Budget-Friendly Online Courses

Budget-Friendly Online Courses

Love to learn? Hone your craft or pick up a new skill via these websites to enhance your learning experience!

Calling all creatives, professionals, and lifelong learners! If you’re a vina who enjoys learning something new or honing a skill you have tucked away in your back pocket, there are many resources available around the web that can fulfill your educational needs on the cheap. Some require subscriptions, are free, and others are pay-per-course. Below, I’ve gathered some of my favorite sites to take online classes that are not only fun, but provide a great end-user experience.


Brit+Co is a great place to browse for classes. Prices are in the $25-50 range (never more than $90) and they offer many online classes to help you cultivate your creative side. The artsy courses they provide include calligraphy, how to kill it on Instagram, cookie decorating, how to throw a great cocktail party, and much more!

Level up and take a course with your vinas! They have a cool painting course you can purchase for a lovely Saturday night in with your vinas for just $29.00! Hit up your local hobby store to purchase the supplies (a list is provided) and have everyone pitch in to make it even more affordable. Just don’t forget the wine and snacks!


There are a few sites you can check out for courses that will help you advance your career. One of them is Canvas, the network that provides classes taught by some of the most prestigious universities in the world for free! Learn about Molecular Epidemiology from Ohio State University or The Best Practices for Biomedical Research Data Management from Harvard Medical School. Browse their course catalog to see if there’s something that piques your interest!

Skillshare is another favorite I discovered last year when a writer I follow on Twitter, Ashley C. Ford, promoted a course she was teaching about creative writing. Their categories include Creative, Lifestyle, Business, and Technology. There’s truly something for everyone; you can learn about accounting, management, graphic design, web development, and so much more—all taught by seasoned professionals. Skillshare is a paid service. You can either pay $15/month or $99/year. I recommend signing up for their free trial (an entire month) so you try before you buy.


Got some cash to burn and want to learn something from someone famous? Got’cha covered, babe. I’m a big fan of MasterClass, a site where you can learn specific skills or professions from the greats themselves. Take a course on cooking taught by Gordon Ramsay, learn photography from Annie Leibovitz, or enroll in a class on writing by Judy Blume or James Patterson. Each instructor provides video and workbook (PDF) lessons and walks you through how they’ve becoming successful over the course of their varied careers.

Once you enroll, you can go at your own pace and get involved with other classmates through their community, The Hub. The courses are $90/each but if you plan to take more than one or two in a calendar year, I highly recommend the year pass for $180. It’s so worth it!

Now that I’ve given you some different venues to check out, open up your browser and start checking out what these sites have to offer. You’re sure to find something you enjoy, either solo or to take with some friends. Don’t forget to share with us what you find in the comments below! 

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

How to Stay Safe Online

How to Stay Safe Online

With the way technology has advanced over the last decade, it’s become all too common for people to be affected by scammers, criminals, stalkers, and imposters. Here are some easy tips to ensure you’re being safe while using the Internet.


In an era when fake news and malware runs wild via links on your favorite social media outlets, you should be aware of what you are clicking on in your feed. To avoid clicking malicious links or being taken to a fake news outlet, you can do the following:

  • Take note of the headline, then open up a search engine to investigate the source it appears to be coming from. Personally, I am partial to the search engine website DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t track you, which is super important nowadays, seeing as a law was recently passed to allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to sell your browsing history.

Be safety-savvy on Facebook (and other media outlets) by doing the following:

  • Be careful who you share private information with. It’s hard to tell sometimes if the person on the other end of the line is scamming you. So trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Watch out for those catfishes, vina!
  • Lock down your privacy settings so the general public, or maybe just certain people, cannot access some of your more sensitive information, such as birthdates, names/info about family members, photos of your children and home possessions.
  • When you’re on vacation, don’t post photos or trip details until after you’ve returned. I’ve heard horror stories from friends who were broken into while on vacation, and the culprit ended up being a random Facebook friend. Don’t put yourself in that position—your posts can wait!


If you love to shop online, make sure you’re purchasing from trusted vendors. If you see something on a unique online boutique, browse for a PayPal option or use a major credit card.

In the event of a scam, often times PayPal or major credit cards will cover your losses and help you rectify the situation. Be sure to speak with card services or PayPal support immediately should you become the victim of fraud.


Do not click on ads. Even if it appears to be from a trusted vendor or source, some ad links can infect your system with malware or spyware. You’re safest if you just don’t engage. If you see a killer deal on an ad, take note of the vendor, and pop open DuckDuckGo to search for the actual website. Sure, it takes *slightly* longer, but it’s nice knowing your device isn’t going to get a virus because of your impulse to click on the first deal you see.

Do not, under any circumstances, open a link from an untrusted source! A good rule of thumb I follow is this: If it looks shady, lady, it probably is! If I don’t know the sender, I won’t click the link. And neither should you!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

Be An Informed, Educated Voter

Be An Informed, Educated Voter

We have officially entered the year of the next Presidential election in the United States. While I tend to keep my political thoughts to myself or only share with a small group of friends/colleagues, I feel it’s important to share some information with my friends, family, and readers.

