The new year is almost here. That means it’s time to plan your professional development in 2018 with GovLoop’s list of the best online trainings for government employees.
A career-minded government employee is always learning. With limited budget for traveling to distant professional development trainings, online courses are a cost-effective way to continuously build your skills. Use this list of online courses to take charge of your career from your desk or at home, and at a time that best fits your schedule. If you can put together the funds for in-person events, check out our list of the best government conferences of 2018.
Here are the best online trainings that can help government employees like yourself boost your skills. Some are free, and the rest are priced right for government agencies of any size. You'll find a range of courses for govies working at local agencies through the federal level.
Working in Government
Local Government 101 will ease you into the ins and outs of working in a position with high visibility and accountability in local government. It is designed to assist new employees in understanding the legal, cultural, and political environments of local government. The course provides an overview of the types of local governments and discusses forms of municipal government, specifically focusing on city manager-council form of government. Participants will also learn about municipal revenue sources, the annual budget process, and strategies for a successful career in local government.
The 1-hour course costs $19.95, which you can access for 30 days.
Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change program may not be aimed solely at government employees, but it is a unique opportunity for a long, deep dive into community organizing via a collaborative online learning environment. Over 14 weeks, Professor Marshall Ganz helps participants learn how to organize communities to mobilize their resources to create the power they need to make change. It is not a passive training. Participants lead an organizing project, write reflection papers, receive coaching, and coach each other. The program is designed for emerging and established leaders from civic, social, or political organizations. Admission is competitive.
The program is offered a few set times during the year, and costs $2,100. The deadline to apply is December 5, 2017.
Building a Culture of Engagement is a 3-day virtual training series to help frontline supervisors and managers boost employee satisfaction in their agencies. Participants take away low- and no-cost strategies to use appreciation, communication, and empowerment (ACE) to build their workforce. This series uses research-supported methods, which have been successfully applied across government, to help address real-time challenges. In addition to developing a useful set of tools, participants also hear from a panel of experts, including former government executives, who will discuss their experiences and offer suggestions to effectively improve workforce engagement.
The series is offered several times a year, and costs $250.
Just because you landed a job at a government agency doesn't mean you understand how American government works. If your high school civics classes are a faint memory, take this comprehensive American Government online course from Professor Thomas E. Patterson at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. This course dives deep into American government and politics, and its foundations, institutions, organizations, and policies.
This self-paced course is free. edX estimates it takes 16 weeks to finish, putting in 3 hours per week.
Learn the basics of local government management with Local Government 101. Offered by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), this online certificate course covers key skills and practices in the areas leadership, management, service delivery, budgeting, and human resources. It is taught by experienced managers and local government experts who impart real-life experience, best practices, and sound advice in the areas most important to a manager’s day-to-day role. It’s designed for new and mid-career managers, assistant managers, and career-changers new to local government.
This is a 5-course, 15 session online certificate course you can take on-demand. It costs $1,495 for ICMA members, and $2,495 for non-members.
Becoming a new manager can be overwhelming. As a first-time manager, you will need to lead your team, tackle challenges, empower others, navigate difficult conversations, and delegate tasks, all while doing your own work exceptionally well. The New to Management Series outlines how to make a successful transition into management by drafting a transition strategy to move from individual contributor to leader. The course covers a large range of management essentials, including face-to-face versus virtual management, increasing productivity, confronting difficult employee behavior, supporting an aging workforce, balancing micro and macro management, performance reviews, and more.
The series includes multiple videos and courses, and costs $124 per employee. You can sign up for a 10-day free trial to check out the content.
New managers cannot successfully lead their team without actively respecting and promoting diversity. It’s not just the right thing to do. Inclusive organizations have more engaged employees and more innovative cultures. A more diverse team can also help your organization better understand the issues and perspectives of the communities it serves. The Inclusive Leadership course helps leaders understand the perspectives of different people in workplace situations, and why people behave the way they do, with practical suggestions on how to demonstrate inclusive attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. It also provides a starting point for evaluating—and even changing—your own personal beliefs and behaviors.
This self-paced online course costs $99.
Unconscious bias is a quick and often inaccurate judgment based on limited facts and our own life experiences. These judgments can give individuals and groups both unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage in the workplace because we have difficulty clearly seeing people’s talents, motivations, and potential clearly. Microsoft’s Unconscious Bias course helps deepen your understanding of unconscious biases, how they influence behavior, and how they impact people in the workplace. You’ll also learn numerous actions you can take to help counter unconscious bias in your own work environment.
This on-demand course is free.
