As an online student, your learning options are becoming more affordable, accessible, and flexible as online learning technology advances. At the same time, the sheer number of choices for platforms is also increasing exponentially.
This can quickly get overwhelming, and there are many aspects you won’t learn about a platform until you actually start studying on it. Making an educated choice about the best online learning platform requires you to look into factors that are not self-evident, and you often need to dig deep to uncover them.
For example, here are a few questions we like to ask when evaluating online learning platforms:
- What LMS is used to create and deliver the courses?
- Are there any other types of lessons besides text and video lessons?
- Are the learning materials developed by an accredited institution?
- What kind of refund policies or money-back guarantees does the platform have?
- Does the platform provide lifetime, unlimited access to purchased courses? Or, do you lose access to the content the moment you unsubscribe?
Some sites work very hard to downplay their shortcomings, while other online learning platforms even partake in review manipulation and other deceptive marketing practices.
But don’t worry, we’ve done the background check for you.
With years of experience reviewing online learning platforms, we’ve compiled the most comprehensive list of the best online learning platforms for you. We’ll go over the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, together with the types of courses and students each platform is most suited for.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
These are the best online learning platforms for 2022.
Best Online Learning Platforms
Best Overall: Udacity
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Udacity is a technology-focused online learning platform that features online classes on topics such as artificial intelligence, data science, digital marketing, business, and product management. While this Silicon Valley company started as an education provider for individuals pursuing a tech career, it has evolved into something bigger. By now, a large part of their focus is on corporate training, and Udacity’s clients include Shell, BMW, Airbus, and even the U.S. Space Force.
I took my first Udacity course three years ago and was immediately impressed by the high quality of its learning experience. Not only do they offer 1-on-1 mentorship for all courses, but you also get access to career support services that will help you land that first job or internship in tech. This includes career coaching, resume reviews, and LinkedIn & Github profile reviews. While I can’t attest to their exact job placement success rate, it’s clear that Udacity cares about their students’ career development.
In terms of courses, Udacity has a relatively small but hand-picked selection of courses. They are not led by an accredited educational institution, but all their courses are designed in-house by industry experts. This means that the courses are highly relevant and practical, but it also means that they can get quite technical and hands-on. You’ll be building your own portfolio of work, and usually, you’ll have to complete several student projects to graduate.
I recommend Udacity as the best online learning platform for anyone aiming to learn in-demand skills sought after by tech companies and start-ups. For kickstarting a career in tech, there’s really no better platform than Udacity.
Related: In-depth review of Udacity
Best for Accredited Courses from the United States: Coursera
Coursera, one of the most popular online learning platforms in the world, features online courses from academic institutions across the globe. In addition to courses, they also offer professional certificates and online degrees in select areas. They have a very wide range of course topics available, so you’re sure to find something that interests you, whether it’s Python programming or psychology.
I have personally taken several Coursera courses and have always been impressed by the quality of the learning experience. The courses are very well-produced and usually include video lectures, quizzes, and assignments.
By going with Coursera, you’re replicating the university level of studies as closely as possible within a MOOC platform, and that has its perks. The courses are usually very comprehensive, and you get to learn from university professors who have years of experience and expertise in their field.
Thus, if you’re looking for online courses from world-class universities such as Stanford or Yale, then going with Coursera is a no-brainer. That is why for university-level online education, Coursera is my pick for the top online learning platform in 2022.
Related: In-depth review of Coursera
Best for Mind & Spirit Courses: Mindvalley
Mindvalley is an online learning platform that offers courses in personal growth, spirituality, health, and wellbeing. Specifically, you’ll find courses that teach you topics such as speed reading and meditation.
This platform focuses on teaching a really small niche of topics, and the course selection on the platform is far smaller than many of the alternatives. However, with its production quality, a great line-up of instructors such as Jim Kwik, and focus on delivering an excellent learning experience, Mindvalley is one of the best online learning platforms in its category.
