Any network administrator worth their weight in RAM chips knows technical skills require updating. IT professionals must take expensive continuing education courses and certification tests to keep up with the constant changes in the industry. In addition, for those professionals whose job it is to train end users in technical matters, pricey off-campus seminars are often necessary. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to defer the costs in both time and materials associated with continuing education and end-user training?

One possible answer
With the course materials provided at FreeSkills, training and education cost savings are just a mouse-click away. The site contains an assortment of technical training materials ranging from introductory courses in Microsoft Word to advanced help for Informix database queries. Also, there is an extensive set of courses for learning those elusive soft skills like time management.

All the courses are presented using a customized version of the Adobe Acrobat PDF format that restricts you to viewing the course online. This prevents you from printing course materials. For studying purposes this can be quite annoying, but the layout of each course is intuitive enough to compensate for the inconvenience. A table of contents is readily accessible from every page of the course, so you can always find your place.

Advertising supports FreeSkills. However, the advertising is unobtrusive, almost to the point of being obscure. A banner drapes the top of each page in a course, but is populated with very small, innocuous icons and logos directing you to business partner sites like T. Allen & Associates and EasyData IT Solutions. The banner ads are supplied by the advertising agency FlyCast. For users, the less-than-prominent advertising is wonderful, but as a business model, one wonders if advertisers are realizing any benefits.

One aspect of the FreeSkills site that is especially intriguing is the solicitation of authors. Course authors are paid a 40% commission from the advertising their course generates for FreeSkills. This rather high commission has so far attracted very professional and thorough courses. If the business model holds up, the site may prove lucrative to freelance course writers looking for a break.

So can skills be had for free?
FreeSkills is an interesting source for technical courses in information technology. Whether you are just trying to bone up on a database program you haven’t used in years or you are preparing for certification in network protocols, FreeSkills can provide an applicable course. However, the more sophisticated the subject, the more likely that FreeSkills will not be enough. Even on the World Wide Web, you get what you pay for.

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A business consultant, Mark Kaelin also writes for TechRepublic and Louisville Computer News. For a diversion, he spends time on the softball field or the golf course and listens to rock ‘n’ roll.