To become a magnet for early career talent, your organization needs your help to tdevelop strategies for transforming your organization and attracting, developing, and retaining the best from younger generations. Essentials of Attracting, Growing, and Retaining Gen Y shows you how to apply the latest research to successfully recruit and keep young talent longer. You’ll learn the components of an integrated career development strategy and how to create a thriving organizational climate designed to release the talents and energy of younger workers.
The 3-part training costs $495 for ATD members and $850 for non-members.
This Inspired Leadership Specialization training takes you beyond basic management skills. You will learn how to overcome the ravages of chronic stress and renew your body and mind by building better relationships and positive leadership approaches. You will learn the power of asking questions to become a more inclusive and self-confident leader. The course will also show you how to effectively coach others toward change, learning, or increased motivation in life and work. The five-part training specialization focuses on inspiring leadership through emotional intelligence, empowering women in the workplace, coaching for learning and change, and leading positive change through appreciative inquiry.
This online training is offered every few months and costs $39 per month on Coursera or apply for financial aid.
American Management Association’s Doing More with Less: How to Motivate and Reward Your Overworked Staff
Most workers would change jobs if they had the opportunity. To keep people motivated and engaged, leaders must apply creative engagement strategies. In Doing More with Less, HR and leadership trainer and author Paul Falcone shares how to remotivate your team and get them in sync with your organization’s overall mission and strategic focus so top performers will want to stay at your organization. After completing this course, you will be able to apply proven methods of employee motivation, develop plans for more effective team motivation, set clear and defined goals as part of the motivation process, and identify specific challenges of workplace motivation and learn how to address them.
The 90-minute webinar is available on demand for $199.
Pathways Learning Experience is Toastmasters' new program designed to help you build the competencies you need to communicate and lead. You'll practice and improve your communication and leadership skills, and challenge yourself to build and refine skills like persuasive speaking, conducting online meetings, creating a podcast, and leading a group in a difficult situation. Choose from ten learning "paths" to match your individual skills, interests, and goals, including presentation mastery, visionary communication, innovative planning, and persuasive influence.
Toastmasters membership dues cover the cost of your first path. Additional paths can be purchased for $20 each.
Designed to help nervous beginners become confident speakers, this Introduction to Public Speaking course gives you a skill set you can use to prepare and deliver effective presentations on public issues. This popular course covers understanding speech, making ideas compelling and memorable, illustrating and delivering your ideas, overcoming your fear of public speaking, and developing great delivery. Taught by Dr. Matt McGarrity of the University of Washington’s Department of Communication, you’ll need to commit to five 2-hour lectures, plus time to complete quizzes and assignments, and for learning from other participants. Dr. McGarrity also offers advanced courses on speaking to inform, persuade, and entertain.
This online course is offered at specific times and costs $49 a month on Coursera. Or, you can audit the course for free (you get course materials but no grading) or apply for financial aid.
Public speaking is an art that takes practice. While you can’t wake up and assume you’re going to be an excellent public speaker, you can hone the skills to get closer to mastery. After all, being an effective presenter is a critical competency for everyone in an organization, not just leaders. In Public Speaking: Ten Tips from GovLoop’s Founder, Steve Ressler quickly reviews practical public speaking tips, including learning to speak slowly and keep your remarks succinct, incorporating interaction and stories into your presentation, paying attention to the design of your slides, and knowing your content cold.
The free 30-minute online video is a handy and quick introduction to public speaking for government workers.
Nancy Duarte is one of the leading experts in presentation design and public speaking. Her Persuasive Presentations eCourse focuses on the skills you need to connect more deeply with your audience. The curriculum includes how to organize a coherent presentation narrative, create persuasive messages and visuals, connect with and engage your audience, win over tough crowds, show people why your ideas matter to them, and strike the right tone in any situation. The course is on-demand and self-guided, allowing you to take the 67 lesson modules at your own pace when your schedule allows.
The online course can be started at any time and costs $495. Before signing up, check out the free sample lesson to decide if this online course is right for you.
Fearless Presentations is a seminar for employees of government agencies who want to improve their communications skills. The Leadership Institute offers an online version of the popular seminar for those who prefer to learn at their own pace. Through the course, you’ll learn how to reduce your fears, design your entire presentation from scratch in minutes, and add energy and enthusiasm to even the most boring topics. You’ll also discover new ways to make make presenting easier and more effective through stories, examples, audience participation, analogies, and showmanship.
The five-part online course can be started at any time and costs $199. Or, just purchase access to the individual sections you want most for $49 each.
Public speaking doesn’t just happen in person. Government professionals are often called on to host webinars for the public, make presentations to colleagues while teleworking, and run online trainings, Dale Carnegie’s How to Present Online covers key topics like how to use voice, visuals, and technology to deliver a high-impact experience. Other concepts include using interactivity and strong visuals to keep participants engaged and entertained.
