Back-to-School for Grown-ups (I.e. Learning for a Digital Age)

Back-to-school is historically about the kids, but it’s not a bad time for parents to think about their own educations, too. The options for brushing up on old skills or learning brand-new ones are cheaper and easier to access than ever. Below, our picks for learning everything from coding to crochet.

  • Lynda


    One of the oldest digital education companies in the game (they started back in 1995, online support for books and videos on the digital arts), Lynda probably has one of the widest, most diverse offerings of any program highlighted in this story. Their exhaustive library includes thousands of video courses on business and technology, which members can access in its entirety for a monthly membership fee that’s astonishingly reasonable. It’s an excellent place to go for learning software like Photoshop, InDesign, or Excel, as they offer tune-ups for new versions of most software. Classes can be started and paused at any time, and it’s easy to go back in and get a refresher on specific skills—so if you took an Excel class, but forgot how to do pivot equations, you can re-watch that video without going through the entire course. Business accounts are also readily available for companies who want to offer (or require) courses for their employees.

  • HBX


    A Harvard MBA is one of the most valuable resume builders on the planet, so it’s no surprise that HBS’ digital curriculum, HBX, has garnered so much attention. Harvard is not the first business school to offer programming to the general public (Wharton, Stanford, and many top MBA programs make classes available through Coursera and other tools), but it distinguishes itself in a few key ways. First, it’s not free—students pay $1,800 for a 12-week CORe course in the fundamentals of business—a feature that’s designed to attract students with a more serious commitment, and to represent the extraordinarily high quality and production value of Harvard’s offering. The basic core curriculum is the most popular and consistent offering, but stay tuned and keep checking the website, as live courses (where you’ll interact with a HBS professor live) and specialist-specific courses for more experienced managers are now becoming available.

  • Khan Academy

    Khan Academy

    Sal Khan’s story isn’t really news at this point—his now-infamous TED talk was first released in 2011—but Khan Academy is as strong and robust as ever. Khan’s free lessons are easy to understand—and to rewind, fortunately—so you can learn or re-learn everything from algebra to history to finance. The parent portal is extremely helpful for parents trying to help kids with homework, even when the calculus feels a bit rusty. The Academy has also taken huge strides in test prep in recent years, and their SAT, GMAT, MCAT, and other standardized test-prep is widely considered to be as good as, or even better than, a lot of the paid prep out there.

  • Brit + Co

    Brit + Co

    DIY is not for everyone, but if you’ve always wanted to learn embroidery, Brit + Co’s got you covered. Their videos are beautifully produced, and you can purchase kits for each skill, so you spend less time in the fabric store and more time knitting/catching up on Peaky Blinders. For early-stage business owners, their tech and design classes (think logo design, small business money management, HTML + CSS) are both affordable and indispensable.

  • Coursera


    Started by two Stanford computer science professors, Coursera’s largest claim to fame is that it provides online offerings from some of the world’s biggest, most prestigious universities, among them the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, Yale, Duke, and (of course) Stanford. The catalogue for their MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) reads like an exhaustive, enormous course catalogue from any major university, with foundational and specialized courses in everything from Statistics to Philosophy to Programming. There are some more unexpected offerings as well—like the excellently titled “Horse Course” on basic horse care from the University of Florida’s Animal Sciences department. Scholarships are available for many of their courses.

  • General Assembly

    General Assembly

    General Assembly’s course catalogue tackles gap skills—the kind of valuable knowledge that employers have a high demand for, but traditional college educations don’t typically provide. In short, they’re an invaluable resource for anyone looking to change jobs, enrich their career, or start their own business. The practical curriculum has historically had its foundations in coding, but they’ve expanded a lot in recent years to include mobile development, digital marketing, product management, and data analytics. Classes are available at one of their 20 campuses or through their robust online catalogue.

  • Skillshare


    Skillshare can be thought of as college-level YouTube. For $8 a month (or $96 a year), you get access to their catalog of several thousand classes that cover everything from Photoshop to SEO, personal finance, animation, HTML, recipe design, creative, and copywriting. (Without a paid subscription, you can enroll in several hundred classes.) The tutorial-based classes are usually less than a half hour, and can be as short as ten minutes, broken down into digestible videos, which are pre-recorded so you can go at your own pace. For Apple TV users, Skillshare conveniently has an app that makes for very easy watching, although there are of course other ways to watch. Each course includes a class project—i.e., a way to put your new skills into action. Another thing that’s cool about Skillshare is that you can sign up to be a teacher to share one of your own talents—and get paid to do so. Yes, the program is famous for having hosted James Franco, Susan Orlean, and Seth Godin as teachers, but the instructor bios and backgrounds varies widely, which is part of the fun here.

  • Flatiron School

    Flatiron School

    It’s long already been a job market trend, but coding isn’t going out of style any time soon. The job market for programmers, web developers, and software engineers is arguably the best market to be an employee in, and demand is poised to grow. Even if you’re not necessarily looking for a new career path, though, learning how to code is a compelling skill to have in your back-pocket, sort of akin to being able to speak a second language. The Flatiron school offers classes at their NYC campus as well as online. Some courses require zero coding knowledge, while others are for more advanced students. Most courses have tuition attached, but a few of the introductory classes are free. Take note: Flatiron has a partnership with Kode with Klossy (brainchild of Karlie Kloss), which offers scholarships for women.