Best Online Learning Platforms: Explained in detail
30 November, 2022
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I first heard about online platforms back in early 2010, and I thought that’s a cool and convenient way to learn, from the comfort of your own home at a time that suits you. However, I didn’t really look into them properly until I started considering a new career path in graphic design a couple of years later.
Being 100% honest, I was pretty confused with all the available online learning platforms out there, with its different pricing plans and features. Plus, I had my natural concerns about the quality of courses – Like ‘Will an online course platform actually teach me anything?’ or ‘Will it be recognized by a future employer?’
You may have similar questions and doubts, and perhaps you aren’t sure which platform you should choose. To help you pick the best online course platform for your needs (and budget), I’ve created this in-depth guide.
Online Learning Platforms Ranking Table
Quick warning: this article will be a long one. So if you are in a rush and don’t have 20 minutes to read it all, please check out our top recommendations below in our Online Learning Platforms Ranking Table.
One thing to get your head around is that every online course platform offers different types of courses, specializations and programs. Let me explain to you what sort of programs you’ll encounter:
Type of online learning courses
Individual courses: There are 1-off classes about a certain topic. The time to complete one will vary depending on the course, but it can take from 2 or 3 weeks to a couple of months. These are the nuclear basis of every other type, of course.
Course bundles: Several online learning platforms will offer a collection of courses about a certain topic. They will give you a deep understanding of a field (e.g. data analyst, Python development, etc.). They are called Specializations, Nanodegrees or Learning Paths by the different platforms.
Bachelor’s Degrees: It’s also possible to earn a traditional bachelor’s degree (at edX or Coursera). As these platforms partner with universities, you’ll receive an official university diploma. Be aware that this won’t be cheap, these start at $15,000 per program.
Master’s Degrees: Similarly to bachelor’s degrees, it’s also possible to study for a master’s degree at edX and Coursera.
9 Tips to Choose a Top Online Learning Platform
There are more than a handful of online learning platforms out there that prioritize different learning features. For some of us it isn’t always obvious what it is we are really looking for from our elearning platform. So, I put together the top tips to help you choose an online learning platform which will best suit your needs.
Focused topics: Some of these learning communities focus on a certain topic (e.g. data science, coding or creative crafts). Of course, if you are looking to exclusively learn about one of these topics, a specialized elearning platform may be a better option. For example, Datacamp focuses on data science, CreativeLive is centered on creative courses (e.g. photography or design) and Pluralsight and Codecademy are ideal for computer engineers.
Pricing: Do you have some budget? If not, free MOOC like Coursera or edX are probably a good match. Do you prefer a set fee for each course (check Udemy), or you rather have a subscription (check Skillshare or LinkedIn learning).
Instructors: For some of us learning with a particular teacher or instructor is what inspires us to take the course. Platforms like MasterClass have VIP and celebrity instructors teaching its classes, and it’s because of them, many learners find and take the class. Other platforms like Coursera courses are built in partnership with top institutions and Organizations, meaning the instructors teaching these classes are the top instructors from the Universities and Organizations.
Partnerships: Some online learning platforms like Coursera, edX and Udacity partner with Universities and Organizations to design and create its courses. Coursera collaborates with 275+ leading Universities and Companies like Duke and Google to make its different learning programs, for many learners this is why they decide to study with this platform as they want a degree from Harvard. Then a platform like Udacity collaborates with industry specialists like Microsoft and AWS to design its Nanodegrees so that learners will leave with job ready skills.
Job Ready: For many of us taking an online course it’s to help our already existing professional skills or it might be to train us up for a career change. There are some online learning platforms in particular that focus on developing the skills of its learners to be ready for a job role. Platforms like Udacity offer career services which support learners in optimizing their job profile and practice interview technique.
Community: Another aspect that varies a lot among the different platforms are the communities. Not many are engaged so interacting with other students and the instructor may not be easy. If you value an engaged community, check topic-focused platforms (e.g. Pluralsight or Datacamp) or Skillshare.
Assignments, quizzes and certificates: Not all the platforms described here offer the same approach when it comes to how the courses are followed. Some offer self-graded assignments, others offer peer reviews and a few have exams you’ll need to pass to earn a completion certificate. Make sure you understand this before committing to a learning platform.
Course quality: Some elearning platforms offer better courses (quality-wise) than others. Generally speaking, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, edX and Coursera offer (some) top-notch courses. Courses from organizations with topic-centered elearning communities like Creativelive, Pluralsight or Datacamp also will offer a bit more.
Languages: If you are looking for a course in languages other than English, your choice is going to be limited. Only Udemy, Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer some courses in other languages like Spanish, German or Portuguese.
Best Online Learning Platforms at a Glance
I put together this table below to help you choose an Online Learning Platform based on different scenarios like Most Affordable, Career Services, Best Free courses etc. This may help you quickly decide on an online learning platform if you know what you are looking for. In case you are interested
However, if you would like to get to know our take on the most popular online learning platforms in a bit more detail, hang around to check out the following paragraphs.
Affordable Accredited Certificates
Coursera has definitely made a name for itself in the last years by providing online students with top-university courses. Thanks to this elearning platform from California, more than 80 million learners have accessed courses from Universities like Duke, Stanford or Yale. Coursera partners with these top Universities in the course creation process to produce high quality online learning programs.
I have to say that their mobile app for iOS and Android is one of the best ones I’ve tried. It actually makes it very easy for students to follow courses on the go – it even has offline viewing for free courses. What makes Coursera unique is that it has its own learning management system, so they are in full control of the platform and can continually update with new features.
What are Coursera’s pros:
Content quality: As you can imagine, Coursera’s courses are among the best as universities such as Stanford, Duke or Yale are behind them.
Course flexibility: Coursera offers many types of courses, individual courses, specializations or higher education degrees.
Accredited certificates: Because Coursera partners with these universities, you’ll be able to get official certificates for your courses.
Free courses: You’ll be able to join almost every Coursera class for free as long as you aren’t intending to earn a completion certificate.
