Provided it comes from a reliable source, online learning is the modern-day blessing. Students can learn from teachers from all around the world but are not forced to move and spend years of life on campuses. Online education fits so much better in our busy lifestyles because we can integrate it into the daily routine without sacrificing our jobs or family time.
This article will be useful for anyone who wants to invest some free time in self-improvement and learn a new skill or master the existing one. And for those who plan to enter the e-learning market with a new software product, this article is the analysis of their potential competitors and their most popular features.
- Top 5 online education platforms
- 5 most popular features of online learning platforms
- Why mobile apps are better for e-learning
Top 5 online education platforms
The list has a few provisions. First of all, only massive open online course (MOOC) providers were included, because they offer more diversity in terms of learning subjects. There are a lot of extremely popular projects focused on one skill, such as a foreign language, and they deserve their own list and a dedicated article. Learning management systems (LMS) are also excluded from this list, as they belong to a slightly different field.
Second of all, only MOOC providers with functional mobile apps were included into this list. The reason is that mobile applications offer a more effective approach to education and have some distinctive benefits over educational websites and web apps. These benefits will be detailed in a further section near the end of this article.
In 2015, LinkedIn bought lynda.com, a world-famous online learning platform, and in 2017 turned it into LinkedIn Learning. So, the rebranded platform inherited all previous educational materials and added many more in the following years. By 2020, the number of courses had exceeded 16,000 and keeps rising every day.
LinkedIn Learning offers a rather unique experience thanks to the combination of education courses with the social network. Users may get personalized recommendations based on their interests, preferences, and other information specified in their profiles. Naturally, there is an option to share information regarding personal progress with the network of contacts. When users complete courses, they receive certificates and may add them to their profiles.
This platform encourages its users to study at their own pace and provides several possibilities to do so. Users may download separate video lessons or whole courses and watch them offline whenever they want. Available education programs are mostly focused on developing business and creative skills.
The access to education materials is based on a subscription with monthly or annual plans, and the first month is free. Conveniently, the subscription also functions as a “premium” upgrade of a user’s account in the social network and provides many additional perks and tools. Premium costs about $30 per month or $300 per year, so the annual plan is a better bargain.
An interesting fact: the old Lynda app is still available in the Google Play Store.
Khan Academy stands out in this list by being a non-profit platform. It was created with a noble purpose: to educate people around the world free of charge. This task is vital in many poor countries where people cannot afford any education as well as basic needs that we take for granted.
The platform takes into account the requests and characteristic features of its primary audience. That’s why its courses are focused mainly on providing fundamental knowledge rather than some advanced stuff that requires scientific background. This way, a person could learn something from scratch even without prior education.
All courses in Khan Academy are created by trusted experts and cover math, science, economics, history, computing, as well as other areas. Just like paid e-learning platforms, Khan Academy uses a personalized approach to each student. It also allows students to download educational materials and study offline at their convenience.
Last but not least, Khan academy has dedicated courses to prepare students for various standardized tests, such as Law School Admission Test (LSAT), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN), etc.
The number of video courses in Udemy is staggering: over 130,000! They cover more than 2000 subjects: from programming to blogging, from yoga to Photoshop. Udemy has courses in over 60 languages and the experienced teaching staff includes more than 50,000 people. To satisfy different kinds of target audiences, this platform also launched such apps as Udemy for Business and Udemy for Government.
The superb quality of educational content, and a wide range of available subjects, among other advantages, attracted over 40 million students to Udemy’s e-learning services. This platform has a range of free training courses, and numerous paid ones. Its pricing policy is rather generous and frequent has sizeable discounts and promotions when each course costs $10 – $11 instead of the usual $150 – $200.
While the full cost of any course may seem steep for some users, Udemy offers a lot for such a price. After users buy a course, they get lifetime access to it. There are hours of on-demand educational videos, articles, and other downloadable resources. After a student finishes a paid course, they get a certificate of completion.
Coursera offers over 3,900 courses on various subjects from reputable universities and companies. Educational video materials are available in dozens of languages, though some of them are translated only with subtitles.
In addition to free and paid courses, Coursera also offers online programs to get a Master’s or Bachelor’s Degree in such areas as Data Science, Business, Engineering, Public Health, etc. At the end of such programs, users get the same diplomas as on-campus students but pay about half as much.
Over 190 learning institutions and leading business companies have partnered with Coursera to provide the highest quality of education. This quality is proven by Course, Specialization, and MasterTrack certificates, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s diplomas. Overall, Coursera is one of the few platforms that offer online higher education programs from the world’s top universities.
While Coursera provides hundreds of free training programs, those that involve obtaining a Specialization certificate or a Professional certificate cost about $40 per month and more. Courses that award MasterTrack certificates are separate modules taken from Master’s degree programs and start from $2,000. If you set your mind on getting an online degree, prepare to fork over at least $9,000. Still, it is much cheaper than getting the same education and diploma in a “conventional” on-campus way.
edX has partnered with such world-renowned universities as Harvard, MIT, Berkeley, and many others to provide high-quality education available on the website or in mobile applications for Android and iOS. Over 2500 courses cover about 30 subject areas including the most popular these days: data science, programming, business and management, humanities, engineering, and many others.
This eLearning platform also offers many language-related courses including writing skill development, sign language, ESL, and a wide range of foreign languages. The selection of courses offered by edX also includes rather rare subjects such as Shakespearean studies, fashion or epidemics.
