So you want to take your skills to the next level to score that promotion, build new skills entirely to switch career paths, or just want to learn something new? From sites ranging in credibility and courses offered, to the best priced; read our breakdown of the top learning sites in order to choose the best one for your needs.
Decide What You’re Looking to Learn
A key step in choosing the online learning site for you, is to pinpoint the skills you want to learn — be it coding, marketing, photography or anything in between.
Started by MIT and Harvard University, edX offers university-level courses in a wide range of subjects, to students and knowledge hungry individuals world-wide. With the tagline, “advance your career, improve your life,” edX can help you broaden your skill set and become a master in pretty much anything you choose. It offers courses in the subjects of business and management and design to biology and life sciences and law. 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.
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 is 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.
As many online learning sites offer a certificate upon the completion of a course or program, make sure to choose is a trusted site with a good name behind it. With that in mind, it doesn’t get better than Khan Academy. Founded in 2007, and as one of the first online learning sites out there, Khan Academy has solid reputation. After its founding, the platform grew with a goal of creating a set of online tools to help educate people, primarily students, through lectures that can be viewed as YouTube videos. Aside from the well known Khan Academy, MIT Open Courseware offers courses backed by a top-notch name. Widely-available to everyone, MIT student or not, MIT Open Courseware is a publication of pretty much all of MIT’s course content. It offers materials from 2,400 MIT courses, so you know that all content and information is some of the best out there and taught by some of the most creditable educators around.
In addition to the well-known Khan Academy and MIT Open Coureware, is Coursera, which was founded by Stanford professors as a way to transform lives by giving everyone access to knowledge. Its courses are taught by instructors from world-leading universities and educational institutions, and offer video lectures, peer-review assignments, and community discussion forums.
Finding an online learning site that’s completely free is a challenge, as the usual model behind them all is a free registration, and then either some beginner courses offered for free or part of a program. There are two top-rated programs, though, that have great content and offer everything on it for free — Khan Academy and Learnist.
Khan Academy offers all of its courses for free, as part of its mission to make education accessible to everyone, everywhere. Learnist on the other hand, doesn’t offer courses, per-say, rather it offers a ton of content and learning material, how-to’s and advice — all for free. This completely free model is not the norm, though, as most other sites range in price, from $10 for one lesson, to Udacity’s $499 for a course.
*Updated September 2017
Some sites do offer occasional discounts and promotional codes, that bring down the overall course or program price by quite a lot. Alison, for example, does exactly that — frequently offering 10% or 25% off purchases.
Ease-of-Use and Mobility
Some learning sites that are easier to use than others, are Udacity and CodeAcademy. 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. CodeAcademy is also extremely simple - the design gives you everything you need to know to get started learning to code and nothing you don’t. Both sites also have mobile apps, which allow you to take your courses on the go and learn on your commute to work, the treadmill, or anywhere else you could possibly want. In one of its blog posts, CodeAcademy says that its mobile app offers everything its online site does, such as great interactivity, “snack” sized content, and fun learning lessons; while Udacity’s app received many positive reviews on the iOS app store.
For the Customer Support Seekers
When settling on the learning site that best suites 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 customer 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.
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.