10 Awesome Online Learning Platforms to Take Your Career to the Next Level
Whether you’re looking for a career change or just want to something to talk about at the water cooler, these online learning platforms will give you a competitive edge.
It’s easy to become complacent after you’ve left the classroom behind. If you’re like me, however, you’ll find that you’re soon itching for something new to fill your time and expand your mind. Luckily, with the internet, learning new skills has never been easier or more accessible. Taking a few hours a week to broaden your skillset could be the boost you need to earn a promotion, impress your friends, or just make you an all-around better person. (Not to mention that you don’t even have to leave the house or put on pants to do so.)
In this article, I’ve put together the most comprehensive guide you’ll find to some of the best online learning platforms for all interests and budgets. Maybe you’re just looking for a casual way to learn something new. Maybe you want a certification to make your resume stand apart from the crowd. Whatever your goal, you’ll find everything you need for success on this list.
Hubspot Academy is the resource for all things marketing and sales. Its certification courses are free and carry a good reputation in the marketing world, which means you’ll get a nice resume boost upon completion.
Its course catalog offers a diverse array of marketing and sales certifications in subjects like growth-driven design, content marketing, and inbound sales. On top of all their courses, you’ll get access to their related resources, templates, and guides that ground the theoretical concepts in real-world applications.
Perhaps the best selling point for Hubspot Academy is the price. All courses and certifications are available for free.
Founded by Harvard and MIT in 2012, edX partners with over 130 global institutions, from Georgetown to Kyoto University, to provide accessible education to anyone, anywhere. It earns a spot on this list as the leading global open source and nonprofit provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs).
You can audit edX courses for free, but you must pay to receive certification upon completion of a course. Most of their courses are timed (begin and end on a certain date), so be sure to plan ahead if you want to enroll in a specific course.
Now for the drawbacks: Some students report that discussions tend to be somewhat disorganized, and professors may be hard to reach. Additionally, while the sciences are well-represented in the course catalog, their list of Humanities courses is lacking. However, the ease of studying from home, in my opinion, outweighs the minor inconveniences. Also, edX’s open-source approach allows educators and developers to build and share learning tools and assessment modules, which, if you’re more interested in the hard sciences, makes up for a few missing courses.
You can even earn credit towards a Master’s degree with edX’s MicroMasters programs. A full program costs between $600 and $1400. Successful completion of the program will earn you a snazzy certificate that you can display on your LinkedIn page and boast about on your resume. However, there are no guarantees that completing the program will get you into a partnering university or that the credits will transfer to the Master’s program of your choice. So, if your goal is to use the program as a starting point for earning a Master’s degree, make sure to do your research before diving in!
Duolingo is an online foreign language learning platform that gamifys the process of learning a foreign language. It rewards “streaks” (number of days in a row that you practice) with currency that you can use to purchase fun additional modules, such as slang or flirting.
With Duolingo, you can learn to speak, write, and read in over 30 different languages, including fantasy languages such as Klingon or High Valyrian. Its modules are broken down into categories like phrases, animals, and verb tense. As you work through the more elementary levels, you unlock higher level concepts, but if you’re just looking to brush up on a language, not to worry! There is a placement test option to find just the right place in the course to continue learning.
The main drawback of the app, however, is the use of “lives” to penalize wrong answers. Given how easy it is to accidentally misspell a foreign word and lose a life, you may find yourself getting locked out of your course for a short period of time (unless, of course, you spend some precious in-game currency). However, Duolingo’s fun interface and extensive library of languages and modules offset some of the more irritating elements of the app.
Coursera partners with top universities around the world to offer online courses on a variety of college-level subjects. Each course acts like an interactive textbook with videos, quizzes, and projects.
If you’re looking to take a more specialized or unusual class (like “Fashion as Design” or “Science of Exercise”), start your search at Coursera. With over 900 available courses, its catalog is massive. You’ll enjoy interacting with other students on well-moderated discussion boards that give you a chance to expand your understanding of the material.
The timed courses, which range from 4 to 12 weeks, are where Coursera shines, but it is working to expand and improve its offering of on-demand classes.
