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Which eLearning Service Is Right for You?

Udemy vs. Coursera vs. Skillshare vs. FutureLearn vs. LinkedIn Learning
With the rising costs of higher education, many people are turning to the internet for the academic and professional knowledge they seek. This is facilitated largely due to the rise in recent years of different e-Learning services, also called Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs).

These services curate and host primarily video content devoted to specific topics and tutorials. Often, they are created by professors and industry professionals of every imaginable field. Some focus on career development and help full-time workers gain new skills; others are dedicated to helping students in different academic topics, either as a supplemental lesson or as part of a degree-earning endeavor.

There are a lot of e-Learning services out there, making it hard to tell which is best suited for your particular needs. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the biggest eLearning services: Udemy vs. Coursera vs. Skillshare vs. FutureLearn vs. LinkedIn Learning. We’ll detail their pros and cons and give you a breakdown of how they stack up against each other.

Udemy

Udemy.com was created specifically for employees and corporate professionals looking to bolster their knowledge in their given field. This is in contrast to many eLearning sites that focus on college academic content. With over 80,000 courses, learners can find information on subjects ranging from basic computer programming to advanced photography techniques.

The instructors themselves are often experts in the fields they’re teaching about. They submit lessons of their own creation, meaning Udemy primarily hosts content instead of creating it. Because of this, there isn’t necessarily a tight standard of quality, but there are lots of reviews that can be used to help judge both an instructor’s teaching style and the quality of their content.

While not limited to business professionals, Udemy is primarily meant for corporate enrichment in the workplace. Udemy offers discount plans for business teams looking to collectively learn and benefit from the same courses. Otherwise, lessons are purchased individually and can be accessed an unlimited number of times after completion.

Ultimately, because the pay-per-course expense adds up over time, Udemy shines as a resource for people looking to take only a few specialized classes on topics they’re already confident they want to pursue. Be sure to keep an eye for sales, as they happen frequently and can often bring the price of a single class down to a mere $10.

Pros:

  • Lifetime course access
  • Some free courses
  • Regular sales and promotional discounts
  • One-on-one tutoring with instructors available

Cons:

  • Pay per course, making it expensive to buy in bulk
  • Subscription discount plans require a minimum of 5 users
  • Some complaints of an unreliable review system
  • Variable quality of courses

Coursera

Coursera.org was founded in 2012 by university professors looking to share their knowledge online, an idea that has continued today through partnerships with various college and universities across the world, such as the University of London, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and others.

Because of its heavily academic nature, there are even degree programs through Coursera. These allow students to acquire a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in different business, public health, data, and computer sciences fields. Financial aid is available for those who may be unable to afford the hefty $10,000+ price tags on these degrees.

There is a variety of payment options available for Coursera, though many classes can be audited for free. Individual courses, subscriptions, and Coursera Specializations all vary in cost. Specializations are a collection of related courses and are considered “micro-credentials” by the platform. These often end in a peer-graded Capstone Project. A subscription to gain unlimited site access costs approximately $47.

Content quality is unquestionable, as classes are taught by current professors and academic instructors from schools around the world. There are roughly 2,700 courses available, which is a relatively small amount compared to other e-Learning services. However, many find the superior quality of Coursera’s instructors and educational content to make up for the small class library.

While full-time workers may find benefit in Coursera, the service’s carefully developed content is mostly suited for students looking to supplement their college-level classes.

Pros:

  • Possible to apply for financial aid
  • Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees available from accredited universities
  • Affiliated with top educational institutions from around the world
  • High-quality content guaranteed

Cons:

  • Expensive without financial aid
  • Backlog of classes not as wide as competitors
  • Payment required for completion certification

Skillshare

Launched in 2011, Skillshare.com has over 17,000 classes and workshops available entirely for subscribers at $15 per month or $99 per year.


While the site has tons of different classes on a variety of subjects (as is common with other eLearning services), Skillshare finds its niche in the creative fields. Topics include painting, photography, crafts, cooking, as well as the business and tech sides of creativity.