Higher-education degrees: It’s one of the few online learning platforms (alongside edX) to offer secondary education programs (e.g. bachelor’s and master’s degrees).
Languages: There are many languages available at Coursera as it partners with international universities too.
A bit technical: Coursera is all about higher education content, so you may find that some of its courses will require you to have previous knowledge (e.g. maths, chemistry or physics).
Confusing offer: Because Coursera has several types of courses, it can get a bit bewildering.
Coursera offers free courses, Guided Projects (starting at $9.99), Specializations & Professional Certificates (starting at $39 a month), MasterTrack Certificates (start at $2,000) then it’s Online Degrees (start at $9k and go to $50K). Finally, Coursera Plus, a subscription plan (monthly $59 or annually $399). You can read in detail about Coursera’s Pricing here.
MasterClass was founded in 2014 in San Francisco, it currently has thousands of classes across 11 categories for you to enjoy. Its classes are taught by one of its 150+ Celebrities and VIP instructors. So if you are looking to learn how to cook, you have Gordon Ramsay teaching you or if you are wanting to learn how to act, your instructor will be Natalie Portman. Its course creation is beautifully structured, and its video classes are produced to the highest quality.
Included in your membership is the option to download its video lessons for offline viewing, and Sessions by MasterClass which is a new addition and allowed you to follow a 30-day curriculum with hands-on projects.
What are MasterClass’s pros:
Fun: The first thing to note about MasterClass is that its courses and lessons are fun, perhaps this is because you get to watch celebrities teaching you something you are passionate about.
Well Produced: After watching 10 seconds of the first video, you’ll realize that MasterClass videos have been very nicely put together. They have a very engaging cinematic aura.
Top Instructors: Of course, a big selling point of the MasterClass is getting to learn a craft from worldwide recognized professionals. For example, Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking, bestselling author Dan Brown teaching writing or Spike Lee filmmaking.
Affordable: MasterClass is cheap if you compare it to other educational platforms, however, it also has very few courses compared to alternatives like Udemy or Skillshare.
Generous Refund Policy: After you purchase your MasterClass membership account, you’ll have 30 days to request a refund, not bad at all.
No Free Courses: Sadly there aren’t any free courses with MasterClass, so you won’t be able to check any course before you subscribe to it.
Only Certain Topics: MasterClass doesn’t have the largest range of topics available. You can find courses in sports, filmmaking, cuisine, writing, business, science and politics.
Can’t Read Reviews: There is a 5-star review system for all the courses, however, you can’t really read reviews from past students. So that makes you wonder, where those reviews came from, and how come all the courses are between 4.5 to 4.7.
MasterClass offers 3 different annual subscription plans: Individual, Duo and Family. The cheapest option is the individual plan at $180 annually (working out at $15 a month). The Duo is one account but for 2 devices at the same time costing $240 annually (working out at $20 a month). Finally, the Family account is for 6 devices at the same time costing $276 annually (working out at $23 a month). You are entitled to a 30-day refund policy if you decide the platform isn’t for you. You can read in detail about MasterClass Pricing here.
How does the MasterClass Platform look?
Who is it for?
MasterClass appeals to anyone looking for motivation or inspiration on creative and exciting topics like Design & Style or Sports & Gaming. Plus, if you want to learn from a celebrity or VIP instructor who you idolize, this will keep you pretty engaged and the fact its video classes are so well produced. To find out more you can read the detailed MasterClass review here.
Udacity’s focus is more on course quality than quantity, it currently offers less than 80 Nanodegrees (learning program) that are designed to prepare learners for a career in business and tech. It collaborates with leading businesses (e.g. Google or Nvidia) in its course creation resulting in high-quality content for its Nanodegrees.
There are a few free courses (about 200) that you can check out to get a taste of the platform and its teaching style. Keep in mind that Udacity’s certificates aren’t accredited. However, you will receive a completion certificate when you successfully complete one of its Nanodegree programs.
What are Udacity’s pros:
Course quality: The quality of the courses is very high, and you’ll be able to gain practical technical knowledge.
VIP partners: Udacity creates its courses partnering with leading professionals and companies like Nvidia, Google or Mercedes.
Career advice: One of the services that paying Udacity students are offered is career advice. They’ll help you write your CV or plan the skills you need to acquire.
Certificates: Even if they don’t offer accredited certificates, Udacity completion diplomas are taken seriously by employers.
Jobs: There are several companies (e.g. Lyft, Mercedes, Nvidia or Google) that look into Udacity Alumni to fulfill job openings.
How does the Udacity Platform look?
Limited choice: There aren’t many courses available. At the moment just under 80 Nanodegrees are offered. Also, the pool of topics isn’t the most varied, so you won’t find courses on every subject.
Expensive: A Udacity Nanodegree won’t be cheap, it’ll cost you between $700 to $2,000 depending on the program.
Community: I have the feeling that is not the most engaged community out there, but that’s just my personal opinion.
Udacity offers close to 200 courses for free, most of which are an introduction to its Nanodegree Programs and others focus on career and resume advice. Udacity’s Nanodegree Programs offer a couple of payment options the Monthly pay as you go for $399 or the All Access price based on the number of months Udacity believes it will take you to complete the program. The price of its Nanodegrees can vary from $600+ to $1300+. The way that Udacity’s pricing model works is that the quicker you complete the program the less money you will pay. You can read in detail about Udacity’s Nanodegree Pricing here.
Who is it for?
The Udacity platform is for anyone looking for a career in business or tech topics and wanting to develop professionaly or have a career change. Its career services make it a stand-out feature from other online learning platforms who want to help you find a job or career that you are passionate about. To find out more you can read the detailed Udacity review here.
Datacamp is an interactive learning platform that teaches you data skills on topics like data science and machine learning. Its courses are engaging and bite sized with digestible content. It was founded in 2013 and has headquarters in New York and offices in Belgium and London.
