When online learning or e-learning solutions first appeared in the late 90s, they were considered a hobbyist’s muse – exciting perhaps, but not effective modes of learning. Fast forward to 2020, 50% of the higher education students have taken at least one online course in the past year.
Online learning platforms have come a long way in the past two decades, especially after the arrival of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in 2008. They completely revolutionized the e-learning space for millions of students, professionals, and organizations worldwide. Inspired by their immense popularity, even traditional institutions, like Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, and others, are launching e-learning courses, specializations, and even online degrees.
Naturally, the online learning market is predicted to grow into a staggering $325 billion industry by 2025.
But which online learning platform is best suited for you?
Should you choose a free platform or a premium platform?
Which e-learning platform will help you build a successful career in the field of your choice?
We’ll answer these and many more questions in this brief guide on online learning platforms.
Before we start, you must understand that each e-learning platform has its own set of approaches to educating its users, monetizing the platform, and preparing you for your dream career. There is no one super-awesome platform that offers everything. However, each of them is an excellent choice for a unique set of people with a unique set of requirements.
All Learning Platforms We Have Reviewed:
- Codecademy Review
- Coursera Review
- CreativeLive Review
- DataCamp Review
- edX Review
- Lambda School Review
- LinkedIn Learning Review
- MasterClass Review
- Pluralsight Review
- Skillshare Review
- Treehouse Review
- Udacity Review
- Udemy Review
Here’s how you can find a platform and course that offers you the best value for your time and money.
How To Select the Right Online Learning Platform?
The enormous number of online learning resources out there can confuse anyone looking for high-quality educational content online. Here are some tips for finding the right platform for your needs:
Obviously, you must choose a platform that offers you good-quality courses in the field of your choice. For instance, CreativeLive focuses on creative subjects, while Datacamp focuses on data analytics and data science. Find a platform that offers courses relevant to you.
- Level of Expertise
Depth is not the only criterion to consider here. You must select a platform that offers courses that match your proficiency. If you are a beginner, you don’t want to land on a platform whose programs are designed only for advanced learners, and vice versa.
Of course, pricing matters. If you are on a budget, then Coursera, Udemy, and EDX are good choices.
Some platforms offer interactive learning experiences by employing projects, quizzes, exams, assignments, community membership, and more. Other platforms offer simple video-based courses with little interaction between instructor and students. Choose the platform that works best for you.
- Course Quality
Platforms like Coursera, EDX, Datacamp, CreativeLive, Pluralsight, and Skillshare offer high-quality courses across the board. On other platforms like Udemy, Udacity, and so on, the quality varies significantly between courses. You can still choose the latter kind of resources, so long as you are ready to invest some time researching the courses and finding the best one for your needs.
8 Best Online Learning Platforms
Now that you know the most important factors you must consider when selecting the right e-learning platform for yourself, it’s time to check out the top ones. This guide is designed to help you find out which platform is the best option for you. Let’s get started.
1. Coursera: Best Online Learning Platform For Accredited Education
Coursera is one of the oldest and most popular online learning platforms for professionals. It features individual courses, multi-course specializations, and online degrees from some of the top universities in the world, including Yale, Stanford, Duke, and so on. Naturally, the platform’s courses have been accessed by over 50 million students since its inception.
If you want a robust understanding of the subject in which you are interested, and need some accreditations to prove your job-worthiness to your employer, then Coursera is the right platform for you.
- You can join most courses on Coursera for free, although you must purchase the program to get a certification of completion.
- Coursera’s certifications tend to hold value among many employers
- It offers an abundance of certifications and accreditation from top universities – more than any other platform
- The platform also offers courses from top companies like Google, IBM, and so on.
- You can find courses and programs on almost all academic topics here
- Coursera is partnered with several international universities. So, you can find courses in many different languages
- Most of these courses are targeted at advanced learners, such as higher education students. So, some level of familiarity is required in the field of study
2. Udemy: Best E-learning Platform For the Voracious Learner
Udemy offers one of the largest repositories of educational content to online students all over the world. It enjoys a massive userbase of over 12 million learners, who can access over 100,000 courses on the platform. The sheer variety of educational content available on Udemy is astounding. Whatever you want to learn, there’s likely a course for it on Udemy.
- Over 100,000 courses on a wide variety of topics
- Courses designed for every kind of learner – from beginner to advanced
- Courses are rated and reviewed by users. So, you know what to expect
- Plenty of free courses available. Most premium courses have low prices. All premium courses go on sale frequently.
- 30-day moneyback guarantee lets you request a refund if you don’t like a course
- Content creation is not as standardized as that of Coursera. Course designers can be anyone from a hobbyist to a specialist. So, the quality of courses varies significantly from one to another
- No interaction between the students and the teacher
- No certifications or accreditations available
3. Skillshare: Best Online Education Platform for Creative Beginners
Skillshare is the ultimate learning platform for creative minds. They offer courses on everything from graphic design to music production, photography, and cooking. Although they have classes on technical topics like eCommerce and data science, creative education is where they shine over the others.
Its strong focus on creative topics has made it the e-learning platform of choice for over 5 million students worldwide.
- Over 25,000 courses on a variety of topics available
- Subscription-based pricing charges you a flat fee (monthly or yearly) and gives you complete access to all the courses on the platform
- Roughly 10% of the courses on the platform are free
- Courses available from some of the world’s biggest brands like Google and Mailchimp
- The platform uses a mix of lessons, assignments, and prompts to engage the learner.