Most training programs offered by edX are free and self-paced, though students are required to enroll before a certain date. The common paid option is the addition of a “Verified” certificate after a student completes the chosen course.
Last but not least, edX also provides courses on leadership and child development that are useful regardless of your chosen profession. This way, unlike some other online learning platforms, edX helps its students to become not only more qualified specialists but also better parents.
5 most popular features of online learning platforms
Despite their differences in terms of audience and associated companies, most distance learning platforms have a set of common features. In fact, users are so used to them that such features are expected from any new online course provider that wants to compete successfully in the e-learning industry.
So, if you are a student, consider these perks as free quality-of-life improvements that result from stiff competition in the online learning business. And if you are an e-learning business owner, be sure to include these features into your product. After all, the online education market is predicted to reach a total size of $319 billion in 2025. So, you’d better pack your product with all the beneficial features to beat the rivals and get a share of that pie.
Flexible pricing with the focus on free courses
Most online learning platforms are generally free to use or at least to join. If a platform offers a selection of free courses, the rest will still be paid, and users will also have to pay for certificates if they want to get them after the course completion. This is a well-established strategy in the field of online learning.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that does not charge students for education but gladly accepts donations. On the opposite, several MOOCs, including LinkedIn Learning employ a subscription-based model. It should be noted that LinkedIn Learning offers a one-month trial period and the subscription may be canceled anytime. It also allows for buying some courses separately without a subscription.
Similar to LinkedIn Learning, Udemy charges for each course separately but does not require a subscription. Such a diversity of costs and pricing models among different e-learning companies allows students to find affordable courses or even get education for free.
If you are short of time, most online learning platforms also allow adjusting the pace of the learning process to better suit your lifestyle. This way, students are able to bet high-quality education without sacrificing their career or family time. This feature is extremely convenient and attracts many users who are afraid that studying would take all their free time and harm their work opportunities or family relations.
The ability to adjust the speed of learning also removes the need for timezone synchronization. If an online course group has students from all around the globe, it is almost impossible to hold live classes and other real-time events, such as lectures, group discussions, etc. And because of time differences, some students would inevitably miss such events or it would be inconvenient to participate in them. So, self-paced education allows a certain degree of independence but requires a great deal of self-motivation to study regularly without strict supervision.
The ability to download education materials and study without having to connect to the Internet is a highly-sought feature among students. It is extremely convenient and allows, for example, listening to lectures in a subway or while jogging.
Offline mode also ensures that you won’t lose the course after its completion. This way, you will be able to return to it from time to time and refresh your memory. Additionally, this feature allows students to distribute learning materials as they see fit. For example, they can copy audio lectures to an mp3 player, send pdf files to an e-reader with an E Ink screen, and save videos on a USB flash drive to watch them on a TV.
Signup/login with social media
For most users, it is difficult to manage multiple login-password combinations. To prevent potential students from using unsafe or non-unique credentials and compromising the security of their accounts, the education platform should offer a reliable alternative.
Many social networks provide special APIs that allow logging into other platforms through their accounts. The process is safe, so logins and passwords are not revealed to the third party. In mobile apps, users can natively login to an e-learning service using their Google or Apple accounts. This process may be further enhanced by various security technologies built into modern smartphones, such as the additional verification by a fingerprint or a face scan.
Multiple language support
To cover a bigger audience and offer a better learning experience, education materials should be translated to at least one additional language. This is an extremely demanding challenge, so translation and proofreading must be performed by certified specialists with enough experience and background knowledge. Otherwise, even the slightest mistakes will ruin the reputation of an online course provider.
As you can see, most massive open online course providers share the same features. So, when choosing an online learning platform you should take into account its differences and unique offers rather than its generic advantages. And if you plan to start an online school, you may begin with the five features mentioned above, and then expand the functionality of your service.
Keep in mind that the listed features are just the most popular examples that are briefly described. A longer list with more detailed descriptions would make this article excessively long. However, they might be featured in another article related to websites and mobile applications for E-learning.
Why mobile apps are better for e-learning
Properly designed mobile elearning apps offer the same functionality as the web apps or websites plus some bonuses. These learning benefits are derived from the advantages of smartphones, most obviously their compact size. Smartphones are ready to work without boot time and don’t require peripherals as desktops and even laptops. All these benefits, as well as some others, define the unique advantage of mobile apps for e-learning.
The ability to study anytime anywhere
Mobile apps provide users an extremely convenient way to learn a skill without having to spend time in a classroom or even at the desk. In its turn, such an opportunity results in the development of further personal skills, most importantly – self-discipline, self-motivation, personal time optimization, and many others.
Using e-learning applications for smartphones or tablets provides the possibility to take advantage of even short periods of free time for education. This way, users may study at lunch, in the subway or on the bus, while waiting for an arranged meeting, and so on. There are literally limitless opportunities for a motivated person. Most people would waste this time staring mindlessly at Instagram pages, sending “likes”, or engaging in similar meaningless activity. Mobile apps for online education allow people to spend their free time with purpose and to develop themselves instead of degrading.
Online learning platforms are extremely beneficial for both their users and their owners. Students may conveniently receive a high-quality education at a comfortable pace and much cheaper than in colleges and universities. Online course providers may generate sizeable profits especially when they involve expert teachers, wise business strategy, and effective software solutions.
If you want to conquer the e-learning market, you will need the help of professional developers. Contact us, and we will deliver you an effective software solution for online education according to your needs.