Posted by Williams Helde Staff

Educational Tools

e-book concept

Doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, engineers, electricians, and real estate agents are only a few of the professionals on a long list of careers that require continuing education. Not on that list: marketers. Now I’m not suggesting that people in business and marketing don’t do our share of on the job learning, we do, but in a world where technology, policy, and practices are changing at a staggering pace, it becomes quickly apparent that if you don’t spend time to keep on top of changing industries you can quickly become outdated and obsolete. On top of that, the lack of standards leaves us with 181,000 self-proclaimed social media experts, gurus, ninjas, mavens, and warriors on Twitter. I can’t just walk into a hospital, decide that I’m a doctor because I saw an episode of House and bandaged up a scraped knee once, yet someone spends a month posting on Twitter and all of a sudden they’re a master?! But I’m not writing to talk about standards. I’m writing to talk about education.

If this sounds like a rant, it’s not, it’s just something that I’ve grown increasingly conscious of and passionate about. I truly believe this is a huge issue in our industry. Not only do I think students are graduating under qualified for what the professional world will demand of them, but it’s a deficit that’s being perpetuated by managers and executives who won’t push for more education because they don’t know it either. It is holding our entire industry back. Is it that unfeasible that someone who works in digital marketing today should understand web and application coding, and database infrastructure? How else are they supposed to advise their companies and clients on measuring performance? And what happens when they need to tell to their development team how to implement tracking?

Over the years, I’ve explored different educational tools to help me fill the infinitely expanding gaps in my knowledge base. For those of you who are life-long-learners, or trying to fill your own knowledge gaps, I thought I’d pull together a list of some of my favorite educational resources. Most of these are relatively inexpensive, if not free.

Online Video Tutorials:

Mac Pro Video is one of my favorite e-learning tools for when it comes to learning software. They are full of professional and in-depth video tutorials on software including Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, HTML5 & CSS3, WordPress, Final Cut Pro, and dozens more. Beyond software, they also have tutorials on topics like A/V Fundamentals, Studio & Recording Techniques, and Music Theory. Furthermore, they are constantly adding new and updated content. Their content is well organized and relatively standardized. It is not free ($199/year) but for me, it’s been well worth the investment.

Lynda is another great e-learning tool with hundreds of high quality video tutorials. Lynda’s content is broader than what is on Mac Pro Video, but with that breadth and diversity you lose some organization. This is still an amazing resource that not only covers most of the same software as Mac Pro Video, but also topics from Excel and creating infographics, to email marketing basics, SEO, and Pinterest. At $250/year it’s slightly more expensive but the breadth of content accounts up for the extra cost. They also offer a free 7-day trial.

Winning the award for a random little bit of everything, The New Boston founder Bucky Roberts has created an amazing amount of educational video content on topics including Photoshop, iPhone development, HTML5, how to build a computer, how to make beer, biology, surviving the wilderness, and robotics. Bucky has been kind enough to provide all of these videos for free via his website and on YouTube.

Purna Duggirala, aka Chandoo, truly defines what a real guru is (take note all you “social media gurus!”). He has created some amazing excel video tutorials, ranging from beginner level content to advanced Excel. He also provides great resources including templates and guides. He offers full video courses, course materials, and very professional Excel templates to purchase, but he also provides a ton of content for free, both on his website and on YouTube. If you use Excel, Chandoo’s tutorials will unlock an entirely new dimension to this great tool for you. If you don’t use Excel, after seeing what Chandoo can do with it, I bet you will.

Tech & Coding:

Coding and development is a foundational skill for next generation marketers. Luckily, these skills aren’t too difficult to learn and there are a lot of great resources that can help.

Codeacademy offers free and paid interactive tutorials on everything from HTML to Python. The “learn by doing” approach to these courses makes them fun and engaging. If you need a little motivation, join Codeacademy’s Code Year where you can set a goal to build a website or game and develop a plan to do so.

Like Codeacademy, Code School offers great, interactive courses on a wide range of coding languages. They offer several free courses, but most of them require a subscription, which costs $25/month.

There are a variety of other great online learning resources in addition to Codeacademy and Code School. Treehouse provides a large online video library of coding tutorials as well as quizzes and interactive Code Challenges. They’ve gamified the learning, allowing users to earn badges as they go through different courses. Mozilla and Google both provide educational resources for developers of all levels via Mozilla’s Developer Network and Google’s Developer University Consortium. Lastly, while still in beta and only currently offering courses in JavaScript, Python, and Ruby,LearnStreet is a great tool for those learning to code.

