Professional learning: Three apps that bring the classroom to your smartphone

As an entrepreneur, you’re bombarded every day with a unique set of problems that require your attention and direction if your business is to thrive. And if your business is anything like mine, each day is unlike any other.

Meandering through this maze of everyday struggles – from managing employees to accounting, marketing and strategy – requires a large set of skills. And while it’s not possible to know it all, you can make things easier on yourself by borrowing from the wealth of knowledge in books written by other entrepreneurs or from formal study in the form of professional courses.

The challenge with the latter, though, is finding time. Considering the hustle and bustle of life today, time is a luxury. Few of us can afford to commute and sit down in a class for a few hours a day without dropping some of the balls we’re juggling.

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This is where this week’s tech solution comes in. A lot of us spend hours stuck in traffic, losing precious manhours. So how about taking back this time using the very thing you use to stay busy on a long commute – your phone.

Our phones can easily mimic a classroom. You can watch videos, listen to podcasts, read slides and comment on lectures in real time. The following three apps combine all these experiences to deliver a real-world portable classroom that enables you to sharpen your skills on the go, giving you that ever-elusive edge in tackling business challenges.

1. Udemy

With more than a million downloads in the Google Play Store, Udemy is a popular online platform that gives you access to endless learning opportunities. It offers a series of useful courses on a range of subjects, is easy to use, affordable and has expert instructors on board who have been vetted by more than 10 million students.

The beauty of Udemy is that you can learn at your own pace – and once you gain access to a given course, it’s yours forever. Udemy also offers certification for many business courses, so for those in the consultancy space, this is an added advantage.

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For the cost of a meal at a restaurant – Sh1,200 – you can be well on your way to learning about business strategy, project management, coding or marketing strategies. 

2. Coursera

Coursera is an app that is widely used by learning institutions as a multi-media launching pad for the courses these schools offer. It features content in the form of lecture videos (with real-time captions so you don’t miss a word), slides, case study videos, quizzes, class interactions and discussions. It’s easy to use and offers a myriad of university-based courses for prices ranging from free to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the institution. 

3. edX

edX was set up by a non-profit organisation and offers what it calls MOOCs – massive open online courses. These are taught by experts from major universities, though they don’t necessarily offer formal certification. There is a wide range of courses offered for free and tailored to those looking to improve their skills for professional or continuous learning.

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The main medium of learning is videos with closed captions and basic quizzes to test your knowledge. These you can either stream through wi-fi, mobile data or downloaded for offline learning.

appsUdemyCourseraedXentrepreneurprofessional coursesSmartphonesOnline courses