The Best Online Learning
Platforms to Develop New Skills

Attending an online course is the perfect way to gain new skills. Online platforms have been designed to help you learn marketable skills from the comfort of your own home. During the pandemic, online platforms have gained unprecedented popularity.

This article covers the best online learning platforms. If you want to explore new topics or gain extra credentials for your resume, online learning platforms are here to cater to your needs. This article also covers what to look out for when choosing the perfect online learning platform and potential costs.

What Is an Online Learning Platform?

An online learning platform does what it says on the tin. It allows students and professionals alike to learn new skills online. Online learning platforms are typically geared towards adults who wish to upskill or learn a completely new set of skills.

Learning platforms are accessible through websites or online applications. You can sign up for a course online and all of the course material will become available through the platform.

There are online courses on almost any topic. Whether you want to learn new tech skills or artistic abilities, online courses can help you navigate your new ventures.

Some online programs offer certifications or certificates of completion. These can be useful if you want to use online learning to further your career.

How Much Do Online Learning Platforms Cost?

Online learning platforms are known to be a cheap alternative to formal education. Prices can vary greatly depending on the platform, course format, associated university, and other variables.

Some online platforms offer free courses, too. You can audit courses and get all the material online for free. This usually applies to short asynchronous courses. Some platforms offer free courses and require a flat fee for a certificate of completion.

7 Great Online Learning Platforms to Jumpstart Your Career

Online learning platforms are fantastic course providers. Their popularity has jumped significantly throughout the pandemic. We’ve gathered seven great online learning platforms to help you get an idea of what’s available.

edX | Best For: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Price: Courses can cost between $50 and $300. Auditing courses without a certificate is free.
Library: Over 2,800 courses
Accreditation: Most programs award certificates

edX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider created by MIT and Harvard. The platform has over 2,800 available courses. edX is primarily geared towards STEM subjects. There are many computer science courses available, making it a great platform to get into information technology or programming.

Many courses on edX are available for free with but without certificates. To get a certificate of completion you will usually have to pay a flat fee. edX’s verified certificates cost around $50. Certificates are a great way to provide proof of course completion for potential employers.

Pros

  • edX has bachelor’s and master’s level courses. These are called MicroBachelors and MicroMasters programs and provide undergraduate and postgraduate level content.
  • edX has a range of fully-fledged online master’s degrees on the platform. These cost between $9,000 and $25,000 and can take between one to four years.
  • edX boasts over 100 million alumni across the globe. By attending a course through edX you join an active community of online learners and peers.

Cons

  • edX has a limited range of topics. If you would like to study outside the scope of STEM subjects, you may be better off with a different online platform.
  • edX does not impose structural course guidelines. edX’s partners have complete control over how the course is offered. This might result in irregular and sometimes inconsistent course structure.
  • edX is a non-profit course provider, and the website can be difficult to navigate.

Udemy | Best For: Anything

Price: $10 to $200
Library: Over 150,000 courses
Accreditation: No

Udemy is an open online course provider in which anyone can submit lessons and courses. On Udemy, you will find courses on just about anything. Program topics range from gardening to photography and Thai cooking.

Udemy also has sections on personal healthcare and wellbeing, a big departure from the formal school curriculum. Course structure and content are handled by miscellaneous individuals. Teachers can use video, audio, quizzes, written elements, and more to create fun and exciting lessons.

Courses can cost as little as $10 but can reach up to $200 or more for lengthy or technical topics.

Pros

  • Udemy’s courses are created by the general public. This means you can study almost anything on the platform.
  • The price range for courses varies but remains fairly affordable.
  • Udemy offers over 600 free short courses. These cover basic topics like WordPress or how to uplift your workout routine.

Cons

  • Udemy’s course portfolio is wide-ranging. You should not use Udemy to obtain university-level education or training.
  • Udemy doesn’t offer accredited certificates. You can still list Udemy courses on your resume, but you won’t have a certificate to prove it.
  • Udemy has questionable quality control mechanisms. The platform does claim to check course content. However, with so many courses being submitted, it may lack the capacity to check all content.

Skillshare | Best For: Creative Skills

Price: $19/month or $99/year
Library: Over 27,000 courses
Accreditation: None

Skillshare has a huge range of course topics. These include how to paint flesh tones, drone videography skills, and C# programming. All courses are oriented towards creative arts and artistic content creation. Skillshare’s courses cover fields such as animation, design, illustration, writing, and photography.

If you have a background in any of these topics, Skillshare can help you upskill with laser-focused training. Skillshare has a monthly payment option that amounts to $19 a month. With the subscription, you are free to roam through the website and enroll in as many courses as you want.

Alternatively, you can opt for the yearly subscription option at a flat fee of $99. This is a very economical option as the subscription amounts to only $8 per month.

Pros

  • Skillshare’s payment plan allows for a great deal of flexibility.
  • Skillshare has a 30-day free trial which is a great option if you are skeptical about signing up for the monthly scheme.
  • Skillshare offers about 2,000 free courses. These are designed to give you a sample of what the platform has to offer.

Cons

  • The quality of teaching can sometimes be questionable.
  • Skillshare does not offer certificates of any kind.
  • Skillshare is geared towards an English-speaking audience. All courses are in English which means they may unintentionally exclude some audiences.

Coursera | Best For: Academic Courses

Price: Classes are free to audit. Monthly subscriptions can cost between $39 to $79 per month.
Library: Over 4,100 courses
Accreditation: Most programs award certificates

Coursera has the particularity of offering degree-level courses and programs. Coursera also offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) for a fraction of university program prices. Coursera has partnered with many universities across the US which makes it a fantastic place to get university-level courses.

Coursera has courses from the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and more. In addition to American universities, Coursera has developed relationships with colleges across the globe to provide a huge range of courses.

