Alison describes itself as one of the world’s largest free learning platforms for basic education and skills training online courses. Founded in 2007 by Irish social entrepreneur Mike Feerick, it is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to delivering free educational opportunities for everyone. According to its website, it offers more than 1,500 courses and has reached 14 million learners in 195 countries so far.
To make money, Alison depends on advertising and selling course-completion certificates and diplomas, so its courses are free to students who are interested only in accessing the course, who do not need a verified certificate of completion, and who don’t mind navigating around the ads. They can still get an informal “learner record” as proof of their achievements, though. An ad-free experience is available through a premium membership that costs 7.99 euros (about $8.70) a month, 79 euros ($86) a year, or 499 euros ($545) for a lifetime subscription. Premium subscribers also get access to additional features and discounts on certificate costs.
The courses are produced by individual experts, businesses, and top universities. Besides English, the website is available in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Brazilian Portuguese. Most courses are taught in English, though some are available in other languages, including Arabic.
Alison also offers an English Learning Hub for students learning or improving their English language skills. Some of these courses teach basics like grammar and conversation skills, and others are tailored to specific industries, like English for Hotels, Travel and Tourism.
Types of Courses and Programs:
Alison provides three types of courses:
Certificate courses: These are streamlined, self-paced courses that provide instruction on a single topic. Each takes less than three hours to complete. They’re free to students who don’t want a formal credential.
Diploma courses: These provide more comprehensive training but still can be completed in 15 hours or less. Each diploma course covers several subjects within a larger field, with each subject divided into modules and topics. A Diploma in Human Nutrition, for example, developed by a professor at Kansas State University, is divided into 22 modules covering 103 topics, and takes an estimated 10 to 15 hours to complete.
Learning paths: An Alison learning path is a collection of related courses on one subject. A learning path on French Language Skills, for instance, consists of seven courses, some from the University of Texas at Austin and others developed by an independent language teacher. The introductory course takes an estimated six to 10 hours to complete and each successive course takes two to three hours to complete, so a fast learner could complete the entire learning path in under 20 hours,
How Does it Work?
After signing up for an account, students can browse for and enroll in courses of interest. The courses are short in length and to the point, and students have flexibility in completing the materials at their own pace. After finishing a course, students can download their learning record for free or, if they want a more formal proof of achievement, they can purchase a certificate.
Costs and Financial Aid:
All courses are free; officially branded certificates of completion, however, come at a cost. A course certificate costs 21 euros to 37 euros (approximately $23 to $40), depending on whether it is a digital, printed, or framed certificate. Diploma-course certificates cost 65 euros to 115 euros ($71 to $126). Learning path certificates cost 199 euros ($217) for a digital certificate and 215 euros ($235) for a framed one. Students who upgrade to a premium membership get a discount on certificate costs.
Ease of Use of the Platform and Visual Style:
The website gives the user different options for browsing courses by subject matter, by job categories, by course type (certificate, diploma or learning path). The ads can be distracting and may be tricky to separate from course content. After searching for language courses, for example, the results page displayed an ad for courses taught by a commercial language school more prominently than Alison’s own free courses. A mobile app is available for Android users. One for iOs users is expected in the near future.
Academic Disciplines and Subjects Included:
IT, language, science, health, humanities, business, math, marketing and lifestyle.
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