2020 hasn’t been good for much. But if you’ve ever wanted to learn a new skill, or polish up an old one, 2020 has given everyone the time and opportunity to do just that.

Of course, people who enjoy learning tend to have a pretty broad set of interests. With that in mind, the most successful learning platforms really lean into that approach, trying to offer a big variety of courses that cover just about anything you might be interested in.

If you’ve ever thought about getting into digital photography, trying out watercolor painting, or reducing your carbon footprint with some home gardening, the options below will point you in the right direction to start learning today.

8 POPULAR PLACES TO LEARN NEW SKILLS

First and foremost, there are no specific rankings associated with any of these platforms. Each site offers a different way to learn, a different catalog of courses, and a different user experience. So don’t think of this as a “first to worst” sort of thing.

It’s a resource to help you find the best fit for where you are right now.

So what you can do is use the list to filter out platforms that won’t work for you and hone in on the ones that will. Because if your end goal is to better yourself, then something like this can be a tool that helps remove some of the obstacles in your path.

MasterClass

“Learn from … the world’s best minds.”

That’s a slogan that could motivate anyone to go back to school. After all, can you think of a better way to learn a new skill than by hearing from someone who is an industry leader in that specific area?

Unlike a lot of online educators, MasterClass has the capacity to actually back up its claim. And with popular classes like music production with Timbaland, cooking with Gordon Ramsay, or storytelling with Neil Gaiman, that sort of big-name presence gives the site a lot of marketability.

MasterClass carved a unique niche by doubling down on familiar faces and industry leaders. Combine that with high production value, and you’ve got an online educational platform with more polish than the best university programs, all for the cost of $180 a year.

The classes focus largely on pre-recorded interview-style lectures. Some include workbooks and assignments, but because the courses allow you to go at your own pace, there isn’t really a defined curriculum or sense of student community.

Skillshare

You’ll notice right away that Skillshare doesn’t have the glitz and glam of MasterClass. (To be fair, nobody in the market does.)

What Skillshare does have, however, is an overwhelming amount of courses and a brilliant marketing plan. The site models everything around “classes taught by creators,” which means you’ll learn from people who started where you are and built a career from the ground up.

No, you won’t have any A-list celebrities teaching you acting or guitar. But you will recognize popular content creators, which also allows Skillshare to leverage influencer marketing like nobody else. (And if you’ve listened to any podcasts in the past two years, you’ve probably heard ads for Skillshare.)

The course catalog is constantly growing, which means you’ll be able to choose a topic that interests you and take a handful of courses that target different facets of your topic. You can learn the skill, learn how to start a business for it, and learn how to market your products, all within the same place.

Skillshare knows that people who want to learn are constantly looking for new ways to grow. And after a free trial period (that can be anywhere from 1-3 months, depending on the offer you receive), you’ll have a near-endless source of educational material for $15 a month or $99 a year.

Udemy

This site is probably the most “open” platform on the list. Udemy has a huge catalog of courses available, even beyond what Skillshare offers.

And Udemy is always accepting applications for new educators, which means there will always be new things to learn. Or if you’re interested in sharing your expertise, all you have to do is prove your knowledge on the topic (book, podcast, YouTube channel, etc.) and Udemy might just let you teach.

But let’s assume you’re not looking for places to teach. You want to learn, to improve yourself as a person or a professional. Udemy has well over 100,000 different courses, which range from hyper-specific topics to broad categories.

Courses are individually priced, so you won’t find the all-access passes like on Skillshare or MasterClass. But don’t be intimidated by a $300 price tag; Udemy loves holding sales. So wait a week or two and you’ll probably see the course you want listed for $30 or less.

It might also help to know that Udemy courses are longer than classes offered from the other sites listed here. (Some courses bundle an entire college semester’s worth of information, assignments, and quizzes into a single class.)

There’s also a dedicated Udemy for Business plan, if you want to share the resource with a team. But that’s just an added benefit for certain situations.

Lynda.com

Lynda.com, or “LinkedIn Learning,” is another subscription service platform that costs between $20 and $25 a month (depending on the type of account you have). Once you’ve signed up, you’ll get unlimited access to courses from a slew of experts across different industries.

Lynda.com is something that a lot of professionals recommend, often because the courses can be structured and organized into something that feels more like career training than an online class.

Individual videos are short (usually less than 5 minutes), and courses tend to run about an hour. This is even more bite-sized than MasterClass, and a whole lot more condensed than Skillshare or Udemy. But that also means you won’t get quite as much depth from the courses.

