Professional Development

9 Ways to Learn New Skills Online

Last Updated on September 29, 2020

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Whether you are looking to simply improve yourself or impress your boss, there is no shortage of platforms that can help you learn new skills from home. The accessibility and flexibility of these platforms truly mean that the world is your oyster. However, they’re not all created equal. So, here’s a breakdown of the 9 best ways to learn new skills from the comfort of your living room:

Jump to a specific platform by clicking the name below: 

  1. Udemy 
  2. Audible 
  3. Masterclass
  4. Youtube
  5. hoopla
  6. Coursera
  7. Khan Academy 
  8. Codecademy
  9. GoSkills

Udemy

In a nutshell: an online learning platform geared towards students and professional adults offering a wide variety of instructor-led courses

Pros 

  • Udemy is free to join. You pay per class, meaning you get to see the entire library of courses available and their corresponding prices without spending a dime. 
  • Once you pay for a class, you have access to that class forever
  • Each class preview has a review section helping you determine what will be worth spending your money on
  • Good for visual learners
  • Most classes are self-paced, allowing you to complete them on your own timeline
  • Many courses include opportunities to connect with the class developers and your classmates which can be a great networking opportunity 
  • Covers a massive range of topics from personal development to software development to photography and everything in between
  • The platform offers great semi-annual sales that can offer discounts as high as 90% off

Cons

  • While some classes are taught by professionals, others are simply taught by experienced individuals in their field, meaning not many of the classes offered can help lead you toward a certification if that is your goal

Audible

In a nutshell: an expansive, credit-based membership platform that offers access to over 200,000 audio programs

Pros

  • Great for auditory learners
  • The audio format, which can be played on most devices, makes it easy to learn while driving, working out, etc.
  • If you are an Amazon Prime member, you’re eligible for a free trial when you sign up for the first time. Your free trial includes free credits which can be applied to cover the cost of your first book (though some books cost more than a single credit)
  • Membership can be canceled at any time
  • Audible offers a massive library of audio program options and many offer narration in up to 8 different languages
  • The platform has a great review system so you can confidently choose a new book without worrying about wasting a credit on a bad one
  • Any audio program you purchase with a credit is yours to keep forever

Cons

  • Navigating back and forth between the Amazon app/website and the audible functionality to purchase an audiobook with your free credits isn’t as intuitive as it should be
  • There are multiple membership tiers that range from $7.95 to $23 per month which is a costlier option compared to what you can get for free at your local library
  • While there are a few free audiobook options you can try out, the selection is very limited
  • Credits expire after one year. So if you’re not an avid reader, you may need to set reminders so you don’t lose what you paid for. 
  • While Audible offers many geared-for-learning audio programs, its main goal is to offer audiobooks, not courses. Whether or not that works for you will depend on your learning style.

Masterclass

In a nutshell: a membership-based, immersive learning platform geared towards adults looking to learn from the best and brightest in their fields of expertise

Pros

  • The visual format with professionally developed videos exceeds the quality of most competitors. It’s a great platform for visual learners
  • Masterclass offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Once you’re a member, you have unlimited access to all of the courses available
  • Lots of functionality and well-thought-out features like the ability to download a course and watch it offline (perfect for when you’re on an airplane or in a situation with limited wifi) or you can utilize audio-only mode
  • Masterclass includes a wider, more creative range of topics that exceeds what many other learning platforms offer. Examples include: comedy with Steve Martin, scientific thinking with Neil deGrasse Tyson, skateboarding with Tony Hawk, cooking with Gordon Ramsey
  • Average length of a lesson is 10 minutes, which means you easily add it into your day
  • Works across most devices

Cons

  • Membership is costly: Masterclass membership runs at $15 per month, billed annually at for a total of $180
  • While the courses are self-paced, a subscription-based pricing scheme means you that if you slack off, you likely won’t get your money’s worth.
  • Courses are geared more towards life skills and niche interests and they come at a cost
  • Take it with a grain of salt that they offer courses which attempt to teach you how to ‘serve like Serena Williams’

Youtube

In a nutshell: a free, video sharing platform with a plethora of user-created content from amateurs and experts alike

Pros

  • Great for visual learners
  • It’s free!
  • Strong reviewer functionality makes it easy to see what other viewers have enjoyed and/or found helpful 
  • Whether you’re interested in learning how to be a homesteader, want to better utilize Excel, or learn how to change your oil, you’ll likely find a number of tutorials on all of those topics and everything in between

Cons

  • Not always the easiest platform to find the specific content you’re looking for
  • While Youtube has plenty of educational content, it wasn’t developed with that as its primary objective 
  • Be wary of what content you are absorbing. There’s plenty of quality material available, but anyone can post almost anything on Youtube. The onus of responsibility is on the viewer to do your homework on whether or not you are receiving information from a credible source

hoopla

In a nutshell: a digital platform which allows easy access to all digital content your local public library has to offer

