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SKILLS / MAY. 30, 2017
version 8, draft 8

How to Improve Your Excel Skills Online

Excel app
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In this tech-driven society that we live in, acquiring knowledge on how to use a computer is a necessity. Becoming familiar with computer applications and, most importantly the Microsoft Office suite, is an essential skill to possess in the modern workplace. According to a 2015 report produced by Burning Glass Technologies, 78 per cent of middle-skill jobs require digital literacy and 67 per cent of future jobs demand expertise in these programs, specifically in Word and Excel.

Excel is one of the best applications made available by Microsoft and is commonly used for creating reports, and storing and administrating data. Since its appearance in 1987, the program allows professionals across a variety of fields to carry out their job effectively. It is used in various industries like finance, accounting (where you might need to prepare payroll), media, marketing, law and many others as it’s a vital tool for organisational purposes (eg: logging numerical information and sorting out important data).

Now, if you want to get the best out of your career and improve your performance in any job that requires using this software, you will need to work on your Excel skills. There are many ways to do that online, and this article will show you how.

 

Determine What You Need

Whether you are familiar with Excel or not, it’s always worth working on your current knowledge. But at the same time, you don’t want to spend valuable time going over those things you already know. This means that you need to be selective as far as it concerns what you choose to invest your time in. Getting to know what the program offers can help you take advantage of its unique features.

Microsoft Office is usually a good place to start, considering they’re the creators of Excel. They offer lessons, advice and tips on the following:

  • Workbooks, cells and formulas
  • Tables, charts and analysis
  • PivotTables, collaboration and Mac

The lessons are divided into four categories and are being delivered as follows:

Lesson 1: Moving From Lists to Tables

You will learn how to:

  • Create a workbook
  • Customise a worksheet
  • Enter and edit data
  • Format data
  • Apply math and formulas
  • Sort and filter data
  • Create and use tables

Lesson 2: Visual Analysis – From Numbers to Pictures

You will learn how to:

  • Apply conditional formatting
  • Use sparklines
  • Create a chart
  • Use shapes and diagrams
  • Apply data validation

Lesson 3: Collaboration and Sharing

You will learn how to:

  • Print worksheets
  • Save to and open a worksheet on the Web
  • Co-author
  • Use Excel web apps

Lesson 4: Automation, Macros and Reporting

You will learn how to:

  • Work on different functions
  • Use macros
  • Create PivotTables
  • Use slicers
  • Use PowerPivot
  • Conduct what-if analysis/Solver

Some of these activities may seem simple to you, depending on what you have learnt so far. Choosing the right course or lesson can help you ensure that you are learning new stuff and not going over the same things again. Alternatively, if you think that you need an Excel skills check-up, you can start from ground zero with Lesson 1 and work your way up to becoming an expert.

In case you didn’t know, there are many other Excel training providers out there, but these may offer an entirely different lesson plan. As such, it’s important to check out what each offers before you start a course so that you know what you are going to get out of it.

 

Search for Online Courses

Thanks to the internet, there’s huge learning potential out there. Many popular websites offer accessible resources, guides and tutorials on how to improve your Excel skills and some even offer the possibility to join relevant courses. However, not everything is appropriate to you, your ability, knowledge or familiarity with the software, so it’s important to choose a course according to your current level.

Microsoft Office, for example, divides lessons into three levels:

  • For beginners– you will learn basic math and how to create charts
  • For intermediate users– you will learn how to sort and filter data, conditional formatting and VLOOKUPs
  • For advanced users– you will work on pivot tables, advanced IF functions and learn how to password-protect worksheets and workbooks

Meanwhile, there are many free courses available online which offer Excel training and are designed to make Excel easy to learn and fun to use. They often come with accompanying video material, practice files and resource and cheat sheets, and allow you to become an Excel expert in no time. Essentially, you can learn all about copy-paste shortcuts, basic and advanced Excel functions, handling large data sets, conditional formatting, charting and using pivot tables all from the comfort of your home (or while you’re on the go) for free.

Meanwhile, many course providers such as edX, Udemy and Coursera also offer Excel courses but most require some kind of investment.

 

Check Out Relevant Videos

Much of the information that is distributed today is through video, which can provide a more effective way of online learning. In fact, Forrester Research found that visual information is easier to transmit and is equivalent to 1.8 million words. Now, if you had to choose between a boring piece of text and a video, what would you choose?

You will be able to find tutorials on video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo which can help you improve your Excel skills or simply learn some basic tips and tricks to use when working on Excel. However, it should be noted that these video tutorials often can’t provide you with a complete step-by-step guide on how to use the software and, therefore, aren’t very useful if you’re serious about becoming an expert.

 

Practice, Practice, Practice!

There is no doubt that practice makes perfect. If you work in a job where you need to use Excel on a daily basis, and creating and editing spread sheets is a huge part of your job description, then it’s important that you familiarise yourself with the program as much as you can and learn all its ins and outs. This will help you complete your work efficiently and on time, effectively increasing your productivity.

It can also be good for business. In fact, Marcus Small once said: ‘Leveraging Excel’s time-saving, quality-enhancing, multipurpose functions will help generate real-time business critical data’.

 

Once you decide to commit to improving your Excel skills, or starting from scratch, you’ll soon be able to complete even the most-time consuming tasks with ease and speed.

Have you ever used an online course to work on your Excel skills? Was it worth your time? Let us know in the comments section down below.

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