Best digital learning platform
8 Online Learning Platforms That Allow You To Move At Your Own Pace
The world is constantly changing whether we like it or not. While many of us are spending more time at home due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s still possible to expand your knowledge and skill set—for personal or professional growth—by taking advantage of low-cost online learning platforms.
As you’re about to discover, a variety of websites offer online courses that allow you to participate in classes, workshops or seminars taught by world-renowned instructors. Best of all, you can typically take advantage of these on-demand learning opportunities around your own schedule and at your own pace. You can also use your own device to take these classes, obtain new certifications or expand your professional skillset, and then use your newfound knowledge to command a higher salary or make yourself a more desirable applicant when applying for a job. Of course, you can also take advantage of these services for your own personal enrichment by pursuing knowledge related to subjects or hobbies of interest.
The online learning opportunities you’re about to discover are all free or affordable, but only some offer actual accreditations or recognized diplomas. Others simply offer knowledge or the ability to enhance your skill set relating to almost any topic imaginable. So if you’re looking to expand your horizons in 2022, let’s take a look at 10 online-based services that offer a wide selection of eLearning opportunities.
Learn from U.S. Presidents and Other Proven Leaders
For between $15 and $23 per month, MasterClass gives you unlimited access to more than 150 premium-quality classes (each containing an average of 20 lessons that are at least 10 minutes in length) taught by A-list celebrities, business leaders, U.S. Presidents, bestselling authors, world-renowned chefs, professional athletes and pioneers in their respective fields.
Covering categories like food, design & style, music, writing, wellness, photography, government and sports, these are primarily personal enrichment courses that allow you learn all about the specific subjects you’re interested in—at your own pace.
You can stream and watch MasterClass programs can be streamed and watches using almost any connected device with a display. In addition to the on-demand programming, the “MasterClass Sessions” classes offer a more interactive and hands-on approach to learning that includes interaction with fellow participants and teaching assistants.
Finding a course you’re interested in is easy thanks to a menu that starts by listing subject categories. Select a category, and then browse through each relevant course that’s offered. Upon clicking on a specific course, you can read an overview of what’s covered, watch a sample lesson and determine the class length.
All of the MasterClass courses feature broadcast-quality production with crystal-clear audio and video that’s presented in a highly engaging way. Nowhere else can you learn about writing thrillers from an instructor like Dan Brown, learn how to create restaurant-quality meals at home from the likes of Gordon Ramsay or develop inclusive leadership skills with the help of President Bill Clinton.
Peruse More Than 40,000 Online Classes
For a mere $14 per month (with no long-term commitment), SkillShare gives you unlimited access to thousands of hands-on classes related to all aspects of creativity—such as writing, illustration, design, photography, videography, cooking, baking and more. Whether you want to develop new skills, find yourself a hobby, deepen your existing passion for a creative activity or find new and interesting ways to spend your time, the classes offered by SkillShare are all produced and taught by experts and industry leaders.
Beyond personal enrichment classes, SkillShare offers a selection of entrepreneurship, business, marketing, and leadership classes that will help you round out your professional skillset and better prepare you for the fast-changing job market.
What’s great about SkillShare is that it’s accessible from any mobile device, so from your tablet, for example, you can stream or download the necessary content and then do your learning from virtually anywhere. The class descriptions are detailed, so at a glance, you’ll know exactly what will be covered, who will be teaching, what materials are needed and how long the class will take to complete.
If you work in an occupation or for an employer that must meet a wide range of governmental regulations related to food and beverage, real estate, insurance, Human Resources or environmental health and safety, for example, you’ll likely need to undergo rigorous training to ensure you have the knowledge needed to be compliant.
360Training.com is a one-stop shop for acquiring the regulatory-approved training you need. Your work is automatically saved in the cloud as you progress through the courses, so you can pick up where you left off at a later time, even if you’re using a different computer or mobile device.
All of the company’s more than 6,000 courses are always up to date with the latest regulations and allow you to create all of the reports needed for your employer upon completion. The courses are well-produced and highly interactive. Prices vary based on the course, but most are extremely affordable.
Classes From World-Class Universities And Companies
Coursera allows participants to build their skills with courses, certificates and degrees using eLearning programs prepared and presented by instructors from more than 200 world-class universities and companies.
In addition to in-depth courses that cover a wide range of subjects, Coursera offers more than 4,000 programs that can be completed in just one day and that can help expand your professional skill set or focus on personal enrichment. For example, you can learn about problem solving using computational thinking from an instructor who teaches at University of Michigan, and on another day learn all about music for wellness from an instructor from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.
