Forget sitting under the harsh fluorescent lights of a classroom. Today, learning can happen any time, anywhere. Online learning platforms are powerful tools, which is why a MasterClass gift or Skillshare credits is more than just a thoughtful gift to one employee—it betters the team as a whole. Even before the pandemic pushed learning headfirst into the digital realm, students of all ages could tap into online learning platforms to further their expertise. Now, the online learning industry is a groundswell, with classes ranging from photo editing tutorials to business development lectures to social media 101.
Though you can find many free classes on the internet, premium content usually exists behind paywalls. In some cases, as with CreateAcademy and MasterClass gifts, the premiums lead to insights from industry experts, such as Kelly Wearstler, Rita Konig, and Corey Damen Jenkins. Elsewhere, they unlock actionable teachings into photography, personal finance, marketing strategies, and much, much more. Need help deciding which is the best for you and your staff? Continue reading for AD PRO’s quick-hits guide to the best online learning platforms out there.
Founded in 2015, MasterClass is a relatively young online learning platform, but its claim to fame is its celebrity instructors, ranging from interior designer Kelly Wearstler to architect Frank Gehry to real estate entrepreneur Robert Reffkin. Its education style is lecture-driven, but it’s not interactive. The videos are all pre-recorded, so you won’t be able to communicate in real time with your teachers or any classmates. (An aside—the production quality is exceptional.) But if you’re seeking a generalist approach to learning, a MasterClass gift is perfect, as a subscription gives you access to the full library of courses.
For a lifestyle-specific course, head to Create Academy, the U.K.–based online learning platform that hones in on home, garden, arts, and food. Each course, which is not interactive but self-paced (as with MasterClass), provides up to five hours of video lessons by industry experts such as interior designer Rita Konig, horticulturist Dan Pearson, and color expert Edward Bulmer. One of the pros of Create Academy is that once you buy access to a course, you can view the videos in perpetuity—it’s a lifetime purchase.
If you’re interested in more hands-on learning, Skillshare might be the better fit. The majority of its courses are focused on enhancing creative skills, from calligraphy to graphic design to video production, and students are expected to complete projects as they learn. Though the courses are not live, students can submit questions to their teachers, as well as interact with classmates through discussion boards—just be prepared to wait for a little bit for responses. One thing to note: Almost anyone can become a Skillshare teacher, from hobbyists to professionals, but the teachings are valuable nonetheless.
Given that LinkedIn is a business-oriented social network, it should come with little surprise that the platform ventured into the online learning industry through its acquisition of Lynda.com in 2015. Many of its courses—which primarily focus on business skills—are short-format, lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, though some can easily be twice that. Topics range from the nitty-gritty, such as deep-dives into cryptocurrency or pay-per-click marketing, to more holistic coverage of project management or talent recruitment. A subscription unlocks the full catalog of courses, and there’s a special deal for businesses to buy plans for the whole team.
Focusing on professional development, particularly regarding business development and IT, Udemy offers courses in a self-paced video format covering a wide variety of topics, including public speaking, search engine optimization, 3D modeling, and more. It has one of the largest libraries of content of all the online learning platforms with more than 185,000 courses—a number that grows each month. Some courses are free, and others require individual purchases, but there’s also a subscription model for businesses.
As you might guess from its name, CreativeLive targets creative professionals and entrepreneurs, offering courses from photography to personal finance. To access the self-paced video courses, you can either purchase individual classes or subscribe to the Creator Pass to view them all (there’s a business subscription as well). Amid the pandemic, CreativeLive also launched a free streaming channel that offers live entertainment and education 24/7, from Q+As with industry experts to musical performances.
Coursera takes a slightly different approach than other online learning platforms by pulling its classes from universities around the world, meaning you can receive credit towards degree or certificate programs. To receive that credit, you must pay for the course (prices are typically lower than campus-based tuition) and, in some cases, submit assignments and take exams. That said, you can also audit many of the courses for free, and some are even self-paced.
If your company has international business—or hopes to score a project abroad someday—consider Pimsleur for all your team’s language-learning needs. The Pimsleur Method is a trademarked program established half a century ago by linguist Dr. Paul Pimsleur, who focused on the psychology of language to make it easy to learn. His original courses might not have been online, but today’s lessons in 51 languages can be accessed on desktop, mobile, and an app. