Find the Best Online Learning Platforms
Compare the Top Sites for Online Education
Read 95 Reviews
Offers pay-per-course video, audio or text lectures on desktops, laptops and mobile devices. Choose from over 100,000 online course topics. Courses include lifetime access and the ability to study anywhere at any time.
Read 112 Reviews
Offers open online courses featuring video lectures, quizzes and peer assessment. Wide variety of course topics ranging from coding to nutrition. Courses last around one month and cost between $29 and $99 each.
Read 695 Reviews
StraighterLine helps students save money on college by offering affordable classes at a reduced price. Coursework is guaranteed to transfer to the 80 different colleges included in their special network of schools.
Read 21 Reviews
Founded in 2006, Khan Academy is a nonprofit test prep company headquartered in Mountain View, Cali. They offer a variety of free practice material for parents, teachers and students across multiple skill levels and subjects.
|General Assembly||Read 151 Reviews|
|Canvas Network||Read Author Review|
Canvas Network offers lots of free online courses that utilize their special learning management system. Canvas uses cloud technology to create adaptable learning experiences for students.
|Codecademy||Read Author Review|
Via the internet, codecademy teaches students to code properly, using their interactive methods. Students will learn how to build a website, or even an interactive website, by the end of the coursework.
|iversity||Read Author Review|
Using innovative teaching methods, iversity courses are designed to help students learn from anywhere in the world. Much of the coursework is free to use, and students earn a certificate when they complete a course.
|Learnable||Read Author Review|
Students can use Learnable to become better developers. Unlimited access to over 5,000 courses is available on their website, and students can learn at their own pace, expanding their coding skills as they progress.
|lynda.com||Read Author Review|
With a membership, students have unlimited access to Lynda's wide range of courses. There are over 3,000 video courses available on the site, and they are available on computers, tablets, phones and other mobile devices.
Considerations when choosing an online learning platform
Online course curriculum
What you learn in a course determines how useful it will be after you finish school. Incorporating different teaching methods, using the most up-to-date information, and relating the classroom to the real world all make education applicable after obtaining a certificate of completion or a degree.
- Real-life examples: A course relying on dry academic examples might not translate well into a real-world setting.
- Multiple teaching styles: A lecture-focused course won't work for all students. Some learners absorb information verbally, while others need to read or apply knowledge to internalize it.
- Up-to-date material: Information can become obsolete, so curricula must have periodical updates to stay current.
Teaching in a traditional classroom is very different from teaching online. Instructors need to be fully qualified in both the subject matter and learning methodologies to be effective.
- Multimedia lessons: A teacher who is comfortable presenting materials using a lecture, power point presentation and video will be more effective than a simple lecture lesson.
- Training and experience: A teacher who has taken a week-long course on teaching via a digital platform is not going to be as engaging and efficient as a teacher that specializes in online learning environments.
- Subject matter experts: A math teacher should have an advanced mathematics degree, and an English teacher should have a history of publication. Teachers should only lead classes in areas of their expertise.
Different schools have different expectations for their students. Some might make group work mandatory, while attendance might play a role in grading, even through online courses.
- One-on-one learning: Even when enrolled in a class with others, many online courses can seem like a one-on-one class. Teachers tailor the learning environment for the individual.
- Group work: Working in groups allows students to develop social skills and teamwork skills necessary in today's corporate world.
- Varied assignments: A course that consists of reading a chapter and taking a test might not engage learners throughout the process. Using daily, weekly and long-term assignments to build engagement helps ensure a better educational experience.
Learning is all about outcomes. The final grade and the amount of knowledge a student takes away from a course should be measured throughout the class.
- Graded assignments: When a course begins, students should receive a syllabus that lists all the graded assignments and metrics used to develop their final grades.
- Tracking grades along the way: No student should be forced to wonder about their grade. They should be able to look up their current standing at any time.
- Facing feedback: How often does a professor provide student feedback? It's through feedback that students improve their classroom performance.
The platform used to communicate with teachers and other students, look at course materials, and attend online classes is a critical part of a successful learning experience.
