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If you’ve been cooped up inside, or have found some spare time that you’d like to use productively, you should consider taking an online course. The rise of online courses correlated to the increased amount of time we spent at home last year, but even as things begin opening up, people are appreciating the convenience and variety of the best online learning sites.
Several online learning sites allow you to take classes on topics you’re actually interested in without providing any transcripts, or having any previous experience in the subject. Some allow you to purchase individual courses a la carte, while others give you unlimited access to their entire catalogue for a flat fee. Keep in mind you’re getting access to full, pre-recorded classes; you don’t need to block out a specific time of day, or certain days of the week.
The online courses we’re recommending differ from tutorials you’ll find on YouTube in a couple of significant ways. First, the instructors selected to teach these classes are trained professionals in their field, and have structured their videos to work like a traditional college course. There’s a set syllabus, and some instructors provide classwork you can use to practice the skill you’re trying to learn. Second, these services allow you to access their courses on your computer, tablet, or phone, so you can follow along wherever you are.
All online course services below all follow the same set of fundamentals, but each has a particular feature that makes them stand out. We’ve broken down each service, and recommended one course you may be interested in trying out.
MasterClass has created a series of online courses taught by “masters” of their field, who can draw upon decades of first-hand experience to help you learn. The class we’re recommending is a filmmaking course taught by Martin Scorsese, the director of classic films like Goodfellas, The Last Waltz, and The Color of Money. This class will walk you through finding a story, developing your style, the technology you’ll actually need, and how to cast and direct actors.
The service’s catalogue also includes course taught by Gordon Ramsey, a writing class led by Malcolm Gladwell, a course on self expression taught by RuPaul, and a class on comedy taught by Steve Martin. There are several classes available in each discipline (not all are in the creative arts), so you can find one taught on the particular area you’re interested in.
Instead of offering individual courses, MasterClass has a flat subscription fee of $180 per year, which works out to $15 per month. The subscription allows you to take as many courses as you’d like with no limitations, including new classes that become available while you’re a subscriber. You can get a quick video preview of every course MasterClass offers before signing up, so make sure to take a look.
Coursera is an a la carte online learning service whose classes are taught by professors from universities like Stanford and Duke, or companies like Google and IBM. There are thousands of courses to choose from — some free, some paid — in a wide variety of disciplines.
What sets Coursera apart is that it’s extremely structured. You can choose one course, or choose to take a series of classes to earn a professional or MasterTrack certificate, which you can put on your resume. While some courses are free, you may have to pay a fee to unlock certain features like classwork or homework.
We’re recommending Coursera’s DIY Music Specialization course, which is offered by the Berklee College of Music. The class is designed to walk you through writing, recording, and eventually marketing your music online.
Skillshare is an online class subscription service that offers access to thousands of classes for $32 per month, or $168 per year. The company offers a 14-day free trial, if you’d like to see whether or not its classes make sense for you.
Many of Skillshare’s classes are one-off classes that require only one to three hours to complete. Most are related to the arts — writing, photography, video — but there are classes on marketing, entrepreneurship, business analytics, and web development among others. Each class has a “projects & resources” tab, where you can look at class materials and assignments to see if you’ll need any particular materials before taking the class.
We’re recommending a one-hour Creative Writing Bootcamp class that can help guide you through the basics of coming up with a story, and help you avoid writer’s block. Students are encouraged to show off their work on the site, so if you’re looking for an online class service that feels a little more like a community, Skillshare is probably the best choice.
Udemy is the largest storefront for online courses on the internet. The service allows you to get your classes a la carte, so you only pay for the ones you’d like to take. Courses are available in a wide range of subjects, from game development, to finance, to entrepreneurship, to music. As with Masterclass, each subject offers courses in specific disciplines, so you can find the exact course you’re looking for.
This service’s core strength is the sheer volume of its course catalog. If you’re interested in developing a particular set of skills — even ones that are unrelated — you’ll probably find what you’re looking for. The a la carte structure is also nice because it gives you the opportunity to see whether online courses work for you without making a long term commitment.
We’re recommending a course on blogging, which will walk you through starting your blog, coming up with content ideas, SEO (search engine optimization), e-mail marketing, and ultimately making money off of your site.
5. LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning is the online course section of the popular professional networking site. This online learning service offers a la carte classes in three major categories: business, creative, and technology. Once you’ve chosen a category, you can dig into sub-categories (graphics arts, for example) to find the specific course you’re looking for.
We recommend using LinkedIn Learning to find courses in general professional development skills, which is why we’re recommending this resume workshop, which will help you get yours ready before you begin your next job hunt. The class will guide you through figuring out the best way to present your skills to a potential employer, which keywords to use to avoid being sorted out by resume scanning software, and interview tactics once gotten called in.