Say goodbye to night school. If you’re looking to score a promotion, make a career change, or simply broaden your knowledge, you no longer need to leave home. Today, the best online course platforms offer classes from top universities on everything from nano-tech to business, design, and the humanities.
Online learning sites offer many advantages to in-person learning: they allow you to learn at your own pace and on your own schedule while providing the same expert instruction and resources you’d expect from a university. From the best online course platforms for degree-seeking students to the most creatively rewarding learning platforms, here’s a breakdown of the best ways to hit the books from the comfort of home.
The first step in choosing which online learning site is best for you is pinpointing the subject you wish to learn, be it coding, marketing, photography, or anything in between.
One of the best learning websites for motivated students is edX. Started by MIT and Harvard University, edX offers university-level courses in a wide range of subjects to students worldwide. With the tagline, “advance your career, improve your life,” edX aims to help students broaden their skill sets and master topics as diverse as business management, biology, and computer programming. You can take a 9-week course offered by an MIT professor titled, “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python,” or learn about what it takes to be a stellar project manager in a 1-11 week course offered by Rochester Institute of Technology.
Edureka isn’t for those with casual interests, which is one thing that separates it from many other online learning platforms across the web. Courses in DevOps, Python, and data science are taught by expert instructors who don’t shy away from rigorous assignments and challenging curriculums. Most of Edureka’s courses end in certification, which explains the approach. Those who are serious about expanding their professional toolbox or entering the tech world, and who are willing to invest the work, will come out of Edureka with a substantial grasp of the material.
If you’re looking for a site that offers courses to satisfy your right brain, CreativeLive is a sure winner. Take art courses, get inspiration, and learn tips in subjects ranging from photo and video to crafts and DIY projects. Under its “money and life” category, CreativeLive also offers courses in self improvement, communication skills, and entrepreneurship.
Most online learning sites offer free registration. However, many of them require fees for anything more than rudimentary content or beginner’s classes. One top-rated program, however, has great content and offers everything on it for free.
Founded by Stanford professors, Coursera offers all of its courses for free as part of a mission to make education accessible to everyone, everywhere. Its courses are taught by instructors from world-leading universities and educational institutions, and the platform is a veritable digital campus stocked with video lectures, peer-review assignments, and community discussion forums.
Even though some platforms require fees for advanced courses, you can still find exceptional classes for free. Whether you want to test the water before investing in a more immersive learning track, or simply want to take advantage of free classes from a credible platform, paid sites with free courses have plenty to offer.
LinkedIn Learning is one good example of this. The globally recognized career networking platform boasts its own educational wing now that offers thousands of classes in professional development, networking, and other career-adjacent subjects. Much of LinkedIn Learning’s curriculum is free, including courses in digital networking, job pitching, and lead generation.
Some learning sites are easier to use than others. For those who are easily distracted, or hesitant to trade tangible books for the web, approachable eLearning sites like Udacity minimize the distractions that so often intrude on learning.
Udacity offers a clean and vibrant look, that gives it a friendly feel. It’s simple and to the point, and doesn’t distract users with ads or other promotional offers. It also has a mobile app, which allows you to take your courses on the go and learn on your commute to work, the treadmill, or anywhere else you could possibly want.
When settling on the learning site that best suits your needs, and the one that will teach you the skills you want to learn even during even the busiest of times, it’s important to take support into account.
Not many sites offer the greatest customer support, such as a customer care toll-free number or 24/7 chat, but one that comes close, is Udemy. Though it doesn’t offer a direct support channel to the customer care team, it offers encompassing FAQ’s and documentation. If you have a particular question, you can find your answer by selecting a FAQ document that’s titled exactly what you’re looking for, such as “ video playback issues” and “send a question to my instructor.” If you still haven’t found your answer, you can select a broader topic, such as “getting started” or “account troubleshooting.” As a last resort, you can open a support ticket and an agent will get in touch.
While sites like edX and CreativeLive can be used to explore general interests, academic curiosities, and personal hobbies, some eLearning sites cater exclusively to career-oriented goals. Elearning platforms such as Acadium, Plural Sight, and Expert Rating offer serious students the opportunity to gain certification in real-world skills that align with budding tech and other professional industries.
Acadium is unique in that it offers real-world experience in tandem with online courses. The platform pairs students with employers for apprenticeships in their selected fields, and while these apprenticeships are unpaid, they offer students the chance to incorporate their learning into on-the-job (digital) work that gives them both a feel for the industry and material for their resumes. Acadium’s curriculum is geared towards digital marketing and includes courses on SEO, email marketing, and analytics.
PluralSight offers in-depth learning paths in many areas of technology, and is designed for professionals or those seeking entry into new technological industries. Courses are offered in everything from software development to IT Ops and information and cyber security. A learning path may extend upwards of 48 hours, which provides students with close instruction, resources, and assessments designed to prepare them for the professional world.
One of the leading providers of pre-employment testing, Expert Rating is something of an authority on professional skills and how they translate into the workforce. Its online learning wing capitalizes on its unique position with certificate-track courses and training programs that span a wide range of fields. The course list includes online classes and instructor-led programs for industries such as healthcare, business management, accounting, and teaching.
Online Learning Platforms: Cheers to New Skills
Here’s to you, taking that step to broaden your skill set! We hope this breakdown of the important aspects of online learning sites will help you find the right one for your needs and work within your busy schedule.