Coursera reports that 87% of people learning for professional development experience career benefits, like landing a promotion, earning a raise or finding a new career and job altogether, which is probably why more than 87 million people have turned to this service as their primary source for online learning.
Some courses offered by Coursera are free, while the more in-depth and longer courses have individual fees or a required subscription associated with them. For example, a professional certificate in a chosen subject will cost $39 per month, with a time requirement of between one and six months, while a MasterTrack Certificate will take between four and seven months to complete and has a starting cost of $2,000. A Coursera Plus subscription gives you access to more than 3,000 courses for a $59 flat monthly fee (or $399 per year), which you can cancel anytime.
Take Classes From More Than 160 Member Universities
Since its formation in 2012, edX has been a free, not-for-profit online learning service created as a joint venture by several prestigious universities, including Harvard and MIT. With more than 160 content partners, edX now offers more than 3,500 courses, has had more than 110 million enrollments, and has issued more than 1.4 million verified course certificates.
In late-2021, edX joined forces with a for-profit company, called 2U. What you’ll discover from the edX website is the opportunity to participate in courses that cover more than 30 subjects—from architecture and art, to biology, business, and computer programming.
There are also eLearning opportunities that allow participants to earn a Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree or a professional certificate, for example. If you want to learn without the ability to earn a degree or certificate, almost all of edX’s offerings are free. There are low fees associated with more advanced courses, however, and these typically offer certificates or degrees upon completion.
FutureLearn Offers Hundreds Of Free Courses
FutureLearn offers a vast selection of online-based courses that are taught by professors from world class universities and industry experts. You can choose courses designed to teach new new skills or prepare you for a job or career charge, or find enrichment classes that will help you pursue a particular interest or engage more fully in a chosen hobby.
For example, the service offers a vast selection of what it calls “boredom buster” classes that’ll help you learn a new language, pursue a new hobby or somehow enhance your personal skill set.
Most of the courses offered by FutureLearn are designed to be completed within six to 10 weeks, but a selection of shorter duration classes are also available in each subject category. Some eLearning courses offered by FutureLearn are free. In some cases, you can pay by the class, or there’s a subscription program that gives you unlimited access to hundreds of short courses.
Take Personal and Professional Growth Courses
What’s unique about iversity is that the service offers online learning opportunities that are taught in more than a dozen different languages and the service attracts a global community of participants. The course catalog is extremely diverse and focuses on both personal and professional enrichment. Pricing varies based on each course and its duration.
Expand Your Mind With New Knowledge
For a monthly membership fee starting at just $42, you’ll gain access to MindValley’s vast selection of online courses and programs, many of which allow participants to discover “transformational wisdom and ideas” that are not typically covered in mainstream learning. The courses focus on body, mind, soul, relationships, career performance, money and entrepreneurship.
After registering, your learning journey begins with a 22-minute online assessment that’s designed to reveal which areas of your life require the most urgent attention. Based on the test results, you’ll be able to choose the right learning “quests” for your personal needs and goals, effectively designing your own learning curriculum.
Mindvalley works with highly skilled and experienced instructors who are experts in their subject matter. Most of the courses utilize micro-learning, which breaks up the content into lessons that take less than 20 minutes each to complete. In addition to the classes themselves, MindValley hosts a vast online community that allows students to interact with each other, ask questions and engage in discussions while pursuing their education.
While you can access MindValley using any Internet-connected computer or smart TV, the service has specialized mobile apps for smartphones and tablets available from the App Store (iPhone/iPad) and Google Play Store (Android-based devices).
An Interactive Way To Learn Another Language
If you’ve always dreamed of learning to speak a foreign language but didn’t want to invest the time and effort required, Rosetta Store offers a proprietary, unique and interactive learning method that takes just a few minutes per day. It relies on the interactive capabilities of your computer or mobile device to teach you the language of your choice in a manner that’s easy, efficient, fun and convenient.
Choose to learn any of 25 different languages, and then participate in virtual real-world scenarios, interactive activities, games and audio instruction that allow you to learn words and phrases that you can practice using in multiple contexts, all the while receiving instant feedback on your pronunciation and comprehension.
Choose From Thousands Of Udemy Courses
Udemy offers a vast mishmash of learning opportunities taught by independent instructors. They set their own pricing for the eLearning programs they create for the platform, although many courses are priced at just $14.
