Online learning is growing faster than ever — we compared 4 of the top platforms to help you decide which one makes sense for you

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  • The rise of online learning platforms is democratizing education by allowing people to learn pretty much anything from home. 
  • However, there are countless types of online classes and platforms to choose from, which can be overwhelming.
  • To make it easier, we compared and broke down the differences between four of the most popular online learning platforms: Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare. 

Thanks to online learning platforms, education is being democratized, breaking down traditional barriers to access like high costs and location. But also, online classes are a great way to gain new skills and stay engaged while many of us are spending more time at home during the pandemic. You can learn anything, from photography to computer science, anywhere and at any time.

These days, there are countless types of classes and online learning platforms to choose from. You could spend years absorbing the differences in coding languages, strategizing how to most effectively leverage email marketing tactics for your small business, or in a very meta twist, learning how to learn — and then move on to a different platform and do it all over again.

To help you make sense of the different models, we compared four popular online learning platforms: Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare.

We looked at pricing, course offerings, and the teachers who will be guiding you through it all. We also found the top courses from each platform so you can get an idea of why students flock to each site. 

Keep scrolling to find a platform to suit your particular needs, whether you want to gain the skills necessary for that next promotion or just love learning for the sake of learning.

Coursera

Coursera partners with top universities and organizations to offer more than 3,900 academic courses on its online learning platform. In addition to courses, it offers specializations and online degrees. Its mission is to provide "universal access to the world's best education."

Course categories:

  • Arts & humanities, social sciences
  • Business, computer science, data science, math & logic
  • Life sciences, physical science & engineering 
  • Language learning

Pricing: 

  • Free or pay-per-course for expanded access. Applications for financial aid are available. 
  • $29 to $99 per course
  • $39 to $79 per month for specializations (series of courses culminating in a Capstone Project)
  • $15,000 to $25,000 for an accredited master's degree 

What you get:

  • Free users get access to course materials like videos.
  • Paid users also get access to assignments, and will receive a final grade.
  • Paid certificate of completion for courses and specializations, or a degree certification. 

Teachers:

  • Instructors from top universities and other educational institutions around the world

Apps available on:

  • iOS and Android devices

Corporate or team programs available for:

  • Business and government 

Languages:

  • Video subtitles are available in over 30 languages.

Popular courses:

  • Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects | UC San Diego, 4.8 stars from 69,548 ratings
  • Machine Learning | Stanford University, 4.9 stars from 152,404 ratings
  • Programming for Everyone (Getting Started with Python) | University of Michigan, 4.8 stars from 174,801 ratings
  • R Programming | Johns Hopkins University, 4.5 stars from 20,018 ratings
  • Grammar and Punctuation | UC Irvine, 4.7 stars from 16,083 ratings

Use Coursera if: 

  • You want access to the minds of the world's top universities without having to pay the cost of higher education. 
  • You need a scheduled pace to keep you moving and motivated, rather than going at your own pace. 
  • You would like to complete an online master's degree, potentially for a lower fee. 

Browse and sign up for courses on Coursera.

Udemy

Udemy is the world's largest marketplace for online learning, offering over 100,000 courses across a large range of categories. Its mission is "to improve lives through learning." 

Course categories:

  • Development, IT & software, business, office productivity
  • Design, marketing, photography, music
  • Lifestyle, personal development, health & fitness 
  • Teacher training, academics, language, test prep

Pricing: 

  • Pay-per-course. There is no loyalty or subscription program.
  • Some classes are offered for free.
  • Paid classes range from $10 (when discounted) to $200 per course.
  • Huge discounts happen fairly often, so check back often!

What you get:

  • Full lifetime access to the course
  • Learning tools: videos, articles, PowerPoint presentations, audio, assessments, and online discussion boards 
  • Certificate of completion depending on the course 

Teachers:

  • Experts in their field who create and manage the course

Apps available on:

  • iOS, Android, and Apple TV devices 

Corporate or team programs available for:

  • Business 

Languages:

  • The website is localized for 16 languages to make it easier for non-English users to browse courses offered in both English and their native language. 