There’s really no other online learning platform in the category of mind and spirit that can compare to Mindvalley. Plus, the learner communities that develop within the Mindvalley ecosystem are possibly the most engaging I have seen from any platform. Mindvalley hosts its own events such as the A-Fest, and they also have a dedicated app called Connections by Mindvalley which allows you to integrate your learning experience with other like-minded learners.
As far as drawbacks go, the courses on Mindvalley are not accredited and don’t lead to any formal qualifications. This is a bit of a non-issue, though, because most of Mindvalley’s courses are meant to be taken for personal development, rather than for professional development. Another downside of their subscription plan in particular is that you lose access to all courses when you unsubscribe, which is a shame. However, compared to Skillshare, it’s not as big of a drawback, as Mindvalley’s courses can also be purchased individually, in which case you do retain access.
All in all, the courses on Mindvalley are engaging, informative, and well worth taking, but the platform’s focus on a very small range of topics may not be for everyone. Nonetheless, it’s easily the best online learning platform in the category of mind, spirit, and mental wellbeing.
Related: In-depth review of Mindvalley
Best for Accredited Courses from Europe & Asia: FutureLearn
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FutureLearn, an online learning platform based in the United Kingdom, is another excellent option for those looking for accredited courses. With its top-class university partners, FutureLearn offers a wide variety of courses from some very high-class universities in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia.
The pricing of courses on FutureLearn is also very competitive, similar to edX, and the quality of the courses is on par with any competing platforms. The courses I have taken on FutureLearn have all been top-notch, and I have always appreciated the unique range of universities that offer courses on FutureLearn.
Unlike most other online learning platforms that offer courses from US-based universities, FutureLearn focuses more on education institutions in the Eurasia region. This results in a very unique mix of universities leading courses on the platform, and it’s definitely worth considering if you’re looking for something different.
One downside to FutureLearn is that it doesn’t have a mobile app, and the overall selection and number of courses on the site are not nearly as strong as competitors such as Coursera or edX. Overall, though, FutureLearn is a great option for those looking for accredited courses from world-class universities at a reasonable price.
Related: In-depth review of FutureLearn
Best for Learning Arts & Crafts: Skillshare
Skillshare is an online learning platform that offers courses primarily for creative professionals in artistic topics such as video editing, illustration, and graphic design. They also have courses on other topics such as productivity, but from my experience, the platform is and always has been, best suited for those with a creative bent.
You may have come across quite a few of Skillshare’s sponsorships among YouTube content creators, and that is no surprise as the platform largely caters to content creators. Whether it’s audio, video, or design, Skillshare offers a variety of courses to help you develop your skills and create the content that you’re passionate about.
While the courses on Skillshare are not created by an accredited institution, they are still generally of good quality and are taught by industry experts. Unlike platforms such as Udacity or Coursera, Skillshare courses tend to be short-format and more focused on providing quick, actionable tips and advice, rather than in-depth theory.
I do, however, have a few gripes with Skillshare. For one, the instructors on the platform can be hit-or-miss. Also, losing access to all course content when you unsubscribe is a drawback for me. Personally, I prefer the lifetime ownership model where you buy a course and you get to access it forever. Sadly, with Skillshare, that’s not an option.
Nonetheless, Skillshare remains one of the best online learning platforms for creative professionals in 2022. Just make sure that the platform offers courses in the area that you’re interested in before signing up. If you join the platform expecting to become a programming whiz, you may be in for a disappointment.
Related: In-depth review of Skillshare
Best for Learning Data Science: DataCamp
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DataCamp, as its name suggests, is an online learning platform that specializes in data-centric topics such as data science, data analytics, and more. Since its inception in 2013, DataCamp has been one of the most popular online learning platforms for data science, and it’s easy to see why.
For one, their courses are very hands-on, meaning that you will learn by doing. This helps a ton when it comes to learning any technical subject because it allows you to immediately apply what you’ve learned. Additionally, DataCamp offers a great web-based code editor that makes practicing very convenient.
The courses on DataCamp also cover a wide range of topics within data science. You can start with the very basics and work your way up to more advanced topics, or you can just jump right into the deep end and start working on expert-level practical projects using data sets obtained from real-world business scenarios from the get-go.
