The 5 Best Online Learning Platforms Available Right Now

Whether you want to formalise your career in graphic design, sharpen maths skills, or dabble in coding, many online platforms have proven to be an excellent resource for learning. Couple this need with a pandemic that’s encouraged populations across the globe to stay home, and you have a recipe for an increased desire for remote learning.

But with so many virtual learning environments to choose from, the question is: “which online learning platform is the best”?

Most of the more prominent educational websites request a fee so that you can access course material (although there are some free resources out there that require you just to have a decent broadband connection). This means that you want to choose a platform that’s going to give you the best bang for your buck. At the same time, you may also want to go with a more recognised institution. This especially applies if you want to use the qualification you receive to apply for a job position.

To help you on your journey to self-fulfilment, we’ve done some research to bring you a short and curated list of the current most popular online general learning facilities.


1. Udemy

Udemy is one of the busiest online course platforms. It has served over 24 million students and it currently boasts over 80,000 courses. It covers a huge range of subjects including (but is not limited to) general business studies, finance, IT, teaching, personal development, music, and graphic design.

The good: Udemy’s courses are mostly affordable and they often have sales where you can get some great deals. The courses differ in length and difficulty level, and you can choose what type of challenge you’re in the mood for. At the end of each course, you’ll receive a certificate stating what it is that you learnt. 

The bad: Some courses, especially the free ones, are not very in-depth or thorough. However, if you meticulously study the reviews of each course as well as the introduction, you should be able to ascertain its value before you sign-up.

Price: The cost of each course can vary widely. Some can be as little as $15 (about R260) whilst others cost upwards of $200 (about R3,460).


2. Skillshare

If you prefer visual learning, you might like Skillshare – a platform that boasts plenty of video-based course content. From art subjects through to business studies and IT, you’ll discover a treasure trove of quality niche courses. Most of the courses take an hour or less to complete, which is great if you are limited with time. And, as the name implies, the material is created by teachers and professionals who are “sharing” their skills.

The good: Skillshare offers a mobile app version of their online learning platform. This app is super easy to use and encourages “learning on the go” (think long commutes, etc.).

The bad: The instructors are not obligated to communicate with students. So, if you have any questions on the material, you may not get the assistance you had hoped for.

Price: Skillshare has a huge selection of free courses available – but, if you want access to premium quality content, then you’ll be prompted to pay a subscription fee of $19 (R330) per month or $99 (R1,713) per year.


3. Coursera

If you’re after an online course that has the potential to become a university degree, then Coursera is probably your best bet. This is because the learning material is supplied by professional learning academies (including Yale and the University of Pennsylvania) instead of just “anyone who wants to put a course together”. The subject matter is seemingly endless, and you’ll be able to master skills in everything from arts, humanities, business, IT, language, and beyond!

The good: Apart from having over 4,000 available courses, you can also choose between the difficulty level. You get your standard certificates of completion, professional certificates (perfect for job-seekers who want to upskill), and fully-fledged online degrees from universities.

The bad: Some of the courses are outdated and as such, the information may be misleading. To curb this problem, make sure you take note of the course syllabus and the upload date before signing up.

Price: The price of each course will be determined by the quality of the skillsets taught. Some courses start at as little as $39 (R675) whilst the online degrees start at around $9,000 (R155,737).


4. Future Learn

Future Learn’s courses have been created by an selection of universities, businesses, and qualified professionals. The platform offers several classes in all kinds of subjects, including business, humanities, healthcare, history, and computer science. If you are after an accredited qualification that’s not going to leave too big of a dent in your wallet, then Future Learn is a viable option.

The good: Studying through Future Learn is a wholly positive experience. The learning material is of great quality and you’ll also find that there’s an overwhelmingly supportive community of co-learners and attentive instructors.

The Bad: The platform has some room for improvement. For example, the institution is yet to release an Android or iOS app and the course catalogue could be slightly larger.

Price: Many of the certification courses are free but if you want a highly accredited qualification, you’ll be expected to fork out at least $600 (R10,380).


5. Shaw Academy 

Shaw Academy offers courses in three distinct categories, namely for:

  • Hobbyists;
  • Professionals and;
  • Entrepreneurs.

The courses are extremely flexible, and they can be finished in your own time. There’s a moderate selection of subjects to choose from and whilst you won’t be issued with any formal accreditation after their completion, more and more employers are recognising their worth.

The good: The best thing that Shaw Academy courses have going for them is their flexibility. If you plan on studying part-time as and when you can, then, as online learning environments go, this is one of the most accommodating platforms.

The Bad: The number of courses is somewhat limited and if you have an unpopular or niche subject in mind, then you may not find it in the Shaw Academy catalogue.

Price: Courses are offered for free for the first four weeks, thereafter, you’ll be requested to pay anywhere between $49.99 to $60 per month (R865-1040) to access course material.