Back to school ― any time

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” ― Geoffrey Chaucer

In Toronto, we’re spoiled when it comes to continuing education in journalism, publishing, communications and creative writing. Several universities, colleges and professional associations offer courses ranging in length from a few hours to a few months, on everything from grammar basics to launching a magazine.

I’m a continuing ed junkie. In my 20s, I was always enrolled in courses related to writing, editing or public relations at Ryerson, George Brown or the University of Toronto. Some were more useful than others, but I always came away with new skills and a deeper appreciation of the subject.

Whether you’ve recently or not-so-recently finished your education, you might be wondering if taking more courses is worth the time, expense and effort. I think the key is doing your research—finding a learning opportunity that fits your personal goals and your schedule, whether it’s a one-day boot camp or 14-week copy editing course. Be realistic, pick something you’re really interested in, and think of it as an investment in yourself.

You don’t have to wait for a school semester to start. Boost your industry knowledge any time with online offerings from Poynter’s News University, Magazines Canada and MediaBistro. Or dive back into the world of academia—you needn’t limit your learning to topics directly related to your day job. One of the most exciting new players is Coursera, a “social entrepreneurship company” that has partnered with 33 universities, including Ivy League schools and a few Canadian institutions, to offer free online courses on everything from game theory to social network analysis. Other sources of free university-level lessons: YouTube EDU, iTunes U and institutional sites like Open Yale and edX (which includes MIT, Harvard and Berkeley).

Taking courses is as much about meeting people as it is about gaining knowledge. Your classmates and instructors become part of your extended network—and that’s especially helpful if you’re just starting out and don’t have many contacts. In the small world of magazines, you’re likely to run into people again, maybe years later. You might also end up teaching a course yourself—never say never.

Can you share any free online learning opportunities?

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