If you aren’t sure of who you will vote for, that’s just fine – especially considering the field of candidates has yet to be narrowed down for the actual election later this year. If you’d like to get a head start and begin your research now, go for it. I highly recommend two websites to help you become a more informed voter: ISideWith.com and FactCheck.org

ISideWith.com is a wonderful resource, especially if you are very unsure of where you stand or which party/candidate you want to support. Don’t be sucked in by the evils of media; rather, take your time and answer the questions on this website. Their tagline – “How do your beliefs align with the potential candidates?” This is important… it focuses on YOUR beliefs.

My advice: be honest and answer the extra questions. It may take a little while, but it’s worth it. The last time I filled it out, I think it took about 30 minutes to complete with me answering each question in detail. Always select the position on the scale of if that issue is more or less important to you, and definitely expand the “Other Stances” option on each question to get more specific. Sometimes, a simple yes or no doesn’t suffice on the issues at hand. Here’s an example question:

ISideWith Sample Question

Dissecting the features, there is a spot for the user to select how important that issue is to them. It’s a scale of Less to More, with Somewhat being the middle of the road. Next to the actual question, there’s a button for you to click to learn more about the issue, in case things aren’t immediately clear. That brief description will sometimes even offer why some are against and why others are for the particular issue. Below the Yes or No option, there’s another for Other Stances. Once you click that, more options appear, allowing you to get more specific about your personal belief on the issue. If you click Add your own stance you will be given a text box for you to type how you really feel. Note that your response in that area is added to the database and other users can see it when they browse through the website.

When you finish the quiz, you’ll be given a breakdown of who you side with, which party fits your views, and a ton of other features including how others in your location/demographic feel about the issues.

When I started the quiz, I thought (without a doubt) I’d be aligned with a certain candidate and party. At the end of the quiz, I was surprised to see my top candidate and party. Reading through my answers, it made a lot of sense. This is how we should begin making our voting decisions. Not only will you solidify your convictions, you’ll be able to find the person who aligns the most with your personal views. Then, you can make the decision if that person is indeed the best person to run our great nation. Keep going back too throughout the year to see if anything changes, especially when the candidates have been narrowed down. I will be visiting this site often over the next several months to ensure I vote with intelligence come November.

FactCheck.org is a fantastic resource that helps us cut out all the crap said in the heat of the moment or in an effort to earn a vote. I could give endless examples with this, but just consider the recent debates and statements some candidates are saying about each other. It’s a fact – some will say and do whatever it takes to get you to be on their side, regardless if it’s true or false. This unfortunately leaves it up to us to do more research to verify what is true or not. In the end, it at least makes us more informed.

I love this site simply because it is dedicated to presenting the facts and no party/candidate is safe. You can trust if something is said in error, this site will be quick to correct the inaccuracies and provide detailed information on the specific topic or issue. Their mission is to increase public knowledge through journalistic and scholarly principles. This site makes it easy for a citizen to find the truth among the mess that is modern politics. They have a great section titled “Viral Spiral.” This is dedicated to helping people sift through the rumors. If you’re on Twitter, go ahead and follow – no bias, no bullshit.

In closing: please do your research and don’t just blindly vote for a party.  Don’t vote for someone because your parents or friends would. Get educated. Be informed. Take your time and really look into the potential candidates on your own. Don’t rely on media to tell you for whom you should cast your vote. Don’t let your friends and families tell you what you think. These two websites are just some of the few out there that will help you begin your research, help you form your own opinion, and then you will be able to be an informed voter. It’s your vote and yours alone. Make it count!

Word Crimes – The Best New Way to Brush Up Your Grammar

This, my friends, is brilliant! Weird Al is at it again, releasing one new video per day to promote his new album, titled Mandatory Fun. The one released yesterday is titled “Word Crimes” and is absolutely share-worthy.

It’s catchy (you can’t tell me you don’t dance to the tune of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” when you hear it), and will help you polish your grammar skills. Just file this one under “learning can be fun” – you’ll be grooving and cleaning up your grammar simultaneously in no time!

Click here to read the lyrics.

Share with your friends, if not only for a good laugh but to also help them brush up on common grammar mistakes.

Revision & Poetry

Revision & Poetry

Well, this is embarrassing. I haven’t been updating like I should. I have let things get in the way of writing for me again. That changes today. For those who know me, I’m somewhat a perfectionist when it comes to sharing my writing. I need to work on being more candid on my blog, because that’s what it’s for, right? So, here we go again. Buckle up and enjoy the ride. :)

I am in a poetry course this semester, studying under the Indiana Poet Laureate. Thus far, this class has helped me change the way I view writing poetry. I’m becoming unafraid to share my works-in-progress, and learning to better embrace critical feedback. Last night, we were discussing readings about revision. A few things grabbed my attention, but especially the notion that we have to stop being nice and sweet throughout our poems. This is me, completely. My poems are generally whimsical and fluffy and nice, leaving me with either a longing or a warm, fuzzy feeling. But sometimes we need that harsh reality to shine through. That darkness is everywhere in our lives, and we shouldn’t sugarcoat it when we share our experiences with others by way of writing. We have to stop letting our good manners get in the way of being raw and rude. Our poems can mean so much more if they have that bite or sting. That means it’s real. If it provokes emotion, then we’re on our way to a good poem.

