In today’s dynamic job market, developing new skills and abilities has become essential for opening doors to new opportunities and better income. Continual learning enables both staying competitive in your career and pursuing personal growth or passions outside of work as well.
With the wealth of learning resources online, how do you determine the best websites for efficiently mastering fresh skills or subjects? This guide examines highly-effective online learning platforms across a variety of topics along with key tips for getting the most from your digital education.
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Coursera offers over 5,000 courses on diverse subjects from computer programming to wildlife photography to positive psychology and beyond. With acclaimed university partners like Duke, University of Michigan, and Stanford, Coursera makes the same world-class instruction available to anyone looking to expand their abilities and knowledge.
- Covers popular skills like data science, marketing, finance as well as niche hobbies perfect for lifelong learning.
- Structured courses with video lectures, readings, quizzes, and hands-on projects. Earn certificates of completion.
- Most classes self-paced. Some use scheduled cohorts for interactive learning.
- Partners with 200+ leading universities and companies worldwide, including Google, IBM, and Yale.
With rigorous, practical curriculum designed by distinguished professors and industry leaders, Coursera efficiently develops in-demand job skills along with unique hobbies or passions.
Created through a partnership between MIT and Harvard, edX offers high-quality online courses designed to provide affordable and accessible education to learners worldwide. With over 35 million students, it’s one of the largest global online learning communities.
- 2,500+ courses across technology, business, humanities, music, and more from leading institutions.
- Audit most courses for free or pay a fee ($100-$300) for graded assignments and verified certificates.
- Self-paced learning – courses structured into short video lessons with knowledge checks.
- MicroBachelors and MicroMasters credentials allow earning credit toward graduate degrees.
For rigorous courses focused on building core academic and professional abilities, edX provides premier access to educational institutions normally out of reach.
Skillshare is an online learning community with thousands of classes focused on fostering creativity and productivity. With short video lessons taught by inspiring practitioners rather than dry academic lectures, Skillshare’s courses unleash creative potential through art, design, entrepreneurship, tech, and more.
- 30,000+ video courses and growing rapidly. Focus on creative skills rather than academic subjects.
- Taught by working creative professionals looking to share practical real-world skills.
- Easy-to-digest classes structured into short lessons of 10-20 minutes for quick learning.
- Premium yearly membership provides unlimited access to all courses for just $168, discounted for first year.
For refreshing and engaging courses that feed the inner creative spirit while teaching tangible skills, Skillshare hits the mark. Quick classes with focused learning outcomes make progress easy.
With 183,000+ courses on nearly any topic imaginable, Udemy provides an unparalleled breadth of affordable, on-demand learning. While course quality varies given the platform’s scope and open marketplace model, thoughtful vetting reveals diamonds in the rough.
- Massive course catalog on topics from photography to yoga to accounting and beyond. Narrow niche courses abound.
- Inexpensive pricing, frequently as low as $10-$15 per course when sales run. Many under $50.
- Instructors include a mix of individual subject matter experts, companies, and professors.
- Beginner to advanced courses available. Focus is building practical skills.
For niche skills training at accessible pricing, Udemy is a powerful player. Just be selective in assessing course and instructor quality before enrolling.
5. LinkedIn Learning
Boasting 7,000+ expertly-produced online video courses, LinkedIn Learning helps professionals strengthen in-demand business, creative, and technical skills through affordable and convenient online education.
- Skills focused courses on design, programming, business software, leadership, marketing, engineering, and much more. Aligned to workplace needs.
- Instructors are industry practitioners looking to share practical real-world expertise.
- Generate certificates to showcase professional development and new abilities.
- Available as stand-alone subscription for around $30/month or free with some corporate LinkedIn accounts.
With its robust digital course library and career-focused skills training, LinkedIn Learning is ideal for professional development across industries and roles.
MasterClass takes an engaging insider approach by enlisting celebrities and industry icons to teach online courses focused on their skills and experience. Learn photography from Annie Leibovitz, acting from Natalie Portman, writing from Dan Brown, and much more.
- 90+ courses led by well-known masters like Christina Aguilera, Gordon Ramsay, Neil deGrasse Tyson and others at the pinnacle of their fields.
- Production quality is cinematic and visually dazzling. Content goes beyond basics to provide unique insights instructors gained through their professional journeys.
- All access pass starts at $15 per month. Individual classes are $90+ as one-time purchases.
For inspiration from the greats packaged into visually stunning courses focused on niche creative passions, MasterClass captivates lifelong learners through memorable learning experiences.