One downside of DataCamp is that a lot of the code often comes prewritten, so you may find that when you enter the real world and have an empty code sheet in front of you, you’re not quite sure where to start. Plus, there’s no default option to receive a refund, which means that you’ll have to be sure that DataCamp is the right learning platform for you before you commit to it.
Despite its few drawbacks, though, DataCamp is an excellent online learning platform for data science and is definitely worth checking out. Data is the new oil, and if you want to get ahead in the world, learning data science is a great place to start.
Related: In-depth review of DataCamp
Best Free Online Learning Platform: Khan Academy
Khan Academy is in a league of its own when it comes to online learning platforms because it offers all of its courses for free. That’s right: 100% free.
The platform has a wide range of topics covered, and the learning experience is generally very good. The instructors are experts in their field, and the courses are well-structured.
The only downside is that Khan Academy courses are not accredited. While many students rely on Khan Academy for their studies, they are sadly usually unable to turn those learning hours into academic credits.
But if you’re looking for a free online learning platform with high-quality courses, Khan Academy is definitely worth checking out. As far as free platforms go, Khan Academy is definitely among the best online learning platform you’ll ever come across.
Biggest Course Catalog: Udemy
Udemy is the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they hear the term “online learning platform”, and it’s for good reason. Founded in early 2010, Udemy is one of the longest-running online learning platforms and has built up a massive catalog of courses over the years.
Personally, I don’t take Udemy courses very often, largely due to their weak instructor vetting process. Basically, anyone can release a course on Udemy, and this has led to a ton of low-to-mid-tier learning content. That being said, there are still some great courses available on the platform, especially if you’re looking to learn something for cheap.
Courses on Udemy are typically very heavily discounted, with most courses selling for around $10-$20. However, you have to wait for discount promotions to get this pricing, as the base prices of courses tend to be unreasonably high.
All in all, though, a list of the top online learning platforms would never be complete without Udemy, and I still recommend checking out their online course catalog if you’re looking to learn something new.
Biggest Catalog of Free Courses: edX
edX is one of the earliest online learning platforms in existence and is still going strong today. Offering both courses and degrees from world-renowned universities, edX is a great platform for those who want to learn from the best of the best. They have a wide range of topics across all sectors, and most of them can be accessed at no cost whatsoever.
EdX offers more free courses than almost any other platform (maybe with the exception of Khan Academy), and even their paid courses and degrees are very reasonably priced. The quality of the courses is also generally very high, although there have been some complaints about the user experience on the platform.
Thus, if your main priorities when choosing an online learning platform include affordability and accreditation, edX is definitely worth checking out. While some learners may find edX’s learning content delivery methods a bit too uninspired and simplistic, their courses still provide some of the best value for money in the entire online learning industry.
Related: In-depth review of edX
Great for STEM Learning: Brilliant.org
Brilliant.org is an online learning platform that combines gamification with STEM subjects to bring you a truly unique online learning experience. The platform is designed to be accessible for all skill levels, so whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned professional, you’ll be able to find courses that suit your needs.
Courses on Brilliant are very engaging, and the platform does a great job of keeping you motivated to learn. However, since the focus is solely on STEM subjects, there isn’t as much diversity in terms of subject matter as you’ll find on many other learning platforms. Additionally, the monthly payment plan for Brilliant’s premium subscription is pricey. However, the good news is that there is a 7-day free trial available so you can try it before you commit to a purchase.
Within the realm of STEM subjects, Brilliant.org is certainly worthy of a spot among the top online learning platforms. It does an excellent job at making STEM learning fun, and the courses are very well-crafted. Just make sure that the topics you’re interested in are available on the platform before committing to a purchase.
Related: In-depth review of Brilliant.org
Great for Professional Development: LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning, formerly Lynda, is a great online learning platform for those who want to develop new skills for their career. With a massive catalog of courses covering everything from design to business, there’s sure to be something that interests you.
Lynda.com, founded in 1995, was open of the very first online learning platforms in existence, and LinkedIn has only built on that legacy after acquiring the site back in 2015. By now, the platform includes all of the features you would expect from a top-tier online learning site, including badging and certificates that you can showcase on your LinkedIn profile.
