Best Online Learning Platforms
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
Are you looking to upskill or change careers? Thought so. According to a recent study by ING, 3.3 million people are looking for a new job post covid. Furthermore, 35% of people have considered upskilling to achieve this goal. With online learning platforms on the rise, studying online might be the easiest option. But which platform should you choose? Here is our review of some of the best online learning platforms:
What Skills are In Demand?
Several trends have emerged, both in what type of work job hunters are seeking, and what types of skills employers are more likely to value.
Machine learning means a lot of processes previously done by humans are now being automated. Think Google and their automated bidding strategies, or the rise of chatbots in customer service. But this does not mean that companies no longer see the value in people! Among the most valued skills STEM skills such as creativity, emotional intelligence and critical thinking. These are things a computer cannot replace (yet)
As automation begins to rise, it points to another skill that is becoming increasingly important - coding. Machines may automate many processes, but humans still have to write the programs that allow this. Luckily, coding is something you can learn online yourself, whether with a paid course or some free self-education.
On the other side of the court, job seekers are looking for more secure jobs, with 12% considering a shift to essential services or government employment. So what sort of courses should you be looking at if you want to upskill? Unsurprisingly, the most valuable skill for 2021 is Digital Literacy. Luckily, many of the best online learning platforms offer these sorts of courses for cheap or even free.
With that in mind, we've put together a summary of some of the best online learning platforms to help you upskill this year
Cost: $50 - $200 per course
- pay per course
- no time limit to complete courses
- no accreditation
- can be expensive
The good thing about Udemy is that courses have no time limit to complete, meaning once you purchase a course you essentially have lifetime access. This can also be a bad thing if you are motivated by time constraints. Because all the courses are paid, there is a good variety of highly practical skills on the platform.
The Bottom Line: Great for upskilling, but not recognised or accredited
Cost: $20 per month
- huge variety of courses
- unlimited access for the subscription price
- cannot sign up without credit card
- the large variety of courses means not all are useful skills
Skillshare has an overwhelming array of courses. Some are little more than "how to's" that you could watch for free on Youtube. On the plus side, there is so much content here that almost anyone can find something to their taste, for work or for pleasure. You definitely get a lot of bang for your buck
The Bottom Line: Great value for money and excellent variety
Cost: Free, with benefits to upgrading
- courses are free for 4 weeks, then you can upgrade to get lifetime access
- offer accredited courses
- course navigation is confusing
- course variety is low and structure is rigid
Futurelearn is an interesting site. Unlike the 2 we have looked at so far, the knowledge is not crowdsourced. You can find a range of accredited courses, including 3 year Bachelor's degrees. You can also take free "tasters" making it a great option if you are trying to figure out what you would like to study.
The Bottom Line: Futurelearn is not for casual study, and is a great option if you would like to try out a course before you commit to something long term.
Cost: $599/month for most courses
- Technical focus programs with job-ready skills
- Career support services
- Very expensive compared to other online learning
- Course fees are not for unlimited access
- Not accredited
Udacity offers great technical skills that are very specific to each industry. It seems to be very tech-heavy, with lots of coding courses. The courses are mostly priced at $599/month, with some discount if you pay upfront. If you want to go down this route, for the price you may as well go to university.
The Bottom Line: Great for programmers who are already in the industry and want to upskill. However, if you are not currently employed and want a start in the industry, you are better off paying for an accredited course.
Cost: $79/month unlimited
- unlimited access to accredited courses
- good variety of practical subjects
- website leads you to third-party websites for enrolment
- website is confusing and lacks transparency
Coursera is the most like an online university out of these websites. I can see a lot of value in studying this way, although I question how much traction the certificates gained from here would be worth in the real world.
The Bottom Line: Great for earning actual accredited certificates
Cost: $55/month unlimited
- great digital literacy resources
- up to date information
- courses are centred around digital and online skills
Cloud Academy is great for those wanting to improve their digital literacy. The main market is for businesses to train their staff.
The Bottom Line: The content is very relevant but limited to online skills.
What do the reviews say?
There is one trend I noticed when doing my research for this article. Most of the online universities have 3-star reviews on Trustpilot. Upon reading them, I notice a few 5-star reviews from people who have had positive experiences studying. Then there are a bunch of angry 1-star reviews from people who signed up for a free trial and subsequently charged when the trial ended. What can we learn from this? Don't expect your education for free! If you want to invest in yourself with online courses, you are better off figuring out what you can afford and making a decision accordingly. If you want free education, be prepared to do the research yourself. To find the best online learning platform for you, it's important to do your research.
And remember: Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware
Hint: If you are embarking the adventure that is student life, you might want to look at our article about different types of budgets.