This post was inspired by my evolving online education in social media, public relations, graphic design and web development and this content-rich blog entry by Arik Hanson, who outlines his free and easily accessible online Social Media MBA.
When I started college, I put my love for fine art on the back burner in order to educate myself in something I thought would be both more lucrative and more worthwhile. Toward the end of my four years at my university, I found myself applying to many jobs, thinking I would get some experience and likely need to go back to school in order to finally get into mediation, teaching, or professional research. I observed my friends who had studied crafts and trades, who had received practical, hands-on experience in their respective fields, producing amazing things. I had shied away from studying art because what could be practical in that? I didn’t want to be a starving artist forever.
Ironically, my friends who studied in arts and design, communications, journalism, audio production, and media arts had full portfolios and were able to market themselves well. It was those friends who were accepted easily into graduate schools or found themselves employed with full potential for a long and exciting career in their fields.
In the years since my graduation, I have felt that I lack a creative outlet. Everything leading up to this point in my life is now pointing in the directionof learning graphic design and website development, so I decided (at least for now) to ignore traditional means of studying this field and to get my (mostly) FREE education online.
Here’s an outline of what my invaluable online education looks like:
Instructors: Veerle. Grace Smith. Chad Engle. Cameron Senior. Jacob Cass. Chris Spooner, among others.
Required Reading: NetTuts+. PsdTuts+. MyInkBlog. SixRevisions. Minervity. Web Design Ledger. Smashing Magazine. You the Designer. Web Designer Wall. Web Designer Depot.
Syllabus: The syllabus is fluid and fits to my schedule, because I decide when I have time, when I don’t, and when I should finish any projects I might be working on. This could include anything from the importance of writing clean code to manipulating photographs or working on a mock-up of a layout for a new website.
Labwork & Homework: Reading up on new blogs, following links on Twitter, finding websites that speak to me and viewing the page source, sketching in my Moleskine. I do a lot of work in Dreamweaver and Photoshop, but you could just as easily use minimalist text editor like WordPad or TextEdit and a free image editing software like Gimp if you wanted to save the money on those programs.
It’s such a great way to learn and I have gained a lot of knowledge and exponentially increased my skill set in just the past couple of months since I have made this decision to seek out my own education rather than enroll in a program. I look forward to learning more in the area as I add to all the lists above. Once I have sufficiently mastered html, CSS, and converting a PS layout into html for a website, I can move on to learn other coding languages. I plan on furthering my hobby in photography and teaching myself how to use Illustrator to round out my graphics skills.
This version of education may not exactly be orthodox, but it is certainly time- and cost-effective!
If you have suggestions on other blogs or websites to read or programs to use, please feel free to leave comments. I’m always looking to learn more and appreciate input from friends and colleagues.