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The best online learning platforms of 2021

A snapshot of the Coursera webpage.

Credit: Coursera

Coursera is a good option for those with busy schedules.

A snapshot of the LinkedIn Learning webpage.

Credit: LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning offers up to 13,000 courses.

A snapshot of the MasterClass webpage.

Credit: MasterClass

MasterClass is a fantastic online learning platform for creative thinkers.

How We Tested Online Learning Platforms

The Testers

I’m Ashley Barry-Biancuzzo, editor for Reviewed’s product roundups. I’m a naturally curious person that values learning, so I decided to round up the most popular learning platforms available today and put them to the test. After coming up with the testing scoresheet, I asked my coworkers to take classes they were personally interested in.

A team of nine Reviewed staffers helped evaluate these platforms by taking different classes which matched their personal interests.

The Tests

To test learning platforms we asked our team of expert reviewers to each take a full course and then write about their experiences and answer specific questions related to using the service.

We asked questions about the clarity of the course, whether or not the testers received a certificate at the end, if there were any live sessions with experts, how easy it was to navigate the website, and how they’d rate their confidence level with the knowledge they gained.

Once we received their results, we analyzed each platform in comparison to the others in this guide to create our rankings.

What are Online Learning Platforms?

A woman using  a laptop.

Credit: Getty Images

Online learning platforms are great for those with busy schedules.

While no two educational platforms are exactly the same, a majority of them share some commonalities. To put it simply, they’re online spaces for helpful resources and educational content. It’s also a place where students and instructions can interact and have discussions. The content is usually divided into a variety of topics. Most online learning platforms feature a big selection of courses, but others are more specific.

Some online learning platforms specialize in business-oriented and offer classes on HTML or resume writing. These platforms are great for gaining hard skills and other skills you’d utilize in a workplace environment. Meanwhile, other platforms may be more focused on self-improvement or creative pursuits. MasterClass, for example, offers courses on acting and scriptwriting. It really depends on what you’re looking to learn.

How to Use an Online Learning Platform

Most if not all online learning platforms require you to sign up with a username and password. It’s no different than logging into your email or social media account. However, you’ll want to check and see if the course offers any live sessions. Some platforms will record the session, so you can watch it at your leisure. Other platforms may require you to attend the live session at a specific time.

When it comes to the coursework, most online learning platforms will structure it in bite-sized sections somewhere on the interface. This is a great way of tracking your own progress throughout the length of the course. You’ll be able to review quiz results, reading assignments, instructional videos, and so on. Deadlines for assignments should be featured somewhere on the platform as well.

Who are These Programs for?

These online learning platforms are great for people who want to pick up a new hobby or beef up their resume. They’re an especially good fit for people with busy schedules.. You can take a course from your home and learn at your own pace. Although some platforms may be more business-oriented, many of them feature a massive pool of topics. You can learn anything from DSLR photography to Search Engine Optimization.

Some of these platforms only provide a certificate of completion, while others will allow you to receive professional certificates, college credit and ultimately online degrees. However, in our testing, we didn’t evaluate these educational platforms for these opportunities.

Pricing andFree Trials

The pricing model varies greatly depending on the online learning platform. Some platforms charge per class while others offer annual memberships. Udemy, for example, allows you to pay per class. MasterClass, on the other hand, is $15 a month but is billed annually. That said, most if not all learning platforms offer a free trial of some kind.

When it comes to selecting an online learning platform, it’s important to take the free trial into consideration. A lengthier free trial period will give you more time with the platform, which better informs your decision. Shaw Academy, for example, has a pretty generous free trial period. There’s a four week free trial with live educator support and 20+ hours of learning per course. Coursera, on the other hand, only has a seven day free trial.

Other Online Learning Platforms We Reviewed

Checking our work.

Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you’re confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we’ll compare notes.

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