Still, because Lynda.com has partnered with LinkedIn, there is a clear standard that you can expect to find in every course. LinkedIn doesn’t have quite the same level of production quality as MasterClass, but all of its courses are structured similarly, even if the instructors teach differently. So there’s at least a sense of consistency, whatever you want to learn.

YouTube

This pick should come as no surprise. While we often think of YouTube as a resource for entertainment, news, and even socializing, it’s also become the world’s biggest educational platform. Even if that isn’t the most widely recognized purpose, with over 2 billion monthly users, it really has a lead that no other site on this list can catch.

The interesting thing is that YouTube has two sides: On one hand, you have an expansive catalog of tutorials and courses, which can be as broad or as specific as you want. And because it’s YouTube, you get access to all of that content for free. That makes it the most convenient and affordable way to develop a new skill.

On the other hand, there’s no one to     curate all of that content. That is really a pervasive issue across all of YouTube videos — not just educational tutorials. And with no one to give a stamp of approval to a specific video, you might waste time watching hours of content before you find one that actually helps you.

As a result, YouTube is a very hit-or-miss option. It might be the perfect way to test the waters in a new field or industry, but if you really want to develop a new skill, you might end up preferring one of the more dedicated learning platforms listed here.

Codecademy

The name probably gives it away, but Codecademy is a site dedicated to teaching programming. Even more specifically, it’s a platform that will teach you how to build, develop, and improve websites, web apps, digital marketplaces, etc.

Codecademy is a free platform that includes lessons and daily practice. But signing up for a paid account gives you access to personalized plans, project assignments, graded quizzes, and live advisor help. The site pitches it as $20 a month to make you job-ready as a web developer.

With over 45 million users, Codecademy is hugely popular. Many of those users are active on community forums and Q&A boards, which means you can get help — and make some useful connections — while picking or polishing up this particular skillset.

Overall, that makes Codecademy the best platform to get into coding. But if that isn’t what you’re looking to learn, then this probably won’t be the perfect platform for you.

Khan Academy

At face value (or just a casual website visit), Khan Academy might seem like something targeted at kids…and that’s not really too far off. But don’t write it off from this list just yet.

Khan Academy provides courses that cover the primary subjects you’d expect from an online student hub. The site offers lesson plans to teach anyone about the things you’d need to know to take a GED, SAT, or other standardized test.

But Khan Academy isn’t just limited to K-12 courses. You can also take college-level courses, like a class about imagineering with Pixar and computer programming. Or you can explore profession-specific topics like criminal justice, business analytics, city planning, and veterinarian skills.

Oh, and it’s also a free, nonprofit organization. So whether you are brushing up on school subjects or looking into what it would take to jump into a new career path, Khan Academy can be a great resource to get started.

Like YouTube, it might not have the same depth as other educational platforms. But the price of “FREE” and the entry-level courses still make it a worthwhile entry point.

edX

Chances are you haven’t heard of edX before. The website isn’t nearly as popular — or as heavily marketed — as the other names on this list, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve some consideration.

edX is a free learning platform with courses that come directly from universities, professors, and organizations. We’re talking Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Microsoft… You get the idea. There’s still some “name recognition” here, but it’s more about band power than individual people.

With edX, you get established names in education providing high-level learning and a clear-cut path into a new profession. The site even offers paths that lead to professional certificates or degrees, which can be almost as valuable as the knowledge you would get from a course.

However, edX courses (and particularly the certification courses) can cost a few hundred dollars apiece. That’s still a few thousand less than a traditional college course, and tens of thousands of dollars cheaper than a college degree. But it’s still a lot of money to learn a new skill.

FINDING THE RIGHT PLATFORM FOR YOU

Choosing the right educational platform is almost a good problem to have. You can find a resource dedicated to the type of skill you’re interested in, or choose one based on the kind of educators you want to learn from.

Many people look for opportunities to improve themselves, whether that is a new hobby or professional development. And at the end of the day, that is — by far — the biggest advantage of any of these educational platforms. More potential students means more classes, which means you’ll be able to get the specific knowledge you want to gain.

One of the few good “gifts” from 2020 is that it has given us all time to think about our futures and the kinds of people we’d like to become. Finding the right platform to learn a new skill can help you take control of that situation and check this particular goal off your list of 2020 resolutions.

Hopefully this list of 8 websites will help you take the next step towards achieving your personal goals, whether they are things you want to tackle this year, in 2021, and for many years to come.

Author bio:

Drew Gula is the copywriter at Soundstripe, a royalty free music company that supplies creators and businesses with radio-quality music for videos.

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