by Sherice Jacobs
Updated October 27, 2022
These days, there are a wide variety of online educational platforms to learn from. Virtually anything you could want to learn is at your fingertips.
But with so many options out there, which online course platform gives you the best options for your specific needs?
In this article, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of the top online platforms, as well as how online courses can help you stand out in a competitive job market.
What Makes Online Courses So Great?
Online courses offer a variety of benefits over traditional classrooms. Most notably, you can learn when and where you want.
Online classes allow you to make the course fit your work schedule and your hobbies. In addition, online courses are generally cheaper than on-campus college courses.
When studying online, you won’t have to pay the cost of housing and transportation, which in turn means lower debts and greater savings. You’ll also have access to a greater variety of courses, and you can pick and choose what you want to concentrate on.
What is a MOOC?
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. As its name implies, it is an online course that allows for unlimited participation and open access to students from around the world.
MOOCs often contain traditional materials like video lectures and readings, but they can also include more interactive options like discussion forums or social media channels. In short, MOOCs provide the “best of both worlds” when it comes to learning a topic.
You get the freedom and flexibility to learn at your own pace in a way that’s comfortable to you, while still getting access to the professor or teaching assistant if you have any questions.
What Makes MOOCs So Great?
One of the biggest reasons to consider MOOCs for your learning goals is how accessible they are. Even large, established and prestigious universities offer some MOOCs for university credit, providing courses at a fraction of the price of traditional tuition.
- Because class size (even virtual class size) has not been tied to any specific bettering or worsening of learning outcome goals, it stands to reason that online classes, even those full of hundreds of thousands of students, have the potential to make education more affordable and accessible.
With so many benefits to using MOOCs, it can be hard to think of any potential drawbacks, but there are a few pitfalls that aspiring MOOC-attendees should be aware of.
What Are the Drawbacks to MOOCs and Online Courses?
MOOCs usually aren’t accredited, which means that they won’t hold the same weight as traditional courses when put on your resume. Of course, you can still add them, but they don’t have as much clout in the minds of employers.
Furthermore, in some cases, students feel like the MOOC versions of traditional courses are too “watered down” and don’t have the same challenge as the actual class. In their desire to make everything accessible to everyone, MOOCs have been accused of being too basic.
Finally, taking a class online requires a considerable amount of self-discipline and motivation. No one is doubting the commitment level of online course attendees, but unlike traditional courses where you need to show up on a regular basis, online courses that allow you to show up when and where you want.
This means that there’s a far greater tendency to put them on the “back burner” when life happens.
With that being said, if you have the stick-to-it-ness and the interest in online learning, there’s really nothing stopping you. That brings us to our next question:
Who Should Use Online Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Udacity and EDX?
Students who are motivated self-starters and who have some real-world experience already under their belts tend to do better with online platforms, because they already have some expectation of how the world works outside of the classroom.
Of course, that’s not to say that those fresh out of high school are doomed to flunk just because they’re newly-minted graduates.
But if you’re interested in learning and you’re willing to commit to completing the work, there’s no reason why online courses wouldn’t be well-suited to helping you achieve your educational goals.
The question then becomes, which online learning platform is the best? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each:
Udemy is targeted to freelancers and professional adults. Rather than follow a traditional, static, academic-oriented course outline, freelancers and specialists create their own content in the order they choose and then upload it to the Udemy platform.
They make money each time someone signs up for their course.
Udemy offers a number of free courses and you can complete them at your own pace. You can also access Udemy through your smartphone (Android and iOS).
Udemy’s courses are not recognized for college credit. Rather, they’re used to help augment your job skills. You do get a certificate when you complete the course, demonstrating that you have completed it, but you are not “graded” in the traditional sense.
Udemy courses are very affordable, and with over 100,000 courses available, there’s something for everyone. Content creators are in charge of setting their own prices.
The highest price for any course on Udemy is $200. Every course comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Who Is Udemy Best Suited For?
Udemy is best suited for working professionals, particularly those who want to get into or improve their writing, language, photography, or artistic skills. Because you can go at your own pace, there’s no rush to complete a course, and you can take as long as you need.
