The University Network

The Top Online Learning Platforms

Education around the world is evolving with the growing availability — and popularity — of online learning or e-learning. Also known as distance learning, online learning or education is poised to become mainstream by 2025.

The United States serves as a good example. In the fall of 2016, more than 6 million U.S. students — the equivalent of 31.6% of all U.S. students — have taken at least one online course, according to a study by the Babson Survey Research Group. This represents a growth of 5.6% from the fall of 2015 and an increase in online course enrollment for the 14th straight year, according to the Babson study.

By 2025, the global online learning market is estimated to grow to $325 billion.

Universities in the United States and other parts of the world are offering massive open online courses (MOOCs), which can be taken by anyone in the world so long as they have internet access and a computer. Harvard Extension School, for example, offers free or low-cost online courses taught by Harvard faculty in many subjects ranging from the humanities to programming, to data science and computer science.

But online learning is not limited to universities alone.

There are several online platforms that are offering a multitude of online courses taught by experts that are affordable or even free. Some even support mobile learning or m-learning, which provides access to content using mobile or handheld devices like phones, laptops or tablets. So, whether you want to learn a language for fun, explore a new hobby, or enhance your career, there’s a course, program, or even an online degree that’s perfect for you.

Here are the top Online Learning Platforms.

Online Learning Courses
Online Learning Paltforms

1. Coursera

Founded in 2012 by two Stanford Computer Science professors, Coursera “envision(s) a world where anyone, anywhere can transform their [lives] by accessing the world’s best learning experience.”

In addition to a wide selection of individual courses, Coursera offers Specialization Certificates, Professional Certificates, MasterTrack™ Certificates, and online master’s degrees in business, computer science and engineering, data science and public health. For further details, check Coursera’s catalog.

Coursera currently has more than 150 partner universities and companies from around the world.

Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia, Stanford, Duke University, and NYU are among the participating U.S. universities. Coursera’s degree programs are headed by some of the best professors.

Cisco, Google, IBM, the Linus Foundation, and the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy, among others, are among Coursera’s partners. For example, Coursera offers the IT Support Professional Certificate program, which is a part of Google’s Grow with Google initiative to help people and businesses grow. Likewise, the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Specialization prepares students for entry level careers in cybersecurity, with an emphasis on administering the Palo Alto Networks Next Generation Firewall.

Coursera currently has 35 million learners, 2,700+ courses, 250+ Specializations, and 4+ degrees.

  • College credits: YES — for master’s degrees only
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: $29–$99 for courses; $39–$79 per month for Specialization; $22,000 for master’s degree
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — Coursera for Business

2. Treehouse

Treehouse aims “to bring affordable technology education to people everywhere in order to help them achieve their dreams and change the world.”

Students learn at their own pace and become job-ready within months, according to its website.

Treehouse claims that its Techdegree program will teach students to design and code, so they are ready for a career in the tech industry. A 7-day free trial is available.

The Techdegree programs are in these categories: Front End Web Development; User Experience Design; Full Stack JavaScript; Python Web Development; and iOS Development with Swift.

Treehouse currently has 180,000+ students, and offers 222+ courses and 27,545+ minutes of video.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: NO
  • Price: $199 per month
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: NO
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — TalentPath by Treehouse

3. Pluralsight

Headquartered in Utah, Pluralsight offers assessments, learning paths, and courses authored by industry experts. Its online technology skills platform aims to help “individuals see where [their] skills stand, master the latest technologies, and show off [their] expertise.”

Pluralsight offers online courses in these fields: Software Development; IT Ops; Creative Professional; Data Professional; Architecture & Construction; Manufacturing & Design; Business Professional; and Information & Cyber Security.

There are two learning plans for individuals — Personal and Premium — and Pluralsight offers free trials for both individuals and businesses. For an individual 10-day free trial, check here. Businesses can sign up for 14-day team trials here.

Pluralsight has 1,500+ expert authors and offers 6,000+ courses.

  • College credits: NO — some continuing education credits only
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: $35 billed monthly or $299 billed annually for Personal plan; $449 billed annually for Premium plan
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — Pluralsight for Business

4. QuickStart

QuickStart aims to “create world-class technologists by personalizing and individualizing training to address the massive skills gap in the IT industry.”

QuickStart believes that its cloud-based learning platform, called CLIPP (Cognitive Learning Project Performance), has helped it turn training into an evolutionary experience. In addition to live classes in a virtual environment, CLIPP “supports multimodal knowledge transfer, virtual labs, self-paced courses, additional learning material to complement official courseware, mentor support, and more.”

