In an era where digital innovation is reshaping the way we learn, online learning platforms have taken center stage. Recent global events, including the transformative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have accelerated the adoption of online education. Notably, in 2021, in the US, at least 5.5 million students were enrolled in at least one online course.
So if you’re ready to embark on a journey of knowledge expansion and exploration in the realm of online learning, but don’t know which platforms to turn to, this article is for you. We’re here to offer a comprehensive comparison of the finest online learning platforms available today.
Through a meticulous examination of features, benefits, pricing, and other pivotal factors, we strive to be your guiding light in selecting the platform that aligns perfectly with your learning objectives.
What if you’re an aspiring educator keen on creating impactful online content? We’ve got you covered too! Skip our top list, and we’ll show you why Sensei LMS is the top online learning platform for creators.
Choosing an online learning platform
We’re about to explore various types of online learning platforms, and as you read through our list it’s important to keep in mind that no platform is better or worse than the other. Your personal top choice will depend on your own needs and requirements. Here are a few factors to consider:
- Your use case: Different platforms cater to different use cases. Are you interested in specific topics like art and creativity, coding and development, or corporate skills? This will determine which platform is right for you.
- Your budget: E-learning platforms vary in price, with some offering free options, others requiring a one-time payment, and others charging a monthly or yearly subscription fee.
- Content delivery options: Platforms offer various course content delivery options, such as live classes, pre-recorded videos, interactive quizzes, etc. Your preference will depend on your learning style. Consider which teaching methods enable you to learn best.
- Community options: Some platforms provide community features, such as forums or groups, that allow learners to interact and collaborate. You may or may not want this; it’s a very individual preference! Learning from others can be helpful for some people, but not for others.
Types of online learning platforms
Most online learning platforms fall under the category of Learning Management Systems (LMSs), which are systems instructors and organizations use to track learners’ progress, customize content based on learners’ needs, and manage all learning materials in one place.
Here are some of the most common types of online learning platforms available for learners and teachers alike. We’ll explore specific examples of each type in the next section.
Online course platforms
Online course platforms can refer to two types of educational services:
- Online course hubs that host online courses from multiple educators and academies. Courses are available in a wide range of fields and topics, making it easy to find courses that are relevant to you. There will be a mix of generalist and specialist courses.
- Online course websites that belong to a specific educator, academy, or entity. Courses here are usually all within the same field, and usually quite specialized. You will usually sign up for these courses based on the instructor’s reputation or expertise and receive bespoke course materials.
Virtual classrooms are online learning platforms that replicate the environment of a regular classroom. They create a digital space resembling traditional class setups, where educators use videoconferencing tools and digital whiteboards to teach.
The key advantage of virtual classrooms is their capacity to facilitate real-time interaction with teachers and classmates, regardless of physical location. This offers the convenience of learning from home while maintaining live engagement. Additionally, these platforms often grant access to a diverse array of online resources, augmenting the learning experience and providing ample supplementary materials.
Online tutoring platforms
Online tutoring platforms are digital educational tools that link students with tutors for individualized learning sessions. Though they share some common traits with virtual classrooms, these platforms focus on connecting students with tutors for personalized one-on-one interactions.
These platforms are often used in online coaching scenarios and often offer supplementary features like progress tracking, which lets you know how close you are to reaching key milestones.
The main advantages of online tutoring platforms include the provision of tailored instruction that caters to the student’s unique needs, the convenience of scheduling sessions at the student’s preferred times, and the potential for enhanced academic performance through focused guidance.
Microlearning and learning apps
Microlearning refers to a pedagogic methodology that involves delivering concise, targeted pieces of content, and learning apps are platforms that facilitate this style of education.
Microlearning’s primary attributes are its bite-sized nature and focused content, which enable learners to grasp concepts quickly. Learning apps, as a medium for microlearning, allow individuals to acquire new skills or information efficiently. They enable learning on the go, fitting into busy schedules, and they accommodate self-paced education, allowing learners to absorb knowledge at their convenience.
