Undoubtedly, online learning platforms have democratized learing and improved the world of education for both learners and instructors.
The industry has grown massively in the last few years, so we’ve taken the time to put together a list of the best online learning platforms.
But what exactly are they? It’s important to distinguish online learning platforms from online course platforms. We’ll cover that first before our list of the top 13 options.
Use this clickable menu to jump straight to individual sections:
- What is an online learning platform?
- The value of online learning platforms
- 13 top online learning platforms
- Key takeaways
What is an online learning platform?
An online learning platform is a digital environment where learners can take online courses, which are often offered in a marketplace. Some examples include Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, edX, Coursera, Udacity, and Khan Academy. From a learner’s perspective, it is the place to find content and courses.
An online course platform, conversely, is technology instructors use to create, host, and sell their courses, which may not be offered on a learning platform’s marketplace. For example, a course built with an online course platform could be offered on the instructor’s own website.
For this article, we’ll focus on online learning platforms with information relevant to both learners and instructors.
The value of online learning platforms
Online learning platforms add substantial value to both learners and educational institutions. Here are several key advantages to using them over in-person educational experiences:
- Accessibility and flexibility
- Diverse course offerings
- Global reach
- Interactive learning tools
- Continuous updates and relevance
- Skill development and career advancement
- Personalized learning paths
- Community and networking
- Reduced environmental impact
- Innovative teaching methods
The 13 top online learning platforms
Udemy, a widely popular online learning platform, offers a vast array of courses on diverse topics, making it suitable for both professional development and hobbyists.
With an affordable pay-per-course model, Udemy’s user-friendly platform is constantly updated with new content. However, the quality of courses can vary significantly, and the platform may not be the best choice for those seeking accredited or academic content.
- Wide range of topics and skills
- Affordable individual courses
- User-friendly platform
- Affordable pricing
- Diverse and constantly updated course catalog
- Quality can vary significantly between courses
- Limited academic and accredited content
OpenLearning, an Australia-based online learning platform, distinguishes itself through its social learning approach and collaboration features. The platform emphasizes student engagement through group activities and discussions.
With a flexible pricing structure, OpenLearning is accessible. It may have a smaller course catalog compared to larger platforms, and its recognition may be more limited.
- Social learning approach
- Collaboration and group activities
- Accessible pricing structure
- Emphasis on student engagement
- Flexible pricing option.
- Limited recognition compared to larger platforms
- Smaller course catalog
iversity.org, a Berlin-based online learning platform, offers courses from universities and organizations. Covering both academic and professional subjects, iversity.org brings a European focus to its course catalog.
Despite providing diverse offerings, the platform may have a smaller course catalog compared to larger global platforms. Recognition in certain regions may also be more limited.
- European course providers
- Academic and professional courses
- Diverse course offerings
- European focus
- Smaller course catalog compared to some global platforms
- Limited recognition in certain regions
Skillshare stands out as a creative online learning platform, offering courses in design, photography, writing, and more. The platform adopts a community-driven approach, emphasizing project-based learning.
Skillshare’s broad range of creative topics and affordable subscription pricing make it an attractive option for those looking to enhance their creative skills. However, the quality of courses can vary, and it may not be as suitable for those seeking academic or technical subjects.
- Focus on creative skills
- Project-based learning
- Community-driven content
- Broad range of creative topics
- Affordable subscription pricing
- Quality of courses can vary
- Limited emphasis on academic or technical subjects
Treehouse specializes in technology-related courses, with an emphasis on web development, coding, and programming skills. The platform offers project-based learning and career-focused tracks.
Its course topics may have less diversity compared to broader platforms, and its audience may be more niche, targeting those specifically interested in technology and coding.
- Tech-focused courses
- Project-based learning
- Career-focused tracks
- Industry-relevant content
- Emphasis on practical skills
- Limited course topics
- Caters to limited audience of tech learners
LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda.com, integrates seamlessly with the LinkedIn professional network. It offers courses focused on professional development, including business and professional skills courses.
With learning paths designed for career development, LinkedIn Learning stands out for its integration with professional networking.
- Integration with LinkedIn network
- Business and professional skills courses
- Learning paths for career development
- Integration with professional networking
- High-quality business-oriented courses
- Limited free content.
- Monthly subscription required for full access
Khan Academy is a non-profit offering free online courses and resources, primarily in mathematics and science. It has gained widespread recognition for its comprehensive K-12 curriculum and adaptive learning technology.