From the Udemy website, you can choose your area of interest and then browse through the dozens (or, in some cases, hundreds) of individual classes related to the selected subject.
The trick to choosing the best classes is to define your learning goals in advance and then read each course description carefully. Pay extra attention to the “What You’ll Learn” section of each class description, but also focus on the credentials of the instructor and the average star-based rating the course has earned from past participants. For example, a class that’s earned a 4.5 or higher star-based rating (out of five stars) based on thousands of individual ratings from past participants is a good indication that the course is top-notch.
All classes offer a short preview, so you can see a sampling of the content and its production quality, see how the information is presented and get acquainted with the instructor before registering and paying for the course. To date, more than 45 million people have taken online courses via Udemy, which now offers more than 175,000 individual course options.
What To Consider Before Signing Up For An eLearning Experience
Before signing up to take any eLearning classes, figure out what topics or subjects you’re interested in and what you’re looking to get out of the experience. Next, consider how much of a time commitment you’re willing to make, and your budget.
Then, as you’re evaluating specific eLearning opportunities, consider the contents of the curriculum, the instructor’s qualifications, and the format of the classes or program. Take into account how you personally enjoy learning new information—whether it’s through interactive experiences, watching and listening to a lecture, seeing live or video-based demonstrations, or reading text-based material, for example.
Some opportunities virtually replicate an in-person college or graduate-level learning experience that provides interaction with the instructor, while others offer more passive instructional videos or require the student to rely heavily on reading eBook-style textbooks. With a little bit of research, you should have no trouble finding courses that cover the subjects you’re interested in and that nicely cater to your learning needs and schedule.
Understand How Pricing Works
To get you started, most of these online learning services offer a free trial period with an easy sign up process. However, not all of them are upfront about ongoing pricing once the trial period ends.
Yes, some of these services do offer unlimited free classes, or at least free introductory classes. Some, however, charge you a per-class fee, monthly subscription fee or an annual fee to participate in an entire class or to acquire unlimited access to some or all of the classes offered.
Before investing too much time in a specific class, determine the fees involved with registering and completing the desired curriculum (if any), and for higher learning, figure out whether you’ll need to pay extra to receive a certificate, degree or accreditation upon completing the class. Also determine if you’ll need to pay extra to purchase course materials.
YouTube Has A Vat Of Free Educational Content
Regardless of what you’re looking to learn, consider checking out what’s available for free on YouTube. Here, you’ll find an ever-growing library of educational video content relating to any topic imaginable.
Within YouTube’s Search field, simply enter the topic or subject you’re interested in, or enter a question relating to knowledge you want to acquire. When choosing which videos to watch, pay attention to each video’s title, description, instructor, the number of views it’s received and the number of Likes it’s earned. This will help you weed out content that’s not directly of interest to you.
Access YouTube using any web browser on your computer or smart TV, or from your mobile device using the official (and free) YouTube mobile app, which is available from the Apple App Store (iPhone/iPad) or Google Play Store (Android). Pro-tip: A YouTube Premium subscription gets rid of those pesky ads.
An iPad Makes Online Learning Easier And Convenient
With a starting price of $329, the Apple iPad offers a convenient way to participate in any eLearning experience from virtually anywhere—without having to lug around any heavy equipment. Using the iPad’s multitasking capabilities, for example, you can open an eLearning service’s website or proprietary mobile app and view it on half the screen, while taking notes using a note taking app on the other half of the screen, or instantly switch between apps with a finger swipe.
The iPad is also ideal for creatives looking to work on their design skills, as you can purchase an Apple Pencil separately. Whether you’re drawing, taking notes or looking for more fine-tuned control in a bevy of creative apps, it’s an invaluable tool.
The 64GB iPad offers enough internal storage space to download and store plenty of online course content to watch anytime, and you can stream the content whenever a connection is handy. You may want to consider bumping up to the next storage tier if you’re going for something in the creative field, especially video creation.
The iPad weighs just 1.07 pounds, offers a beautiful 10.2-inch display, and is powered by Apple’s A13 Bionic processor. It runs iPadOS 15—the latest mobile operating system for Apple’s tablets—which comes bundled with a wide range of powerful apps. More than a million additional iPad-specific apps are available from the App Store, including proprietary apps for most of the popular eLearning services.
With a battery life that lasts up to 10 hours between charges, the iPad is an ideal tool to use in conjunction with any online-based learning experience, especially if you want to participate in online classes without having to sit at a desk in front of a computer.
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