Datacamp is for individuals and companies who are looking to develop their data skills and fill in the gaps on any data knowledge gaps which will mean for better data-driven decisions. It’s recently added Datacamp’s Certification Programs that are recognized by Industry professionals as these programs were built in partnership with Industry leaders. Currently, you can choose between the Data Scientist certification and the Data Analyst and the best part is, is that it’s all included in your Datacamp membership plan.
What are Datacamp’s pros:
Interactive & Engaging: Datcamp courses focus on interactive learning with many videos and engaging exercises to complete.
Experienced Experts: Over 350+ experts from the data science and analytics community.
Free Plan: Offering a Start For Free plan which gives you access to initial chapters of courses and assessments.
Clear Pricing Plans: A clear and simple pricing plan page which is pretty refreshing as not all online platforms are so transparent.
Wide Range: Datacamp caters to absolute beginners and learners with some knowledge. There is something for everyone.
How does the Datacamp Platform look?
No Accredited Certificate: Datacamp doesn’t offer an official accreditation instead a Statement of Accomplishment is given after successful completion of the course. If you are looking for a recognized validated certificate it is best to check out platforms like edX or Coursera.
Video Content Lacking Detail: Some of Datacamp’s video tutorials are a little short and lacking in detail, and therefore may leave you feeling like you are missing something.
Datacamp offers a few different pricing plans which can be paid for either monthly or annually. Its free Basic plan gives you access to the first chapter of each course and a selection of free courses, keep in mind this is limited. Then you have the Premium plan for individuals costing either $39 a month or $300 annually. The Teams plan is for teams of 2 or more costing and costs $300 annually. Finally, there is the Enterprise plan which you will need to contact Datacamp to get a custom quote.
Who is it for?
Datacamp offers 350+ courses and is ideal for beginners or someone looking to develop their skills in Data Science and Analytics. It works on a subscription model, which you can pay for either monthly or yearly. To find out more you can read the detailed Datacamp review here.
Skillshare offers 35,000+ classes on a wide range of creative topics which you can access with its premium annual plan costing $167.88 a year (working out at $13.99 a month). Skillshare started as an online learning platform for creatives, but it has evolved and now covers more topics (e.g. IT, business, language-learning, etc.).
In my opinion, it’s one of the best platforms out there if you just want to learn (or improve) skills, and you don’t mind paying a subscription – you’ll be able to access all the courses as long as you renew your Skillshare premium account.
What are Skillshare’s pros:
Free trial: Skillshare offers a free trial on its premium plan to give you the opportunity to try it out before financially committing.
Choice: With over 35,000+ courses, there aren’t many alternatives (besides Udemy) that will give you as much choice as Skillshare does.
Price: The annual premium membership is $167.88 per year (working out at $13.99 a month), you will need to pay the full amount upfront, but when you consider you have access to 35,000+ classes it’s a real bargain.
Community: I find Skillshare’s community more engaged (and welcoming) than others (e.g. Udemy or MasterClass).
Class quality: The class quality varies from class to class as anyone can publish a Skillshare class. That means some classes like Skillshare Originals are produced by Mailchimp or Google and have bigger budgets to produce higher quality classes than a freelancer who is working for themselves.
Certificates: Sadly, Skillshare doesn’t offer completion course certificates for its students.
Skillshare only offers one subscription payment for its premium membership which costs $167.88 per year which works out at $13.99 a month. A free trial is available when you first sign up for a Skillshare Premium plan. Skillshare also offers plans for teams and businesses with 3 current plans. The Starter plan costs $159 per user, per year and the Enterprise is for teams of 20+ and the Revive plan for 51 or more users are both custom priced. You can read in detail about Skillshare’s Pricing here.
If you’ve heard of one online educational platform, chances are it was Udemy. Udemy is probably the most popular elearning community with over 54+ million learners and more than 204,000+ courses available.
Udemy is a global marketplace for online courses, you’ll be able to find classes about pretty much every topic and from many instructors (even in languages like Spanish, German, French or Chinese). As well as that Udemy has its own learning management system which means they have control of updating their system and can bring out new features constantly.
What are Udemy’s pros:
Choice: Udemy has the largest pool of courses available (185,000+), it would be hard not to find what you are looking for.
Price: Udemy is fairly affordable, individual courses start at $12.99 and can cost you up to $199.99.
Refund policy: There is a generous refund policy of 30 days. If you are not satisfied with the course, give it back.
How does the Udemy Platform look?
Non-accredited certificates: Udemy isn’t an accredited institution, so its certificates aren’t official.
Content quality: Anyone can publish courses at Udemy, and even if there are content quality checks, the quality of the course can be a bit of a miss and match.
Udemy offers a bunch of free courses nearly 600 in total, these courses are limited and normally no longer than 2 hours. Most of which are an introduction to a topic and the instructor. Its paid courses work on a pay per course bases and start from $9.99 and can go up to $199.99. It is very common that Udemy offers deals and discounts on its courses for you to take advantage of. You can read in detail about Udemy’s Pricing here.
Who is it for?
Udemy is a good option if you prefer to pay for each course individually and have access for life. Its courses are affordable, but you will need to do your due diligence to ensure the course quality is of a high standard. To find out more you can read the detailed Udemy review here.
edX isn’t short of users with over 42 million students having enrolled on one of its 3,000+ courses at some point. The concept is very similar to Coursera’s in that they make available top-university courses to everyone.
There are also a bunch of course types that you can enroll in. For example, you can access MicroBachelors, MicroMasters, Professional Certificates or Master’s Degrees. You’ll find the right one for you.
What are edX’s pros:
Official certificates: You’ll be able to earn accredited certificates as edX partners with universities like Harvard, Berkeley, MIT or Boston University.
Free courses: You’ll be able to access most courses for free (provided you aren’t looking for an official certificate).
Flexible learning: Many courses can be started at a time of your choosing. Also, there are several types of courses for you to register.
Course quality: As you can imagine, the quality of edX courses is really high as top-universities prepare them.
University programs: You can enroll in university degrees and earn higher education diplomas at a fraction of the cost (from $15,000).
