Online learning is growing in popularity, and EdTech companies have seen an unprecedented user boom in recent years. That’s why it can be difficult to find one that suits you. That’s why I decided to test and analyze several adult education platforms.
Below is a comparison table and a detailed overview of my conclusions. This overview is only based on my personal experience.
Coursera is an open source provider (MOOC) of courses offered by universities around the world and tutors. In 2021, a total of 244 educators from 53 countries are active on the platform. They offer one-on-one courses, certifications and specializations, degree programs, and guided projects. Most courses are offered on request unless they have specific start/end dates.
Coursera currently offers 20+ undergraduate and graduate degrees, 80+ professional certifications composed of multiple courses per program, 1,300+ specializations, and 4,000+ free and paid courses. The subjects range from economics and marketing to social sciences and humanities.
Many courses are offered in English and other languages such as Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian to name a few. You can also set up subtitles for the videos of some courses. Providers are universities, private companies like Google and IBM, and individual professionals who are part of the Coursera network.
This online educational platform consists of video lectures, reading materials, quizzes and tests, often using external tools to complete the courses. Sometimes, like for one of the most popular specializations, “Python for All”, which I used to test this platform during my free trial, you had to download third-party software.
There’s a 7-day free trial to access the learning materials, but after that you’ll have to pay a fee of $39 per month if you’re studying a specialization, or several thousand dollars if you decide to graduate. Several courses and guided projects are offered free of charge.
There are currently over 1,700 free courses and over 2,000 guided projects, over 500 of which are free. The latter is a great applied learning tool as it allows you to put your skills into practice and the certificate is also free. There’s also a Coursera Plus subscription for $399 per year that offers unlimited access to all content and certifications. Considering the tuition fees at top universities, this is a great way to get access to top-notch teaching at a discounted price, minus the contact hours.
Another MOOC on this list is edX, which also offers courses and programs from universities and companies around the world. A month ago it was taken over by 2U. As a result, the platform is expected to reach over 50 million learners worldwide. Over 160 institutions and providers from over 20 countries are now represented on the platform.
As of 2021, edX offers over 3,400 courses and 371 professional certifications and degree programs (MicroBachelors and MicroMasters, which count toward college credit). They also offer XSeries programs, which are deep dives into in-demand areas from top providers and professionals, consisting of three or more courses.
This online educational platform includes subjects such as science, social technology and engineering, and law. Most courses are offered in English, but some are offered in French, Dutch and Mandarin to name a few. Content includes videos and reading materials, with exams available in paid mode. English subtitles are available for videos.
Unlike Coursera, the courses are available for a limited time, after which edX will delete them. Providers are universities as well as profit-oriented and non-profit organizations. Some edX courses are also offered on Coursera, such as Getting Started with Python, which is part of the specialization mentioned above.
Some courses on edX are free, but specializations and majors are not. For example, I tested the platform using the Introduction to Marketing course offered by the University of Edinburgh. The course is offered free of charge but for a limited time and without graded achievements and exams.
You can upgrade for $149 to get access and receive a certificate of completion. Other courses can range from $50 to $300. The Digital Marketing Fundamentals professional certificate, which includes Introduction to Marketing, costs $313.20. Other degree programs can cost up to $2-3,000. For more information, see our 2014 review of this online education platform.
The UK platform of The Open University (The OU) and The Seek Group is another MOOC offering a wide range of adult education courses and degrees from leading universities around the world. As of 2021, Future Learn will offer courses from over 200 universities, companies and NGOs from over 20 countries. As part of The OU, this online educational platform itself also offers its own courses.
The offer ranges from short online courses to microcredits and online degrees. There are currently over 1,200 short courses, 43 certifications and 36 bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They also recently introduced a new subscription model called ExpertTracks, aimed at employees and allowing them to improve their professional skills in 3 or more short courses. There are currently over 80 of them.
Subjects on Future Learn’s courses include social and political science, medicine and psychology, STEM, and others. The range of topics offered is narrower than Coursera and edX, but still quite comprehensive. Course content includes videos, transcripts, discussions and quizzes in paid mode.
Like the other two MOOC providers, Future Learn allows students to study courses for free, but only for a limited time and only in exam mode. This means users cannot access tests or receive a certificate of completion. You can pay for a single course (upgrade) or purchase an early subscription (unlimited).
Prices vary in this online educational platform. For example, the University of Groningen’s Multilingual Practices course, which I used to test the platform, was free for 6 weeks. The upgrade would have cost $94, while the $279.99 unlimited subscription would have got me access to this course and every other on the platform for a year. ExpertTracks comes with a 7-day free trial and a monthly subscription fee of $39. Certifications can cost around $1,000. Online degree prices vary, but as far as I can see they are similar to the offline tuition fees of the universities in question.
This particular MOOC focuses on applied job-related skills rather than academics, which fall more within the purview of edX. As of this year, Udemy offers over 155,000 courses taught by over 55,000 instructors in a variety of disciplines including design, programming and software, photography and art, music, lifestyle education, and others.
Unlike other providers on this list, Udemy primarily works with individual instructors who are experts in their fields, rather than with large institutions. The courses are like Coursera On-Demand. The website is offered in multiple languages including English, Japanese and Turkish among others. Some courses are also available in these languages. I used the Building An Airbnb Clone With No-Code Using Bubble course and previewed it to test the platform. Three lectures were available for preview, with English subtitles only.
There are over 500 free courses on Udemy available in exam mode. The paid courses come with a 30-day money-back guarantee on Udemy courses and users can preview the course for free. For all paid courses, users receive a certificate from Udemy. Many courses often offer special offers when a user makes a purchase within a certain period of time. For example, Building An Airbnb Clone With No-Code Using Bubble was 86% cheaper at the time of testing. Most courses cost up to $200.
Subscriptions are also available – for example, Udemy Pro for students who want to earn IT certifications. Another available subscription is Personal Plan, but it’s not currently available to everyone (wasn’t available to me at the time of testing).
Overall, the choice of a learning platform depends entirely on the needs of the user. If you are more academia oriented and want to earn credits, edX could be the platform for you. If they’re looking to improve their skills or enhance their resume with a new skill, Future Learn’s ExpertTracks and free courses could be for them, from which they can upgrade to earn a certificate. However, if they need to develop a very specific skill for work or personal use, such as B. Mastering a no-code editor bubble, they need to consider Udemy.
After conducting this analysis using the criteria of course offerings available, pricing and free trials, and other factors, I came to the conclusion that Coursera is the best online adult education platform in 2021. However, it seems to me that Coursera can offer all that and more, which is why I consider it the best adult online learning provider in 2021.
Photo Credits: The infographic was created by the author for TechAcute. The images for each of the online education platforms were provided by Coursera, edX, Future Learn, and Udemy, respectively, and are made available for press use. The feature image was taken by Avel Chuklanov.
Sources: Devon Delfino (Forbes) / Catherine Cooke (Upskillwise) / Rebecca Koenig (EdSurge)
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