The benefits encompass the ability to optimize fragmented time, making use of spare moments for learning. Microlearning and learning apps also cater to different learning styles, making education more engaging and personalized.
Top 7 online learning platform examples
If you’re looking for new online avenues where you can expand your knowledge, read on! We’ve curated this list just for you.
If you’re an aspiring educator and want to discover the best platform for creating online learning content, skip this list – we’ll show you how to get started with our top learning platform for creators, Sensei LMS.
1. Specialized course websites
Our number spot is not a specific recommendation to any one platform, but rather a recommendation for readers to seek out experts that have their own online course website and offer a range of courses in one place.
While there is nothing wrong with more generalized course marketplaces (and in fact, we’ll discuss a few of these below), there are a few distinct advantages to subscribing to a specialized course platform:
- It’s generally easier to find information about the instructor/s and their accolades on their own online learning platform.
- It’s easier to find a range of high-quality courses curated by the same team, as opposed to having to sift through tens or hundreds of courses by random instructors.
- Specialized course websites usually offer a nicer experience since all the website pages are built around the learning experience offered by the instructor. This encompasses everything from branding to navigation.
- It will be easier to find out about new courses or products as they launch.
Some specialist course website examples include Barista Hustle for people who want to learn how to be baristas, or City Lit for those looking to improve their film and video editing skills. No matter what skill you want to learn, you will generally be able to find a trusted expert who is passing on all the information you need.
If you’re interested in specialized course websites but aren’t sure where to start, check out the Sensei Showcase. It showcases the best online course websites built using the Sensei LMS plugin for WordPress.
‘Forever Employable’ by Jeff Gothelf is an example of a course designed using Sensei:
Another example is The Breakup Masterclass, a course that helps people get over their heartache:
2. LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning is another online learning provider to consider, owned by LinkedIn, a professional social networking platform. It was previously known as Lynda.com before LinkedIn acquired it in 2015. LinkedIn Learning offers a wide range of high-quality, video-based courses taught by industry experts and professionals.
LinkedIn Learning offers numerous benefits for the avid learner, such as its wide range of professional courses, integration with LinkedIn profiles, and learning paths feature. It also makes it easy to link your completed training courses to your LinkedIn profile, helping you bolster your online presence and career prospects.
LinkedIn Learning accommodates diverse pricing models, allowing learners to choose between subscription-based access or purchasing individual courses at a lifetime rate. Furthermore, the platform extends its utility to employers, enabling them to invest in courses for entire teams, thereby enhancing the collective skill pool of their workforce.
However, it’s important to note that LinkedIn Learning’s primary focus is professional development. While this is an inherent strength for those seeking career-oriented growth, it might limit its appeal for individuals seeking more varied or non-professional subjects.
Skillshare offers a wide range of creative and practical courses taught by professionals and practitioners in various fields. The platform is designed to provide affordable and accessible education to learners who are interested in developing their skills and knowledge in creative areas such as design, photography, writing, art, and more.
As with all learning platforms, Skillshare has strengths and weaknesses. Positives include the platform’s focus on creative skills, project-based learning approach, bite-sized lessons, and pool of expert instructors. Many Skillshare users benefit from rapid learning over time, thanks to the flexible, hands-on approach.
However, there are problems. It operates on a subscription-based pricing model, lacking the option for lifetime course access that other platforms offer. Furthermore, it has limited online class variety in non-creative fields, making it unsuitable for most people wanting to learn ‘hard skills’.
Coursera offers a vast array of courses, specializations, and degrees from top universities and institutions worldwide. It’s famous for being founded by Andrew Ng and generating $524 million in revenue in 2022.
Coursera is an attractive platform because of its partnerships with leading universities and institutions. As such, it offers a wide range of academic and professional courses, and certificate and degree programs, enabling you to get on the fast track to universally recognized qualifications.
It’s also mobile-friendly, and available on both Android and iPhone in addition to desktop devices.
But again, it comes with some drawbacks. For instance, course availability can vary depending on the learner’s region due to licensing restrictions or other factors. Furthermore, the cost of its certificate and degree programs can be high because of Coursera’s prestigious partnerships, making it impractical if you are on a budget.