Technical content: Courses can get a bit technical as they are university produced.
Languages: There aren’t many courses in other languages than English, check out Coursera or Udemy if you require courses in Spanish, German or other languages.
edX offers a wide range of programs from short courses, to boot camps, professional certificates and bachelor degrees. So with that in mind, its prices also range and can start around $99 for short courses and can go up to $25,000 for Master’s Degrees. Many of its courses (except Degree programs) give you the option to try the course for free or as edX calls it ‘Audit Track’, this will mean the course has limited access to course material and no certificate. But if you do change your mind you can always upgrade for the paid version.
What is now known as LinkedIn Learning was founded in 1995 as Lynda, a resource to support Lynda Weinman’s educational project. In 2002, it started to offer online courses (way before Netflix considered streaming entertainment), by 2004 it had more than 100 courses online, and today it offers 18,100+ courses.
It grew so much that in 2015 LinkedIn bought the project for 1.5 billion – not bad if you think that Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion.
What are LinkedIn Learning’s pros:
LinkedIn integration: Since it integrates with LinkedIn, many users wanting to move forward with their career may find this interesting.
Languages: LinkedIn Learning is available in a few languages other than English.
Price: You can choose to pay for an annual or monthly LinkedIn Learning subscription plan which comes with a 1-month free trial, that you can cancel at anytime.
Course production: Its courses are well produced, and the overall quality is higher than most of its competitors.
Choice: There are over 18,100+ courses available at LinkedIn Learning. There is also a big pool of topics available: from spreadsheets tips to astrophotography.
LinkedIn Learning’s cons:
Free courses: Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn Learning doesn’t offer free courses, it just has a 1-month free trial.
Community: It’s not the most engaged community one could find.
LinkedIn Learning Pricing
LinkedIn Learning pricing model is subscription-based which can be paid for annually or monthly. The annual plan is $323.88 (working out at $26.99 a month) or the monthly plan is $39.99. When you first sign up to either of these plans you have a 1-month free trial to explore the platform which you can cancel before the renewal date, and you won’t be charged anything. There are team and organization plans available, the team plan is for 2-20 seats and costs $379.99 per seat and the Organization plan for 21+ seats, and you will need to contact LinkedIn Learning for a custom price.
How does the LinkedIn Learning Platform look?
Who is it for?
Similar to Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning offers a big pool of courses which you can choose to pay for monthly or annually. When you successfully complete one of its courses, you will receive a completion certificate which you can add to your LinkedIn profile. To find out more you can read the detailed LinkedIn Learning review.
Pluralsight is an elearning platform for technology related topics like IT, Data, Information & Cyber Security. It was founded in 2004 and its headquarters are in Farmington, Utah. It offers a core (2,500+) or expanded library (7,000+) of courses that are all self-paced with a 10-day free trial for individual learners and a 14-day trial for teams.
It focuses on giving everyone access and the opportunity to progress their skills in technology, so they can develop the skills of tomorrow.
What are Pluralsight’s pros:
Free trial: A 10-day free trial for individual learners and 14-day free trial on teams.
Good Support: Pluralsight offers email support which is available 24/7 plus phone support and the option to submit a ticket for any question or queries you may have.
Variety of plans for Individuals & Businesses: The variety of subscription plans from Standard, Premium, Professional and Enterprise gives individual learners and teams options to choose the most suitable.
Course Learning Checks: Short self-paced quizzes to test retention of course material.
Offline and mobile downloads: The option to download course material and videos and view offline makes it super convenient if you are on the go or taking a trip.
Limited topics: Courses focus on technology-based subjects. If you are looking for a wider range of topics, it is worth checking out Udemy or Coursera.
No Free Courses: Pluralsight doesn’t offer any free courses, but its free trials maybe enough for you to try. the platform and its courses. If free courses are what you are looking for, then Coursera or edX maybe your best option.
Pluralsights pricing model is subscription-based which you can choose to pay for Monthly or Yearly. The Standard plan costs $29 monthly which includes access to the core library of 2,500 courses and the Premium plan costs $45 monthly with access to the full library of 7,000+ courses. If you prefer to pay for either plan yearly the Standard costs $299 and the Premium costs$449. As well as individual plans there are 3 team plans, the Starter(for 2 users minimum) costs $399 annually, the Professional (for 2 users minimum) costs $579 annually and the Enterprise (for 2 users minimum) costs $779. All the plans come with either a 10 day or 14 day free trial for you to try which you then can cancel at anytime.
How does the Pluralsight Platform look?
Who is it for?
Pluralsight is a platform that provides high-quality courses in technology related topics, which a decent size library of courses. Its courses are for individuals as well as subscription plans for teams. To find out more you can read the detailed Pluralsight review.
Mindvalley was founded in 2003 by Vishen Lakhiani and its focus is on personal growth and developing all aspects of human transformation. So far, it has had a whooping 10 million students from all over the globe and has a 300+ international team creating that Mindvalley Magic.
Its learning programs are called Quests which you can either purchase individually or sign up for the ‘all access’ membership that you can pay for monthly or annually.
What are Mindvalley’s pros:
Free Courses: Each week Mindvalley realeases free masterclasses of 60 to 90 to gt a taste of the platform.
Bite-Sized Video Content: Its quests are 10-20 minutes long and keeps the user engaged.
Reputable Trainers: Mindvalley’s trainers are experienced teachers, authors and visionaries (you may if recognise some of them).
High-Quality Video Content: Its content is produced to a high standard, making it engaging for users.
Engaged Learner Community: A strong and committed community who are supportive and helpful to other learners.
Limited Catalogue: Its courses are based around specific topics, if you are looking for a wider range of subjects then it maybe worth checking out Skillshare or Coursera.
Higher Price Tag: A single quest may seem a little expensive, or even the full access membership may suit you best. But if you are on a tighter budget, then Udemy maybe the platform for you.
