Top Online Learning Platforms | Find a Cheaper Alternative to College

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Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Chief of Content at Gradehacker

Updated on September, 2023.

If you want to study something new, but college is not an option, then you should highly consider opening up to online learning platforms. They offer a great way to improve your quality of life, continue your education, and gain new skills!

And don’t worry; we know first you would need a list of the best online platforms with all the information you are looking for, and luckily, you are in the right place!

Here at Gradehacker, as the non-traditional student #1 resource, we have years of experience providing valuable services and information to our learning community. We know how important it is to know all the alternatives to access education.

Now, we will walk you through the best educational platforms that will help you meet your goals! 

Why Choose Online Learning Platform?

An online learning platform is a digital space where students can take online courses covering a wide range of study fields.

Its purpose is to offer a cheaper and quicker alternative to people who:

Of course, it can also be used by anyone who simply wants to learn something new, regardless if it’s related to their professional life or just as a hobby.

As most courses are educational-based and have university-level education, studying online is a solid alternative for many non-traditional adult students.

Each online platform is unique and has its own individual courses covering a wide range of courses topics like:

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Depending on the online platform and your study area, some learning programs don’t offer professional certificates, while others do have at least a completion certificate.

However, if you are seriously committed to learning online and want to reach the best results, we recommend you check our blog with everything you need to know before taking online classes.

Now we are ready to start taking a closer look at what we think are the best online learning platforms

Besides listing the information you want to know, such as their prices, the number of courses, and which area they are best at, we’ll also share why we recommend it.

Online Learning Platform
  • Guided projects start at $9.99 per course
  • Professional certificate and specialization courses start at $39 a month
  • Higher university-issued certificates begin at $2,000 per course
  • Bachelor’s or master’s degrees start at $9,000

Why Do We Recommend Coursera?

We recommend them because they have Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs recognized by prestigious institutions and cost way less than a traditional university‘s tuition fee.

And If you are trying to decide which of these two types of degrees is more convenient for you and your professional success, we have everything you need to know to make the best decision in our article Bachelors vs. Masters degree.

With Coursera, you can also earn a Master Track certificate in a few months, transfer your credits to another college, and earn your degree there!

Coursera is an excellent option for non-traditional students who want to accelerate their journey and pay less for it!

You can see more of our thoughts and experience in our review.

About Coursera

Coursera has been one of the main services in the online platform world for years.

What makes them stand out is the fact that they have partnered with over 200 universities and companies, like Yale and Google, to bring affordable professional development courses to anyone looking to enhance their skill levels by having a great learning experience

Their educational platform is made to resemble a university’s portal allowing the use of:

Their educational platform’s courses usually take one to six months to complete, but they also have individual courses that are much shorter and still have highly valuable educational content.

These shorter online classes can take up to one or two hours to earn your completion certificate and usually teach practical skills on using an app or software to thrive as an industry expert in the field you are interested in.

But on the other hand, if you don’t want to spend money on courses, you can check their free types of courses. that last between four to twelve hours to complete.

They introduce you to their more developed learning programs, like “The Science of Well-Being” by Yale or Introduction to Statistics” by Stanford. 

You can check our list of Coursera’s free courses to find the ones we found most valuable.

The only thing to consider is that if you want to earn a completion certificate from these free courses, you will have to pay between $49 and $79. But still, you can choose not to earn the certificate and go through the class normally.

While all individual learners can participate in projects and interactive courses, they also count on online degree programs for Bachelor’s and Master’s levels, which cost a fraction of what you can find in traditional universities.

You can get a professional certificate under their big catalog of classes and enjoy their high-quality content to develop professional skills. You can also go for a Master Track certificate to get a university completion certificate and valid credit in less than a year.

Coursera's Pros and Cons

  • Skillshare Premium monthly plan: $32 per month
  • Skillshare Premium yearly plan: $168 billed annually

Why Do We Recommend Skillshare?

We recommend it mainly if you are a creative professional looking to improve and further develop your skills within a creative field

Skillshare is THE platform for creative professionals. 

Their subscription-based plan is an excellent option for curious students who want to discover and learn new skills that they would likely never acquire anywhere else.

Plus, their pricing plans aren’t too high (considering all the knowledge you can access), and in any case, you can always use their 7-day free trial.

