Simplilearn Review: Are Online Courses in Digital Marketing Worth the Cost?

Professional improvement and marketing education are frequent topics of discussion here at MarketerGizmo.

Marketing is evolving so rapidly that it can be a full time job for marketers just to stay on top of emerging trends in their fields and industries.

So when Simplilearn reached out to me a couple of months ago to offer our team a look inside their online education platform, I was excited to dive in.

Between me (Andrea) and our other full time writer, Liz, we watched many, many hours of educational videos on Simplilearn. What follows are our impressions of the Digital Marketing Certified Associate (DMCA) Course so you can decide for yourself if this platform is the right way to spend your professional development time and budget.

Where Simplilearn Excels (and You Reap the Benefits)

Liz: Any kind of online learning can be hit-or-miss, whether it takes the form of industry blogs, webinars, or structured courses. Particularly when you are shelling out your credit card number, it’s difficult to know whether or not the course is really all it says it will be.

Before we dive into our top four reasons why Simplilearn is worth paying for, this is the structure of the DMCA Course we took.

Contents of the DMCA Course

  • Foundations: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Foundations: Social Media
  • Foundations: Content Marketing
  • Foundations: Email Marketing
  • Foundations: Mobile Marketing
  • Foundations: Pay Per Click (PPC)
  • Foundations: Conversion Optimization
  • Foundations: Web Analytics
  • Tools: Google Analytics – Specific Techniques and Reports
  • Tools: Google Adwords Fundamentals
  • Tools: Facebook Marketing and Advertising
  • Tools: YouTube and Video Marketing
  • Digital Marketing Strategy

Great, Balanced Overview of Topics

L: We have high standards for online courses, and at least one of us walked into the experience with low expectations. But, Simplilearn impressed us both.

Courses like the DMCA are broken up into individual topics.

Within each topic, the presenter, which varies depending on the topic and their expertise, guides you through a series of lessons. Each topic includes a number of lessons, many with multiple videos and corresponding quizzes.

The Foundations: Social Media Topic, for example, includes 9 lessons. While most lessons include just one video, Lesson 03 – Social Media Channels includes 5, each focusing on a different channel.

This structure allows you to really focus in on the topics that interest you most.

If you are familiar with Facebook’s marketing tools, for example, you could skip those videos and move right into the discussion on Social Review Sites.

We found that each lesson covers the right amount of breadth and depth to be digestible, while still being actionable – a delicate balance within complicated fields like Digital Marketing.

Presenters are Experts in Their Fields

L: Just because someone is good on camera, doesn’t mean they know what they are talking about. But, Simplilearn went out of their way to recruit course instructors who really know their stuff.

The instructors are all proven, experienced specialists in their fields. They have started companies or worked up the ranks in some of the best marketing firms in the world, and have ued this on-the-ground experience to become accomplished authors and faculty chairs for Market Motive.
Each speaker has their own style, so some will jive better with you than others, but you can rest assured that you really are learning from the pros.

The Eagle Eyed View: Showing How Digital Marketing Pieces Fits Together

L: The benefit of doing a full course like the DMCA, versus cherry picking topics, is that presenters are very good at stepping back and explaining how their specialties impact digital marketing as a whole.

The content segment mentions the importance of social media, while the social media section touches on opportunities with PPC.
This eagle-eye view of marketing as a whole is so important in the digital age, where no one tactic exists in a vacuum. For true mastery, every piece must work together.

Not New to Marketing? You Can Still Learn Something

L: Think you’re too much of a pro for an online course like Simplilearn? Think again.

Just because you have been working in marketing for a few years doesn’t mean you won’t learn something new from the presenters.

Particularly if you’re a specialist, you will learn a lot by listening in to lessons from other fields.

You may see connections, opportunities, or tactics that you wouldn’t have thought of from your single-focus silo.

In addition, the more technical modules could give you insight into new and better ways to analyze data.

Our content marketing manager, Andrea, is no green horn when it comes to GoogleAnalytics, but even she found value from the lessons.

The Downside of Simplilearn Courses

Andrea: While these courses are immensely valuable for marketers looking to drive their skills forward, they have a few drawbacks.

(You’ll notice that some of these “downsides” might actually be good things depending on your course needs; consider carefully, and decide for yourself whether this course is a good fit for you.)

Lengthy Time Commitment

A: If you want a shot at passing the final certification tests, you’ll need to follow the videos carefully and keep detailed notes.

There’s no putting these on in the background while you do something else.

What that means is that you’re going to need to devote dozens of hours to the DMCA course.

The Adwords section is over three hours long; email marketing gets a whole hour to itself.

If you’re after a more in-depth look at marketing than what’s available in free articles online, then this may be a plus for you.

But if you’re in a rush to brush up on a particular skill, you’ll probably be better served by Simplilearn’s smaller, topic-specific modules.

Differences in Instructor Quality

A: The DMCA course covers multiple topics, which means there are multiple instructors. While this makes sense (not everybody is an expert in everything, after all), it does mean there are frequent shifts in the quality level of the speaker.

Liz and I agreed that about 90% of the speakers were just fine. They more than adequately covered their topics and kept us fairly engaged during the videos.

We found that there were just one or two instructors who were below average. It wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but it was a definite let down to go from a charismatic speaker to one who wasn’t quite so entertaining.

Minimal Slides and Lots of Instruction

A: This is a personal preference thing for me, but I found the slow slide progression in some sections hard to sit through. Liz agrees.

