Two weeks is a large amount of time for spring break—at least, according to all my friends stuck with only a few days off. But as much as I would have liked to, I couldn’t just simply spend my 336 free hours watching The West Wing.

No, I had to learn something.

Luckily for ambitious Wesleyan students, myself included, we now have free access to Lynda.com, the online training library for software tutorials. Accessing it is easy—just another ePortfolio portal to jump through (or, for those more tech-savvy, another iPhone or iPad app to download).

We have no good excuse not to dive right into expert-level courses about all the whatchamacallits and thingamajigs that we bought for our computers but don’t know how to use. If the skills section of your résumé is still lacking, you now have a lot of explaining to do.

I crunched the numbers and, after lengthy calculation, determined that Lynda offers approximately 17 bajillion videos on different websites and computer programs. Need to work an Excel spreadsheet? Lynda’s got you covered. Twitter got you down? No problem. Can’t figure out anything about your Apple device? There’s a video for that—191 videos, to be exact.

Being a dabbler in graphic design and a huge geek, I decided to check out the offerings in the Photoshop section. As with everything on Lynda, courses are divided by subject and difficulty, with the majority falling into the intermediate category. This category assumes that you know how to use the program on a basic level but wouldn’t necessarily get hired to use it professionally without a little more training. Lynda offers the general “Photoshop CS6 New Features” and “Photoshop for Web Design” as well as the more intense “Portrait Retouching,” “Motion Control 3D: Bringing Your Photos to Life in Three Dimensions,” and the enticingly-named “Dreamscapes.”

Now, don’t freak out when you see how long some of the courses run. Sure, Lynda’s “Designing a Magazine Cover” tutorial could run you a solid 2 hours 45 minutes, and there are far longer ones. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to stick around for the whole thing, and you definitely don’t have to watch it all in one sitting. Surprise: it’s not like a regular class.

Lynda does an excellent job of breaking each course into well-labeled segments. That way, you can find and drop in on the bit that you need to know. If all I wanted was to learn about designing a magazine cover was how to combine the cover image and the masthead, then I’d only have to sacrifice four-and-a-half-minutes. You can bookmark and queue courses for easy reference, and refer to your course history if you ever want to revisit a previously-viewed video.

The videos themselves are like little lectures: a narrator skilled in that area talks over a recording of the computer screen, and the mouse moves around and does things while that person speaks. I’m not sure why, but 90 percent of the videos I’ve watched on this website have a British narrator. If that’s not incentive to try it out, I don’t know what is.

Nigel French is my man for “Designing a Magazine Cover,” and he gives me a short history of magazine cover design before introducing me to his Photoshop screen. His, like the other courses on the website, is best done when you have the program open on your own computer, so you can follow along.

Unfortunately, I don’t have Photoshop CS6 on my laptop, but had I wished to spend the afternoon exploring the programs that are installed, I could have easily done so. The pricey Adobe suite makes up just a fraction of the programs and skills for which Lynda offers tutorials: from Ableton (sound-mixing software) to Zoomerang (an online survey site), the opportunities are endless. The offerings can enhance your personal résumé as well as your professional one: technophobes can check out tutorials on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook, while shopaholics can learn how to make the most of eBay and Amazon.

Lynda may not be a whirlwind of excitement—then again, I don’t know exactly how much you love British accents—but it’s quite useful. Whether you want to teach yourself a new skill or just hone an existing one, Lynda’s at your disposal.

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