The online learning platforms to know | 2021’s top 4

Eleanor Shearer
01 March 2021
3 minute read

Upskilling is non-negotiable, post-2020

Continuous learning. In basic terms, it’s your self-motivated quest to absorb knowledge, grow your skills and set yourself up for a lifetime of opportunity. Not limited to your work-based learning, this is about sponging up every scrap of knowledge that comes your way, from training in Python programming to understanding which plants support specific insects, and how to grow a bee-friendly garden.

It comes up frequently in podcasts and webinars, but what does it mean in practice? And what part will it play in the future of learning, in a post-lockdown world?

The answer is a big one, because according to insights from McKinsey, up to 375 million of us will need to switch careers and learn new skills by 2030. This is upskilling on a pan-society level, not just for people with time on their hands and an itch to scratch. It’s about more than just learning how to code – although you’d be glad you did – it’s about recognising that your job could easily be automated, and training up for something less dispensable.

To keep working, we need to keep learning. Here are a few platforms we’ve got our eye on, and the edutech that’s changing how we absorb our knowledge.

Google Classroom: for everyday teaching/learning

There’s a Google app for pretty much every learning and development (L&D) need, and Classroom is all about connecting teachers and students, with distanced learning the model, rather than the optional extra. It’s accessible, functional and free (up to a point).

This is probably the best example on our list of a platform emulating the real-life classroom – real-time comments in Google Docs, catch-up notes for absentees and assigned homework all feature. Students are also more than likely set up with a Google account already, or brand aware and familiar with the look and feel.

The service is part of the G Suite for Education, which houses everything from coding and computer science learning, to creativity tools, languages and productivity.

Coursera: for institutional excellence

This is the home of Yale’s infamous The Science of Well-Being course (over three million people have enrolled), along with Machine Learning from Stanford University, Programming for Everybody with the University of Michigan and beginner-friendly What is Data Science? from IBM.

The beauty of Coursera is in its varied prospectus – from coding to creative thinking (or both), there’s something for every personal goal and growth objective. Lots of the resources start for free, and as you get into the paid content you’ll note its exceptional quality. Yale aren’t involved for nothing, after all!

Coursera also focuses on upskilling for businesses and organisations, with lots of on-demand training and development programs for L&D teams to get their teeth into. If the future of learning is online self-service, Coursera ensure there’s no scrimping on prestige.

Udemy: for choice and language variation

Udemy put the emphasis on choice and accessibility, with 130,000 online video courses available on any device. Python programming, machine learning and iOS development are hugely popular, but so are Udemy’s public speaking courses, stock trading and life coach training.

Adidas, Lyft, Eventbrite and Booking.com are also fans of Udemy for Business, as their go-to for employee learning. An account can give you access to their top 5,000 courses.

Skillshare: best for creatives

New members currently get their first seven days of Skillshare Premium for free, so if you’re keen to preview this platform in full, now is the time. From animation and design to illustration and writing, the focus is on creativity all the way, for Skillshare.

Alongside the more standard options like Graphic Design Basics, you can also dip your toe into the business side of things, with Make Creativity Your Career, Building an Etsy Shop that Sells, and the highly actionable Productivity with Evernote. There’s even a lifestyle section, teaching the art of how to Style your Space, Happy Houseplants: Caring For Your Plants and Writing for Self-Discovery.

Courses with Skillshare are video-based – good news for those of us who aren’t quite ready to give up on a visual stimulus.

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