All courses are online and have flexible schedules. Courses are typically presented in video format, alongside text-based elements and exercises.

Pros

  • Coursera’s teaching standards are very high compared to other online learning platforms.
  • All courses offer certificates.
  • Coursera offers hundreds of specialized courses. Specialized courses cover varied topics such as data science, Python, graphic design, digital marketing, and more.

Cons

  • Coursera courses don’t have strong assessment mechanisms.
  • Coursera Plus has an annual fee of $399 which can be quite steep for some.
  • Coursera has a smaller range of topics so some might find it lacking in this regard.

Udacity | Best For: Tech Skills

Price: About $399 per month with some payment options
Library: More than 150,000 nanodegrees and over 200 free courses
Accreditation: Udacity offers non-accredited certificates

Udacity helps students acquire marketable skills. All programs are designed by industry experts and tech professionals. Udacity makes sure that all its courses combine project-based exercises with hands-on practice. By completing a course through Udacity, you are sure to gain valuable skills that would impress any employer.

Udacity is a MOOC based in Silicon Valley. It was created in 2011 and the platform now boasts over 100,000 graduates. Udacity claims to offer bootcamp-level courses at a fraction of the price. The platform collaborates with huge corporations like Google, Nvidia, Facebook, and more.

Attending a course at Udacity will allow you to get top-notch and up-to-date training. The platform offers nanodegrees in a variety of tech-related topics. These include digital marketing, AI programming with Python, deep learning, machine learning, and more.

Pros

  • Udacity offers high-quality content thanks to the platform’s high-end industry partners.
  • Udacity has about 200 free courses available.
  • Udacity is renowned for offering top-tier career advice and services. You can contact the platform throughout your education to ask for career-related help.

Cons

  • The platform does not have a huge variety of course options as it is very tech-centered.
  • If you complete a nanodegree, you will obtain a non-accredited certificate.
  • Udacity is one of the more expensive platforms. If you are on a budget, its prices might seem a bit excessive.

Pluralsight | Best For: Data Science

Price: Between $270 and $410 per year
Library: 50 free tech courses and over 6,000 paid courses
Accreditation: Pluralsight is not accredited. The platform only offers certificates of completion.

Pluralsight is another tech-focused learning platform. The platform has over 50 expert-led courses available for any technology enthusiast. Pluralsight recommends signing up to its path options. Paths are a series of courses on a specific topic.

For example, Pluralsight’s JavaScript path starts off with an introductory lesson. Students then go on to learn about syntax, variables, objects, and prototypes. The path ends with a high-level course in asynchronous programming. Most paths on Pluralsight have similar structures.

Courses are essentially video-based, alongside text and project-oriented exercises. The platform has strong industry partners such as Google, Adobe, Microsoft, and more. All courses are designed by industry experts and professionals.

Pros

  • Before enrolling in a course, Pluralsight will have you take a test to assess your skill level. This way the courses you take will be in line with your abilities.
  • Pluralsight offers professional certifications that are highly regarded by big tech companies. These include CompTIA, PMP, ITIL, and more.
  • There is a Pluralsight app. The app allows students to pursue their education offline, at any time of the day.

Cons

  • Pluralsight has a very restrictive payment scheme. You cannot pay for individual courses. Instead, you have to subscribe to the monthly scheme.
  • The platform is geared toward intermediate and advanced students. If you are a beginner, you might want to opt for a different platform.
  • Pluralsight does not offer refunds.

MasterClass | Best For: Creative Subjects

Price: About $15 per month
Library: Over 200 classes
Accreditation: No

MasterClass is known for providing fun and engaging expert classes on a variety of creative topics. On MasterClass, you can find lessons in entertainment, cooking, lifestyles, business, science, technology, and more. The platform is renowned for its classes taught by celebrities and experts.

You can learn cooking with Gordon Ramsey, interior design with Kelly Wearstler, gardening with Ron Finley, the art of negotiation with Chris Voss, and much more. Classes are fun and interactive. The bulk of lesson content is made up of videos, alongside class discussions and workbooks.

Pros

  • As MasterClass operates on a subscription basis, you can enroll in as many classes as you want.
  • Masterclass does not have a free trial. However, the platform does have a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • MasterClass offers courses designed by some of the world’s most inspiring celebrity figures.

Cons

  • MasterClass doesn’t offer certificates of completion. You will, however, receive an email from the platform stating that you have completed the course.
  • MasterClass does not support account sharing. All video content is meant to be viewed only by the account holder.

Choosing the Right Online Learning Platform

Given the sheer number of online learning platform options, you might feel overwhelmed. If you are reading articles like these to help you weigh the pros and cons of each platform, you are already on the right track.

There are some factors to consider to make sure you choose the right online learning platform. Tuition and fees should be a priority. In most cases, paid courses offer better content and a certificate of completion that can help boost your resume.

You should also consider if you want to get specific credentials. Learning a new skill for fun is different from developing a new skill to further your professional career. If you want to learn a skill for your career, try to find a platform that is career-focused. Both Udacity and Udemy, for example, offer career advice and guidance.

The Bottomline

Online learning platforms should not be considered an alternative to formal education. However, online courses are a great way to complement the skills you already have. If you want to learn new skills, online platforms can act as a fantastic first step into a new domain.

In some cases, online platforms like edX do offer fully-fledged graduate degrees at cheaper rates. If you would like to enroll in an online master’s degree at edX, make sure to confer with a career advisor first.

Keep in mind that a certification from an online platform doesn’t generally hold the same weight as a bachelor’s or a master’s degree from an accredited institution. It is crucial that you weigh all of your options before plunging head-first into an online course.

To sum up, online learning platforms are a growing educational medium. Due to the pandemic, online learning has surged; now is the perfect time to hone your skills or learn new ones.

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