Mindvalley offers a couple of ways to subscribe to its All Access Memberships either with the Monthly Membership for $99 or Yearly Membership for $499.20 a year (working out at $41.60 a month). The Monthly and Yearly memberships both offer 15-day money-back guarantee, which leaves you without the risk of financially committing if you change your mind. Both of these memberships will give you full access to the Mindvalley curriculum of programs, weekly Mindvalley live sessions and full access to Mindvalley meditations.
How does the Mindvalley Platform look?
Who is it for?
Mindvalley is a platform that focuses on personal growth and transformation. So if you are someone looking to develop personally and be part of a supportive online community, then this maybe the platform for you. To find out more you can read the detailed Mindvalley review here.
Brilliant.org is an online platform offering 60+ bite sized courses based around the STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). It was founded in 2012 by Sue Khim and has grown to have 4 million users. Its courses are based on active learning, answering questions and quizzes, which keeps the learner engaged and present. There are 3 different subscription plans available and the option of a 7-day free trial to try out the platform.
What are Brilliant’s pros:
Interactive: Courses are designed around interactive and hands-on learning
Free Trial: Its 7-day free trial gives you unlimited access to the platform, before financially committing.
Beginner Friendly: A number of its courses are for beginners wanting to learn the fundamentals of these core subjects.
Self Paced: You can learn with Brilliant at anytime that suits you.
Mobile App: Allowing you to download courses and complete in offline mode.
Limited topics: Courses focus only on STEM topics. If a bigger pool of topics is what you want, then check out Skillshare or MasterClass.
Only Subscription: Sadly, you can’t purchase an individual course, the only option is a monthly or annual subscription.
No Certificates: Brilliant doesn’t offer any completion certificates, and it doesn’t focus on career development. If that’s what you are looking for, then check out Udacity or Datacamp.
Brilliant offers the option of a Free and a Premium paid account. The free account is pretty limited and only gives you access to the preview of the daily online courses which you can sync across the web and mobile app. Saying that the free account does give you the opportunity to try out the platform before financially committing. The paid Premium offers 3 different subscription plans: Monthly($24.99 per month), Annual($149.85 per year that works out at $12.49 per month)Groups of 3+ ($299.87 per year). You will be entitled to a 7-day free trial on its Premium subscription when you first sign up to Brilliant. Sadly Brilliant doesn’t offer a refund policy, it does state that it may make exceptions from time to time, but don’t count on this.
How does the Brilliant Platform look?
Who is it for?
Brilliant is a platform for anyone who enjoys problem-solving and hands on learning. Its courses are designed for Students, Professionals and Lifelong learners who can all benefit in someway from this platform. So whether you are looking to master a STEM topic or you just want to keep your mind active, there is something for everyone. To find out more you can read the detailed Brilliant review.
Codecademy was founded in 2011 by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski and currently offers courses in 14 different programming languages and 10 different subject areas.
The platform works on subscription based plans. The plans are structured interactive lessons and daily practices and focus on building skills to be job ready where you will earn a Certificate of Completion.
What are Codecademy’s pros:
Free Courses: Codecademy has a basic free plan where you can enjoy interactive lessons and daily practices.
Beginner Friendly: Its interactive coding courses are easy to digest for complete newbies.
Build Your Own Portfolio: After gaining practical experience you will create your own portfolio-worthy projects to show to potential recruiters.
Supportive Community: A strong sense of community with coaches, advisors or other graduates to help answer any questions and doubts you may have.
No Instructor Bio: Limited information about the instructor who created the course.
Not Accredited: Codecademy courses and paths are not accredited which means it’s certificates are only proof that you have successfully completed the course. If you are looking for an accredited platform to learn with, it may be worth checking out Coursera or edX.
Who is it for?
Codecademy is a platform that focuses on teaching coding with many of its courses being beginner friendly and self paced giving you the flexibility to learn when it suits you. To find out more you can read detailed Codecademy review.
With over 10 million users, this online platform is aimed at entrepreneurs and creative professionals. It was founded in 2009 and has dual headquarters in Seattle and San Francisco. Its individual courses range from $50 and go up to $200 which are discounted regularly. A long with individual courses is the creator pass (a monthly and annual subscription). Its class categories range from Photo & Video, Money & Life, Art & Design, Craft & Masker and Music & Audio.
In my opinion, it’s one of the best platforms out there if you just want to learn (or improve) skills, and you don’t mind paying a subscription – you’ll be able to access all the courses as long as you renew your Skillshare premium account.
What are CreativeLive’s pros:
High quality: All of CreativeLive’s videos are filmed by in-house videographers meaning that the quality is top notch.
Professional Instructors: Over 700 of the top creative professionals (best selling authors, Grammy and Oscar winners) teach its classes.
Free Live Classes: All lasses are free to access while they are streaming live.
Accessibility: You can learn with CreativeLive using a computer or mobile, making it accessible to learn on the move, plus class videos and material are downloadable.
Refund Policy: A generous 30 day refund policy on individual courses and 7 days on creator pass.
No Certificates: CreativeLive doesn’t offer any certificate or accreditation. If that is what you are looking for it is best to check out Coursera or edX.
Some Individual Courses are Expensive: Some of CreativeLive’s higher end classes may seem a little expensive for what they are offering.
Who is it for?
CreativeLive is a platform for creatives and innovators with courses taught by experienced and hand-picked instructors. Its courses are not just for individuals, it is also for teams who want to improve their creative skills. To find out more you can read the detailed CreativeLive review.
Treehouse was founded in 2011 by Ryan and Gillian Carson and currently offers 300+ online courses. Its courses are based around real-life projects preparing for a new career.
The platform works on subscription-based plans, which are all self-paced. All of its plans offer a 7-day free trial when you first register, which gives you full access to the platform.
What are Treehouse’s pros:
Free Trial: A 7-day free trial giving you full access to its library of courses and resources.
Real Project Experience: Treehouse courses are based around real-life projects like designing websites, web apps and mobile apps and more.
