Whether you’re out of work or looking for a new hobby, online learning platforms and websites cover a broader range of subjects and skillsets than ever before. Looking to deepen your digital skills through distance learning? Read and discuss classic novels? Take an Ivy League course — for free? You have more options than ever. Whether you want to get an entire degree online, delve into philosophy, or master Google Analytics, there’s a class out there for you.
Please note that we are not affiliated with any of the listed companies and have not received any compensation for this information.
8 Best Online Learning Platforms of 2020
Let's face it: Many of us would love to take a distance learning course but aren’t sure where to start. In fact, almost 7 million university students in the United States take at least one remote class. Beyond that, millions of people choose to better themselves through distance learning courses not affiliated with an accredited university. Here are a few places to start.
- General Assembly
Looking to how COVID-19 contact tracing works through a course taught by Johns Hopkins University? Want an introduction to machine learning from Stanford? Interested in receiving a Cloud Engineering Certificate from Google?
Coursera offers thousands of courses from name-brand companies and universities, some of which may be free or discounted. You can even get your Bachelor’s Degree in computer science or Master’s Degree in public health on Coursera’s online learning platform.
Codeacademy Online Learning
Codeacademy holds true to its slogan: “Learn to code for free.” Choose from a variety of coding languages — Java, HTML & CSS, and Python, to name a few — to get started, no matter your level.
This platform has some great offerings from businesses pivoting to digital, including topics such as how to build a chatbot using Python, and courses on random life skills, like paying your taxes and getting rid of clothing stains.
Interested in learning a skill from someone world-famous for it? You can — quite literally — with MasterClass, which offers everything from a cooking class taught by Wolfgang Puck to a tennis course taught by Serena Williams.
Want to learn about making movies from David Lynch? How to write from Malcolm Gladwell? MasterClasss is the online distance learning platform for you.
Edx Online Learning for Adults
If you want an academic course taught by a leading institution (think: Yale, MIT, or McGill), head to Edx, which has an excellent selection of courses for business, technical, and digital skills, as well as those types of classes you wish you took more of in college.
Looking to get a professional certificate on The Science of Happiness at Work? Want to master Spanish during COVID-19? Whether you're looking for a professional certificate showing you’ve covered MBA materials or want to delve into scriptures with Harvard University, EdX’s effective online learning courses will keep you busy.
General Assembly In-Person and Online Learning
Want to help your entire organization master a skill during the pandemic? General Assembly brands itself as “the future of work,” meaning that it helps 21st-century professional master essential skills they may have difficulty acquiring otherwise. Think: coding, web development, data analytics, and all sorts of other essentials for working remotely.
In regular times, General Assembly also offers in-person courses at their locations across the United States (and includes several in Europe, Asia, and Australia). But today, they’ve shifted their focus to their online learning platform.
Not sure whether you want a technical skill or just want to follow your passion? Check out FutureLearn’s offerings. Similarly to Edx, they offer a variety of courses from world-famous institutions, including King’s College London, Taipei Medical Unversity, and organizations like the British Film Institute.
You can take an in-depth distance learning course on Jane Austen, an introduction course to Microbiology, or learn about food supply chains.
Plus, FutureLearn makes your course accessible for its duration (and an additional 14 days) for free, no matter what subject you’re taking.
Udemy claims to have the largest selection of online learning opportunities, ranging in price and discipline. Some of its best-sellers include courses on personal finance, iOS app development, and Adobe Photoshop, though you can take classes on belly dancing, animal nutrition, and day trading cryptocurrency.
Udemy is also often used by enterprises to help their teams develop new skills. Whether you’re working remotely or looking for a fun way to pass the time, there is something for you.
Skillshare Online Learning Platform
Looking for a creative outlet during these challenging times? Or — better yet — looking to teach a class on a unique skill of yours? Skillshare divide a lesson, such as learning to paint, into digestible videos and courses that can take an hour or longer. Depending on the course, you can receive homework assignments, give other students reviews, and engage in discussions.
For people looking to engage their creativity through digital and fine art, deepen their productivity, or learn business skills, or teach any of these subjects, Skillshare offers affordability and flexibility.
10 Online Learning for Kids (in 2020)
For the first time in history, schools, parents, and children have had to transition to distance learning with very little notice. Here are a few resources, ranging from comprehensive online learning curriculum to audiobooks, all designed to keep kids (and parents) engaged and happy at home.
- PBS Kids
- National Geographic Kids
- Scholastic Learn at Home
- Khan Academy
- New York City Department of Education
- The Economist Educational Foundation
What Is Online Learning?
Also called distance learning, this term refers to any sort of education that takes place virtually, i.e. through an online learning platform. This can take the form of a series of short videos or an entire degree, encompassing courses led by a variety of professors.
Types of Online Learning Courses:
- Some universities offer virtual learning as part of a blended learning degree. This means that an educational program incorporates both face-to-face and virtual elements to cover material. Blended learning is an increasingly common approach for elementary school children.
- Some universities also offer courses, certificates, and degrees that are 100% virtual. They may also make these courses available to non-members of a program.
- Most instances of e-learning take the shape of flexible, digital courses that people use to pursue a new interest or deepen a professional skill.
The Effectiveness of Online Learning: Does It Work?
Some research shows that online learning is equally as effective as face to face instruction. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents, students, and educators believe that children’s education has suffered from less individual instruction — and a lack of preparedness for virtual classrooms.
Factors that Affect Online Learning Effectiveness
- Age. Older learners may find it easier to focus during virtual instruction.
- Socio-economic status. A ParentsTogether survey suggests that wealthier children were able to keep up with course material during COVID-19, while underprivileged children fell behind.
- Private vs. public schools. Private schools may be able to take a more flexible approach to digital education.
- Preparedness. Remote education during COVID-19 was far from planned, whereas online learning platforms are geared towards digital instruction.
It is important to note that digital education’s success varies based on a variety of factors not necessarily related to the material. For one, students’ ability to keep up with material virtually may depend on their socio-economic status, according to research cited in the New York Times.
In other words, students who have access to enough space and privacy to study effectively, and who have up-to-date technology and a fast internet connection, are more likely to stay on track.
Furthermore, schools’ online learning platforms differ far and wide. Some private schools may be more nimble at shifting their approach from face to face to virtual classes, unhampered by the same bureaucracy as public schools and with better funding.
Online Learning Is Here to Stay
Of the biggest benefits of online learning is that during a pandemic, parents, children, and adults can continue to learn while stuck at home. Though it may be a frustrating shift, at best, it isn’t without its opportunities. For one, it is a great time to pursue a passion project, whether you are 8 or 58. And today, we have more online learning platforms than ever to help us challenge ourselves — and keep ourselves occupied.