Where To Study Online Courses: 4 Websites To Get You Started
Updated: Apr 19
Make use of your time on lockdown to further your skills or learn new ones
It’s an all-too-familiar scenario for job-hunting millennials.
You see a job ad for a position you could see yourself working in. Then you read the job description:
We’re looking for someone with a Master’s degree in X, fluent in eight languages, programming knowledge, four Olympic medals in different sports, and the ability to time travel so you can get all the work we ask of you done. Remuneration: €600 per month.
And if you do decide to apply for the job, you’ll probably have to go through an excruciatingly drawn-out application and interview process with eight different steps, all before you get to talk to a fellow human.
Not only that, the chances are you’re up against many other candidates, often numbering in the hundreds.
So how can you stand out from the crowd?
One thing employers are looking for in their current or future employees is an eagerness and commitment to continuing professional development (often referred to simply as CPD). In other words, taking online courses to gain new skills and knowledge, or refresh and update those you already have.
Here at Malaga Mama, I’ve taken and enjoyed several continuing professional development courses in a bid to learn about areas that are new to me.
There are others I’ve tried and honestly thought I’d rather gouge my own eyes out than pursue that subject any further. Not because the subject matter was taught badly, but more because I just can’t see myself as a data analyst or whatever.
There are many CPD websites out there where you can find both free and paid-for online courses (MOOCs, or massive open online courses) that will give you the chance to enhance your knowledge, learn skills and dip your toes into new areas. They give you access to teaching offered by renowned universities and learning institutions that you otherwise wouldn’t have contact with (who wouldn’t want to say they’ve done a course run by Harvard?).
So with everyone on lockdown around the world, here are four websites where you can study online courses:
Coursera is where I first discovered online learning courses and it’s also where I’ve done my most recent course, so forgive me for cheerleading here for a bit.
It’s the largest in terms of number of learners (45 million) and courses (3,800!!!). Whatever subject area you’re looking for, you’ll more than likely find it here with courses ranging from the arts and humanities to data science via health and languages. It has general courses, certifications, specialisations and even degrees available.
Some courses offer their content for free but you need to pay if you want to receive a certificate confirming your participation and completion of the course, which can be a good idea for CV purposes. This certificate can be easily shared to your LinkedIn profile, for example.
Other online courses give you a free trial period and then charge a certain amount per month thereafter, or some will give you access to their teaching material but not the graded assignments
There are full degrees available on this platform are obviously much pricier. Make sure you always check out the prices and payment options for the courses you choose. Financial aid is sometimes available too if things are outside your budget.
A lot of courses are self-paced, others have deadlines (although sometimes they can be reset to suit your schedule) and some run several times throughout the year. Coursera’s courses seem to run more regularly than those found on other websites.
I’m a huge fan of edX too and I’ll often check out the courses it offers.
This site was founded jointly by Harvard and MIT and its model is much the same in terms of the quality of institutions giving courses but it lags behind Coursera in terms of learner numbers (24 million) and course variety (a mere 2,640 available, ha!).
And again, full degrees and specialisations can be easily accessed too.
I prefer its search filter options to other websites as you have more options. I particularly like being able to specifically search for courses that are self-paced (because who knows how much time you’ll have each evening when you’re a mum?).
3. Future Learn
Much like the previous two, Future Learn has plenty to offer with 880 courses available. It has fewer learners (10 million) than the previous two but far more full degrees on offer (23, compared with Coursera’s 16 and edX’s 10).
I really like the website as I find it easier to find key information on its online courses, such as whether or not they’re free and the hours of study required per week.
I actually found Udemy through its app, rather than online.
Udemy boasts a huge (and I mean HUGE) amount of online courses (100,000 according to their website), although these aren’t as in-depth as the other websites mentioned. Some are free, most you have to pay for but when you do, you then get lifetime access to them.
Udemy often has flash sales where many courses are available for free (with lifetime access included) for a limited period of time, or they have significant discounts (currently 95% off some courses today, for example).
This website is great for continuing professional development as its courses mainly focus on practical skills (for example, courses on Excel) with varying difficulty levels, from complete beginner to advanced subject matter.
Udemy gives you a certificate of completion after you finish a course.
Of course, this is just a snapshot of some of the granddaddies of continuing professional development sites out there where you can study online courses. There are many other websites you can find and there are also some that can teach you more creative skills, if that’s your scene.
Where do you find your online courses? What are your favourite pages for MOOCs and CPD? What courses have you taken? Let us know in the comments.