- Intuitive interface: The interface used to access course materials is the most important part of any online courses. If it is easy to understand and use, the course will proceed more smoothly.
- Mobile access: More people use mobile devices to access the Internet now than ever. A mobile interface is critical for students that have to juggle a work, school and home life.
- Multimedia display: People learn in a variety of different ways, and it's important to present information using as many methods as possible.
Accreditation determines how a degree or certificate can be used in the workplace. Some accreditation is more valuable than others.
- Regional accreditation: Regional accreditation is how most colleges prove the quality of their education. For a degree program, it is the best way of distinguishing quality from degree mills.
- Distance learning accreditation: With the rise of distance learning programs, there is now accreditation available specifically for learning organizations specializing in online courses.
- Certification programs: Many certifications require acceptance from a national organization. Be sure the curriculum offered meets national standards.
Types of online courses
These programs are the most flexible of online courses. Students are provided with all the needed coursework and deadlines at the beginning of the class and allowed to work at their own pace.
Like the name, these course are a hybrid between traditional classes and open schedule programs. While work can be turned in at any time before the deadline, students are required to meet on a schedule either in class or through an online chat room.
These courses use a computer platform to deliver information, but students must use a designated classroom or computer lab and meet on a regular schedule.
With a fixed time course, classes are essentially the same as traditional classrooms, using an online platform. Students must log in at a designated time and complete class work with the group.
Who takes courses online?
New high school graduates
After high school, the traditional path includes immediate enrollment in college. New grads may find the convenience of online courses attractive, especially as they may work to help reduce their student debt.
After several years in a field, some professionals may decide they are ready for a change. They might want a quick certification program, or flexible course that works around their schedule.
Staying at home with the kids makes a lot of sense for many families, but when children reach school age, many moms may want to pursue their own education. Online courses offer a way for them to stretch their wings while remaining available to their kids.
Students on a budget
Online courses are often less expensive than traditional schools, making them a great way to earn a degree on a budget. Those who don't have a lot of money can still continue their education through distance learning.
Online courses FAQ
- How can I learn online for free?
- Several online learning platforms are free, offering courses and even certifications from reputable colleges. Experts recommend you find the subject you wish to study, search online, evaluate the teaching style of the platform and research reviews. Remember: Even if the platform isn’t completely free, it’s usually more affordable than taking a course at a university.
- What is an online learning platform?
- An online learning platform is a series of courses developed for general or specialized learning that can be accessed by students online. Experts design online learning platforms to provide a fluid transmission of information between teachers, students and any others necessary in a student’s development. Online learning platforms can cover a wide range of classes and subjects.
- What online courses are in demand?
- There are many popular online courses today, but the most popular topic may be data science, due to the industry's rapid growth. Other popular courses include the following:
- Web development
- Digital marketing
- Game development
- Video production
- What is the standard set for a good online learning platform?
- All quality learning platforms should meet certain standards. For instance:
- There should be a syllabus and access to an online calendar.
- It should integrate technology and be easy to use and accessible.
- Learning assessments should measure the student’s progress.
- Your platform should have discussion pages and chat features.
- Support should be readily available.
- Is online learning effective?
- Yes, online learning is highly effective if you are focused, committed to the coursework and following the syllabus. For some people, online learning may be more effective than classroom learning.
- What are the pros and cons of online education?
- The main benefit of an online education is flexibility. If you work full time, you probably don’t have time to sit in a classroom and learn. Another pro is the low cost relative to traditional learning methods. One downside is that online certification is not always a replacement for a high school or college degree.
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Compare the Top Sites for Online Education
|Treehouse||Read Author Review|
Students who are interested in the tech field can take courses at Treehouse. Classes range from basic introductory level courses to advanced coursework for pros. A community of students and teachers offer support and feedback.
|Udacity||Read Author Review|
Udacity offers online courses designed by some of the world's top companies including Google, Facebook, AT&T and more. The courses offered teach students skills associated with information technology & computer science.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.