Unlike Udemy, which is geared toward freelancers, Coursera was built by two Stanford professors and it works with top universities to create courses and specializations. Topics range from digital marketing and data science to humanities and medicine.
Coursera’s biggest selling point is that they offer specialized courses designed to meet the needs of specific institutions.
Courses on Coursera are designed to appeal to corporate businesses as well as governments and non-profit organizations. Many courses are offered by Ivy-League instructors.
Courses can be completed at your own pace, and you receive a certification at the end of the program.
Unlike Udemy’s specific lessons, Coursera’s perspective is very academic, which some might find a little too dry. You can watch videos for free from Coursera over the course of seven days, but you’ll need to pay a monthly fee in order to access the graded material. You can also purchase individual courses from Coursera.
Prices for Coursera courses depend on the course itself, but they generally range from $29-79 per month. Most courses have a seven day free trial where you can preview what the course is like in order to decide if it’s well-suited to your specific needs.
Who Is Coursera Best Suited For?
Coursera is best suited for individuals working at corporations, NGOs or government organizations that are looking for specific courses presented in a more traditional, academic fashion.
They’ve partnered with over 100 of the world’s top universities and institutions to make online courses available for free, so depending on what you want to learn about, you may be able to access it (or a portion of it) at no cost.
Udacity offers a unique angle on the online classroom through their “Nanodegree” streaming courses. If you want to learn about technical fields like data science, artificial intelligence, programming, and even autonomous systems (like self-driving cars), Udacity is a great starting point to learn these in-demand skills.
Depending on what you want to learn, some of the material may be outdated. Given that Udacity focuses on technology, and technology stacks are always changing and updating, the information you learn or the proposed stack may be out of date by the time you finish the course and go implement what you’ve learned.
Many of the courses on Udacity are available free of charge. However, if you want to specialize in a particular area as part of their Nanodegree option, the cost is $199/month.
Who Is Udacity Best Suited For?
Udacity courses are geared toward the tech disciplines and are built and recognized by well-known tech innovators including Google, Amazon, IBM, and Lyft. Concepts taught by Udacity courses build upon each other, so you may start out as a complete beginner and then build upon what you’ve learned to grow your competency.
edX was founded by Harvard and MIT and is a non-profit organization offering many courses for free.
If you want to take a course for free without receiving a certificate, you’ll simply choose to Audit the course when registering. It may not be the most user-friendly in terms of navigation (especially when compared to sites like Coursera) but the quality of the academic content is second-to-none.
Course series’ have a wide range of names that sound similar and can be confusing if you’re going for accreditation. MicroMasters, XSeries, Online Master’s Degree, Global Freshman Academy? It can all seem overwhelming. However, with their MicroMasters and Master’s Degree options, you can get academic credit at U.S. universities.
If you want to take an accredited course and receive a certificate at the end, the fees can range anywhere from $50-300. These are the only charges for edX courses, making them very affordable compared to traditional college classes.
Who Is EDX Best Suited For?
edX courses are ideal for beginners and professionals alike. Although they tend to slant more toward the technology and language fields, they nevertheless provide quality material in an environment that’s collaborative and interactive.
How Does Each Platform’s Accreditation or Certificate Look on Your Resume?
While most MOOCs don’t offer accreditation, it certainly can’t hurt to put on your resume that you’ve completed these courses. If nothing else, you’ll have the educational foundation and the experience of completing the course, which will show prospective employers that you’re a motivated self-starter who wants to grow and improve. Although some online learning platforms like edX offer accreditation, online degrees have yet to catch up to their real-world counterparts in terms of clout and recognition.
Conclusion: Udemy vs Coursera vs Udacity vs Edx
Still, if you’re fascinated by a subject and want to delve deeper, getting certificates from MOOCs is a great way to show your broad expertise and demonstrate your willingness to learn more and accept new challenges as the online classroom evolves.
These are great options for upskilling and leveraging your skills for the globalised workforce. Becoming a more competitive job applicant, student, professional, or entrepreneur by utilizing one of these platforms.