Some slides would be up for several minutes at a stretch while the instructor talked, and it got boring at times.

With dozens of hours of class to get through, it makes sense that nobody is going to be clicking through a slide every ten seconds like you’d see in a conference presentation.

Nonetheless, there may be a happy medium somewhere that creates a more dynamic class experience without requiring the creation of thousands of new slides.

High Cost for Self Education

A: The Flexi-Pass version of the DMCA course costs $899, which is probably out of reach for students who are looking for a way to make themselves more valuable in the job market. This option gets you access to some live instruction as well as three months of access to the classes for self-paced learning.

Although a little high, this price point is much cheaper than trying to train a new hire or a transferred internal employee on the job.

For companies who need to get freshly minted marketers up to speed on marketing fundamentals, this would be a perfect fit.

The completely self-paced version is a more reasonable $499, and gives learners 180 days of unlimited access to the courses.

Who Simplilearn Fits Best

A: As I alluded to in the previous section, there are really two categories of learners who would benefit from the DMCA course: marketers just starting out in their careers and those looking to expand their existing skill set.

I’m going to tackle the first group in more detail, and Liz will take over to share how current marketers might benefit from the classes.

Marketers Just Getting Started

A: If you’re a new graduate with no marketing-related experience, this type of course could be a great leg up over other entry-level applicants. You would have a baseline understanding of all the most important aspects of a modern marketing department, which could only help you in interviews.
Similarly, if you’ve recently started a marketing career and recognize some gaps in your education, this course could be a perfect way to fill them.

If you can create email campaigns all day but have no clue how to run a report in Google Analytics, you’ll find that information here.

As Liz mentioned in her overview of the benefits of this course, it does a good job of drawing connections between disciplines, so those who want to learn more about how their job intersects with other aspects of marketing will find that very useful.

Leaders Who Need Deeper Understanding

A: Most marketers have had a boss who just didn’t get it. They came up through another department or somehow landed in marketing at random, and their knowledge of marketing fundamentals is lacking.

If you can figure a way to get them to take this course, it will be enormously beneficial.

The DMCA class gives enough background to appeal to marketing newbies, but goes into enough detail to make it actually useful for those who work in the field on a day-to-day basis.

This combination could help leaders gain the knowledge of (and respect for) marketing that they need to be effective.

For Specialists and Agile Teams Looking to Expand Their Skillsets

L: I talk a lot about marketers getting siloed into one specialty, and there is certainly nothing wrong with diving deep into one discipline within Digital Marketing. But there are plenty of marketers who will benefit from expanding their proficiencies.
A diverse set of skills will bring more variety to our days and add value to our resumés.
If you are looking to pick up a new specialty, transition into a different path within marketing, or to become a cross-functional team member who can contribute to more projects, then a course like this is a valuable investment.

Having competency in related fields is never a negative, and it’s definitely an asset for agile teams.

For marketing departments that move and adapt quickly, having another team member step up to help during crunch time can be the difference between finishing a project on time and finishing a project with stressful overtime.

Even having a shared vocabulary within the team can mean the difference between success and failure.

At MarketerGizmo, for example, having a basic understanding of coding helps me communicate more effectively with our web developers, while web devs understand content marketing enough to give me constructive feedback when Andrea isn’t able to edit my work.

Companies Looking to Support and Educate Current Employees

L: Because access to Simplilearn courses is a bit spendy, I consider this point to be one of the best use cases.

Technology changes so quickly. It’s very likely that the head of your marketing department began their careers in traditional marketing departments, not the fast-paced new-normal of digital. And, employees that start today aren’t going to be specialists in whichever tools rise up five years from now.

It’s integral for companies to invest in their employees, empowering them to learn on the job and continually challenge themselves.

Simplilearn’s courses, with their high quality presenters and fine-tuned lesson plans, are an effective way for companies to help employees stay current.

For Small Business Owners and Marketing Departments Who Work With Freelancers

L: As a small business owner or a small marketing team, you can’t do everything yourself.

It’s inevitable that you will have to work with outside specialists, whether it’s finding contractors to work on SEO for your website or hiring a part time social media manager.

While there are plenty of freelancers who are really, really good at their jobs, there are also plenty who are really good at talking the talk, and not so good at walking the walk.

As a time-strapped, bootstrapped entrepreneur or jack-of-all-marketing-trades, it’s important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.

To Simplilearn or Not? It Depends on Your Goals

L: Our answer to the question, “should I invest in Simplilearn?” is a resounding maybe.

If you are looking for a structured online learning platform, then Simplilearn is going to be a solid investment. Their instructors and lessons are solid, without the smoke and mirrors that can come from free resources.

That said, while each course will give you a foundation in each specialty that can give you the vocabulary and baseline understanding you need to take yourself to the next level, nothing replaces real experience.

I’d feel comfortable recommending this program to people who need to speak intelligently about topics they are not particularly familiar with, but I am skeptical that having a certification like the DMCA on your resumé is going to impress anyone.

Treat it as self learning, not resumé building.

What are your thoughts on online learning, especially for marketers? Share your experiences with and opinions of online courses and self-learning in the comments. We’d love to read your input.

UPDATE: MarketerGizmo readers get a special discount on Simplilearn courses! 

Use the code MGIZMO30 for 30% off the LVC classes within the Digital Marketing Certified Associate track and MGIZMO50 for 50% off the OSL classes in both the Digital Marketing Certified Associate course and the Master Programs.

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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