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There’s a reason people are turning to online learning en masse. Students can learn at their own pace; save money on tuition, and other expenses, and dabble in bite-sized courses before committing to any intensive or expensive programs.
Some e-learning platforms are free, while others let you take as many courses as you want for a small payment or monthly fee. You can learn how to be happier, make money on Etsy, or get published; earn professional certifications; gain skills that help you get hired in a quickly changing market, and even work towards master’s degrees.
Whether you want to advance your career or pick up new hobbies, online courses are one way the internet is democratizing information — even in the form of free Ivy League courses like Harvard’s CS50 courses. All you need is internet access.
Coursera has thousands of classes taught by top instructors such as Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, and from some of the world’s best universities and educational institutions. You’ll find Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Duke courses. You can even earn degrees and certifications through the site.
Topics range widely, from public health to personal development. Courses have pre-recorded videos, quizzes, and projects. And, for a fee, you can also earn certificates for your work which you can add to your LinkedIn and resume.
How to get started: Sign up with an email address. On average, individual courses range from $29-$99 each for certification, though there are plenty of free courses you can audit.
Founded by Harvard University and MIT, edX hosts classes from the world’s leading universities, nonprofits, and institutions, and is currently the only leading MOOC provider that is both a nonprofit and open-source platform.
edX has more than 100 institutional partners, including Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. Its thousands of courses range from the arts to architecture, economics, law, and more. You can also enroll in MicroMasters, master’s programs, or earn professional certificates.
How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Except for professional education programs, edX courses are free to enroll in and audit. If you want a verified certificate (which you can add to LinkedIn and your resume), there is a fee (usually between $50-$300, depending on the course).
FutureLearn, like edX and Coursera, offers thousands of free university courses and paid certificate programs from top schools, nonprofits, and brands. One way it differs from the other platforms is that it’s based in England, therefore it has more offerings from UK schools and companies as well as a range of international institutions.
FutureLearn offers short courses, Microcredential programs, ExpertTracks, and online degrees.
How to get started: Sign up with an email address. You can audit many courses for free (usually for up to five weeks), pay for individual programs, or sign up for FutureLearn’s Unlimited subscription plan, which provides limitless access to hundreds of courses for $189.99 per year.
OneDayU is like traditional academia mixed with TED Talks. Expert professors from schools like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia speak on everything from how music shapes the brain to watching movies like a film professor. It’s a great option if you want to learn something new but don’t want hours of video or any homework; each lecture is only about an hour long.
How to get started: Sign up with your email address to start a free two-week trial. Once it ends, you’ll be charged $9 per month (it’s slightly cheaper if you buy an annual membership).
MasterClass has online classes taught by world-renowned instructors in each specialty, such as Gordon Ramsay, Margaret Atwood, and Serena Williams, among others. The courses are for students at any skill level, and cover topics from cooking and gardening to meditation and the science of sleep.
MasterClass has more than 100 courses, each broken up into bite-sized, high-quality videos. Each class was created by the instructor and typically includes pre-recorded video content, a PDF of a class workbook, interactive assignments, and sometimes community activities. Periodically, MasterClass even has opportunities for students to submit work to certain instructors for feedback.
How to get started: If there are multiple classes you’d like to take, sign up for an All-Access Pass ($180 per year or $15 per month) to access unlimited course lessons for as long as your subscription is active.
LinkedIn Learning is a subscription-based online learning platform that lets you take over 16,000 career development courses, from coding classes to time management tutorials. One benefit of this platform is that it offers courses around what companies are looking for based on LinkedIn’s hiring data.
Courses are usually made up of short videos, quizzes, and occasional assignments. LinkedIn Learning members also receive certificates of completion to add to their LinkedIn profiles at no extra charge.
How to get started: You can sign up for a free month with your LinkedIn profile. After the trial ends, the subscription costs $29.99 per month or $19.99 per month for the annual plan.
It also has structured curriculum roadmaps like Career Paths that teach the core skills of Computer Science, Data Science, and Web Development, as well as Skill Paths focused on more specialized, shorter-term goals. You can take a quiz here if you’re not sure where you should start or take a free class before committing to a subscription plan.
How to get started: Sign up with your email address. Basic access is free, but the site’s Pro subscription is $20/month (billed once per year for $240) and gives members access to things like step-by-step guidance and projects. Eligible students can also sign up for the cheaper Student Pro membership ($150/year) with the same features.
Skillshare offers more than 25,000 classes taught by creators, entrepreneurs, and professionals from around the world. Course topics span various categories such as design, illustration, business, technology, photo and film, entrepreneurship, and writing.
Each class has short video lessons and a hands-on project for you to work on, which can be shared in class for feedback and collaboration from the community. Skillshare will also recommend classes and “lists” — essentially a curated curriculum for a topic like graphic design or branding — based on your interests.
How to get started: Get a free 14-day trial account with just an email address. You’ll have access to free classes on both web and mobile. For full access to all classes and offline viewing, a premium membership is billed $32 per month or $13.99 per month for the annual plan ($167.88 total).
Udemy has probably the largest selection of online courses, with more than 100,000 video courses and new additions published every month. With frequent sales (and sale prices as low as $10.99 per course), it’s often one of the most affordable options as well.
Currently, there are more than 30 million students using the service and courses are available in more than 50 languages.
Topics range from programming bootcamps to in-depth art lessons.
How to get started: Sign up with an email address to browse courses. With an account, you can buy or gift individual courses, or enroll in one of the free courses offered through Udemy.
CreativeLive is a learning platform designed specifically for creators, with more than 1,500 classes taught by over 650 industry-leading experts. Each class falls under one of five categories: photo and video; art and design; music and audio, craft and maker; or money and life. Ultimately, the classes are centered around making creativity a habit, be it in your personal or professional life.
How to get started: Sign up with an email address. Classes are as low as $20, and you can buy and own them forever — just in case you need a refresher one day.
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