An increasing number of people are opting to learn online nowadays. Not only are online learning platforms often a better deal in terms of cost and availability, but the recent challenges to in-person education have accelerated their widespread adoption.
That said, as with most other things online, your mileage may vary depending on the sites and platforms you use!
Online education is in higher demand than ever before, but the quality of both service and information varies widely from platform to platform.
So today we want to shine the spotlight on five fantastic online education sites where you can find all kinds of useful educational video content — from instructional videos, courses, video explainers, and guides — to learn from!
Overview: With more than 3000 courses available, over 500.000 people learning on it every day, and classes from more than 160 member universities (including world-renowned names such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT), edX is certainly one of the leading educational online platforms you’ll want to check out.
Since its foundation in 2012, its goal has always been to empower learners to unlock their potential through education, and its content reflects that commitment.
edX offers a wide variety of courses in many areas of study, such as Humanities, Environmental Studies, Music, Science, and Business & Management.
Pricing: Most of edX’s courses are free, although students can optionally pay a fee to get a verified certificate upon completion of a course. They also offer Professional Programs, Bachelor’s Programs, and Master’s Degrees. There are often fees associated with these more advanced classes.
Standouts: The platform’s layout is simple and user-friendly, as well as its app, which allows you to advance with your lessons, even if you’re not at home or in front of a computer, comfortably from your phone. One of the main disadvantages of this platform would be that some of its verified certificates are quite costly. Our recommendation is to research prices well if you do need the certificate, before signing up for a course.
Overview: FutureLearn is a British private company launched in 2013, designed to bring education to the masses. It offers several eLearning courses on a diverse range of subjects. Most last between six to ten weeks, but they also offer some shorter courses.
Some of their courses are meant to upgrade skills and may be tied to a specific profession or field of study. The lessons include different activities such as watching in-depth educational videos, listening to audio recordings, and reading articles, followed by short quizzes to check that you have understood each lesson.
Pricing: Depending on the course, you may find three options to join:
Free Access grants you, well, free access to the selected course for a limited duration. Upgraded Access gives you more time to complete the selected course, and the opportunity to earn a Certificate of Achievement. Lastly, Unlimited Access grants you longer access to hundreds of short courses, as well as a digital certificate.
Standouts: One of the cons of FutureLearn is that it doesn’t have a mobile platform. The lack of an Android and an iOS app is a significant shortcoming compared to what’s offered by other sites and institutions, so on-the-go availability might be an issue for some students.
Overview: Founded in Ireland in 2007, Alison offers more than 4000 free online courses, with subjects as diverse as business analytics, health care, sales & marketing, graphic design, management, and public speaking.
There are Certificate Courses that may only take 2 to 3 hours to finish. Diploma Courses are geared for professionals and may be completed in 8 to 10 hours. Finally, there are Learning Paths that help you broaden your talents in a certain field. Each one is expected to take between 18 and 20 hours to complete.
Pricing: Although access to the courses is free, you can also choose to pay a monthly fee to unlock benefits and additional characteristics and to pay for a certificate or diploma once you complete your course.
Standouts: If you’re unsure where to begin, you can choose three different options depending on your main goal: upskill, change careers, or just explore hobbies and interests. Alison also offers smartphone apps for both iOS and Android, so you can learn from anywhere. On the cons side, it can be a bit challenging to contact support.
Overview: Founded in 2012, Coursera partnered with over 200 premier universities and companies to provide individuals and organizations with job-relevant online learning. It's an online learning platform with streaming video lectures, and it focuses on college-level courses.
Coursera received B Corp designation in February 2021, which means it has a legal commitment to its shareholders and society. Coursera is also partnered with top companies like Google and IBM, and colleges like Duke University.
Pricing: They offer a wide range of learning opportunities, with hundreds of courses to choose from. Many of the courses offered by Coursera are free. However, the more in-depth courses – such as professional degrees and certificates – need individual payments or even a membership fee.
Standouts: It offers over 4,000 programs that can be completed in only one day to a few days and can help you advance your professional skills or focus on your personal development. This offering includes many skills and competencies that are currently in high demand, such as agile methodologies and negotiation skills. Limited help options and difficult access to support are a disadvantage of this platform.
Google Digital Garage
Overview: Google Digital Garage is another fantastic and reliable platform that you can access to take free online courses and accelerate your career by nurturing skills related to entrepreneurial, business, marketing, information management, and communication topics. These courses are provided by Google and their partner universities or institutions, and all you need to participate is a Gmail account.
As expected of the search engine and social networking leader, Google Digital Garage was created with the aim of teaching businesses and entrepreneurs how to grow their online presence. This might range from getting visits to their website or social media pages to boosting their client base and revenues.
Pricing: While most of those who take free online courses aim to learn, and do not need a document that certifies their skills, there are those who want that or whose employers or clients request it. Some courses related to digital marketing have a certification that is obtained at completion.
Standouts: An advantage of this platform is that each module has short videos — no more than 10 minutes — making learing more dynamic, and allowing you to go at your own pace and organize your time more easily. Furthermore, you may track your progress on your profile.
Clearly, online education is here to stay — and will only get bigger moving forward.
Today, we described five recognized, trustworthy online education platforms, but there are plenty of others out there that may be better suited to your niche interests.
So whether you are looking to become a recognized public speaker, or a wizard at coding, you’d be well advised to seize the learning opportunities that are so freely available to you in this day and age.
Start searching and filtering courses according to your interests or desired career path, and for paid courses, bear in mind that there are often opportunities to try them out for free. A great way to decide if it’s right for you before committing.