The Best Online Learning Platforms for 2022

It’s a Perfect Time to Study at Home

After a couple years of the pandemic, online learning websites are going gangbusters. With a virus forcing most of us to rethink what we do and how we do it—especially when it comes to education—learning sites enable us to expand our minds and creative spirit. No matter where you are in the world or how little prior experience you have with a subject, you can learn just about anything, so long as you have an internet connection.

“Learning” isn’t limited to subjects taught in school. There are sites where you can pick up new software skills, become a better manager, study the art of memoir writing, watch a tutorial on how to set up a sewing machine, and listen to a world-renowned master in their field explain how they got there. Are you looking for practical skills? Business skills? Professional development? Inspiration? Or are you a student who needs tutoring in AP History? You can learn any of these things and more.

For this article, we looked at learning websites that anyone can use and which offer non-matriculated learning. In other words, you can’t earn a degree or university credits by completing the lessons. Unlike online colleges and universities, learning websites don’t ask you to apply to their program. Instead, anyone can sign up and indulge their curiosity at their leisure.

PCMag Logo Practical Tips for Successful Schooling at Home

Practical Tips for Successful Schooling at Home

We also looked at sites that offer content for free or ask you to pay a subscription to access an expansive catalog of learning. That way, you can indulge your creativity. This is different from websites that sell courses individually, Teachable being a prime example. You can certainly find very good courses on Teachable and other sites like it, but you have to pay for each one individually.

A note on language learning: There are so many excellent websites and apps for learning a foreign language that we have a separate article for them. When you want a language app, you’ll have specific questions, such as: Which one offers the language I want? How much time do I need to spend on it each day? How much does it cost? You might also want to know which apps are better for developing a base vocabulary versus advancing existing skills. Our roundup of the best language learning apps and websites covers all these points and more.

Similarly, PCMag has a separate article on the best courses for learning to create websites. It’s another concrete skill that comes with specific questions. We have another entire article dedicated to the best online courses for Photoshop.

How Do You Learn From a Learning Website?

All the resources included in this roundup of the best learning sites use video as the primary teaching method. Some add interactive quizzes, PDFs, links to additional resources, and discussion areas (usually little more than a section for comments) so that everyone engaged with the material can learn from one another.

Videos can be standalone, although usually, they’re part of a series. A course might contain several hours of videos, but they’re always broken up into parts. The best learning sites take care to plan out how much content goes into each video as well as the sequence of videos. In this way, your learning is cumulative. You’re typically building new ideas or concepts on top of what you’ve already learned.

When quizzes are available, they can be private to you or shared with an administrator or instructor if your login is part of a business account or associated with a formal class or tutoring (in the case of Khan Academy). They help you track how well you’ve retained new information. Some sites offer certificates upon completion. They are not widely accepted by other institutions, but they may be helpful to you in some cases. For example, if your employer pays for you to have a subscription to a learning website, you can offer these certificates as evidence of using it.

Let’s look more closely at six of the best learning websites, what they offer, and what makes them different.

Masterclass image

Get Inspired With MasterClass

MasterClass is an on-demand learning website where you get hours and hours of video featuring top talent talking about their fields. For example, a few of the A-list celebrities with MasterClass courses are Steph Curry discussing basketball, Alice Waters on cooking at home, Penn and Teller on magic, and Ron Howard on filmmaking.

MasterClass is simultaneously binge-worthy, educational, and thought-provoking. The quality alone leaves you whispering, “How is this so good?”

In the recent past, MasterClass has done a good job of improving its lineup of instructors to include more top talent who are people of color and women (it was previously weak in this regard). The catalog of classes is growing all the time. The content is top rate, and the quality is exceptional.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy Teaches the Basics

Khan Academy is a 100-percent free website for educational material. It’s run by a non-profit organization of the same name, and its mission is to make learning accessible to everyone. Whether you’re a student who needs some tutoring in a particular subject or an adult learner in need of a refresher course on economics or world history, Khan has you covered. The website covers math, science, art history, and many other subjects. When appropriate, the courses are labeled according to the grade they match in the American education systems (for example, fifth grade language arts). Khan has courses that tutor students in AP (Advanced Placement) classes, too. There’s even a mobile app with educational content for children ages 2 to 7.

While the courses are expansive, there are some small gaps in the catalog. Khan doesn’t offer classes in music, music appreciation, or foreign languages, for example. It does, however, offer its courses to speakers of other languages, namely, Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese. In other words, you can take Algebra I taught in Spanish rather than English. More language support is in the works. Given what it offers and the fact that it’s entirely free to use, Khan Academy is the best learning site for academic subjects.

Take Real University Classes Through Coursera

Coursera is an online site where you can take classes from real universities, such as Yale, University of Singapore, and Sciences Po in France, either for free by auditing them or toward a degree or certificate. Degree courses require that you apply and pay tuition to the host institution. No matter how you attend, you get video lectures, reading materials, quizzes, and in some cases the opportunity to submit assignments for peer-review (when you audit a course) or grades (with paid enrollment).