QuickStart offers 1,300+ IT training courses in many categories, including: App Development; Big Data & Data Science; Cloud Computing; and Information Security.

It has three subscription plans for individuals: Free Plan, Learn Plan, and Master Plan. These plans have different price points and access. You can get a 7-day free trial for the Learn Plan and the Master Plan.

QuickStart has learning paths certifications as well as free courses, $10 courses and $30 courses.

  • College credits: NO — certifications only
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Varies — $39.99 per month for Learn Plan; $2,999 for Master Plan
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — QuckStart for Businesses & Teams

5. Masterclass

At Masterclass, all online classes are taught by the “world’s greatest minds.” All classes are taught by experts in their field — from Phil Ivey (poker strategy) to Annie Leibovitz (photography), Gordon Ramsay (cooking), Natalie Portman (acting), Serena Williams (tennis), and more.

There are 60+ classes in the following categories: Film & TV; Music & Entertainment; Writing; Business, Politics & Society; Design, Photography & Fashion; Sports & Games; and Culinary Arts. The content is 100% original to Masterclass.

Learners can pay by the class or subscribe to the “All Access” pass for unlimited access to every class for a year.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: NO
  • Price: $90/class or $15/month billed annually for “All Access” pass
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: NO

6. Creative Live

Creative Live was launched in 2009 with the idea to make world-class creative workshops available online both to inspire and to support anyone who’s interested in developing their creative skills.

Creative Live is a community of innovators, doers, and hustlers made stronger by its diversity, according to its “About Us” page.

Creativity underlies everything Creative Live does, according to its website.

“We believe there’s a creator in all of us. From the moment we struck fire, we met our challenges with creative tools. We make dreams come true, problem-solve, and express ourselves through creativity. It shapes our identity and ties us together. Creativity gives us hope — helps us innovate and imagine. It’s how we change the world.”

So, its mission is not a surprise — “We champion creators to live their dreams.”

Creative Live offers online classes in these categories: Photo & Video; Money & Life; Art & Design; Craft & Maker; and Music & Audio. They even have classes on sale — check here for all “on sale classes.”

Creative Live currently has 650+ of the world’s top instructors, 10+ million students, and 1500+ curated classes ranging from beginning to advanced levels.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Varies
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES

7. Udemy

Udemy is the brainchild of Eren Bali, who grew up in a Turkish village with limited opportunities and knew from personal experience “what is possible when learning is within reach.” He was inspired to bring online learning to others, because he personally benefited from opportunities to learn online.

According to its “About us” page, Udemy is the “leading global marketplace for learning and instruction” and aims to connect students from around the world to the best instructors. It has 42,000 instructors from around the world, who teach courses in 50+ languages on “practically any topic.” Udemy’s instructors are experts in their field who bring the “most up-to-date content” to their students, according to its website.

Udemy offers online courses in these fields: Development; Business; IT & Software, Office Productivity; Personal Development; Design; Marketing; Lifestyle; Photography; Health & Fitness; Music; and Teaching & Academics.

The top categories are in these fields: Development; Design; Business; IT & Software; Personal Development; Marketing; and Photography.

Udemy offers 30-day money-back guarantee for every course.

Udemy currently has 30 million students, 100,000 online video courses, 190,000 million course enrollments, and 22 million minutes of video instruction.

8. Udacity

Udacity was founded by two Stanford instructors after they experimented with offering their “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” course online to anyone, for free. When more than 160,000 students in more than 190 countries enrolled in their free course, they realized the potential of online education and set out to “democratize education through the offering of world-class higher education opportunities that are accessible, flexible, and economical“ through Udacity.

Udacity’s mantra is “students first.”

Udacity offers five Nanodegree programs, which are project- and skills-based educational credential programs, in these categories: Programming; Data Science; Artificial Intelligence; Autonomous Systems; and Business.

Udacity has also teamed up with Accenture to offer the Accenture´s Veteran Technology Training Program to veterans. This program is designed to equip veterans with the skills they need to be an entry-level Software Engineering Associate with Accenture. Once selected, a candidate can enroll in the Intro to Java course for free.

In addition, Udacity is partnering with Georgia Tech and AT&T to offer online master’s degree in computer science (OMS CS). The exact cost for OMS CS degree depends on how long it takes a student to complete the program — taking the program over five terms will cost about $6,600. Federal financial aid is available to eligible students who qualify for aid.

Udacity currently has 76,000+ Udacity graduates and 200+ industry partners to develop content.