If you prefer learning by reading opposed to videos or exercises, is a phenomenal tool. Even if you use one of these other resources to get your coding foundation, this website offers a phenomenal amount of reference material for coders of all skill levels.

If none of these sites fit your coding fancy, check out, which features lots of different resources to get kids of all ages coding. Many of these other online educational resources, such as MacProVideo, Lynda, and The New Boston, while not coding specific, all feature great in-depth video tutorials to get you coding.

Online Course Learning:

Udemy has become a favorite resource of mine. Different professionals create video courses that you can take. Some are free, some are paid. While the quality can vary as these are user-made videos (opposed to a MacProVideo or Lynda which maintains a pretty high level of quality), there is still a lot of really good content on here. If you like Udemy, check out Udacity, another video tutorial site which has some great content, although the course catalog is quite limited in comparison to some of these other sites.

One of my favorite new sites is Khan Academy, which provides online courses on topics ranging from math and science to drawing and world history. Khan Academy is a non-profit organization which has drawn great support from companies including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and Oracle.

If your educational interests are more site specific, check out Grovo. Grovo offers short but detailed how-to courses on a long list of websites and tools, such as Amazon, Etsy, Evernote, Facebook Pages, Google+, Hootsuite, MailChimp, Pinterest, Twitter, and WordPress. They also have more topic based tutorials, such as SEO, Online Advertising, and iPhone Tips and Tricks.

For those of you with iDevices, iTunesU is home to an immense catalog of lectures and educational materials from hundreds of academic institutions, including the likes of MIT, Harvard, and Stanford (you’ll be a little hard pressed to find schools without content on here). The quality of the content can vary, as it is provided by the schools, but overall, this is a priceless educational resource.

If you don’t have an iPad but still want to take courses online, have no fear. There are a great number of additional places to find online courses from academic institutions around the country. In no particular order, check out edX, MIT OpenCourse, Academic Earth, and Coursera.

Educational Portal, The Open University and the University of the People offer online distance learning courses; however, slightly different from the aforementioned sites, these create their own course content and can even help get you course credit at other partner institutions around the country.

Thought Starters:

If you’re unfamiliar with TED Talks, get on this bandwagon ASAP. These short format lectures feature some of the world’s most well-known and unknown movers and shakers. Whether you’re looking to learn something new, be inspired, or just be entertained, these talks are bound to open you up to new topics and new perspectives on familiar ones.

Similar to TED but with a slightly different format, Big Think shares thought- provoking talks in more of a one-on-one video format (opposed to TED which films live talks). Personally, I like the energy and interaction of the live environment, but that should not take away from some of the insightful talks on BigThink.


Bookboon offers a large library of textbooks and informational business books covering both the academic and professional topic spectrum. Download these free, ad supported books on topics ranging from Advanced Excel 2010 to Micro- and Nano Transport of Biomolecules.

Bringing libraries into the 21st century, OverDrive will get you to dust off that old library card and put it to good use. Using your library subscription, you can “rent” books/audio books from your library. The only weird thing to me is that it’s just like renting a book from your library, as in they’ll only “rent” so many copies of an ebook at a time, and your rental time is limited. But they have a huge database and new releases for free, which is pretty awesome!

For those of you who prefer books to videos, Free Tech Books provides a huge database of free text books. While they tend to be technology focused (computer science, JavaScript, web development), they also cover topics like operations research, productivity tools, and information theory. There are a lot of introductory level materials and if you learn well from reading, this is a great place to explore.

Find your Own:

There are a whole lot of educational resources that I did not include on here. The No Excuse List is a great database of educational websites that you can search by topic or categories, like academics, computer programming, art, or cooking.

If you’ve recently struggled to answer a very simple question that you knew you should know (think Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader), you may have been in need of Brightstorm. Brightstorm offers short and very specific video tutorials on academic topics. While this course is targeted towards offering homework help for K-12 students, if you find yourself stuck trying to divide fractions or wondering whether to use a semicolon or comma, Brightstorm may just save the day (and your ego).

If after all of that you still can’t find what you’re looking for, hit the search engines. Search engines, Wikipedia, and YouTube are great places to start your search for educational content. Make sure your sources are legit, but you can find information on just about anything (seriously anything) if you just take a little time to search for it. A great place to start is YouTube’s education portal, YouTube EDU. General searches for educational material, courses, or tutorials on YouTube, Google, and/or Bing will often help you find what you’re looking for. And if you can’t find anything there either, you may want to question the legality or efficiency of your educational quests.

Williams Helde Staff
About the Author

Williams Helde Staff

Seattle-based Williams Helde helps build active, healthy brands through marketing communications, PR, advertising and design.