Coursera partners with private companies, too, to offer accessible education in a variety of fields from programming to designing with AutoCAD. Other examples of classes you can take include Introduction to Food and Health, Google IT Automation with Python, and Introduction to International Criminal Law.

Coursera interface

Coursera does well in supporting a variety of languages, with many courses taught in languages other than English, as well as closed captioning, subtitles, and a complete text of the spoken parts of every video. While the platform could use some upgrades and refinement, Coursera deserves an Editors’ Choice for making so many courses from real universities available to so many people for free.

Kahoot! Adds Engagement and Interactivity

Kahoot! is a site where you create and host interactive quiz-style games. You can use it in the classroom or the virtual classroom, as well as the conference room and living room. Whether you’re hosting an employee onboarding seminar or a classroom of spaced-out ninth graders on the last day of school, you can use Kahoot! to drive interaction with a quiz, poll, or request for feedback. It’s remarkably easy to use, giving anyone a chance to add a bit of spark to their get-togethers.

One of the most popular ways to use Kahoot! is to create an interactive quiz as part of a learning activity. The quiz appears on a screen, which might be a Zoom screen or a real-world screen if everyone is in the same room. Participants submit their answers to each question using the Kahoot! app on their devices. Free accounts are more than sufficient for anyone looking to use Kahoot on occasion, and the paid accounts have a decent amount of variety in price points to keep them accessible. We also appreciate that participants do not have to create an account to play. Kahoot! is a great learning engagement tool for any educator to have in their toolbelt.

Skillshare Focuses on Creatives

If your mantra is “never stop learning,” and you’re a creative type, then Skillshare is for you. This site caters to people with creative outlets and jobs. You can use it to learn a professional skill that has a creative angle, such as selling your homemade wares on Instagram, or to pick up a new hobby, craft, or skill, such as cooking. Skillshare also has some classes taught by celebrities, such as memoirist Mary Carr’s memoir writing course. You’ll find plenty of courses that teach more technical creative skills, such as Photoshop, too.

Many of the courses on Skillshare have additional materials, like worksheets and readings, plus interactive community spaces where students share their work and give feedback to one another. Skillshare offers a world of learning content that can benefit your career, indulge your creativity, or simply help you accomplish something new. The subscription price is fair, too, and you can sample some of the courses for free.

Udacity Offers Job-Focused Courses Developed With Company Partners

Udacity teaches highly specific, job-focused skills and gives learners an opportunity to create sample work to prove it. This educational site’s niche isin delivering rigorous courses, called Nanodegrees, that teach highly specific job-related skills, mostly in the tech arena, and often created in partnership with big-name companies, like IBM Watson and Google. Learners come away not only with new skills but also—fairly often—sample projects to show their work.

While Udacity offers a handful of courses that aren’t technical in nature, the majority are, and they are highly specific. How specific? There’s a course called Self-Driving Car Engineer, developed in partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Nvidia, Uber, and other companies.

Udacity’s Nanodegrees are not accredited, so they don’t have the same veritas as a bachelor or master froma recognized university, but if you’re in the market for a specific job-focused skill to advance your career or get experience for a new career, Udacity certainly delivers. Prices end up being a little high if you enroll in a course that takes three or four months (most do), but you’ll end up with work samples that you can use in future job applications.

Wondrium Is Couch-side Edutainment

Wondrium, formerly known as The Great Courses Plus, satisfies curious minds with a wide variety of TV-style documentary series and other learning programs. Think of it as a hybrid streaming service (like Netflix) and online learning site. While Wondrium isn’t targeted at people who want to learn specific skills, it does have some courses in cooking, dance, and other subjects.

You can watch video courses not only on your computer, but also via Apple TV, Roku, and other devices. The service teaches you about philosophy, religion, and the natural world from your couch. If you’re looking for a service that lets you explore a variety of topics and learn from your living room, then Wondrium will be a great fit for you.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning Helps You Brush Up for Business

LinkedIn Learning, formerly, offers courses for professionals across a range of topic areas, from software skills to soft business skills. The site is chockablock with courses that teach everything a business professional could need, from management training to entrepreneurship. You get LinkedIn Learning by having a Premium LinkedIn subscription. The subscription comes with other benefits, too, such as advanced features in LinkedIn. 

As to the quality of the courses, it’s a bit mixed, and the classification system you use to find classes could be better. Overall, however, it’s one of the best sites for personal and professional development.

Udemy image

Udemy Specializes in Professional Skills Development

Like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy’s sweet spot is personal and professional development, with excellent management training, software tutorials, programming courses, and more. You can pay for Udemy courses one by one, but a better deal is to get access to more than 4,000 classes any time you want with a Business subscription. The subscription price is a little high, however, and you need a minimum of five people for that account.

In addition to offering online courses, Udemy welcomes instructors who want to make courses and sell them on the platform. Compared with other sites that host learning content, Udemy has amazing resources for teachers, including a list of in-demand topics that it updates regularly.

Learn at Your Own Pace

The next time you feel like you need some fresh ideas, take a spin through one of these sites and learn something new. You might find yourself caught up in wonderment at new and interesting ideas or taking notes on something useful. The beauty of online learning sites is that they don’t require any commitment, so you can learn what you want at your own pace.