least is beginning to experiment with certificate-track course specializations for a small fee.

WizIQ

One of the biggest criticisms of MOOCs is the lack of regular interaction between the student and teacher. WizIQ seeks to resolve this issue by offering professionals looking to polish up their job skills a hybrid solution that blends the unique features of the traditional classroom learning experience (i.e. actual face-to-face live interactive instruction, teaching assistant, assignments and lab work) with all of the advantages of online learning (i.e. self-paced instruction with videos, presentations, tests, peer interaction, etc.).

Some of their classes even offer students access to virtual labs to run programs that practice real-world scenarios. For individual learners, course prices seem to vary widely from free to several hundred dollars.

The company has also created a private online teaching platform that organizations can use to train employees on new skills, a cost-effective alternative for businesses with employees spread out geographically. WizIQ for organizations offers access to a number of advanced features and is available for a subscription fee.

WizIQ’s recently launched website redesign is a big improvement over its previous version. One of the site’s more unique offerings provides teachers everything they need to conduct their own Flipped Classroom – in my opinion one of the most exciting applications of online education.

General Assembly

General Assembly is sort of a next-generation vocational school which integrates online and bricks-and- mortar learning environments to offer a wide array of learning options, ranging from full-time immersive programs and long-form courses to short-term classes and workshops.

To this end, General Assembly has physical campuses and classrooms in a number of major cities throughout the world: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston, London, Sydney, Hong Kong, Brooklyn and Berlin.

According to the organization’s website, General Assembly seeks to transform thinkers into creators through education and opportunities in technology, business, and design. The organization offers online learning through its Front Row monthly subscription service ($25 per month), which gives students unlimited access to a menu of classes on such MarTech-relevant topics as Web Development, User Experience Design, Digital Marketing, Mobile Development, and Data Analysis.

Udemy

Udemy is an interesting mix of MOOC and truly open-source online learning bazaar – a place where instructors of all backgrounds and levels of expertize can come to pedal their intellectual wares for free or for a price (on quick review, I noted courses ranging from $9 to $450).

According to the site’s About section, Udemy provides over 16,000 courses on a wide array of topics (ranging from programming and marketing to yoga and cake decorating) to 3 million students in 190+ countries. While some courses generate credit toward technical certification, most do not, and are meant to be taken for self-improvement. No Udemy courses are currently credentialed for college credit.

Becoming an instructor on Udemy seems pretty easy – perhaps too easy. As far as I could tell, all you have to do is fill out your name and email address and indicate what subject you want to teach, and you’re in. You also have to agree to the site’s Terms of Use policy, which in section 6 (“Specific Obligations of Instructors”) specifically demands you warrant your expert bone fides thusly:

You have the required qualifications, credentials and expertise, including without limitation, education, training, knowledge, and skill sets, to teach and offer the services You offer on and through the Site…

Sort of like an online pinky promise…

In fairness, Udemy comes heavily endorsed by big media players like Forbes, CNBC and the NY Times, and its operations team looks like it is growing rapidly. Moreover, as a vocal booster of the open digital culture, I support the concept of online peer-to-peer learning.

As long as you bring a healthy dose of caveat emptor to the keyboard, Udemy seems to be a useful platform for honing your MarTech skills.

Khan Academy

In the spirit of full disclosure, I love Khan Academy. Started by MIT/Harvard-educated polymath Salman Khan in 2006 to help his niece learn math, Khan Academy has since grown to become one of the leading non-profit online learning platforms available.

The site has greatly increased its educational offerings and functionality in recent years thanks to a steady stream of donations from Bill and Melinda Gates, Carlos Slim and Google, among others. Khan Academy is a non-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

One great aspect of Khan Academy is that most of the video lectures (at least those in math) have been recorded by Sal Khan himself, who has a real knack for teaching. Sal’s video lectures have helped me sharpen up my math skills after years of non-use; now I’ve got my children working through his “World of Math” curriculum. If you find yourself needing a crash course in math, I can think of no better online place to do so.

Khan Academy now offers a wide range of curricula beyond math, including economics and finance, arts and humanities, and computer programming.

Code Academy

Code Academy is a not-for-profit educational site strictly focused on teaching the basics of some of the most widely used computer programming languages: HTML and CSS, Javascript, jQuery, PHP, Python and Ruby. Over the past year I’ve managed to work through most of the HMML and CSS path, which has given me a more three-dimensional understanding of webpage and website functionality.

One of the best things about the Code Academy site is its simplistic design – there isn’t a bunch of distracting text to wade through or rules to acquaint yourself with; you just click on whichever programming language you want to start learning, and the site throws you into it straight away. The crew at Code Academy has done a really great job making what can be complex subject matter accessible and readily comprehensible to non-programmers.

So there you are, my short list of online learning sites to help you sharpen your MarTech chops. Now get after it!

Chris Horton

Chris Horton

Digital Strategist, SyneCore Tech

Chris Horton is a Content Creator and Digital Strategist for Minneapolis-based Integrated Marketing Agency SyneCore. An avid tech enthusiast, Chris has written extensively on a number of topics relevant to the growing Marketing Technology industry, including SEO/targeted discovery, inbound, content, social, mobile, apps, online branding/PR, and Internet trends. Chris' marketing tips can be found on SyneCore's Marketing Technology for Growth blog. You can connect with Chris on TwitterLinkedIn, or Google Plus, or eMail him at chris@synecoretech.com.

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