7. Khan Academy
As a non-profit organization, Khan Academy offers completely free online courses focused on academic core subjects and test preparation. With over 139 million registered users benefiting from its library of over 10,000 interactive lessons, it’s a premier destination for supplemental studies.
- Courses focused on K-12 math, science, computing, grammar, history, AP test review, and more. From elementary to advanced.
- Taught by educators, subject experts, and qualified teachers. Conveys concepts in an upbeat and engaging way.
- Bite-sized lessons with frequent quizzes for knowledge reinforcement. Makes concepts stick.
- Personalized dashboard tracks progress and identifies areas needing improvement.
For foundational studies across core academic disciplines, Khan Academy’s structured curriculum and completely free access makes it a top choice.
With 1,700+ video courses taught by industry practitioners, Pluralsight excels at delivering specialized technical training for developers, IT ops, cybersecurity pros and creatives. Skills covered range from mobile app development to ethical hacking to animation and everything in between.
- Industry-leading courses focused on high demand technology disciplines like cloud computing, AI, machine learning, ethical hacking, programming languages, game development and more.
- Taught by tech experts who undergo a rigorous approval process. Content accuracy is assured.
- User dashboard assesses skills and recommends courses for reaching proficiency in topics and tech job roles.
- Plans range from $29-$45 per month for personal use, often free via corporate accounts.
For no-fluff technology skills training, Pluralsight provides cutting edge online courses that keep you relevant in fields moving at light speed.
At Treehouse, the focus is building in-demand skills needed for careers in web development, coding, app building, and technology. Through 1,100+ video tutorials, they make learning web design, front-end development, programming languages, and related computer skills both engaging and efficient.
- Step-by-step coding tutorials backed up by interactive code challenges and quizzes to reinforce proficiency.
- Tracks structure related courses into pathways focused on building expertise in areas like React development, WordPress, Python, iOS mobile apps etc.
- Membership plans start at $25 per month. Free trials available.
Treehouse efficiently helps students go from no prior experience to working developer by teaching real-world programming skills through quality video instruction supplemented with labs and assessments.
If you learn best through direct 1-on-1 teaching tailored exactly to your needs, Sidetrain connects you with expert instructors worldwide for personalized online lessons in hundreds of subjects. You control scheduling and pace.
- One-on-one video sessions provide individual guidance from hand-picked teachers.
- Lessons scheduled based on your availability – evenings, weekends, anytime 24/7.
- Intro packages start at just $49 for 155 minutes of lessons. Custom plans available.
- 300+ skilled instructors across music, academics, fitness, design, technology and more.
For accelerated skills building through focused personal instruction and coaching, Sidetrain delivers a fully customized learning experience.
Key Considerations Choosing the Best Learning Platforms
With this sample of highly-effective online learning websites, how do you determine which are the best matches for your goals? Key factors to evaluate include:
Subject Area Alignment
- Ensure the platform offers robust course selection in your topics of interest at the depth you need. Avoid limited niche sites if seeking breadth.
- Research credentials of the instructors. Are they true subject matter experts and experienced teachers able to convey complex topics clearly?
- Compare subscription rates and single course fees. Is the investment worthwhile for what you gain access to? Do free tiers provide enough?
Learning Style Fit
- Do you prefer structured video courses, flexible self-paced articles, or personalized 1-on-1 teaching? Identify formats fitting your needs.
Credibility & Reputation
- Choose reputable, established sites with proven track records of positive learner outcomes, especially for hard skills training tied to earning potential.
Selecting platforms excelling across these criteria help ensure you pick the best website to unlock your potential efficiently through high value skills acquisition.
Maximizing Learning With Online Education
Once you’ve selected powerful online learning platforms well-suited to your goals, here are tips to help you get the most from your virtual classes and instruction:
Create an environment without disruptions, notifications, or multitasking. Stay fully immersed in course content for best retention.
Take Great Notes
Actively take notes to process lessons rather than passively listening. Review regularly to reinforce memory.
If courses include discussion forums or study groups, participate consistently to exchange ideas and insight with peers.
Find real-world ways to put new skills into practice rather than just learning theory. Application accelerates growth.
Use dashboards and analytics to track progress. Identify weak points needing more focus. Stay accountable.
Leverage accredited certifications from reputable platforms to showcase capabilities to employers.
Making learning a priority and proactively applying yourself will ensure online education delivers strong ROI on your investment and unlocks opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Online Learning
How do I start learning skills online?