5. Google Classroom
At number five, we have Google Classroom, an online learning management system (LMS) developed by Google. It is designed with functionality to help educators and students streamline their communication, collaboration, and assignment management in a digital classroom environment. Google Classroom is a part of Google Workspace for Education, which includes a suite of productivity and collaboration tools tailored for educational purposes.
One of Google Classroom’s main benefits is its seamless integration with Google Apps. If you already have an account with the search engine, you can access it immediately. It’s also free for educators and students. All you need is the code to get started on free courses.
With that said, Google Classroom is somewhat of an outlier on this list because you can’t use the platform to find specific courses. If you are interested in virtual classroom learning, you can however look for learning programs that include Google Classrooms as part of its curriculum.
Udemy boasts a vast selection of courses on a wide range of topics. It provides an opportunity for subject matter experts and instructors from various fields to create and sell their courses to a global audience.
Key features of Udemy include a diverse course catalog, self-paced learning, and lifetime access to courses. You can also upload presentations, take part in live classes, and learn through various audio and video files.
While many courses are of high quality, the platform’s open structure means that the quality of courses can vary. This requires learners to exercise discretion while selecting courses. Unlike some competitors, Udemy lacks a subscription-based model for all access to its courses, potentially resulting in higher costs for those who wish to take multiple courses.
Finally, we have edX, an online learning platform that offers a wide range of courses and programs from leading universities and institutions around the world. It was founded in 2012 as a collaboration between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has since grown to include partnerships with many prestigious educational institutions.
The key features of edX include a diverse selection of courses covering various subjects, including science, technology, engineering, computer science, mathematics (STEM), humanities, business, and more; University partnerships, and MicroMasters programs. Over 4,000 options are available, with learning available from over 250 leading institutions.
While edX courses are generally free to audit, obtaining verified certificates often involves a fee. The cost of certificates can vary depending on the course and program, which might deter some learners.
Creating an online learning platform with Sensei LMS
In this article, we’ve looked at 7 different platforms for online learning, and we’ve seen why our top recommendation for learners is actually to look for industry and field experts who offer a range of online courses on their own personal platforms. This way, learners can be sure of the level of expertise they are subscribing to, and will also have a more curated experience built by niche-specific experts.
For creators or experts looking to enter the world of online learning, we also recommend having their own online course platform, since this offers advantages such as:
- A branded website that creators have full control of in terms of design and navigation. Educators can easily add pages about themselves and their experience and include shop pages too, if they want to sell products.
- More control over course pricing, and fewer transactional fees to worry about.
- Ability to add more SEO elements, ensuring that people will find their websites by looking for relevant topics in search engines.
Enter Sensei LMS, a perfect solution for creators aspiring to set up personalized websites on WordPress and directly host and sell courses. The free version lets you publish unlimited courses, but we recommend opting for Sensei Pro because it gives you essential features such as advanced quizzes and the ability to integrate with WooCommerce and sell your courses.
Here are just a few reasons why we recommend Sensei for course creators:
- Seamless integration with WordPress and the Gutenberg Block Editor.
- Easy module and lesson creation with AI-generated course outlines, lesson templates, etc.
- Multimedia support through Sensei Blocks, VideoPress integration, etc.
- Easy student management and reporting
- WooCommerce integration so you can set various pricing structures, such as pre-selling options
- Various other integrations, such as BuddyPress integration, so you can set up a messaging forum around your platform if you desire it.
- Group and cohort learning for group learning opportunities.
- Advanced quizzes with 7 different quiz types.
Get started with Sensei LMS
For creators looking to get started with an online learning platform, Sensei LMS is the obvious choice. It offers multiple features and benefits, including the ability to comprehensively manage all aspects of your course, integrate with WooCommerce, and build group learning opportunities. There are two recommended ways to get Sensei LMS:
- Sensei Pro, as a plugin for your existing WordPress website.
- Sensei Bundle, which includes Sensei Pro and an install on WordPress.com, alongside other essential tools.
Check out the pricing plans here and start your creator journey as an online educator.