  • College credits: YES — for OMS CS
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: $399 per month for Udacity Nanodegree programs
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO, but available 3rd party scholarships posted here
  • Mobile learning: NO
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — Udacity for Enterprise

9. FutureLearn

Launched in September 2013, FutureLearn offers a wide selection of courses from some of the best UK and international universities and cultural institutions. FutureLearn’s mission is “to transform access to education.”

FutureLearn offers courses in a wide range of subjects. Courses vary in length — while most courses run 6-10 weeks, some are just 2-3 weeks long.

FutureLearn offers hundreds of free online courses, in-depth online programs, and online degree courses from undergraduate to postgraduate levels.

FutureLearn’s courses are classified into these categories: Business & Management; Creative Skills & Media; Health & Psychology; History; Languages & Culture; Law; Literature; Nature & Environment; Politics & the Modern World; Science, Engineering & Math; Study Skills; Teaching; and Tech & Coding.

The online degree programs are in these fields: Business & Management, Health & Psychology; History; Teaching; and Tech & Coding.

  • College credits: YES — for Online Degrees
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Varies — $269 for unlimited access to short online courses for a year
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — FutureLearn for Business

10. Simplilearn

Simplilearn considers itself as one of the world’s leading certification training providers. Its purpose is to help “professionals thrive, not just survive.”

Simplilearn’s curriculum is developed by well-known experts and aligned with 40+ accreditation bodies.  

Simplilearn offers a mix of self-paced, interactive and applied learning, leading to better experience and better results.

It offers online courses in these categories: Project Management; Big Data; Data Science & Business Intelligence; AI & Machine Learning; Cloud Computing; DevOps; Digital Marketing; Cyber Security; Agile & Scrum; IT Service & Architecture; Software Development; Salesforce; and Quality Management.

In addition, Simplilearn offers online Master’s Programs in these fields: Cloud Architect; Data Scientist; PMP Plus; Digital Marketing Specialist; Business Analytics Experts; DevOps Architect; Full Stack Web Developer; ITIL®  Lifecycle; IT Service Expert; Lean Six Sigma Expert; ITIL® Capability Expert Program; Automation Testing; Big Data Architect; Software Engineer; Integrated Program in Big Data and Data Science; Digital Project Manager; and PMP® Renewal Pack.

Simplilearn claims that it has fast-tracked more than 1 million careers.

11. GoSkills

GoSkills is an online learning platform that helps individuals learn business skills that they need to achieve personal and professional goals.

Its mission is “to provide a high quality learning experience, so that you can gain the right skills and tools to advance your career and achieve your goals.”

GoSkills members receive personalized courses in the form of 3-6 minute video tutorials and interactive content.

GoSkills courses are available for Microsoft Excel, Lean Six Sigma, Microsoft Office, Finance, Project Management, and Office Productivity.

GoSkills Unlimited members get unlimited access to all courses.

So far, GoSkills has had 21,953 learners complete 36,982 courses.

GoSkills offers 7-day free trial.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: NO
  • Price: Varies — Available discounts posted on site
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: YES — Scholarship for women
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — GoSkills for Teams

12. EdX

EdX is a nonprofit online learning platform founded by Harvard and MIT. EdX’s mission is to: “increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere”; “enhance teaching and learning on campus and online”; and “advance teaching and learning through research.”

EdX has partnered with most of the world’s top-ranked universities, corporations and organizations to provide quality online education, so learners from around the world can learn on their own terms.

EdX offers a plethora of courses, ranging from data and computer science to leadership and communications, to name a few. In addition, EdX offers the following programs and degrees: MicroMasters® Program, Professional Certificate, Online Master’s Degree, Global Freshman Academy, and XSeries.

Popular subjects at edX include: Computer Science; Language; Data Science; Business & Management; Engineering; and the Humanities.

EdX currently has 20+ million learners, with 70+ million course enrollments, and 2,400+ courses.

  • College credits: YES — for MicroMasters® Program, Online Master’s Degree, and Global Freshman Academy
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Varies
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: YES — available for most verified-certificate courses and MicroMasters Program; financial aid for master’s degrees determined by partner university/college based on its financial aid requirements
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: EdX for Business

13. The Great Courses

The Great Courses offers courses designed to appeal to lifelong learners, “with engaging, immersive learning experiences you can’t get in a lecture hall.”

There are no exams, homework assignments, or prerequisites.

According to its website, only the top 1% of the world’s professors are chosen to teach its courses.

The Great Courses offers hundreds of courses in these categories: Better Living; Economics & Finance; Fine Arts; High School; History; Literature & Language; Math; Music; Philosophy & Intellectual History; Professional; Religion; and Science.