To start effectively building skills through online learning:
- Set specific learning goals based on abilities you want to develop. Get very clear on desired outcomes.
- Identify online learning platforms that offer robust instruction in your focus areas. Vet instructors and curriculum.
- Enroll in a course or two to pilot test different platforms. See what instructional styles engage you best.
- Develop a consistent learning schedule to stick to. Commit time to actively watching lessons, taking quizzes, and completing projects in your courses.
- Remove distractions and stay immersed when learning. Pause frequently to take summary notes.
- Interact on course forums and study groups when available. Surround yourself with peers.
- Apply what you learn to real-world activities as soon as possible. Practical application accelerates proficiency.
Staying focused, consistent, and accountable will help ensure you realize your goals and maximize your investment of time and money.
How do I find free online classes?
Many high-quality online classes are available for free. Options include:
- EDx – 2,500+ courses to audit from Harvard, MIT, Microsoft and more
- Khan Academy – 10,000+ lessons for K-12 and college core academic subjects
- YouTube Edu – Lessons from educators and TED talks on infinite topics
- iTunes U – Free college courses from leading global universities
- Skillshare – 7,000+ classes with initial free membership
- Udemy – Filter for 700+ courses designated as free
- FutureLearn – 1000+ courses where only quizzes and certifications carry fees
- Alison – Beginner level classes across business, tech, creative skills
- Coursera – 3,000+ courses to preview lessons for free, some entirely free
- OpenCourseWare – Materials from over 350 universities like Notre Dame, University of Michigan
You can access endless knowledge spending little to no money by leveraging these free resources. Just be selective in assessing quality.
How long do online courses take?
Time to complete online courses depends on factors like:
- Course length – Self-paced courses range from 1 hour overview classes to 40+ hour comprehensive certificate programs.
- Study intensity – Progress faster devoting 10+ hours per week rather than just 1-2 hours.
- Scheduling – Cohort-based courses with set schedules require sticking to the pace. Self-paced classes allow setting your own timeline.
- Difficulty level – Beginner courses move quicker than upper level courses tackling complex topics.
- Personal goals – Supplemental enrichment learning may proceed casually vs. intensive training for new career skills.
On average though, plan to spend 6-8 weeks completing a typical 10 hour course studying around 2 hours per week. Give more time for advanced curriculum. Create a realistic schedule and stick to it for best retention and completion.
Are online certificates worth it?
It depends. For personal enrichment, free informal online learning often suffices. But for advancing career opportunities and skills, accredited certificates carry much more weight. Some examples of certificates worth the investment include:
- Google Career Certificates – Recognized certification of digital skills valued by 130+ employers including Google.
- PMP Certification – Industry credential for in-demand project management skills from the Project Management Institute.
- IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Certificate from Coursera – Develops valued technical skills specific to the field.
- edX XSeries Certificate Programs – Denotes deep subject matter competency from leading universities like MIT and Harvard.
- PMI Certifications like PMP or CAPM – Validates project management expertise from the industry authority.
When certificates come from respected institutions and develop knowledge or abilities directly applicable to target jobs, the investment pays dividends in career advancement and salary potential.
Can you get a job with an online certificate?
Yes, accredited online certificates can enhance job prospects and highlight in-demand skills to employers. Examples of certificates that improve hiring potential include:
- UX/UI Design Certificates from Google and other tech firms valued in the design field.
- TEFL/TESOL Certificates qualify candidates for teaching English abroad roles.
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) validates networking abilities for IT roles.
- Human Resources Certificates like aPHR demonstrate HR operations skills.
- Bookkeeping Certificates like Quickbooks establish accounting qualifications.
The key is choosing certificate programs teaching concrete specialized abilities tied to open positions, rather than general soft skills. Target recognized credentials directly aligned with target job requirements.
Final Tips on Learning Online Effectively
At the end of the day, your success will come down to consistently taking small steps forward. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to master too much too quickly. Find one or two promising websites conducive to your learning preferences and focus there.
Learning online does require greater discipline than traditional classroom environments. But the skills and knowledge you can gain are invaluable to reaching goals.
Whether supplementing your formal education, advancing your career, enriching personal interests, or simply expanding your intellectual horizons, structured online learning unlocks immense possibilities. You hold the power to grow your abilities exponentially. Start where you are, use these resources, and commit to the journey of continual growth. The online education resources available today make the capacity for self-improvement limitless!