Coursera prides itself on making education accessible, so most of its courses are either free or very cheap. However, certification courses and specializations run from $15 to $99, and online degree programs can cost upwards of $25,000 for an accredited master’s degree in business, computer science, or data science.
Unlike Coursera or edX, all of Alison’s classes are self-paced, so you can learn at your own speed. This platform offers 3 main ways to learn based on how much time you’d like to spend and how in-depth you’re looking to go. The shortest option is a breezy 2–3 hours for a certificate course. These courses are designed to help you concentrate on a singular topic to master that particular niche, such as media studies and or networking.
Next come the diploma courses, which take the length of your average workday (8–10 hours) to complete. These courses offer a broader view on a subject area and will give you a better understanding of multiple topics within a single subject. Diploma courses include nursing/patient care and business management.
Finally there are the 18–20 hour long learning paths. The learning paths combine niche courses designed by experts to help you master a subject. Popular learning paths include Accounting (Core Concepts), Business Process Systems, and Consumer Behavior.
Alison even has a user ratings system where you can see how satisfied participants were with their courses.
This is another free platform, so you can learn to your heart’s content! The only cost comes if you want to order a printed certificate or diploma.
This online learning platform was previously backed by the White House as a way to teach people necessary coding skills for free. A new paid program, however, offers live support and additional learning tools.
Codecademy prides itself on teaching you to code quickly. In fact, most of their free courses take fewer than 11 hours to complete. During the course of your coding adventure, you’ll be assigned projects, which include creating your own real websites. If this sounds intimidating, don’t fret! They also offer help from community coaches along with over 80 quizzes to help keep you sharp.
On top of its top-notch resources, this is another platform that uses a gamified point system to make learning fun and encourage its users to keep practicing.
For some users, a lack of video tutorials may be a turn-off, but, in all, Codecademy does an awesome job of making coding fun and easy.
The educational arm of TED (known for their famous TED Talks), TED-Ed connects teachers and students around the world. Through the platform, teachers can create their own interactive lessons and share them publicly for anyone to access.
Teachers can create lessons by selecting a video from TED-Ed’s extensive library, which includes TED Talks, animated originals, and even YouTube videos, then adding questions, discussion prompts, and additional resources.
Some interesting series in the TED-Ed library include “The Writer’s Workshop,” “Things They Don’t Teach in School (But Should),” and “Math in Real Life.” TED-Ed is like brain candy, and it’s easy and fun to watch. Although it’s more causal resource than others on this list, if your goal is learn something new every day, TED-Ed is the place to go.
This app has the largest community of mobile code learners. Although there’s another online code-learning platform on this list, SoloLearn’s mobile capability makes it stand out, and it’s a great resource for beginners due to its helpful community and straightforward explanations.
Although SoloLearn is not as in-depth as some other resources, such as the MOOC courses you may find on Coursera, Udacity, or edX, it’s a nice introduction to the world of coding to help you get your feet wet.
Udacity offers training in some of today’s most competitive vocational skills including machine learning, data analysis, and web development. General career advancement workshops are also available.
Although not all courses on Udacity are free, there are some beginner and intermediate courses available at no cost. However, these individual classes leave something to be desired with little feedback and no guarantee of future success.
But hold on! The most unique and valuable resources of this platform are in its nanodegree programs, which are created in partnership with industry giants like Google, Amazon, Mercedes-Benz, and AT&T. These programs not only teach in-demand skills, they also connect users to employment opportunities through their partner companies.
10. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a great platform to brush up on those subjects you snoozed through in high school.
Their catalog is divided into the traditional k-12 core school subjects: Math, Science & Engineering, Computer Programming, Arts & Humanities, and Economics & Finance. It also offers Advanced Placement and college admissions test prep.
There is a small section dedicated to career training courses (such as entrepreneurship and personal finance). However, general subject courses are where the strengths of their platform lie. Let’s face it, not many of us remember everything we learned in high school trigonometry, and, at the very least, Khan Academy will save you from embarrassment when you’re asked to help out with your kid’s homework.
That’s it for my round up of some of the best online learning platforms, but I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom that I hope will help to light your fire and motivate you to act on the advice I’ve offered here:
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” –Henry Ford