Revising is something I’ve talked a lot about on here in the past.
I revise as I go and that’s kinda bad for my writing.

I need to learn “first vision, then revision” (wise words by Lynn Emanuel in her piece “In Praise of Malice: Thoughts on Revision”). The idea of getting it out on the page without trying to revise immediately is key. I’m beginning to learn that I need to put a piece of writing away for some time before revising it, because the person I was when I wrote that poem is not who I am now, in this moment… or even five minutes from now. Something new will come along, either through education or experience, and I can apply that to an editing/revising session down the road. In fact, I pulled out a poem I wrote 12-13 years ago for our “X-Treme Revision” process in my class. I read through it and like the thought of it… but my age shows in my writing. I look forward to sharing it later after I complete this process with my class.

There is another poem I am working on for our packet project – this basically is an assignment that will track our revision process. As a class, we all took an oath to revise this one piece of work over the course of a week for a minimum of one hour each day. I will be tracking my progress and will probably scan my revisions so I have them saved electronically – I will be glad to share with you. I always enjoy seeing how others revise or get from one point to the next with their writing, so I hope you will find something useful out of my experience. Also… I urge you to give me feedback – I want to know what you think of my work. Tell if if it sucks, tell me what I need to work on, tell me what you’d change if you were the author… I don’t like hearing “this is great, don’t change a thing!” (See my earlier post on peer response sessions.) Side/end note: one thing I struggle with when it comes to poetry is knowing when it is done. When do you stop revising a poem? When do you call it done? I don’t have an answer for this yet, but I hope to get closer as my poetry improves.

Revision & Poetry

Reflection: Theories and Applications of Teaching Composition

When I began this course, I feared I did not have enough experience as a teacher like my fellow classmates, as I have only tutored in the academic setting. In fact, until this class began, I did not believe that I had a pedagogical background. I discovered that it has been there all along, waiting to be uncovered. I’m beginning to understand this desire to teach has been here all along, and I have to reflect on my life as a writer to even begin considering what my teaching theory could be. To be honest, I never thought I had a set of theories about writing and teaching writing until this course. I have discovered that my teaching principles began to take shape when I took a course to become a tutor in the University Writing Center (UWC). It brought a lot to light for me, and helped me identify and physically write down what two of my theories could be.

  1. Writing is therapy. Many who write can funnel their passion creatively, or use research as a way to find the answers to their pressing questions. In my experience, journaling has been a savior on its own. I can spend a few moments a day writing out what is bothering me or what makes me happy. I also enjoy challenging myself to put a creative spin on my words when freewriting.
  2. There is not one end-all-be-all way to write a piece. The beauty about writing is that it’s flexible and can vary from person to person. After I trained to be a tutor for the UWC, I realized I would need to adapt the way I assisted each individual student. Some learn better by seeing, then doing… and others learn better by simple instruction. Even though I would begin each session the same way – breaking the ice, asking them questions about the piece, and have them begin reading aloud – I would often find myself ending the session a different way every single time. This alone helps me learn to adapt to unique situations in an instructor position, which I believe is very important.

My goal for this semester was to better understand theory of teaching composition, and learn how to apply it in my future classes. I believe I met half of that goal, simply because I do not have a classroom yet to test my ability. I have gained a better understanding of the reasons why we teach composition, and I have a better outlook on how I might do so in the future. For instance, for my final individual project I created a syllabus based on the four theories I made a personal connection to – expressivism, genre, culture studies, and social justice.  These are the ideas that captured my attention the most.

Now that I have completed this course, I am able to take a deeper look into the traditional definition of theory – Theory is defined as a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be; a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based. Considering this definition and the readings, theory has a large role in teaching composition. Up until I began my graduate degree, I did not understand how theory had a place in writing. when I look back on my education, theory was present the entire time – I just didn’t realize I knew how to identify it. This course has most definitely helped me in that area. Writing was always just a hobby, a way to get the ideas and demons out of my head and onto paper. It was just, and still is (but with more meaning), my form of therapy.

I now understand that the role that theory plays in writing can be quite flexible – there are many ways to go about instructing someone to conduct a task. Understanding theory and how to apply it to each unique situation in the classroom helps everyone – instructors and students alike – become more versed in a craft. Looking back on this course, I now realize how theory really comes into play – and I really understood that subconsciously when I began working as a writing tutor. I can now clearly see my path as a writer would be to help others and educate them about the craft. I will now be able to go forward and help others learn the art of composition.