The internet is the largest repository of human knowledge that’s ever been created. Most of us use it for watching funny video of animals, shopping for groceries or yelling at each other on Twitter.
But you can make more of this humongous tome of wisdom by signing up to one of the many excellent online learning services. Whether you want to gain a qualification or simply expand your mind, all you need are an internet connection and maybe a pot of piping hot tea.
Here’s our pick of the best learning services around today.
Udemy is a fantastic place to start your online learning. The site houses a wide range of courses that cover subject matters as wide as website building to training your dog. Each course is made by individuals with qualifications or experience in their fields, and the formats usually mix instructional videos as well as downloadable support resources.
Some courses offer accreditation to professional bodies, but the majority don’t lead to official qualifications. Instead, Udemy a great way to improve your knowledge on an area of interest, while adding some new skills to your arsenal.
There’s no cost to join Udemy, but each individual course has its own price. The average full-cost of a course is around £200/$200, but Udemy is constantly running promotions that reduce prices to a much more affordable £12.99/$10.99.
LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com)
One of the pioneering sites in online learning, Lynda.com built an enviable reputation over the years as a place where you could be taught by some of the best and brightest in design, software and business. Now, after being acquired by LinkedIn a few years ago, it’s been rebranded as LinkedIn Learning.
Home to thousands of premium courses, the site is the place to go if you want to learn programming, managerial skills, web development and other industry-based skills. Again, the format is video lectures and tutorials that you watch, plus LinkedIn Learning provides in-course quizzes to test all that you’ve learned. Like with Udemy you get a certificate to say you’ve finished the course, but no official qualification.
Due to the tight integration with LinkedIn, students have courses recommended to them that fit their career path and there’s the added bonues potential employers can see which courses they’ve completed.
LinkedIn Learning is a subscription service, so you’ll need to invest £24.98/$29.99 per month but for this you’ll have access to all the courses on the site. At the time of writing though the company was offering a month free of charge so you can give the service a test run.
Started by Harvard and MIT back in 2012, edX is a non-profit that offers over 2,500 courses, many of which are free. Should you want to move towards qualifications then you can opt to validate the courses for a fee, then receive a certificate of completion that’s backed by one of the major bodies (such as Harvard).
There’s also a Program option where you take all the modules on a certain theme and receive the Program certificate. For graduates (or those working at that level) edX also offers Masters degree programs that are fully online.
If you’re looking to get back into education but bulk at the cost, edX could be the way to go. There’s so much free content available, plus the option to switch-up to a validated status when you can afford it an excellent idea.
One of the newest services in online learning is Masterclass. Rather than thousands of courses, this site currently offers a little over 70 and mostly on the creative arts, but each is taught by hugely famous figures. Want to improve your knowledge of film? Jodie Foster, Natalie Portman, Ron Howard, Helen Mirren, Samuel L Jackson, Martin Scorsese and others have courses for you.
Always fancied yourself a writer? Neil Gaimen, James Patterson, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell and Judy Blume can help you get closer.
There are courses for cookery, poker, conservation, economics, journalism, design, magic, and you can even have Serena Williams teach you tennis. Beautifully shot and overflowing with personal insights from teachers you could never get in a classroom, Masterclass is worthy of its name.
All Access subscriptions cost £170/$180 per year and provide an all-you-can-eat buffet of the courses.
Learning should never be limited by how much money you have, and the Khan Academy’s mission is to educate people in maths, science, economics and finance for free. This non-profit offers courses aimed at specific age groups, ranging from primary schools up to graduate.
Videos take you step by step through the basics of a subject and there’s also various programs that allow you to study in depth and gain a great understanding of your chosen interest. To help motivate you in your studies there’s also points that you accrue that go towards the Mastery score that shows you’ve put in the hours and understood the lessons.
Khan Academy is completely free and an excellent way to get back into learning.
Learning with Experts
Courses don't have to be purely academic, as there are plenty of other skills that can be useful to acquire. Learning with Experts takes this approach, offering the chance to learn about gardening, cooking, floristry, antiques, photography, and jewellery.
Students meet in virtual classrooms with up to 20 people in attendance, where the tutor hosts the sessions and introduces videos that teach the subject. The Peer level gives lifetime access to the material, downloadable notes and plus assignments for your own further study.
Opt for the Expert level and you'll also have marked assessments, personal tutoring, plus a certificate when you complete your studies. Peer level courses start at around £29/$36 while the Expert tier usually costs around £100/$125 more.
Visit Learning with Experts
If you're looking for professional development courses or studying up to degree level, Coursera offers a wide-range of courses that help you achieve these goals. Working in partnership with a number of universities and organisations, including Google, IBM, Imperial College London, Stanford, Penn and many others, you'll be able to learn from some of the world's top tutors without leaving your front room.
The majority of courses have a technical orientation, but there are still options for the arts and humanities if that's your preferred area of study. From free short courses up to full-fledged degrees, Coursera has plenty to help you reach your educational desires.
Another enterprise and technology orientated educator is Pluralsight. This has over 7000 courses to choose from, covering areas such as software development, information & cyber security, networking and many others. The site has skills paths that can help you work towards goals, and there are also options for teams where managers can see which skills will most benefit their overall strategy.
While the courses all come with individual prices, during April thousands of them are available for free as the company does its bit to assist people during the coronavirus pandemic. So, take this opportunity to 'Stay home. Skill up'.
Fine effort Pluralsight!
Skillshare is an online learning community with a particular focus on the creative arts. There are thousands of courses that can train you in the disciplines of photography, video editing, illustration, design, writing, animation and more.
There is also a wealth of content for freelancers and entrepreneurs who want to learn how to better develop their reach and gain new clients or investors. All classes are taught by creatives in their relative areas, rather than class-room based tutors.
You'll find thousands of free classes on the site, but if you want full access to all Skillshare has to offer then you'll need to sign up to the Premium service that costs either £84/$105 per year up front or £13/$16 per month. There is a 14-day free trial though, so you can see if Skillshare is for you.
This site caters for professionals in the IT industry and related fields or those wishing to move into a career in these areas. You'll find a mixture of post-grad, masters, and industry recognised qualifications in cloud computing, big data, DevOps, data science and similar specialisms.
A nice touch is that you can search courses by the jobs they are related to, ensuring you progress along your career path and make your skills the most relevant for the role you're pursuing.
Course prices are dependant on the level and depth of each module, but from what we can see they all seem to offer good value considering the jobs that could land you.