While providing a valuable resource for students at various academic levels, Khan Academy may have less interactive features compared to some platforms, and its content may be less extensive in higher education subjects.
- Free educational content
- Adaptive learning technology
- Extensive coverage of K-12 subjects
- Free and accessible to all
- Comprehensive K-12 curriculum
- Limited higher education content
- Less interactive compared to some platforms
FutureLearn sets itself apart with a social learning approach, offering online courses and degrees in collaboration with universities and institutions worldwide. The platform encourages collaborative learning through discussion forums and peer interactions.
FutureLearn provides courses from leading institutions, with a focus on diverse and engaging content. However, some users may find that certain courses lack depth in specific subject areas. While many courses are free, payment may be required for certification.
- Social learning approach
- Courses from leading institutions
- Access to free courses
- Collaborative learning environment
- Diverse course offerings
- Limited depth in certain subject areas
- Some courses may require payment for certification
Coursera collaborates with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer a comprehensive range of courses, specializations, and degree programs. Known for its high-quality academic content, Coursera provides access to courses from top universities and institutions. Coursera for Business is a valuable tool for corporate training.
While the platform offers a variety of topics and specializations, the cost of some courses can be relatively high. Coursera’s emphasis on academic rigor may be a pro for those seeking accredited education but might not suit learners looking for more practical, hands-on skills.
- Courses from top universities
- Specializations and degree programs
- Coursera for Business for corporate training
- High-quality academic content
- Variety of topics and specializations
- Some courses can be expensive
- The emphasis on academic content may not suit all learners
With a focus on delivering industry-specific training and certification programs, 360Training caters to compliance education and skill development within specific regulatory frameworks.
While it excels in tailoring content for professional growth, its scope might be limited compared to platforms offering a more diverse array of topics. The quality of courses may vary, making it essential for learners to research specific offerings based on their industry requirements.
- Industry-specific training
- Compliance courses
- Certification programs
- Tailored for specific industries
- Emphasis on compliance and professional development
- Limited breadth of topics compared to general learning platforms
- Course quality may vary
MasterClass is an exclusive online learning platform renowned for its celebrity-led courses. MasterClass covers a broad spectrum of topics, including arts, business, and lifestyle.
While it excels in delivering inspirational and engaging storytelling, it may have limited interactivity and applicable takeaways. The emphasis on learning from influential figures makes it a good choice for those seeking insights and wisdom from well-known personalities.
- Celebrity-led courses
- High-quality video production
- Broad range of topics, including arts, business, and lifestyle
- Access to insights from industry leaders
- Engaging and professionally produced content
- Limited interactivity compared to some other platforms
- Focused on inspiration and storytelling more than hands-on skills
Mindvalley’s primary focus is on personal development and wellness. Offering courses in meditation, mindfulness, and self-improvement, Mindvalley often features well-known instructors in the personal growth space.
The platform takes a holistic approach to well-being, providing unique and transformative content. However, the subject matter may not appeal to everyone.
- Personal development focus
- Well-known instructors
- Holistic approach to well-being
- Unique and transformative content
- Emphasis on holistic learning
- Subject matter may not appeal to everyone
- Less traditional academic content
edX, another major player in the online learning space, offers courses from universities and institutions globally.
Those looking to enhance their skills in specific areas can pursue a MicroMaster or professional certificate. Some courses on edX may have a steeper learning curve, and the cost of verified certificates can be a consideration for budget-conscious learners.
- University-backed courses
- MicroMasters and professional certificates
- Global partnerships
- Emphasis on academic rigor
- Options for professional certifications
- Some courses may have a steep learning curve
- Verified certificates can be pricey
While not technically an online learning platform, CareerFoundry offers online programs in UX and UI design, full-stack web development, data analytics, digital marketing, product management, and product design.
With up-to-date curricula that incorporates AI, mentorship from those in the field, and a job guarantee, CareerFoundry is a great option for anyone considering a career in tech. Advanced courses are also available for those interested in upskilling.
- Widely-respected courses for career changers
- Expert mentors
- Job guarantee within 6 months of graduating
- Award-winning online education
- No need to quit your job
- Advanced courses available
- Does not cover academic topics
- Casual learners may prefer less in-depth courses
While online learning platforms offer significant advantages, it’s essential to consider individual preferences, learning styles, and the specific goals of learners or institutions. The value of online learning platforms can vary depending on the context and the quality of the educational content provided.
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