At the start of each new year, millions of people resolve to enrich their lives in various ways. UT’s online resources can help you make changes in your professional life. Lynda.com can enhance your strengths, improve your weaknesses and prep you for your next career move.
All staff members, faculty members and students have access to this service for free with their UT EIDs. It’s a website full of dynamic online courses, and one of UT’s most accessible tools for professional development.
“Lynda.com is not just passive online learning,” said Erika Frahm, senior program coordinator of Organization Effectiveness in Human Resources. “It actually allows users to download exercise files from the system and complete quizzes throughout your experience… If you’re doing computer programming work, it has you actually practice in a virtual environment; if you’re taking leadership courses, you practice writing a strategic plan.”
The courses are divided so users can access individual elements without having to complete the entire lesson. This helps UT employees acquire specific skills the moment they need them in a trouble-shooting situation.
“It’s good for micro learning,” said Emil Kresl, productivity and outreach adviser of Organization Effectiveness in Human Resources. “You don’t have to complete the entire course. You could just look up a little chapter.”
Lynda.com is also one of the few learning tools on the market that is completely compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning it is a site that can be used by anyone with a disability.
“It is a passion of mine… making sure that anything we offer to develop people is actually accessible to everybody,” said Frahm with a smile.
You also don’t need to have a continuous Wi-Fi connection to access Lynda.com. Chapters and courses can be downloaded onto any device, making them perfect for a morning commute on the bus.
Frahm said she has mainly observed individuals use the courses to support their current jobs or prepare for career growth. Learning Paths are a particularly popular Lynda.com feature. Think of them as personalized playlists. Users can customize clusters of courses that they think will help them reach their goals, or rely on curated course lists.
“So, if you’d really like to learn how to become a project manager, they’ve already packaged that for you; you don’t have to do guesswork,” said Frahm.
Lynda.com doesn’t only create courses for technical skills like designing a website or navigating Excel. It also helps users develop the more abstract skills a person needs to be an effective leader, like how to handle a disagreement in a meeting or what to look for in a management team.
“It’s turning out that organizations are looking for interpersonal and communication skills much more frequently, and those are what they call ‘the competitive edge,’” said Elida Lee, director of Organization Effectiveness at UT.
Lynda.com can also be used as a holistic tool for organizations.
“I actually work with departments and individuals who reach out to me to identify and build custom playlists,” said Frahm. “I will work with them to map their needs …and I will work to build a custom playlist that benefits both the individual and the department.”
Frahm recently completed an onboarding playlist for the University Writing Center. She ensured the coursework helped introduce new student employees to the organization’s best practices. “[Lynda.com] does a lot, and then I will provide additional custom services,” said Frahm.
Lynda.com is just one of several services that Organization Effectiveness provides, including consulting and coaching programs that can help develop both organizations and individuals. And while Lynda.com is a powerful online tool, OE also provides live professional development courses open to everyone at UT. They understand the importance of catering to a variety of different learning styles and needs.
“I often make this distinction between professional development and training,” said Kresl. “Training is operational. It’s about learning how to do your current work and how to do it competently, whereas professional development is about strategy, what you want to become. It’s about growth.”
That growth can take many forms.
“It’s not only moving up within the organization. It’s remaining relevant within whatever you’re trying to accomplish, either personally or in your career, or for the organization,” added Lee.
UT employees and managers can access many development resources, but Lee suggests evaluating your needs before jumping in.
“The first thing you want to ask yourself is ‘Why am I wanting to develop professionally?’” said Lee. “Then you can identify tools, readings, mechanisms — work that you’re going to package so you can develop yourself.”
That “why” can vary wildly. Some workers may want to acquire a whole new set of competencies, while others may simply want to refresh their knowledge of a program. Regardless of the scope of your goals, planning can be key.
“You have dreams or goals or hopes, and the professional development structure has the resources to help you achieve them,” said Frahm. “And it can be upwards or sideways. It can be completely reinventing yourself. It doesn’t have to follow a straight, traditional path.”
This story originally appeared in Texas Connect, a publication for staff and faculty, January 30, 2019.