And if you would like a closer idea of how it works and our experience, you can check our review

About Skillshare

Skillshare is an online community that mainly focuses on providing high-quality courses about creative topics, such as:

And that’s just to name a few categories! They also have other traditional courses, like skills in business and marketing classes.

Unlike Coursera, Skillshare doesn’t aim to resemble college-style classes, instead, it has a more informal approach to improving students’ creative skills.

Their catalog of classes usually consists of a series of videos and assignments so that the learners have the skills required to create a project on their own by the end of the course.

What makes it stand out from the rest is its subscription-based plan. With a Skillshare Premium subscription, you’ll have unlimited access to all courses to enjoy a self-paced learning experience.

If you are unsure whether it’s for you, you can use their 7-day free trial. 

And if you want to see how to access their premium classes for free, you should check our list of courses that we found most interesting.

Another advantage of Skillshare is that they are multilanguage, covering:

Not only do they translate their website to each of these languages, but they have subtitles for all of their courses, regardless of the language spoken by the professor of the program.

The downside is they don’t give you an official certificate after you finish. They don’t have partnerships with universities that allow you to transfer your credits there and continue pursuing your degree in an accredited institution.

You can see their series of courses here.

Skillshare Pros and Cons

Why Do We Recommend Udemy?

We recommend Udemmy because it has an enormous quantity of specialized courses. 

If you are looking to learn or improve a specific skill, here you pay once, and then you have lifetime access to video tutorials to go back to in case you need them.

You can also try as many courses as you want and make use of the 30-day refund in case you don’t like what you are learning.

But before that, you might want to check their free courses to see if this platform is for you! Here is our list:

About Udemy

Udemy is the online course platform with the biggest repository of high-quality courses. It focuses on more general topics, ranging from technology-based subjects such as:

Like Coursera, their experience is similar to what you get from traditional universities, as Udemy’s online courses can include video lectures, audio, PowerPoints, and quizzes.

The most significant difference is that instructors don’t interact with or review assignments with the dedication that college professors do.

Undoubtedly, what makes Udemy one of the best learning platforms is its wide variety of courses! Each topic with a wide range of options where to choose from.

For instance, if you are interested in a web development course focused on JavaScript, you’ll find over 1,000 alternatives (which is perhaps too many options for such specific knowledge.)

The good news is that you get lifetime access to that course once you pay. There is no time limit for you to take it, and even years after you’ve earnt your completion certificate, you can go back and see the content as much as you want.

Pricing plans on Udemy depend on the course and its instructions, and while the cheapest options begin at $11. Still, most courses cost, on average, between $80 and $100.

You can see every content included in a program before starting it, but if you are not satisfied with the course you paid for, there is a 30-day refund available.

Udemy's Pros and Cons

edx-best online learning platform- login

Why Do We Recommend EdX?

We recommend EdX if you are interested in gaining experience in any of the STEM topics. This platform lets you earn certificates of completion that both let you prove your knowledge and serve as valid transfer credits for any of their partnered universities.

It’s a great choice if you are a non-traditional student, as you can progress in your academic life while having an official certificate that could get you a pay raise.

About EdX

EdX is an online course platform created by Harvard University and MIT members for students who want to access high-quality courses.

Their course library mainly focuses on STEM topics (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), but they also have:

They partner with over 160 universities, like Berkley, Boston University, and the University of Maryland, and have certified degree programs that these prestigious institutions recognize.

What makes EdX different is its certification process.

Why? Because technically, most of their courses are free. If you choose the free audit track, you’ll have temporary access to all course materials except for graded assignments.

What’s the catch? You won’t be able to complete the assignments or receive a completion certificate, which universities or future employers will ask to show as proof of your knowledge. 

To earn these certificates, you’ll have to pay the certificate fee.

However, not all EdX programs have a free audit trach option available. These are:

EdX Programs that accept it

EdX Programs that accept don’t it

EdX Pros and Cons

  • $39.99 per month
  • $239,88 yearly ($19.99 per month)

Why Do We Recommend LinkedIn Learning?

We recommend LInkedIn Learning if you want to improve your business skills and expand your professional network.

Their courses in this field are much more well-developed and have a more solid validity within some institutions. Plus, you’ll further develop your LinkedIn profile and expand your contact list much easier.

But for more about our experience and opinion, you should check our LinkedIn Learning review.