High Quality Courses: Its courses are created by the in-house expert teachers at Treehouse who create interactive and engaging courses.
Career Focused: Many of its courses are focused on giving you the skills to start a new career.
Self-Paced Learning: All of Treehouse learning programs are self paced, giving you the flexibility to learn anytime and anywhere.
Credit Card Required: When signing up for your 7-day free trial you will need to enter your credit/debit card (you won’t be charged until the trial ends).
Limited Courses: Offering only 300+ courses, if you are looking for a wider range of topics and courses, then it may be worth checking out LinkedIn Learning or Udemy.
Not Accredited: Sadly, its learning programs are not officially accredited. If this is something you are looking for then it may be worth checking Coursera or edX.
Who is it for?
Treehouse is a platform that appeals to someone who is looking to gain tech skills in subjects like web design, web development, mobile development and more. Many of its courses are designed with beginners in mind.
Simplilearn started in San Francisco and has offices in India and Singapore. It offers 400+ courses and is partned with Universities and Companies to deliver its course and programs.
It is a controversial platform with many users feeling unhappy with the platform, the quality of the courses and no bad customer service.
Bad Reviews: Many learners have had a bad experience with Simplilearn from bad quality of courses to overpaying for its course.
Persistent Sales Team: Its sales team call you too many times and leaves you feeling harrassed.
No Free Courses: Simplilearn doesn’t offer any free courses
Choice: There are a few hundred courses, it’s not the elearning platform with the largest pool of courses.
Who is it for?
Honestly, Simplilearn isn’t a platform I would recommend using many users have been unhappy with its service and feel like they haven’t been treated correctly.
Best Online Learning Platforms for Business
It is true that not everyone is looking for an individual plan, some of you may be looking for an online learning platform that can help your business or your team upskill. Most platforms offer a few different plans depending on the size of your team or organization.
Coursera for Businesses
Coursera for Business its Team plan (5-125 users) is $399 per user which will get access to more than 5,000+ courses and verified certificates are available on course completion. The Enterprise plan (125+ users) offers everything in the Team plan and more, and you will need to contact sales for a custom quote.
Udemy for Business offers organizations a big pool of courses on a huge variety of categories. Its Team plan (5-20 users) gives you access to 8,300+ courses for $360 per user. Its Enterprise plans (21 or more users) gives you access to 19,000+ courses, and is custom priced. Finally, its Leadership Development Programs offer 68+ leadership development courses, it is custom priced depending on your needs.
Datacamp for Business offers a couple of different plans. Its Team plan (2 or more users) is priced at $300 annually which gives you access to 380+ courses and more. Its Enterprise plan is for bigger organizations, and you will need to contact sales for pricing.
Skillshare Teams offers 1 plan which can be for a team of any size. Skillshare for Teams costs $159 per user, per year and gives you unlimited access to 35,000+ classes.
MasterClass at Work offers a plan which is custom priced depending on the size of your team or organization and what it is you are looking for.
LinkedIn Learning for business offers a plan for teams (2-20 users) that can be paid for annually or monthly which gives you access to 20,000+ courses. It also offers a custom-based plan for bigger organizations.
Pluralsight for business offers a variety of plans from the Starter, Professional and Enterprise. The Starter and Professional plans are for teams of (2-10 users) and the Enterprise plan comes with advanced features and is for (11+ users). All plans can be paid for monthly or annually.
Keep in mind that many of the Business plans offer a free trial and some come with a refund policy, but please double-check this before committing to a plan.
Most Popular Online Learning Platforms
The elearning platforms popularity can vary a bit from country to country, but we took a look globally, comparing how they rank against one another in the last 12 months. We see that Udemy is leading the pack and in January 2022 it took a big jump in popularity.
Google Trends Online Learning Platforms Comparison
Coursera is following Udemy’s lead and also increased in popularity in January 2022. MasterClass and Skillshare follow the two leaders and then comes Udacity closely behind Skillshare. It’s an interesting overview of online learning platforms and gives us an indication as to what learners worldwide are searching for.
How Much Are These Platforms?
Prices with elearning platforms can be a bit confusing as there are far too many types of courses and different approaches of paying for them. In the following paragraphs, I’ll try to explain the different payment approaches.
Pay Per Course
The most simple arrangement is to pay for each individual course that you take. This will work out cheaper for you if you are only interested in taking a one or a couple of courses.
But what online course platforms will let you pay per course?
Coursera: There are a bunch of ways you can enroll in a class or a program at Coursera, one of them is to purchase one of its courses – this will get you access to graded assignments and the option to get a completion certificate at the end. Prices are between $29 to $100 a course
Udemy: Courses at Udemy are purchased individually, they will cost you between $19 to $200 depending on the course, its quality and length.
Udacity: Its Nanodegree programs are paid for individually, they start at $399 and can go up to a couple of thousands depending on the length of the Nanodegree.
LinkedIn Learning: If you aren’t interested in purchasing an annual LinkedIn Learning subscription, you can purchase courses separately, which start at $19.99.
edX: Similarly to the other previous platforms, edX will let you purchase courses individually. Be ready to spend between $50 to $3000 per course.
One of the most common approaches of online learning platfroms is to offer a subscription plan which can be paid for monthly or annually. The subscription plan noramlly gives you full access to the platform and its courses and its prices can start around $170+ and go up close to $400 annually.
Let’s check out the most popular subscription plans on a variety of online learning platforms:
Some of these platforms also offer a series of courses about a certain topic that you can take to become an expert in that subject. The platforms give them several names like career paths, Nanodegrees, specializations or micromasters, but in essence they are the same concept.
Coursera Specializations: Between 4 and 10 courses that relate to a common topic (e.g. machine learning), once you complete them, you’ll be awarded a certificate. They cost about $39 to $89 a month, the duration will depend on how hard you work and the amount of courses the bundle has.