The 1-hour online course is offered about once a month and costs $129. If that sounds like a lot of money for a one hour webinar, check with your agency to see if they’ll pay your way.
Government employees often need to speak to the media and at press conferences. It’s not just a job for high-level officials, press spokespeople, and public information officers. Especially at local or smaller government agencies, it’s important that every staff member know how to master every media encounter. In How to Be a Government Spokesperson, public speaking trainer TJ Walker helps you effectively communicate your agency’s messages to the media. The course concentrates on creating and controlling your message, being believable and credible, answering media questions, and speaking in sound bites.
The 5-part curriculum breaks the information into 69 lectures so you can learn at your own pace. The online course costs $20 on Udemy.
From the 2015 OPM data breach to 2017’s dump of CIA documents by Wikileaks, it’s clear government agencies need to strengthen their cybersecurity efforts. A Practical Introduction to Cyber Security Risk Management is an intensive, immersive training on the practical skills employees need to perform regular risk assessments for their organizations and protect their data assets. The course includes a hands-on laboratory training component. It’s an introductory course useful regardless of your technical information security or management background.
You’re given 4 months of online access to complete the self-study version of this training, which costs $2,480.
Tech Refresh: Out with the Old is an honest conversation about how government agencies can update aging systems and build a resilient infrastructure to better serve their constituents and fulfill their mission. Held in 2017, speakers from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), National Weather Service, and Govini talked about performing assessments, justifying the investment, dealing with legacy systems, shifting internal culture, creating plans, lining up resources, and navigating bureaucracy toward successful IT modernization.
The recording is free to watch, though you have to create an account with the BrightTALK webinar company.
In this Intro to Computer Science course, you’ll learn and practice key computer science concepts by building your own versions of popular web applications. You’ll get hands on with Python, a powerful, easy-to-learn, and widely used programming language, and you’ll explore computer science basics, as you build your own search engine and social network. The course's seven lessons cover writing programs to do repeating work, managing data, responding to queries, and the future of computing.
The course is free. Udemy estimates it takes 3 months to complete the course.
The popular Complete Web Developer Course 2.0 starts with the fundamentals for working quickly and efficiently with web technologies like HTML5, CSS3 and Python. Then you'll learn how to build your own responsive websites using more advanced techniques such as iQuery PHP 7, MySQL 5, and Twitter Bootstrap. Before long, you'll move on to developing blogs and sites with WordPress, and learning smart ways to add dynamic content, using APls to connect to sites such as Google Maps and Facebook.
This multi-part course costs $200 on Udemy.
Learn how user experience (UX) research and design techniques can help you better understand user needs and create a great user experience. In Introduction to User Experience, you'll gain an understanding of what is involved in UX research, including conducting interviews, evaluating systems, and analyzing systems using principles of good design. Professor Mark Newman of the University of Michigan teaches about the work involved in UX design, including the generation of promising design solutions and the creation of prototypes at multiple levels of fidelity. By interleaving successive phases of UX research and design, you'll see how to learn from inevitable mistakes and improve towards a product with a great UX.
This self-paced course is free or $99 for a verified certificate of completion. edX estimates it takes 5 weeks to finish, putting in 2 to 4 hours per week.
DigitalGov shares recordings of trainings and webinars on YouTube focused on plain language. In the Plain Language videos, you'll learn how to support the use of clear communication in government writing and help your agency comply with the Plain Writing Act of 2010. DigitalGov has lots of other videos on a range of topics, organized into useful playlists like government customer experience, social media, and website analytics.
The DigitalGov videos are free.
Facebook Blueprint is a wealth of free online courses to help you learn how to use Facebook's marketing tools. The Learning Path for Digital Planners is a series of courses for people interested in learning about the basics of planning advertising buys on Facebook including insights to inform campaigns, Reach and Frequency planning, advertising objectives, and targeting.
The learning path courses are free.
The Social Media for Government course explores the powerful ways social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used by government. Kristy Dalton of Government Social Media discusses the importance of engaging the public online, how to write a powerful social media strategy, how to deal with negativity, and how to set the right tone. You'll learn about various laws and requirements that involve online government communications, and how to create social media policies for your agency.
The course is included in a membership in Lynda.com, the price of which starts at $19.99 per month.
Other online trainings?
You hear about online trainings for government workers all the time. What other online trainings and courses should be included on this list? Add your suggestions in a comment at the end of this post—we just might add them when we update this list of online government trainings to take.
Lauren Girardin is a marketing and communications consultant, freelance writer, and speaker based in San Francisco. She helps organizations, foundations, and companies with a conscience engage their communities and tell their stories. Her website is laurengirardin.com and you can connect with her on Twitter at @girardinl.