Popular courses:

  • Web Developer Bootcamp | 623,987 students enrolled, 4.7 stars from 190,174 ratings 
  • Machine Learning A-Z: Hands-On Python & R in Data Science | 725,253 students enrolled, 4.5 stars from 137,164 ratings
  • JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts |155,326 students enrolled, 4.7 stars from 39,864 ratings
  • Angular 4—The Complete Guide | 444,763 students, 4.6 stars from 135,101 rating
  • Learn and Understand AngularJS | 86,375 students enrolled, 4.4 stars from 19,352 ratings

Use Udemy if: 

  • You like choosing from a variety of options for nearly every topic imaginable.
  • You don't plan to take a lot of classes in the same time period. The cost of individual classes can add up quickly without promotions.
  • You're an expert who would like to share your skills and make some money. 

Browse and sign up for courses on Udemy.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda) is a LinkedIn-owned online learning platform that offers over 15,000 courses, with more being added almost weekly. It seeks to help users "learn from industry experts, and connect with a global network of experience." 

Course categories:

  • Business
  • Technology
  • Creative

Pricing: 

  • Free 30-day trial 
  • Monthly subscription plan, from $29.99 per month
  • Yearly subscription plan, from $19.99 per month

What you get:

  • Unlimited access to LinkedIn Learning's entire course library
  • Personalized course recommendations
  • Offline viewing with the mobile app
  • Access to LinkedIn's Premium Career features

Teachers:

  • Experts in their field who create and manage the course

Apps available on:

  • iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Apple TV devices 

Corporate or team programs available for:

  • Academic, business, and government 

Languages:

  • Courses are offered in English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin, and Portuguese.

Popular courses:

  • Photoshop CC 2020 Essential Training | 41,380 views
  • Online Marketing Foundations | 305,237 views
  • Jodi Glickman on Pitching Yourself| 397,636 views 
  • Management Tips Weekly |150,449 views 
  • The Practicing Photographer | 66,884 views 

Use LinkedIn Learning if: 

  • You would like to supplement your current professional or educational experience.
  • You plan to consistently take courses in order to make the subscription worth it.
  • You are an expert who would like to share your skills and make some money. 

Start your free trial on LinkedIn Learning.

Skillshare

Skillshare is an online learning platform that offers over 20,000 classes, projects, and workshops. Its mission is "to provide high-quality, personalized learning to millions of students worldwide." 

Course categories:

  • Animation, design, illustration
  • Lifestyle
  • Business
  • Photo & Film
  • Writing

Pricing: 

  • Free 30-day trial 
  • Many classes are free to access
  • Monthly subscription plan, $19 per month
  • Annual subscription plan, from $8.25 per month. Need-based, small business, and student scholarships are available.

What you get:

  • Unlimited access to Skillshare's entire class library
  • Offline access to classes
  • Learning tools: videos and projects
  • Discounts on creative services like Shutterstock, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and Squarespace for Annual subscribers

Teachers:

  • Experts in their field who create and manage the course

Apps available on:

  • iOS, Android, and Apple TV devices 

Corporate or team programs available for:

  • Academic and business

Languages:

  • Does not apply

Popular courses:

  • Typography That Works: Typographic Composition and Fonts | 76,119 students
  • Hand Lettering Essentials for Beginners | 74,514 students
  • Logo Design with Draplin: Secrets of Shape, Type and Color | 89,443 students
  • Getting Started with Email Marketing | 49,439 students
  • iPhone Photography: How to Take Pro Photos On Your iPhone| 92,403 students

Use Skillshare if: 

  • You are a creative who wants to learn new skills or brush up on current ones.
  • You like to apply your learning to hands-on projects. 
  • You are an expert who would like to share your skills and make some money. 

Start your free trial on Skillshare.

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