LinkedIn Learning Review- first photo

About Linkedin Learning

LinkedIn Learning is LinkedIn’s online course platform where its users can access courses primarily focused on:

Through video tutorials, they aim to educate and instruct the student while building and improving their LinkedIn profile, increasing their chances of finding a better job position and establishing relationships with more professional people.

The experience they offer is one of the most simple.

First, you need to see all the video content available, then answer a series of questions in a quiz, and that’s it! Instructors can leave additional content like PDFs and PowerPoints.

Once you see all the video classes and pass the exam, you’ll have earned your completion certificate.

Similar to Skillshare, they have a subscription-based plan that gives you access to all the courses you want once you pay for them. And in case you have doubts, they also give you a 1-month trial to try more in-depth everything they offer.

Their prices are high, but LinkedIn Learning may be worth it if you want to expand your professional contacts list.

The biggest downside is that not all of their courses have a high-quality, it’s overall standard compared to other online platforms.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that most of their courses are bad, only that they may not be as recognized by some institutions or employers as the programs from other platforms.

Perhaps you’ll find more recognition with business and technology-related courses. Still, you may not have the same luck with the programs focused on other fields like:

Which are, in comparison, much fewer.

But to explore their pool of courses and see which ones we found best, check our list of LinkedIn Learning courses.

Linkedin Learning's Pros and Cons

Why do we Recommend Knowadays?

We recommend Knowadays to anyone without much experience looking to start a new career in the fields of editing, writing, and communication.

You’ll be access a free trial and take a sneak peek at the platform. There, you’ll be looking at their virtual classes, tutorials, and workshops in those fields.

You can also access their forum, where you can ask questions and get help from others who are also learning. Plus, Knowadays offers certification programs that can help boost your resume and make you stand out from other applicants.

The only downside is the lack of different subjects and fields since it’s a platform that will only be useful to you if you want to become an editor, proofreader, freelance writer or if you want to get better at communication and Microsoft Word.

About Knowadays

Knowadays is an innovative online learning platform that empowers learners professionally and emphasizes on:

With a broad range of interactive courses, webinars, and resources, Knowadays provides a platform for learners to explore various subjects and pursue their interests.

The platform collaborates with expert instructors and industry professionals to deliver high-quality content that is both engaging and informative.

Their lessons are easy to understand and provide complete information.

It includes a pro tip at each chapter and an overview at the end, along with short tutorial videos, quizzes, and assignments. Some courses include interactive group tutorials and one-on-one tutor support.

The platform also offers certification programs. After completing all the courses, you will receive a certified certificate that will boost your resume and help you stand out from other applicants.

The course for editing and proofreading have a price of $499 each, while the course for communication costs $299, and the one to upgrade your Microsoft skills costs $199. 

Knowadays Pros and Cons

  • $399 per month
  • $1356 for 4-Month access

Why Do We Recommend Udacity?

We recommend Udacity because it has industry professionals creating its courses, making it one of the best platforms to learn the most recent and advanced knowledge and job-ready skills.

It provides flexible learning options such as self-paced and instructor-led courses, making it easier for students to fit learning into their schedules.

It focuses on career-oriented learning, partnering with top technology companies like Google, Amazon, and IBM to offer students hands-on experience.

Udacity’s career services team also provides personalized guidance on resumes, job search strategies, and interviews.

About Udacity

Udacity is a popular online learning platform founded in 2012 and offers courses and programs in multiple fields, such as:

That’s just to name the most common ones, but they mostly cover skills in technology.

They offer nanodegree programs where you can learn new skills or take intermediate and advanced classes about a subject that interests you. 

Their educational content mostly takes no less than 3 to 4 months to be completed.

These nanodegree programs are designed to provide students with in-depth knowledge and skills in specific areas for their professional development. Many of these programs also feature career services like resume review and job placement assistance.

They also offer a wide variety of courses that take a month to be finished, being more introductory.

But Udacity really stands out in their online school, where they constantly put updated information about the industry and cover many different aspects of a subject.

School students will work on real-world projects and gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields. 

Udacity partners with industry leaders such as Google, Amazon, and IBM to provide relevant and up-to-date content and projects.

And the best part is that they offer around 200 free courses to help you start.

Overall, Udacity is a great choice for anyone looking to gain relevant practical skills in various fields and advance their careers in tech as well-formed Industry professionals.

You can check their high-skill-level catalog of classes here.

Udacity Pros and Cons

  • Premium subscription €7.99 per month

Why Do We Recommend Alison Learning Company?

