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E-learning Platforms Last update: Apr 24, 2024

Choosing the Perfect Online Learning Platform

My Top 7 Expert Tips in 2024

My expert tips choosing the perfect online learning platform
Photo of Catherine Cooke

Written by

Catherine Cooke

Catherine Cooke

Upskillwise Advisor

I'm Catherine, originally from London, now living in Spain. My professional journey led me from being a certified teacher to a yoga instructor and then a freelancer designer. These changes were made possible by online learning platforms like Skillshare and Coursera. It wasn't always easy, but so worth it and inspired me to start Upskillwise.

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When I started looking at the world of online learning platforms, initially it felt daunting. There were so many options! It took some time, but once I realized the importance of understanding exactly I wanted to learn, it made the world of difference. I thought it would be insightful to share with you how I navigated these choices to find the platforms that matched my learning needs.

Catherine Cooke author of the post and education and freelance expert

So I decided to sum up my expert top 7 tips that have helped me and hopefully, you too, for when the time comes to choosing an elearning platform, I hope you find this article as helpful as these tips have been for me.

Catherine CookeUpskillwise Advisor

My expert tips in choosing an online learning platform Infographic

1. Choose Your Passion

I will kick things off with choosing your passion, I quickly realized that many elearning platforms focus on particular topics or categories. For example, DataCamp focuses on topics related to data skills and AI, and Skillshare focuses on creative courses.

There are, of course, exceptions with platforms like Udemy that offer a much wider range of categories, you’re likely to find a course on nearly every topic you can think of – within reason, of course.

I would say this is your starting point, If you already know the category you want to learn about, then choose a platform that offers it. If the case is that you are undecided on what you want to study, then you can check out our detailed article on best online learning platforms which goes into detail about the categories offered by each platform.

Skillshare Adobe Illustrator Class
Skillshare Adobe Illustrator Class

My Journey: Finding the Perfect Fit

Some years back, when I wanted to touch up on my Adobe Illustrator skills, I instantly knew that Skillshare would be my best option, because of its creative classes. I wasn’t wrong, this class was exactly what I was looking for and helped me develop my illustrator skills.

As a side note, I now work as a graphic designer and have regular graphic design clients, these skills were essential in helping me gain the knowledge and confidence to start working as a graphic designer.

2. Learn Affordably

Before you decide on anything, you have to figure out your budget. Over the years, this one was one of the deciding factors for me, when it comes to picking an online learning platform.

The prices of courses can vary from completely FREE to $25,000+ USD. Alongside that, some platforms like Skillshare offer free trials, but be aware that you will need to enter your card details in the registration process to get access to its free trial.

In my experience, Coursera is the top platform for offering learning for free. If you are on a somewhat tight budget or not ready to pay out for a course.

If you do decide on Coursera for this reason, all you need to do is pick the Full Course, No Certificate option – which allows you to learn for free (see image below).

Coursera Full Course, No Certificate
Coursera Learn For Free: No Certificate

My Journey: To Affordable Learning

When I took the Spanish course ‘Como hablar bien en publico’ by UAB, I chose the free learning option as I wasn’t in need of a certificate as learning Spanish was just to help me in my personal life, as I moved to Spain many years ago, where I meet my now husband. I will stop there, and won’t bore you with the details of my love life.

3. Learn From The Best

The person teaching a course can be a major draw for deciding for an online education platform or another one.

I really do understand, especially when you have platforms like MasterClass that only have celebrities teaching its classes, it makes it hard not to be curious to get a bit more of an insight into what they are like.

As well as MasterClass, you have platforms like Coursera or edX who partner with top Universities like Stanford and Organizations like Google, and their University lecturers and Industry leaders are teaching these courses and programs, which is also quite an appealing option.

On the other end of the scale, there are platforms like Udemy, who allow anyone to teach courses on the platform – celebrity or not. It’s important that you consider this beforehand, some platforms do have a more through vetting process for deciding who can teach on the platform.

MasterClass Yotam Ottenlengi
MasterClass Yotam Ottenlengi

My Journey: Discovering the Perfect Instructor

When I took a Yotham Ottenlengi on Modern Middle Eastern Cooking from MasterClass, I chose this class because of Yotham as I love his cooking, that was the only reason. I’m a big fan and have a couple of his recipe books and eaten in his restaurant in London, thinking about his food now even makes my mouth water.

I can confirm, I loved his class and have even given some of the dishes I learned a go, with some friends asking for the recipes. I’m still considering whether I should tell them it’s not one of my original recipes, comment below what you think I should do?

