Over 70 percent of Americans consider themselves lifelong learners.

Where do you go if you want to build a new garden bed? Mend a hole in your jeans? Or how to start a coal BBQ?

You fire your computer and watch a DIY video on YouTube or head to wikiHow. Just as you can learn life skills online, the internet is also the perfect place for professional development.

Below, we provide a quick list of the best online learning platforms for professional upskilling.

Online Learning Platforms: Benefits for Busy Professionals

By taking advantage of new technology–like video conferencing, email newsletters, and virtual education portals and tools–online learning is booming. Professionals have more access to upskilling opportunities than ever before.

An online learning platform lets you learn anywhere, anytime, and within any budget.

Building Resilience

Employees with low resilience are four times more likely to experience burnout.

How do you respond to stressful situations or at work? Learning new skills helps you build resilience. You’ll be able to handle unexpected challenges as they arise and even gain the confidence to take on leadership roles.

Personal professional upskilling benefits HR managers and business owners, too. As employees become more resilient to industry changes, so do the companies they work for.

Flexibility

You have a busy family life. You’re juggling study with a full-time job. You already have a side hustle to manage.

Online study lets you fit learning into the gaps in your existing schedule. Study at night after the gym, in the morning before the kids wake up, or while heading to work on the bus. In Best Colleges’ 2020 Online Education Trends report, 52 percent of those surveyed said the opportunity to learn around existing commitments was their top reason for choosing remote learning.

You can also craft your learning environment, whether it be a laptop on the couch or a home office.

Affordability

Online learning saves you money. Not only at the cost of the courses themselves, but also in the money you save on transport and the time you need to take away from work.

You can audit MOOCs by leading universities for free on portals like Coursera and edX. Monthly or yearly subscriptions let you access unlimited short courses on Udemy or Skillshare. Even Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs can be cheaper when taken online.

When it comes to learning online, there are upskilling opportunities to suit any budget. Or even those with nothing to spare in the budget at all.

Top Platforms for Professionals You Can Start Today

There couldn’t be a better time to boost your skillset online.

Observers predict that investment in global ed-tech and online education will reach $350 billion by 2025–startups have had a nudge since COVID-19 shelter in place orders. Research has shown that online learning helps you keep information and it takes less time. (Think about it, no travel to and from a classroom.)

Today, there are classes in every subject you could want to learn about. From Nordic diets to street fighting mathematics.

Coursera

Coursera was one of the first learning platforms created to deliver MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). They are still one of the most popular online education sites today. They partner with universities to deliver high-quality courses. Audit them for free or subscribe for a certificate.

As even the company itself readily admits, Coursera designs its courses to complement traditional learning routes, not replace them. Teachers use their MOOCs to supplement classroom learning. The courses geared at professional upskilling are easy to complete even from your cell phone while on your way to work.

edX

edX got off the ground in 2012 as a joint project by elite US colleges MIT and Harvard. To this day, it’s run as a non-profit organization. With 24 million users (as of 2020) and partner universities from all over the world, edX guarantees its students a quality education.

Like Coursera, you can take most of the courses for free, but you won’t get a certificate. You need to subscribe to get a (digital) piece of paper as proof you completed a course. Costs are affordable: anywhere between $50 to $300 per course or course bundle.

Udemy

Looking to improve job-related skills? Udemy’s 35 million-plus students sign up to the portal for its 130,000 specialist corporate training and technical certifications.

You can start a course at any time and work on your schedule. Programs are generally low cost, so Udemy is suitable for those on a limited budget.

Instead of partnering with existing schools, Udemy enables instructors to build online course platforms in their specialty areas. Businesses can create in-house training, too.

Skillshare

Seeking to scratch that creative itch? Skillshare might just be the learning platform for you. Based out of the USA, the site claims to cater to creators–from learning to cook to starting a business online.

Skillshare offers a 14-day free trial to get you started and see if you like the website. It’s available as an app or you can access it from a desktop PC.

General Assembly

General Assembly’s remit is to focus on teaching the most in-demand skills of today. Think about web development, data, design, and business. Geared toward professionals and recent graduates, they focus on skills that will advance your career.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, General Assembly started offering remote classes using Zoom and Slack. They provide online classrooms, coaching, and discussion rooms for students looking for more personal interaction. Courses are full-time, part-time, and short-form.

Uniquely among ed-tech portals, General Assembly also has over 30 campuses across the world.

LinkedIn Learning

A pioneer of the e-learning industry, LinkedIn Learning first launched as Lynda.com way back in 1995. Today, they offer access to their courses as part of their LinkedIn Premium subscription packages.

Given LinkedIn’s focus on corporate professionals, the portal tailors its courses to career upskilling. This includes everything from training on SEO and social media to preparatory courses for software certification exams.

Review sites praise the breadth of courses on offer and the high production quality.

Masterclass

Keen to learn from your heroes? Masterclass might be for you! This learning site offers you the chance to take courses led by industry leaders and celebrities.

Spike Lee. Gordon Ramsey. Dr. Jane Goodall. Masterclass focuses on capturing and disseminating knowledge from the best of the best in their respective fields.

Instead of marketing hard skills, Masterclass offers professionals that chance to upgrade their skills in a more inspirational way. It’s less interactive than other learning platforms: think of it more like attending a lecture than taking a quiz.

If you’re looking for value, the annual subscription is a better option than the $90 per class price tag.

Strategies for Success in an Online Learning Platform

As you start into your new online course platforms, you want to make sure you make the most of the time and money you spend on it. If you’re new to online learning, first make sure you are familiar with the basic technical skills needed to operate the learning platform.

Identify Your Knowledge Gaps

There’s no point signing up for a course in Graphic Design 101 when you’re already a proficient graphic designer. Likewise, an experienced journalist doesn’t need a refresher in the interview basics.

Identify where your weak points are in your knowledge base and look for courses that will fill those spaces. Unsure what they are?

These activities will help you find them:

  • Review past workplace performance evaluations
  • Take a look at LinkedIn profiles of people in similar professions
  • Ask a mentor to review your resume
  • Browse the job descriptions for your ideal job
  • Make a list of reasons why prospective employers rejected your application

Targeting courses to your knowledge gaps helps you identify the courses you need. It will save you time and money.

Make Space for Study

In traditional education, you partition your study time by going to a physical class. In online learning, you don’t have this same dedicated space. Conversely, research into open-plan offices suggests that these busy, noisy environments make it hard to concentrate.

Create an area of your home or workplace dedicated to studying, no matter how large or small. It’s guaranteed to set you up for success. Ideally, it’s a room with a door that closes, but even a quiet corner of the living room will do if that’s all you have.

Key resources include access to power, a stable internet connection, a comfy chair, a desk for your laptop, and as little distractions as possible. Need a home computer? Look out for deals when shopping around for one online.

Effective Time Management

Yes, online learning offers you the flexibility to fit it into your busy work and family schedules. To get the most out of the course you’ve committed to, you need to make sure you manage what time you have available well.

Don’t multitask. It’s proven to reduce your productivity.

As tempting as it may be to grab your laptop and sit in front of the TV while you study, resist the urge. Set up dedicated slots in your calendar for study, head into your study area, and turn off all devices.

There are a plethora of useful online tools to help you organize your time, from a simple Google Calendar to more specific task management apps.

Education of the Future

Professional upskilling couldn’t be more important in today’s rapidly changing workplace environment.

Over 40 percent of employers know that their employees will need to gain new skills in the next ten years. If they don’t, they won’t be able to remain competitive. Online learning platforms offer busy working professionals with a convenient and affordable solution and better career mobility.

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