Alison Learning Company is an excellent online learning platform with over 1,000 courses in fields such as business, technology, health, marketing, and finance.

Most of Alison’s courses are free, making it an affordable choice for anyone aiming to learn something new or develop their skills. Alison’s self-paced learning approach enables learners to finish coursework at their chosen pace.

Alison’s courses are licensed and give certificates upon completion that can boost resumes and increase career advancement. It also has a user-friendly, convenient platform, making accessing and completing courses hassle-free.

Overall, Alison is an excellent option for individuals wanting to gain new skills, push their careers forward, or learn something new.

About Alison Learning Courses

Alison Learning Platform is an online education provider that offers free courses and diplomas. It was founded in 2007 and has since then provided a diverse range of courses across various fields, such as:

Alison stands out from others because it provides a wide range of courses that are completely free, as well as offers diplomas that are affordable and recognized internationally.

The platform’s courses are available for everyone, irrespective of their educational background or location.

It ensures that learners are equipped with more than enough creative skills that are relevant to the current job market. Their pool of courses is designed by industry experts from various fields to be self-paced, allowing learners to take the time needed to complete the course.

They are partnered with important companies and universities like Stanford, Cambridge, Google, and Microsoft to develop interactive multimedia such as videos, audio, and assessments.

All meant to make learning interesting and engaging.

As we previously mentioned, they offer free courses, if you want to earn one of their certificates you will need to pay between €21 to €37 euros. 

And if you are looking forward to earning a diploma, it costs between €65 to €115 euros.

Pros and Cons of Alison Learning Courses

  • Basic plan: $25 per month or $250 annually
  • Premium subscription: $49 per month or $490 annually 
  • Techdegree programs: $199 per month

Why Do We Recommend Treehouse?

We recommend using Treehouse because it has many courses for learning coding and programming skills. Plus, it’s easy to use, includes quizzes and coding challenges, and is affordable for most people.

It’s a great choice to advance your tech career and find good job opportunities in the industry.

Treehouse provides interactive video lessons, which are organized into tracks and give you a comprehensive view of the topic. You can also take part in coding challenges and quizzes to test your new skills.

They also have a supportive community where you can share your experience and get advice from other users and Treehouse experts.

Treehouse also offers certification exams in addition to some of its courses, which are recognized by many employers.

About Treehouse

Treehouse is an online learning platform that specializes in technology and coding courses. It has a wide variety of courses and interactive tutorials, making it the ideal choice for those interested in learning a new coding language or developing this type of skill.

Treehouse offers two different subscription plans with different levels of access. 

The basic plan gives you access to tutorials for the cost of $25 per month; while the premium subscription costs $49 per month and has additional benefits of:

And if you don’t know whether to invest in their platform, you can use their 7-day free trial to explore all their website.

Its classes also offer user-friendly video tutorials that are interactive and easy to follow. This makes it convenient for learners who want to learn at their own pace.

The platform also has a job board where users can find jobs related to the technologies they are learning

Treehouse also offers techdegree certification upon completion of their specific courses, which can help learners boost their resumes and increase their career opportunities.

Just like some other platforms previously mentioned, they are also partnered with big companies that employ Treehouse students like:

Overall, Treehouse is the ideal platform for anyone looking to advance their career or gain new knowledge and skills in technology.

The only downside is that the platform only focuses on technology-related courses, so if you’re looking for a more diverse range of topics, Treehouse isn’t the right choice for you.

Pros and Cons of Treehouse

Find The Online Learning Platform For You!

Finding the ideal online course platform to meet all your needs may not have been easy at first, but with this list, now it will be easier for you to choose the right one!

As with everything in your educational journey, you’ll need to understand your situation and know which are your personal goals.

We hope this list was helpful to you. Hopefully, you’ve found a much cheaper alternative to college, where you’ll still learn skills that will improve your life.

And if you want to upgrade your resume and access better job opportunities, we are here to help! Having doubts? Book a call with us and we’ll explain how we can help you grow professionally!

However, If you are looking for other tips on how to be a college disrupter, check out our related articles:

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea is a curious and creative journalist who first helped many college students as a Gradehacker consultant in subjects like literature, communications, ethics, and business. Now, as a Content Creator in our blog, YouTube channel, and TikTok, he assists non-traditional students improve their college experience by sharing the best tips. You can find him on LinkedIn.