- A community forum allows subscribers to interact, showcase their progress, get feedback on their work, and hone their skills
- Although international language courses are available, it’s primarily an English-focused platform
- No certifications or accreditations available
- The quality of courses varies significantly depending on the course designer, as almost everyone is allowed to create classes on the platform
4. CreativeLive: Best Online Courses Platform for Creative Pros
Unlike Skillshare, CreativeLive is squarely targeted at creative professionals and entrepreneurs. The educational content on CreativeLive is quite advanced and offers the learners in-depth insights into the fields of their interest.
The courses are created by some of the biggest names in the respective industries, including the likes of Grammy award winners, Oscar award winners, and bestselling authors. CreativeLive is where you can level up your skills and bring them on par with the industry experts. So, it’s hardly any surprise that the platform boasts over 10 million users.
- All courses are filmed by in-house videographers, so the quality of video courses is superb
- The courses offer actionable tips to help professionals progress in their fields
- Premium courses tend to be available at deeply discounted prices most of the time. Also, the creator passes allow you to access multiple programs simultaneously
- Courses are created by the world’s best professionals, such as Grammy award winners, Oscar award winners, and bestselling authors
- All courses are free at the time of their live streaming
- 30-day moneyback policy (7-day for creator pass)
- The course pricing can often be relatively high as they are created by the crème de la crème of the industry
- Creator pass subscribers retain access to courses as long as they continue to renew their premium subscription
5. Codecademy: Best Online Learning Platform For Aspiring Coders
Codecademy is inarguably the best coding platform for beginners. Codecademy offers courses on all programming languages, be it frontend technologies or backend technologies. If you are starting from scratch and want to develop solid fundamentals of coding, then you cannot go wrong with this online learning platform. After all, it’s trusted by over 45 million users.
You will find courses on HTML, CSS, .Net, Python, Sass, Ruby, and many other programming languages on Codecademy. Many aspiring coders encounter complex and advanced coding concepts at the beginning of their learning journey, which often discourages them from pursuing a career as a developer. Thankfully, Codecademy’s courses ease you into the field, excites you with tantalizing problems, and hones your coding skills as per your proficiency level.
- Courses are designed for learners at all stages in their learning journey
- You can apply your newfound knowledge by actively coding on the platform. You’re even provided instant feedback on your code
- Most of the beginner-friendly classes are entirely free, although advanced classes require a subscription
- Premium subscription comes with the certifications of completion
- Codecademy uses a mix of quizzes and real-life projects to get you “market-ready”
- The friendly community of coaches, fellow students, and advisors share their knowledge, experience, and advice to help you improve
- Although courses are professionally created, there’s very little information shared about the instructors
- Its certifications are not accredited by any third parties.
6. Pluralsight: Best E-learning Platform for Coding Professionals
Think of Pluralsight as ‘Codecademy on steroids.’ It’s the go-to platform for top-of-the-class coders and businesses looking for high-quality education on IT topics. In fact, over 70% of the Fortune 500 companies have accounts on Pluralsight – a fact that the platform proudly boasts on its website.
The courses on Pluralsight are created by over 1,500+ industry experts with a strong background in their respective areas. Whether you plan to improve your expertise in cybersecurity, coding, software development, mobile app development, or other IT areas, Pluralsight has just the right courses to help you realize your career goals.
- High-quality courses created by the industry’s most reputed experts
- Trusted by companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Oracle, and others
- Learning experiences are tailored to your current proficiency. And yes, they test your skills before getting started
- Higher-level premium plans offer projects, interactive courses, certifications, integrations, analytics, and other advanced features
- It’s quite expensive, especially when you consider the higher plans
- No free plans or courses
- The platform focuses on specialized topics. If you’re looking for a broader understanding of the subject, then Pluralsight is not for you.
7. Datacamp: Best Online Learning Resource for Aspiring and Professional Data Scientists
Okay. This is the final technical education platform on our list. Datacamp deserves a special mention because it’s an outstanding resource on data science and analytics. Datacamp does not leave any stone unturned in getting students up to speed on everything related to the topic. The courses take them from the beginner’s stage right to the point of an expert. If you are looking to pursue a career in big data, artificial intelligence, data analytics, data science, and related fields, then Datacamp could be just what you need.
- The platform emphasizes interactive learning, which means that the students are more engaged and invested in their learning journey
- Datacamp courses break down complex topics into bite-sized content that is easy to digest
- Courses are created by over 270 experts from the industry
- Simple and transparent pricing
- Courses are designed for everyone from beginners to advanced learners
- They use both video classes and exercises to engage the online students
- Free plan available, but it gives you access to only the first lesson in each course. So, all courses require you to pay if you’d like to access the rest of the lessons
- Certificates are available on competition but are not accredited
8. edX: Best Online Education Platform for Academic Learning
To put it in simple terms, EDX is the best Coursera-alternative out there.
Just like Coursera, EDX also features courses and programs from some of the largest corporations and universities in the world. It hosts over 25 million online students and hundreds of top universities. Students can join individual courses, Master’s degrees, and everything in between.
The best part about EDX is that its courses are often accepted towards college credits by several institutions worldwide. However, students should inquire about this at their university and make sure that their institution accepts EDX credits towards their specialization.
- Courses designed by universities like MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Boson University, and so on
- All courses are free for everyone
- You can start courses anytime you like and complete them at your own pace
- The quality of the content is top-notch, as they are created by some of the best universities and corporations
- You can get accredited certifications with your photo and ID for a premium. However, certifications offered for free plan users do not mention such specifics and hold little value, if any
- Course difficulty varies substantially from one to another, but most courses require basic knowledge of the respective field
- Each course is usually available for a limited period
So, did you find the perfect online learning platform for your needs?
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