Udacity Nanodegrees: Udacity programs are a set of courses about a topic (e.g. car engineering). You’ll need to pay a subscription for the time that you take to finish the program, normally they cost between $700 to $2,000 (depending on the duration).
edX MicroMasters and MicroBachelors: You can think of these as a little taster of a full Masters or Bachelors degree. They cost $166 per credit, so a micro/program can range from $500 to $2,000.
Skillshare Learning Paths: You can focus your creative journey with Skillshare Learning Paths and deepen your skillset with a set of curated classes. They are available in a range of experience levels from beginner to advanced which you can access through your Skillshare Premium subscription at $167.88 annually.
Scholarships & Financial Aid
Some of these online learning communities have in place Scholarships you can apply to get into the courses without having to pay tuition fees. Generally, you have to fill in a form explaining why you deserve the scholarship and provide details of your financial situation.
Coursera financial aid
If you don’t make it into a scholarship, it’s also possible to ask for financial aid, so you can still afford your course. Most elearning platforms have financial partners (e.g. PayPal Credit) that will help with this. However, please check the interest rate that they will charge you.
Which platforms actually offer scholarships or financial aid?
Coursera: The majority of its courses (some courses don’t offer either) offer both Financial Aid or a Scholarship which you are to apply for through the link on the course home page. You’ll need to fill out an application about your educational background, career goals and financial circumstances. The review process can take up to 15 days.
MasterClass: Offers MasterClass Grants that to accredited charitable organizations serving communities in need. It focuses on communities in low-income families, BIPOC youth, and current or formerly incarcerated individuals. Since 2019 MasterClass has distributed 345k+ free annual memberships.
Free vs Paid Courses
As you’ve probably seen, many of these elearning platforms offer some of their courses for free, either with free courses or trials. However, they normally come with some limitations. In recent years, I have seen many online learning platforms move away from free courses completely. Platforms like Udemy and Skillshare used to offer thousands of its courses for free, but now it isn’t the case. Udemy does still offer 500+ of its courses for free when you visit its Free Resource Center and you can read in more detail about Udemy’s free courses.
Udemy Free Resource Center
No certificates: You won’t be able to earn any proof of accomplishment if you are on a free course, this option is exclusive to paid plans.
Graded assignments: Some online course platforms will let you give a go to the assignments (even for free), but you won’t receive a grade.
Instructors’ feedback: Finally, some platforms won’t let you message the teacher or assistants for help if you aren’t on a paid plan/course.
Will It Help Your Career?
We live in a time when changing careers is more common than it was 30 years ago with the average person changing careers 5-7 times during their working life. Now that’s where online learning has become more appealing than ever, due to its flexibility and affordability, to name just a few of its perks.
So, I thought it would be helpful to highlight why learning on an online course platform may help you in your career development.
Developing Your Skills For Free
If you don’t have the budget to invest in an online course for your professional development. Then there are still platforms like Coursera who generously offer courses for you to develop your existing skills or to learn something entirely new for absolutely nothing. As I mentioned before free courses do come with limitations, and it will require your own self motivation to be present and complete the course, but if your intention is to have a career change, then this can be the motivation you need.
Online platforms like Coursera offer more than 2,500+ free courses and Skillshare offer a generous 1-month free trial. This allows you to try any course for free and explore your options before you can or decide to spend a penny.
One thing that is probably the most valuable to all of us is having enough time. Learning online is a guaranteed way of saving time. You have the convenience of studying from home or maybe your favorite coffee shop as long as it has decent WIFI.
In addition to working from a comfortable spot, many courses like Udemy are completely on-demand, meaning you can enrol on a course at any time and learn at your own pace.
There is the added bonus of the Android and iOS app of being able to download an entire course for offline viewing. This is particularly convenient if you are planning to check the course on the go (e.g. train commuting)
In our ever-changing world, the job market and types of careers available to us are evolving and developing constantly. This means that universities and businesses are focused on offering updated career and market-driven courses. Many online platforms like Udemy are regularly renewing their courses with the newest and current versions of the software that is being used for the course.
Udemy Last Updated
For many, learning online is an opportunity to pursue a verified certification. Your objective may be to help improve your job prospects, add to your resume or share your certificate on your LinkedIn profile.
Some online platforms are partnered with prestigious institutions and companies who create and teach their courses. If you were to choose to study with, for example, edX on one of its 3,000+ courses that are partnered with 160+ prestigious institutions you would receive your accredited certificate from Harvard or Berkeley.
edX verified certificates
There are some online learning platforms that make studying on a course or a degree program significantly cheaper than that offered at a traditional bricks-and-mortar school. Platforms like Coursera or edX partner with established institutions like University of Michigan and Imperial College London to offer top quality Degrees and Master programs. Coursera in particular offers affordable, pay-as-you-go tuition with the possibility of qualifying for a scholarship or financial aid, making it accessible for most. A traditional on-campus degree could cost you $52,000+ compared to an online degree at $22,000. I know what option I would pick.
Some of the elearning platforms highlight the possibility of getting a job after completing one of its courses. Udacity’s platform offers a service for career advice where you can get, for example, help to rewrite your CV. You also have the possibility to organize a 1-to-1 chat with one of their career advisors. Be aware that this service is only available in the US.
Udacity career advice
The majority of online learning platforms are designed to create an interactive environment between their learners and instructors. Studying online means you can become part of a global network of other professionals. Many of the platforms give the contact information of its instructors, like Udemy who are happy for learners to contact instructors directly to ask any questions, building good relationships whilst studying may be beneficial in your future career.
Udemy Instructor Bio
How To Find the Right Online Course for You
When deciding on the right online course it can feel a little overwhelming as there are so many options out there. So, I put together some tips to help you with making the right decision.
All the online learning platforms have filter features that can really help to narrow downyour search into the specifics that you want from your chosen course. Some platforms like Udemy have a more detailed filter system with the options: Ratings, Video Duration, Topic, Subcategory, Level, etc – (see image below)
Type of Course
It is true that each elearning community has a different focus for learning. If you look at a platform like Udemy, that focuses on offering the biggest pool of courses on a broad range of categories and subcategories from cake decorating to finance and sports. It currently has 204,000+ courses with new additions published every month. Whereas a platform like Coursera focuses on offering different learning programs from courses to professional certificates and degrees which are all accredited. Then there is MasterClass who focuses on its celebrity and VIP instructors teaching its highly produced and engaging video classes.
