John is an experienced freelance content writer with an eclectic employment history.
Technology—the Internet in particular—has provided countless improvements to our lives, from the ability to communicate more efficiently and over greater distances than at any time in human history to instant access to entertainment in various forms.
One convenience these technologies have brought us that is perhaps under-utilized is access to educational material. We're not talking about Wikipedia here; we're talking carefully structured programs on a diverse collection of subjects. The ability to learn online has opened up a whole new world for countless people, and it can for you too. That's why we've put together our list of top five sites for learning online.
What Are the Benefits of Online Coursework?
When considering the benefits of learning online, naturally one of the first things to come to mind is the convenience of it all. There's no travel involved—you simply open your computer (or phone, in some cases), and you are ready to go.
There are other benefits, of course, such as removing the sometimes stressful and intimidating environment of an educational institution from the equation. It is considerably easier to learn when you are not anxious, and being in the comfort of your own home is a great way to keep that anxiety at bay.
Another benefit is scheduling. Traditional education adheres to strict schedules, and that doesn't work for everyone. There's nothing wrong with learning to stick to a schedule—it's a necessary life skill—but life doesn't always play ball in that regard. Learning online gives you the freedom to be flexible. If a family emergency comes up, you don't have to worry about missing an important class to deal with it. The course will still be waiting for you when you are ready.
There is a good chance that you will find the learning process much more comfortable with an online course. This is not because of any inherent superiority, but because most people who take on online courses are doing so because they want to. We all had those classes we weren't fond of in school, and most of us struggled in coursework we were less interested in. With online courses, you actively seek out the courses you want to take, so it stands to reason you'll only be taking courses on subjects you enjoy.
Hopefully, we've convinced you that online courses are a great way to learn. So, with that in mind, let's get into our top five list!
Teachable is a straightforward learning platform whose strength lies in video-based content. The service boasts over 34,000 courses created by over 22,000 teachers. Teachable is not short of recommendations, with many top bloggers and educators hailing the service. Teachable can also be used to create membership areas where you can interact with your students, making it an excellent platform for educators.
Teacher's "schools" can bundle several courses together, and teachers can opt to make all of those courses available for a single fee. As far as cost is concerned, Teachable offers a few tiers for those who wish to sell a course through their platform, starting at free and going up to $249 per month. For the free and basic plans, it will cost you to upload a course. Courses can be priced as little $0.99, however, Teachable recommends their teachers price their courses at a minimum of $100, and many course creators seem to go with that.
Regarding the level of education and credibility of Teachable, things are a little less clear. As the service allows anyone to become a teacher on the platform, there is no unified standard of education. However, the general quality of the courses is high.
Coursera is an online learning platform that has partnered with top-ranked educational institutions to offer college-level courses, many of which are available for free. For a fee, you can even earn a certificate for your newly acquired skills and knowledge.
Coursera courses are broken down into five main categories. Individual courses—many of which are available for free—do not necessarily meet any recognizable educational standard but are an excellent vehicle for learning nonetheless. Specializations are the next step up and will take you deeper into a subject with multiple courses. Professional certificates are quite similar to individual courses, except they are specifically geared towards career-building. MasterTrack certificates are intensive programs that can count towards real accreditation. Finally, Coursera degree courses can grant you entirely legitimate credentials equivalent to a Bachelor's or Master's degree.
The cost of learning with Coursera ranges from free up to $15,000 for degrees; however, you can expect to pay between $50–100 for one-off courses.
Skillshare may be one of the more recognizable names on this list thanks to some aggressive marketing in recent years. Skillshare works on a subscription model, with the entry-level tier being $15 per month and the top tier being $8.25 per month (billed annually). There is also a two-month free trial. They also have team subscriptions aimed at businesses.
Skillshare supports communities, and though there is no guarantee that an instructor will participate in said communities, it nevertheless provides an excellent opportunity for those learning. The range of content available on the service varies. For example, some classes can be a short series of videos that each run around ten minutes. Some classes have assignments, and some require students to dedicate a significant chunk of their time to complete the coursework.
There are two main types of courses on Skillshare. Courses that are created by Skillshare themselves (along with partners) are called Skillshare Originals. These courses are generally of high quality, though they don't necessarily translate to any actionable qualification. The other classes are created by individuals and can vary significantly in quality. Learners can rate videos, however, so it is not merely a click-and-hope situation.
4. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a non-profit learning platform. Now, non-profit does not necessarily mean free, but in this case, it actually does. Everything on the platform is free to access for anyone. It may sound too good to be true, but there's no catch—the service operates through donations and volunteer work.
Khan Academy's courses are presented in much the same way as YouTube tutorials are. The content is generally of high quality, though the site is perhaps not as user-friendly as some of the other platforms in this article.
There are learning incentives, such as badges, which are a bit gimmicky but can be effective nonetheless and are a harmless addition. There are no certifications with accreditation available here, but you are never going to find that without paying a significant sum of money.
Another platform that has made liberal use of online marketing in recent years, Udemy is a learning platform that is comparable to Teachable in what it offers. It has an extensive range of courses on many subjects, and prices for those courses run anywhere from $25 to $200, though there are often discounts available.
The quality of the Udemy's courses is generally good, though it should be noted that anyone can become an instructor, so there is always the possibility of getting a dud. Still, all courses can be rated, so you should be able to easily identify the lower quality courses without wasting your time.
Which One Is the Best?
So those are my picks for the top five online learning platforms. If I had to recommend one, it would depend on the circumstances of the person I'm recommending it to. For the average person just looking to expand their knowledge, it's hard to beat Khan Academy's open and free model. For someone looking to make serious moves in their career, Coursera's legitimate qualifications are probably the best way to go.
Still, any one of these platforms is a great choice, and I wholeheartedly recommend finding something you're interested in and taking a deep dive into the wealth of educational material on that subject that the Internet has to offer.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 John Bullock