Pros

  • Great for visual or auditory learners with video and audio programming 
  • It’s free! 
  • What you borrow is automatically ‘returned’ to the library and removed from your device at the end of its lending period. No having to worry about late fees.
  • Audio and video programs can be streamed or downloaded onto your device so you can use them with or without wifi 

Cons

  • What you see available on Hoopla comes from what your local public library has to offer, however extensive or limited that may be
  • You need a library card to utilize hoopla (this isn’t so much of a con as it is simply an extra step you have to take in order to gain access)
  • The app is simple, but not always the most user friendly with its limited functionality

Coursera

In a nutshell: online learning platform with corporate and university partners that provides students and adult learners pathways to earn certificates and class credit towards a degree

Pros

  • Great for visual learners
  • Many of the courses offered were developed in conjunction with accredited universities such as Stanford and Yale
  • Provides classes that can help you on your way to attaining a degree or gaining certification (at both the bachelors and masters level)
  • Self-paced courses come with unlimited lifetime access and offer quizzes and projects to ensure the learning objectives are met
  • It’s free to sign up, and Coursera offers both free and paid courses
  • Variety of courses include everything from the humanities, data science, engineering, languages, and much more
  • User-friendly app and website interface
  • Most courses are offered in multiple languages 
  • They offer a short 7-day free trial

Cons

  • Free class availability is limited. You have the opportunity to audit paid-classes, but your access to corresponding activities and content will be restricted
  • No courses taken for a certificate or degree-seeking goal are offered for free
  • Not all universities accept credit taken from Coursera, so you need to be careful if your intent is to transfer any credits you earn on their platform
  • Pricing can be confusing whether you are interested in a specialty certificate, full-blown degree program, or just a few courses. Depending on which you choose, you may be required to enroll in the subscription service and/or pay per course. 
  • Many courses utilize peer grading, so you won’t get feedback and insight from the instructor on your course deliverables
  • You are not guaranteed access to paid courses forever. If it was a course purchased through the subscription model, your access will end when your subscription ends

Khan Academy

In a nutshell: a non-profit online learning platform geared towards pre-k through college students that offers a feeling of personalized tutoring through interactive videos

Pros

  • Great for visual learners
  • All courses are completely free 
  • Offers lessons on all core topic areas in pre-k through bachelor level material
  • Quizzes, activities, and practice problems are embedded within the lessons to help you check your learning as you progress
  • Touted as one of the best free learning services available with rave reviews by students.  You will be hard-pressed to find any other learning platform with better student reviews
  • Provides courses for test prep including the SAT, LSAT, and Praxis Core

Cons

  • Courses are focused on more foundational, core learning opportunities for K-12 and undergraduate students. Those looking for professional development opportunities won’t find many options 
  • Courses are only offered in 2 languages, English and Spanish

Codecademy

In a nutshell: an online learning platform for students and adults learners specifically geared towards computer and data science topics

Pros

  • Great for visual learners
  • Classes are based around web development, computer science, and data science
  • Many code language courses are offered for free, and include: html, css, javascript, python, sql, ruby, and many others
  • Signing up for a free basic membership allows you access to all basic courses available
  • A paid monthly “Pro” membership costs $19.99/month with a 7-day free trial 
  • College students receive a discount on the Pro membership 
  • Memberships can be canceled at any time 
  • Codecademy hosts an open forum for students and peers to communicate and learn from one another, regardless of whether or not they are a paying member
  • Lots of good, beginner-friendly content 
  • Easy to navigate app and website interface

Cons

  • The basic, free courses come with very little opportunity for practice or guidance. For practice projects, learning support, and additional training you’re required to be a paying member
  • The Pro membership is billed annually 
  • Courses are offered on specific timelines, so they are not as flexible to integrate into a busy schedule
  • An annually billed membership with specific class start times means you need to plan out your participation to really get your money’s worth

GoSkills

In a nutshell: an online learning platform specifically geared towards working adults with the aim of providing a variety of professional development and continuing education courses

Pros

  • Great for visual learners
  • Offers an easy way to put professional development funds to use. GoSkills even goes so far as to provide an email template where you can “suggest GoSkills to my boss” if you don’t want to make the ask yourself…
  • Provides a number of accredited course offerings that can lead to certifications like Lean Six Sigma’s yellow, green, and black belts.
  • Content areas include Excel, project management, lean six sigma, finance, etc 
  • You have the ability to pay per-class (average between $199 – $299), purchase unlimited access monthly ($29 per month), or buy a one-year membership ($199) that comes with unlimited course access
  • You have access to purchased courses forever
  • GoSkills offers a free 7-day trial that grants you access to 10 lessons from every single course to try it out
  • Self-paced courses that you can begin and end at your leisure
  • Works across most devices
  • Provides tests, quizzes, and practice problems to ensure you are meeting your learning objectives

Cons

  • Pricier option if you are paying out of pocket rather than utilizing professional development funds
  • Currently only offers courses in English
  • Courses offered are of the traditional continuing education and professional development sort – so if you are looking for something more creative, your options will be limited