Learning for Free

I’ve been blogging lately about training and certifications and it’s generated a fair amount of questions. One question is:

“How much does certification cost?”

Well, some of it is free. A surprising amount is free, in fact. Biml Academy offers several hours of free training, for example.

YouTube is chock-full of learning opportunities. The quality of training varies, but it’s difficult (not impossible, unfortunately) to complain about the quality of free training.

Like Biml Academy, WintellectNOW offers a mix of free plus paid training. My friend and co-host of the Data Driven podcast, Frank La Vigne (blog | @Tableteer), authored a free course at WintellectNOW titled Data Science for Developers.

edX is the site I’ve been using lately. In partnership with Microsoft Virtual Academy, edX offers Microsoft-recognized certifications. If you want the certificate, you have to pay – usually $49-$99 USD at the time of this writing. If you string together enough certifications, you complete a program. This feels a lot like leveling-up, career-wise.


You can receive the education – the training, the knowledge – for free at edX. You can audit the courses! Here’s the best part: You can audit the courses today, pass them, and then purchase the certificate later. How much later? I do not know. I like this, though – a lot. Why? I get the knowledge and experience (edX labs – in my experience – are good). As a lifelong learner (which sounds so much better than “learn-aholic”), that’s really what I’m after: the knowledge. And then I can pay for the certificate later.

Why Seek Training?

Once you acquire knowledge you can apply it. Start applying what you’ve learned and it won’t be long before the (hiring) world beats a path to your door.

Think I’m kidding about this? I added certifications to my LinkedIn profile late last year.  The number of people who have viewed my profile in the last 90 days is now 2.5X what it was prior to that time.

Please keep in mind that I worked on three books that were published last year. Three. Books. Nothing increased my visibility to the professional community as much as training.

Focused Training

Training can lead to a level-up in your career. You may find a new job at a different – or at your current – employer. Free training can take you far, provided you can locate excellent free training (it’s out there but sometimes difficult to locate). You may want more focused training – training that’s more intense and takes less time. Your employer may want this too.

This is when you want to invest in professional training. Where can you get such training? I’ve learned a lot at SQL Saturday and PASS Summit precons. Beyond that, you may want to attend online or in-person training, classes delivered by experienced and recognized experts. You can find this training in lots of locations. Two of my favorites are Brent Ozar Unlimited and SQLSkills. Full disclosure: I deliver Expert SSIS training for Brent Ozar Unlimited and IESSIS1: Immersion Event on Learning SQL Server Integration Services for SQLSkills.

Courses – such as the training I deliver – efficiently improve your level of knowledge. How do I know? I’ve been delivering training like this for over a decade in the SQL Server space. I hear it over and over again from students: they learn a lot and appreciate the experience and knowledge.

You don’t have to get training from me, but when it’s time to kick things up to the next level, please consider a focused training experience from someone.

Andy Leonard


Christian, husband, dad, grandpa, Data Philosopher, Data Engineer, Azure Data Factory, SSIS, and Biml guy. I was cloud before cloud was cool. :{>

One thought on “Learning for Free

  1. On the verification option for EdX, the course page includes an info that shows you the Verification Upgrade Deadline, which is usually three months from when the course started. But please don’t quote me on that.

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