Udemy broad selection of courses
Read Reviews & Ratings
The majority of online platforms have reviews and ratings from previous learners about their experience of an online learning platform or taking a particular course. This really is a good way to read first-hand feedback and will give you a comprehensive overview of the course and what to expect. Platforms like Skillshare and Coursera have really visual and comprehensible review system.
Before deciding on a particular course, something we all want to read about is the course information (e.g. the syllabus, course duration, quizzes, reading material etc). All the learning platforms detail this, but some are more comprehensive than others. Udacity provides a helpful option to download the entire syllabus in a PDF format, so you can go away, read about it and then come back and make a decision.
Udacity Course Syllabus
Some elearning platforms offer free trials when you first sign up, this really is key for you to get to know the platform and what types of courses they have to offer. The fact that you have a certain number of days to try out its courses without any risk is something none of us can complain about. Some platforms are more generous than others, for example, Skillshare offers a 1-month free trial and Pluralsight gives you a 14-day free trial.
Skillshare free trial
Some online learning platforms like Datacamp and Codecademy don’t even give the option of a refund, so please ensure you are aware of this before financially committing to a course or subscription plan. There are other platforms who are a little more generous about having a money-back guarantee, both MasterClass and Udemy offer a 30-day refund policy if you aren’t happy with the course or subscription plan. In my experience MasterClass is a platform that returned the money hassle-free within a few days of submitting the refund request, I was quite impressed and recently resubscribed to the platform.
MasterClass 30-day money-back guarantee
Course prices have a broad range. Prices can start at $19.99 for an individual course and go up to $25,000 for a certified degree program. These prices also reflect your commitment to a course. If you decide on a $19.99 individual course that is 3 weeks self-paced you may not feel so financially bound compared to a $25,000 2-year intensive degree program. If you aren’t ready to financially commit to a course, platforms like Coursera and Datacamp offer a bunch of free courses.
Coursera free courses
Finding out about the instructor that will be teaching your chosen course can be critical in the experience you have. It’s important that they have the right credentials and knowledge to execute the course successfully. For example, Udemy and Skillshare courses are created, owned and managed by the instructor and each instructor has a different approach to teaching. At MasterClass its classes are taught by one of its 150+ celebrity instructors like Anna Wintour, Chris Voss, Gordon Ramsay and more. If one of these celebrities is an icon of yours, then its a pretty motivating way to learn.
MasterClass Celebrity Instructors
Last Thoughts About Online Course Platforms
So with all things considered I hope this comprehensive overview enables you to have deeper knowledge of all the online learning platforms that are available to you.
If you are looking for some takeaways from this guide before you make any final decisions. I have highlighted some below:
Key areas to consider:
Range of course topics
Best free courses
Self-paced or instructor-paced courses
Accredited certificates (for some platforms)
Choosing the right online course may take a little bit of time and research, but once you find the right elearning community and course you won’t look back. So don’t miss out on joining the wave of online learning and its global community.
Which is the best free online learning platform?
The best online learning platform for free learning is Coursera. The platform gives you access to 2500+ courses for free which are partnered with top Universities like Yale and Stanford University and if you want to upgrade to a paid version of the course you can easily do so.
What is the No 1 online learning platform?
Coursera is the top online learning platform with more than 80 million learners. It partners with globally recognized Universities (like Duke, Stanford and Yale) and Organizations (like Google and IBM) to create its high-quality Courses, Degrees and Certificates. Plus it offers thousands of courses for free.
Please, leave a comment below if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to help you out.
30/11/22 – 9 Tips to Choose a Top Online Learning Platform?
28/11/22 – 8 Tips to Choose a Top Online Learning Platform?
24/11/22 – 7 Tips to Choose a Top Online Learning Platform?
22/11/22 – Will it help your Career?
17/11/22 – Type of course
16/11/22 – Free vs Paid Courses
10/11/22 – Added Pluralsight for business
19/10/22 – Coursera Free Courses
17/10/22 – MasterClass Instructors
07/10/22 – Subscription Plans
27/09/22 – Updated Scholarship & Financial Aid
13/09/22 – Updated How To Find The Right Online Course For You
08/09/22 – Added No 1 Online Learning Platforms FAQ
05/09/22 – Pay per course
31/08/22 – Most Popular Online Learning Platforms
25/08/22 – General Update & Refund Policy
21/08/22 – Datacamp Updated
16/08/22 – Best Online Learning Platforms for Business
10/08/22 – Added Best Online Learning Platforms FAQ
05/08/22 – General Update
31/07/22 – General Update
26/07/22 – General Update
25/07/22 – General Update
12/07/22 – Added 7 Best Online Learning Platforms of 2022
07/07/22 – Online Learning Platforms Update
30/06/22 – The 5 Best Online Learning Platforms of 2022
14/03/22 – Updated Quiz with LinkedIn Learning & Brilliant
11/03/22 – Online Learning Platforms in detail Update
14/01/22 – Brilliant Platform Added
24/12/21 – The Best Online Learning Platform Quiz
12/10/21 – Udacity Ranking Chart
08/10/21 – Online Learning Platforms Ranking
30/09/21 – Online Learning Platforms Ranking
29/09/21 – Pricing Update
23/07/21 – General Update
22/07/21 – Overview Update
24/05/21 – Mindvalley Platform
Hey. I am Catherine and I have been working as a freelancer for many years now. In 2005, I graduated from a BA honours in Art & Design from BCU and then went onto complete a Master’s Degree in Teaching from UEL. The skills I gained from learning and teaching have led me to create Upskillwise, a place for learners like myself to find the best possible resources and courses to train and upskill themselves, either personally or professionally. If you have a question, please feel free to ask me anything or leave me a comment.