The Great Courses partners with the National Geographic, the Culinary Institute of America, and others to develop course content.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: YES — free video lectures
  • Price: Varies — Sales courses available
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: NO

14. 360training

360training is an online marketplace that works with 1,500 e-learning partners.

Its mission is to “provide individuals and organizations regulatory-approved training, enabling a safe and healthy environment for the communities they serve.”

360training offers thousands of online courses, which are available for the following industries: Environmental Health and Safety; Food and Beverage Programs; Financial Services Education; Power and Utilities; Trades and Engineering; Insurance Education; Real Estate, Appraisal & Mortgage; HR, Ethics & Compliance; Industrial Skills; Quality Management Education; and Business Skills.

360training’s most popular courses are the following: OSHA Outreach 10 & 30 Hour; HAZWOPER Training; Alcohol & Food Safety courses; ISO courses; and Real Estate courses.

360training has 4+ million learners in 67 countries and 6,000+ online courses.

  • College credits: NO – certifications only
  • Free courses: NO
  • Price: Varies — Available sales posted on site
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: NO
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — 360 Training for Business

15. Excel with Business

Excel with Business was founded in 2009 as a solution to “ineffective Microsoft Excel training.”

The founders wanted to establish a business-relevant Excel training course that is not just affordable but also tailored to the individual taking the course.

The first Excel with Business course quickly attracted more than 100,000 users. Currently, the company is focused on “improving personal productivity and helping people achieve their career ambitions through a comprehensive library of 50+ Microsoft and Business training courses.”

Excel with Business has in-house Microsoft experts that write its courses and run live classes, and all of its courses are written by experts with years of industry and academic experience.

The popular courses include: Microsoft Excel; Business Analysis; Mini MBA; Basic Accounts; Accounting and Bookkeeping; Introduction to Web Development; and Adobe Photoshop Elements.

  • College credits: NO — certifications only
  • Free courses: NO
  • Price: Varies — $29 for monthly membership and $199 for annual membership
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: NO
  • Online learning for business & organization: NO

16. Skillshare

Skillshare is an online learning community where millions of members learn cutting-edge skills, network with their peers, and discover new opportunities. Skillshare’s mission is “to make the new economy an open meritocracy, where the skills and expertise needed to succeed are available for anyone willing to learn them.”

Skillshare offers two levels of membership: Free Membership and Premium Membership. Free Membership entitles members to certain free classes. Premium Membership provides unlimited access to more than 28,000 classes without ads and comes with other perks.

Skillshare offers online classes in these categories: Creative; Business; Technology; and Lifestyle.

Skillshare currently has 4+ million students and 20,000+ courses.

  • College credits: NO
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Free Membership & paid Premium Membership — $15 for monthly Premium (billed monthly), or $99 for annual Premium (billed annually) or $8.25 per month (billed monthly)
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: YES
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — Skillshare for Organizations

17. Alison

Founded in Galway, Ireland, in 2007, Alison is now one of the largest free learning platforms for education and skills training in the world.

Alison’s mission is to be “a catalyst for positive social change, creating opportunity, prosperity, and equality for everyone.”

Alison offers courses in these categories: IT; Software Development; Health Care; Language; Marketing; Life Science; Science; Business; Operations; Health; Math; Software Engineering; Skilled Trades; Humanities; Lifestyle; and Finance.

There are three course types: Certificate Courses; Diploma Courses; and Learning Paths.

With Alison Premium Monthly, learners get ad-free learning.

Alison currently has 13+ million learners in 195 countries and 1,000+ free online courses.

  • College credits: NO — certifications only
  • Free courses: YES
  • Price: Certificate fee varies based on type; €7.99 per month for Alison Premium Monthly
  • Financial aid or Scholarship: NO
  • Mobile learning: YES
  • Online learning for business & organization: YES — Alison Corporate Services

18. Lynda.com — now LinkedIn Learning

Lynda.com has been helping learners develop software, creative and business skills for more than 20 years. It’s now a part of LinkedIn Learning.

Lynda.com’s mission is to “help you learn the skills you need to achieve your full potential.”

Lynda.com offers 13,000+ expert-led courses and video tutorials in these categories: Business; Technology; and Creative.

Business courses include Professional Development; Business Software and Tools; Leadership and Management; and Marketing. Technology courses include Data Science; Software Development; Web Development; and Database Management. Creative topics include Visualization and Real-Time; Animation and Illustration; Audio and Music; and Motional Graphics and VFX.

There are two paid plans — monthly and annual — but there’s a 1-month free trial.