While you can also add online course certificates from other course platforms such as Coursera into your LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn has made it super easy to quickly integrate any learning you do on the platform straight into your profile without any hassle. And, as LinkedIn remains one of the top spots for job-seekers in 2022, this is a huge plus for learners interested in professional development.
While LinkedIn Learning does not have the best variety in content delivery methods and it lacks accredited courses, it’s still an excellent platform for those who want to upskill themselves. The platform is especially strong at covering technical skills, so if that’s what you’re interested in, LinkedIn Learning should definitely be on your radar.
Related: In-depth review of LinkedIn Learning
Good for Learning Tech Topics: Pluralsight
Pluralsight is an online learning platform that focuses on delivering technology and business education via online courses. Covering in-demand topics such as cyber security, programming languages, and software development, Pluralsight is a great option for those interested in upskilling themselves in these areas.
The platform has a great user interface, a strong line-up of instructors, and a user-friendly mobile app. Focused almost exclusively on self-paced learning rather than instructor-led learning, Pluralsight is ideal for those who want to learn at their own pace and on their own time. And, with a 10-day free trial available, you can try out the platform before you commit to a purchase.
As for the disadvantages, the courses on Pluralsight are not accredited and the selection of online courses can be limited. That is why if you’re not interested in tech or business, you may find that the choices available to you on Pluralsight are not as good as on alternatives such as Coursera r LinkedIn Learning. Additionally, Pluralsight does not offer lifetime access to courses, so when your subscription runs out, you will no longer have access to the courses you’ve taken.
All things considered, though, Pluralsight is still one of the best online learning platforms for anyone interested in taking specialized courses in the aforementioned fields.
Related: In-depth review of Pluralsight
The Netflix of Online Learning: MasterClass
MasterClass is a truly unique online learning platform. One look at their line-up of instructors will tell you that. Christina Aguilera, Gordon Ramsay, Natalie Portman, Neil Gaiman, Bob Iger, and Chris Voss are just some of the instructors teaching courses on MasterClass. This platform has done an excellent job at curating a line-up of instructors that you won’t find anywhere else.
As far as the content within MasterClass courses goes, I have found that the courses tend to blur the line between entertainment and education. In terms of production value, they are top-notch. The same kind of quality you would expect from a TV series. The cinematography is unparalleled, and the overall quality is generally very high. To me, the only platforms that can compete with this type of production value are Udacity and Mindvalley.
However, MasterClass does have some downsides. For one, the courses being very entertainment-focused means that they are not as educational or actionable as some of the other options on this list. Additionally, MasterClass does not offer any way to purchase individual courses. You need to subscribe to the entire catalog of courses, rather than single purchases, similarly to something like Netflix.
The other downside to MasterClass is that the courses are not accredited. This means that their value for employers or educational institutions will be relatively limited. Additionally, there is no refund policy available, so if you’re not happy with a course, you’re out of luck.
Despite these drawbacks, though, MasterClass is a superb online learning platform that is in a league of its own. Think of it as the Netflix of online learning: a platform with a whole lot of high-quality content, but not necessarily the most educational. At least not when compared to more serious platforms like Coursera or Udacity.
Related: In-depth review of MasterClass
Great Choice of Universities: GetSmarter
GetSmarter is an online learning platform that partners with some of the world’s top-ranking universities, including Harvard and MIT. Personally, I have completed one of their MIT courses, their “Digital Business Strategy” program, and it was a good overall experience.
While I would have liked more quizzes and different types of assignments in the course schedules, I felt like the content was of great quality, and getting a certificate signed by MIT was a nice touch. All in all, the learning experience on the platform is great, but it comes at a price.
GetSmarter courses tend to be expensive, with most courses running at least $2,000. Given the quality of the courses and universities involved, though, I would say that the price could be considered justified.
In a nutshell, I recommend GetSmarter to students who are looking for accredited courses from world-renowned universities. The courses on GetSmarter are a bit pricey, but they do include a lot of value-adds, such as career support services and certificates.
Related: In-depth review of GetSmarter