Professional development can make a big difference in your career, but it doesn’t have to come at a big cost. As training developers and instructional designers, we are usually entrenched and consumed with the development of ourselves and others.
We’re always concerned with how to build learners’ knowledge, skills, management practices, emotional intelligence, or anything else deemed important by the powers that be. It’s an essential part of our drive and purpose in this field!
When I started growing my knowledge in training and professional development, I wanted to get as much knowledge as possible as quickly as possible. And I worried that it would come with a big price tag to my company or at my own expense.
Low Cost Professional Development Opportunities
So how do you find the best low cost professional development out there? I’ve compiled a list of 6 of my favorites ways that have a little price tag and big value that you can do from anywhere.
A lot of great professionals out there have amazing resources that they share through a personal blog. Just like the one you’re reading! We live in a collaborative world where information is shared more often than kept quiet.
Personally, I want everybody to be successful in their goal of creating, designing, delivering, evaluating, or whatever thing you want to do with training and professional development.
I want to share my successes (and failures!) to help people, and I wouldn’t be where I am without seeing it was possible by so many other great professionals out there.
I’m definitely biased, but I’ve poured years of experience and TONS of love into The Instructional Design Company blog messages and resources. All the things I offer are real experiences I used or shared with my team to be successful, so I am confident you will be successful with them, too!
Here’s a list of some other great FREE training and professional development blogs I love (no sponsorships, just my personal favorites):
- The Instructional Design Company – Great resources, courses, freebies, and sensational blog posts that will bring a tear to your eye and love to your heart.
- Learning in the Modern Workplace – A blog by Jane Hart on modernizing workplace learning.
- Training Day from Training Magazine – Blog posts provided by Training Magazine. Lots of other great resources here!
- Training Industry – This one has tons of great articles and contributors in many different design topics.
- HRZone – This one is geared more toward the HR arena, but still tons of great posts that could be modified for any field.
- ATD – Blog posts provided by the Association for Talent Development. We’ll talk about this site a lot, so definitely bookmark this one!
Some other great blogs that I love aren’t necessarily devoted to training, but were very influential and helpful for me, contributing to professional development.
While I was still in the corporate world, I kept a few consulting projects going on the side and toyed with the idea of making it my main gig. Once I got serious about it, I wanted to see if anybody else out there could offer some insight and I found Ryan Robinson.
When I did decide to step out there, I wanted to know how to bring in followers and market myself, which is where I found Jenna Kutcher. She’s inspiring, real, honest, and powerful as an entrepreneur. She’s got great weekly messages that make me puff up my chest with confidence to face any challenge.
Podcasts are a great way to start my day while I get ready, run errands, walk on the beach, wait in traffic, or end my day in bed. I also get very little time these days to sit down and read, so podcasts are a great way to keep me focused.
They keep me connected to the world of training and instructional design without having to travel to hear great speakers. As long as I have my device, I can tune in to today’s hottest topics and ideas.
Here’s some great ones (again FREE, and no sponsorships, just my faves):
You can subscribe in the Music Store on your device or click the links above to listen online in your web browser.
I’ve come across a LOT of great books on training in my career. My favorite for delivering great training is a book called Training From the Back of the Room by Sharon Bowman. It’s a little pricey at $42 on Amazon in paperback, but soooo worth it.
It’s extremely insightful about professional development and building an experience in an environment where the learners do the work. There’s a ton of strategies where learners build their knowledge and skills and the trainer doesn’t become a talking head at the front of the room while everyone takes a nap.
If you’re not an in-person training facilitator, this book can still work for you! Many of the concepts can be used in building digital or e-learning courses as well.
Training designers not only need to deliver great training, but also create an optimally motivating environment for the learner. Susan Fowler’s book called Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging is very reasonable at $13 on Amazon in paperback.
It’s a quick read with a ton of great stories and research. I listened to the audio version and I just kept nodding my head through the whole thing. Great book!
You really don’t have to shell out a bunch of money or travel great distances to build your skills or knowledge. Here’s some amazing resources that provide online courses and materials with little or no cost:
- LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) – Over 13,000 courses available! Subscriptions as low as $19.99 a month if billed annually. You can always try it for free for a month.
- SkillShare – Over 25,000 courses with subscriptions starting at about $12 a month. Right now you can try it out for $0.99 for 2 months.
- YouTube – Anytime I need to learn how to build a new skill, I always check YouTube first. There’s usually someone who’s sharing their knowledge for free!
Membership in a professional organization is a great way to not only get more resources, but also to get plugged in to a community. They can connect you with other professionals who have great insight and experience to share.
The Association of Talent Development (ATD) is a well established and long standing association for those involved in development. As a member of ATD, you get access to webinars, books, research, and much more depending on the type of membership you buy. A membership is a great way to maximize your investment in yourself.
Here’s the membership details:
- Professional Membership: $259 per year
- Professional Plus Membership: $399 per year
- Professional Plus Membership with Special Bundle: $2,274 per year
The Special Bundle membership includes an attendance ticket to the ATD International Conference and Expo, which a GREAT conference to attend. More about that in the Events section below.
And, don’t forget to join your local chapter. There are so many great opportunities to learn from the members of your local chapter and the price is usually minimal.
Another great professional organization is Training Magazine. Also a great place for webinars, books, research, events, and more.
Here’s the membership details for Training Mag:
- Basic Membership: FREE
- Standard Membership: $95 per year
- Advanced Membership: $495 per year
- Premium Membership: $1,495 per year
The Basic membership still gets you access to a ton of great resources, while some things are locked based on your membership level. The Premium includes an attendance ticket to the TechLearn Conference AND the Training Conference and Expo.
When you participate in and attend events geared toward your passion, it can be really exciting! So many like-minded people in one place intent on networking and sharing great information. Gets my blood pumping just thinking about it.
Attending events definitely has a bigger price tag as it might have a lot of travel expenses, but the experience is well worth the money.
If you want to find a conference near you, a great place to look is Desire 2 Learn. All scheduled conferences are there. Search until you find just the right one and click the provided link to register.
Finding a conference within driving distance can cut down on travel costs. You can also find other people to attend with you to split the cost of a hotel or Airbnb.
This year, I attended the Expo for DevLearn in Orlando for free. You might be thinking that there isn’t much to learn at an Expo, but that isn’t true. They offered many learning opportunities with Learning Stages throughout the Expo. I actually created a schedule of learning in between checking out the many vendors.
As you read this post, I am attending ATD’s International Conference and Expo. I planned everything out before I got here to learn as much as possible. I try to make the most out of every conference. Check out how here.
Over the years, I have been to many conferences where I soaked up so much knowledge. At one point in my career, I was responsible for the educational offerings for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events Expo Expo. I know the work involved in creating amazing educational opportunities that bring value to conference attendees.
If you’re on the fence, I’d encourage you to take that leap. Seeing the newest and most innovative tech and meeting so many new people almost always far exceeds my expectations. And, hey, sometimes you win stuff at these events, too!
The development of ourselves and our teams is critically important to our field. But, professional development doesn’t have to come at a high cost. You can tap into the latest and greatest without breaking the bank or feeling out of the loop.
My Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.