In some regards, this makes it a little easier to judge the expertise of instructors, who independently submit videos to the site. Most instructors will have online portfolios readily available for potential students to assess the quality and style of their work.

Many note the interactive nature of Skillshare, which allows students to speak with both instructors and their fellow classmates. This is facilitated through class discussions, galleries, and opportunities for feedback and commenting on projects.

Skillshare is particularly well-suited for anyone looking to hone their creative passions, whether it be as part of a hobby or profession. The opportunity for projects alongside instructional videos is an effective way to implement the skills being taught and to keep learners fully engaged.

Pros:

  • Free membership option
  • Easy interaction with instructors and fellow students
  • Discounts on other creative services (Squarespace, Shutterstock, etc.) with annual plans
  • Unlimited access with paid subscription
  • Projects alongside lectures

Cons:

  • No refunds
  • Narrower scope of topics compared to other services
  • Variable quality of courses

FutureLearn

FutureLearn.com was designed to be the UK’s answer to academic e-Learning, founded by a dozen universities based in the United Kingdom. It’s now one of the largest e-Learning institutions in the world, recently transitioning from offering all content for free to a paid upgrading model. Most courses can be freely accessed for a limited time, but unlimited access, course tests, and completion certificates require payment.

FutureLearn simulates a traditional academic environment by giving a set beginning and ending date for classes. This also means students aren’t free to progress at their own pace and cannot access class materials and videos after two weeks past the course completion date unless they pay for a subscription. During the classes’ duration, however, free subscribers have full access to course content, including quizzes, peer reviews, and other materials, with the exception of course tests.

Furthermore, students have the opportunity to earn various post-grad degrees and certificates through FutureLearn through a flexible “pay-as-you-go” payment model. This makes FutureLearn an excellent option for working adults looking to earn a degree or certificate on a non-traditional schedule. These degrees are affiliated with accredited universities, like Deakin University, Coventry University, and The Open University.

Pros:

  • Courses developed by university professors and academic instructors
  • Affiliated with top UK educational institutions
  • Post-graduate degrees and certificates available
  • Refunds available in some cases

Cons:

  • Pay per course
  • Limited access to free courses (length of course plus two weeks)
  • Paid subscription needed to acquire completion certificates
  • Set start/end date for classes

LinkedIn Learning

Launched in 1995 and initially known as Lynda.com before its acquisition by LinkedIn.com in 2015, LinkedIn Learning is a true juggernaut in the eLearning industry. Its roots are as an educational tool for creative professionals, hosting over 13,000 courses gathered over the course of its over two-decade history. LinkedIn Learning was recently acquired by Microsoft, which has generated buzz over the future of the service and potential expansion.

Instructors develop and submit classes to LinkedIn Learning, meaning there is no set standard of quality and few opportunities to review individual instructors. While past learners have found some instructors to be somewhat dry with barebones presentations, most still find the quality of content of LinkedIn Learning to be of great value. And at $29.99 for a monthly subscription or $24.99 per month for a yearly subscription, members have unlimited access to the entirety of LinkedIn Learning’s vast back catalog.

LinkedIn Learning is well-suited for both professionals and students alike who plan to spend a lot of time making their subscription worth it. Successful completion of some courses can earn users a special badge on their LinkedIn profiles, which can be appealing to some potential employers.

Those looking to break into a new industry or switch careers may be particularly interested in the Learning Paths feature. These are collections of classes intended to help learners develop the skills for a specific career path.

Pros:

  • Ability to download and access courses offline
  • A wide variety of course subjects
  • No limit to the number of courses viewable

Cons:

  • Variable quality of instructors
  • Classes aren’t dated, meaning some information could already be outdated upon viewing
  • No opportunities for interaction with instructors

Summary

All eLearning have their benefits and drawbacks. Which one works best for you ultimately depends on a number of different factors: whether you’re a student or a working professional, whether you’re a casual learner or career developer or degree-seeker, and how much you’re willing to spend.


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