What are the top e-learning platforms on the web?

4,679 Views Updated: 29 Jun 2018
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What are the top e-learning platforms on the web?

Caption – e-learning is the new university

For anyone of a certain age, the term long-distance learning will be quite familiar. At one time, anyone who couldn’t afford to study full-time would often opt to take courses through the Open University or other similar non-attendance colleges. But then along came the internet making everything so much easier. The term long-distance was dropped, and now we talk about e-learning like it has been around forever.

But as e-learning grows in popularity so too does the number of sites offering to train you in any discipline you can imagine. From sofa repair to biochemistry and pretty much everything in between, if you can learn it then the chances are an e-learning site has a course on it. So where do you go for the very best in online education? Below are some of the best sites with a proven track record of providing value when it comes to educational material but before we get to that let’s take a quick look at some stats.

The e-learning revolution

As we said earlier, e-learning is booming right now, and there are scores of sites out there all purporting to be the best of the best. But interestingly enough, from a global revenue perspective, self-paced e-learning is set to drop in value over the next three years .

credit: statista

Could this drop in revenue be an indicator of the public losing interest in e-learning? Most certainly not. Demand for learning is at such an all-time high that many non-e-learning sites are now providing free guides and courses in order to keep their audiences engaged.

Free guides and eBooks lead the way

With more and more free content out there, it’s little wonder that global revenue from self-paced e-learning is expected to decline in the coming years. You’ll even notice in our list below that more and more e-learning sites are offering their courses or less-intensive versions of their courses for free.

Many businesses also understand the desire their customers have to improve their skills in a specific discipline and so tailor their content to help them do so. Deloitte, one of the world’s largest marketing agencies has done this to a certain degree with their three-minute series where they take complex topics and explain them in short reports.

The gambling industry is also particularly good in this regard. For example, 888casino have done something similar on their blog. They know that their players enjoy improving their skills at games such as Baccarat and so they provide an in-depth strategy guide on their blog. This type of content has been proven to be quite successful, and many businesses in a variety of industries are now following suit.

Another reason global revenue from e-learning could be on the decline is the rise of the eBook. With self-publishing now an extremely simple task, many thought leaders, and even businesses are taking this approach. An eBook doesn’t necessarily need to be so intensive with regards to training, and so they are often easier to create than a course but hold just as weight when it comes to offering value to their audience.

Now, let’s get back to business and take a look at the best e-learning sites out there.


With over 55,000 courses and one of the most well-known names in e-learning, Udemy is often the first stop for anyone in search of an online course. Started in 2010, Udemy allows individuals to create courses and sell them on its platform.

While this may not sound so great, what it means is that there are a lot of courses that offer exactly what you’re looking for. So instead of buying an entire course when all you need is one module, at Udemy, you can buy that one bite-sized module.

Another good thing about the platform is the fact that students can rate the courses and so you can read other users’ experiences before committing to a course.

Cognitive Class

This was once known as Big Data University and is backed by computing giant IBM. This platform offers free courses in the field of data science and cognitive computing. And while it is certainly a niche market, all of the courses are in fact, free.

Those who complete a course get certification recognized by IBM so this is a little more than a simple site full of free tutorials. If you’re planning to move into computing, then this site is a potential goldmine.


Right now Coursera is at the pinnacle of e-learning. It has over 25million learners and over 2,000 courses and to top all that off; it has 149 university partners. The range of courses available here is similar in a way to Udemy although not as extensive. Where Coursera differs though is in its Masters programs which are all provided in conjunction with those accredited university partners we mentioned.

General courses on Coursera are typically free with the option to receive certificates for a small fee. You can also pay to have coursework assigned to you that the Coursera pros will then grade for you. All-in-all it’s a good site that could help you start moving up the career ladder.


Pluralsight offers a huge range of courses for individuals in the tech industry and for creative professionals. Starting from novice and working right up to expert level, there seems to be something for everyone from software developers to graphics designers.

There are over 4,500 courses, and students are asked to pay a subscription fee each month to retain access to the courses. Although it’s not free, this subscription model makes even the most intensive training an affordable option.

They also have team packages so employers can have an entire department studying at the same time and at the same pace. As you can imagine, this makes Pluralsight one of the most attractive options for both established companies and startups.

Photo by janeb13 / CC BY


Now owned by LinkedIn, it’s understandable that Lynda has become one of the most talked about e-learning resources for professionals. Just like Pluralsight, Lynda has opted for a subscription model with basic and premium levels available. With premium you get to download your project files and use mobile apps.

So what does Lynda teach? Well, it pretty much covers every kind of professional qualification you can imagine. If it’s possible to learn it online, then you can probably do it on Lynda.

One of the best things about Lynda is the ability to test out the site before making any payments. There are plenty of free ‘teaser’ videos for each course which should give you a good idea of whether or not the course is what you had in mind.


What makes Udacity a special e-learning platform is the fact that it is a not-for-profit organization created to help individuals get the education they need. They are well-known for their nanodegrees which as you may have guessed are highly specific courses which give students a recognized certification in a particular discipline.

There’s a huge range of tech-related courses, and all are free. The catch, if you’d call it that, is that you have to pay for graded projects and to get your certification. This is a small price to pay given that you are receiving some incredibly in-depth training at no cost to yourself.

There are of course other e-learning platforms that do a great job and provide incredible value. Sites such as Khan Academy, FutureLearn, and edX are other options that may interest you. But in our opinion, the sites above represent the best range of courses and ease of learning.

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