Looking for an efficient & flexible way to learn new skills? Me too, and I gave a try at several online education services after doing hours of research to find the “right” tool for the job.
MOOCs stands for massive open online course, “it is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web”. It is currently exploding & I have the feeling they will only get more popular.
Searching for the right course
The online education landscape is quite messy at the moment. You can find dozens of websites that can educate you further. But if you want to know where to start, there is no such guide.
So, if you look for a top quality course, you will need to do some homework first & then find out the top online courses/teachers in the given field. Once this is done, you will have to try to understand the differences between the courses proposed to pick whichever suits you best.
All in all, choosing the “right” course for you will help you learn from the best in an extremely effective way, so I believe that the hours spent researching the right course are well worth it.
Criterias when searching for courses:
- up-to-date – if release date is critical
- high quality & massively reviewed
- if there is a lack of data (i.e. the course is recent), I double check previous courses from the same instructor & ask for feedback on a couple of forums (i.e. reddit)
Meta websites help you find courses on other websites: they help gather reviews & scour the web for relevant courses.
How long does it actually take
In my experience, you will take at least 5 times the length of a given video to complete a course. For instance, if a course is made of 5h of videos, you might need around 25h to complete the course.
The reason for this is simple: you will stop the video many times, replay it many times, do some exercises between videos, do some side-research between videos, take brakes & the list goes on.
What course to start with
Try to take courses in an order that makes sense:build up knowledge to reach a goal.
You can inspire yourself from Coursera’s “specialisations”. Other platforms might have something similar too, but you’ll need to do the digging as I have not done this yet.
Review on Udemy
I took 3 courses with Udemy & enjoyed the course much more than I expected. The teacher was great, but I also enjoyed the platform itself, read below to know why.
What I like at Udemy:
- pricing: you pay only once for each course & then have lifetime access to it
- discounts: many special deals (i.e. for Christmas) & coupons available
- amount: there are a LOT of courses available on Udemy
- compare: see the number of review, average rating, & individual ratings/comments – this is a great way to evaluate a course before deciding to take it
- app: Udemy iPhone app is great, you can then have offline access to courses
- web app: the video player works great, I had no issues at all with it
- web app: there is a side discussion panel (for each video) which helps a lot when having issues
What I dislike at Udemy:
- You do NOT see the release date of a given course
- The course comparison could be even better – think “AirBnb reviews” where one can leave detailed feedback for teachers & potential students
In the end, all the cons I listed for Udemy are more like possible improvements than real negative points.
I took one course with PluralSight & I was disappointed with the education platform. The teacher was great, but I did not get all the features I expected when signing up for PluralSight. The pricing is also a massive down side.
What I like at PluralSight:
- You see the number of ratings & the average rating
- Course overview: for a given course you see the table of content along with details for each chapter
- Web app: there is a discussion section (for the whole course) to communicate with the teacher & other students.
- You can see the release date of a given course
- Web app: the video player has a caption feature that seems to work great in english
- App: Android app seems very good, see reviews on Google Play
What I dislike at PluralSight:
- Annoying free trial: requires credit card details. Free for 10 days or maximum 200 minutes.
- Pricing: I don’t mind paying each month when being actively studying, but once I have finished a course I would unsubscribe. If I need access to it in the future I would to pay again even if I need to have a very tiny look at the course.
- Pricing: at $29 per month, you only have access to “basic” features. If you want to be able to have further functionalities, you need to upgrade to a “plus” account at $49 per month.
- Ratings: no way to see how many people actually rated the course & how many people actually took the course
- Reviews: there is no such thing as “course reviews” on PluralSight, there is no way to leave a detailed review (as you would on Amazon for instance).
- Web app: the discussion section is very inconvenient because it is extremely long (read: many pages to scroll through). It is a forum thread for one single course that lasts many hours.
- Web app: the video player’s caption feature has a translation feature: but it’s of low quality, probably using google translate or other automated translation service (not done or checked by any human being)
- Offline access: only available for “Plus” subscribers ($49 per month) via apps
- Apps: iPhone: seems very buggy, see PluralSight reviews on the App store
- Desktop app is only available for “Plus” subscribers ($49 per month)
I took a course at EDX & although I thought it was a nice course, the whole experience seemed of much lower quality than with Udemy or PluralSight. The course was much less detailed (maybe another course could be very different), & the platform is much simpler. The courses on EDX are free though, which is an incredible plus.
List of online education platforms
tutsplus.com – learn IT stuff & other creative skills
digitaltutors.com – owned by PluralSight
ocw.mit.edu – MIT open courses
codeschool.com – owned by PluralSight
siteduzero.com – learn IT stuff (in French)