Online courses to improve your Project Management skills
Approach to learning in an age of abundance
For the ambitious and driven, we live in a blessed time. There is an amazing amount of high-quality information available to anyone with an internet connection about almost any topic – all you need to do is to put together a decent Boolean search. Global thought leaders can be watched for free on Youtube, there are amazing TEDx talks available about everything from physics to psychology and music, and you can find structured, business-school quality courses for free through some of the providers we list later on in this post.
There are a couple of catches though when you are looking for online training for professional purposes as opposed to for pure leisure. Firstly, how do you distinguish between bad, okay and great materials that are out there? Your time is valuable and there’s nothing worse than wasting time on poor quality content; often glorified sales pitches disguised as training. More about that further down; we have tried to give some guidance on where to go quality materials.
The second catch is, like with anything in life, for you to get the most out of something, you need to put the effort in. The availability of information is a game-changer; democratizing the access to information and giving the opportunity to listen and learn from practitioners and academic leaders. But here’s the thing: Simply watching the videos whilst simultaneously checking your emails and latest Instagram posts won’t do it. You need to treat this like any other professional development course that your past employers might have arranged for you, or when you last went to formal education. Listen and watch with intent, take notes on key points, scribble down your questions and try to find the answers to the things you don’t understand. And most importantly, try to practice your learnings in your next project.
Long story short, we are lucky to live in the time that we do, and the rest of this post will help you find some great sources to improve your Project Management skills.
Master the basics of Project Management for free
If you want to cover the fundamentals in terms of best-practice project management you may want to start out with some great, free online courses. Not only will you learn to master the basics of project management in terms of scoping, structuring and stakeholder management, but you will also learn the jargon used.
So how do you find the right course for you? Well, the good news is that there are plenty of resources available for free or nearly free. A simple search on Google or Youtube has thousands of hits each, and there’s nothing wrong with watching a few videos to start off. However, if you don’t want to spend days aimlessly browsing, and perhaps want a more structured approach to learning, we have made some suggestions below on where to start.
Coursera is one of the most recognised providers of digital training courses. There are a large number of courses available, both for beginners and more advanced Project Managers. Here’s a list of relevant courses available for those of you starting out. One of our current favourite training programs on Coursera is this 8-hour course in four parts, called Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management.
But don’t just take our word for it, over 3,000 students have rated this course with an average score of 4.7. There is a free version which we think is a great start. If you want to earn a certificate and have access to all the materials also after finishing the course, there’s a fee of USD 59. In total there are 35 videos totalling about 3h30min, 8 readings and 5 quizzes.
Whereby Coursera has more traditional course formats from academic institutions as well as from other training providers, Udemy could offer options for someone with a more relaxed learning style. While many Udemy courses are delivered by experts and come highly recommended, it’s important to know that anyone can create a Udemy course. In essence, Udemy is a course marketplace for anybody who wants to teach or learn online. Thus, you need to do more research yourself to ensure the course you sign up for is worth your while.
As you would expect, there are a large number of Project Management courses on Udemy – here’s a list of courses that are targeted at beginners and rated 4.5 or above. One place to start could be The Project Management Course: Beginner to PROject Manager. It has some 6h of video learning, 19 downloadable resources and comes very highly rated. At the time of writing this, it was available for a reasonable USD 20.
LinkedIn took over online training provider Lynda a while back and has kept adding to the catalogue of great materials. This is true also for the area of Project Management. Like with Coursera and Udemy above, there are free and paid resources. We recommend you go to linkedin.com/learning where you can start a free month to try it out.
There are a large number of Project Management courses. We like the Project Management Foundations if you are relatively new to the topic. It’s a 3.5h course in total and covers everything from how to develop a project plan, an introduction to agile project management, monitoring and steering, etc. All at a relatively high level as you would expect, but done in a thorough and logical manner.
However, there are a large number of other good options so we’d encourage you to browse and see what you like best.
Get to the next level of Project Management
If you have already got some training and a couple of years assisting or running projects, you may be looking at both taking it to the next level in terms of skills, but also to get a formal certificate or accreditation. Many clients will view formal qualifications from well-known organisations and exam bodies as proof of your skills, and it will do no harm for your chances of securing your next project at better rates.
Project Management Certifications
If you want to have a project management certification that is recognised globally there are two main options, PRINCE2 and the various PMI accreditations. Hang on, what about Six Sigma I hear you say…? Well, Six Sigma is slightly different and not really a Project Management certificate as we’ll explain below. It may still be something you want to explore though.
The PMI certificates are awarded by the Project Management Institute. The quality is undisputed and the recognition is very high internationally. The downside is that the exams are quite pricy – individual certifications start at USD 400, and the most advanced is over USD 500 for non-members. This is before you spend any additional money on additional study guides, take classes by training providers, etc.
Depending on how much previous project management experience you have, you start at different levels. The entry-level PMI certification is the Project Management Basics, which helps build project management skills and prepare for the next level, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification exam, which is the next level.
The most advance version is the PMP (Project Management Professional). The PMP is widely recognised as the gold standard of Project Management. If you have the necessary previous Project Management experience (minimum 3 years experience leading projects), the time to study, and the financial means to go through with it, this should be on your list.
PRINCE2 is another globally recognised Project Management certification and it is based on the lean process improvement methodologies. It emphasises dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages and can really help structuring complex tasks. There are two main levels: PRINCE2 Foundation, and PRINCE2 Practitioner.
Differences between PMP and PRINCE2
It’s fair to say that PMP requires more in-depth and detailed preparation than PRINCE2 and it’s not really comparing apples with apples. You can get the PRINCE2 Foundation certificate after less than a full week’s worth of training and pass rates are generally high. If you continue to the PRINCE2 Practioner level it normally involved about 1.5-2 days training.
The PMP certificate would most likely take you about 3 months if you can study 2-3 hours per day.
Also, PMP is arguably more recognised globally as a broad project management qualification although it is particularly strong in the US. PRINCE2 is strong in Europe and Australia. In Asia and Africa, both certifications are equally recognised, but it’s worth doing some research to confirm what the situation is in your country and sector.
And what about Six Sigma?
Six Sigma complements good Project Management trainings. To simplify somewhat, PMI and PRINCE2 give you the tools and frameworks to run any project, whereas you would apply Six Sigma approaches in some projects – in particular where it comes to identify and implement process improvements, eliminate variations, etc. Thus, Six Sigma is a set of techniques and tools for process efficiency that can be deployed across a wide range of areas, but it’s not an overall Project Management methodology.