4. Strength in Partnerships

Some online learning platforms partner with Universities and leading Organizations to create and teach their courses and learning programs. Platforms like Coursera have partnered with 300+ partners, which means its courses and programs are built in collaboration by one of these partners.

If you choose to pay for one of its courses or programs, you’ll receive an accredited certificate. I think for this point, it’s essential to consider what your learning goal is; Are you trying to develop in your personal career? And in need of an accreditation to show your current employee? Or maybe you are making a career move?

My Journey: The Power of Partnerships

I can completely understand why opting for a platform that offers partnerships makes sense if that’s your purpose. But if, like me, many of your learning endeavours are just to upskill yourself without the need to show it to an employee or potential future employer, you may choose a course that is without a partnership.

5. Proof of Progress

Not all certificates were created equally, some, hold more value than others depending on who you learn with.

As I mentioned before, a platform like Coursera offers courses and learning programs from accredited institutions. If you take one of its paid courses, specializations or degree program that is from a partnered institution, you’ll receive an accredited certificate at the end of it.

So I ask you, do you need an accredited certificate? The answer maybe yes, as you need it to prove certain skills for a new job role or to show an employee for a job promotion.

On the other hand, you may just like to receive a certificate, that isn’t accredited. This might just be for your own satisfaction or evidence that you completed a course and might be of enough value to show to an employee. Platforms like Skillshare and DataCamp offer certificates that aren’t accredited.

Skillshare Certificate: Catherine Cooke
Skillshare Certificate: Catherine Cooke

My Journey: A Certified Success

In a recent class “Boost Your Dream Business” from Skillshare I earned a certificate, which I must say I am quite proud of, I felt like a big kid. I shared it on my LinkedIn and liked the fact I got the acknowledgement for successfully committing and completing the class. I’m still considering whether I should put it in a frame and hang it proudly in my house. If you’ve received any certificates, accredited or not, would love to hear in the comments how you used them.

6. Community Counts

When we think about learning online, many of us picture the experience to be very solitary, which is true to an extent. But I must say, there are some e-learning platforms who put more focus on their community than others.

Whether it’s through peer assessment, encouraging learners to post finished projects or work, or even organizing virtual and in-person events. Online learning platforms like Skillshare and Mindvalley encourage its learners to interact with each other, whether it’s encouraging learners to comment and provide feedback on the work of others or organizing global events for learners to meet in person.

Skillshare peer comment
Skillshare Community: Peer Comment

My Journey: Engaging with Peers

When I posted a recent project from a class that I took with Skillshare, another learner liked and commented on it, it was quite the confidence booster. I will be honest with you, many learners don’t interact with others, but some do. I like to look at it as what you put in, you get back. So if you are looking for some community spirit whilst learning, it’s best to consider which platforms can best facilitate this for you. Are you a learner who likes to interact with others? If you feel like sharing with us, would love to hear in the comments below.

7. Learner Insights

Last but not least, of my top tips for choosing an online learning platform is reading the reviews and testimonials left by previous learners. This can be helpful to give you an overview of a platform or, more specifically, a course.

I do think it’s important to add here though that some previous learners like to use leaving a review or testimonial as a space to vent about a bad experience. I only say this as I’ve done quite a lot of research into customer reviews and seen a pattern in what many complain about. Most get upset about billing and payments, for example if they have forgotten to cancel a subscription and still get charged.

I’m not saying these complaints aren’t valid, but what I am saying is we are all guilty of leaving a negative review before we leave a positive one. Sometimes these reviews can overshadow knowing more about the quality of a course or platform.

My Journey: Listening to Learners

In my experience, I like to check out the overall rating of a course or learning program, I’m normally convinced when it has a rating of 4.5 and above from a few thousand learners. I then enjoy reading the first couple of pages of comments, this gives me a good insight and many of the times I just get a good or bad feeling about the course. I focus on reading balanced reviews, typically I choose reviews 2, 3 and 4-star reviews and leave out 5 and 1-star reviews as they are not so useful.

Last Thoughts: Choosing The Perfect Online Learning Platform

The choosing of the right distance learning platform is about matching your learning style with what the platform can offer you. Although the tips I’ve mentioned above are important when it comes to selecting the right course and platform, it’s even more key that you have it clear in your mind what it is you want from your learning experience.

For some of you, like myself, I had to try out many of these platforms first-hand to really get to know the type of learner that I am and what worked for me. These experiences weren’t always positive ones, but that’s ok, it’s part of the journey. So get out there, give a platform and course a try, and let us know in the comments below how you get on.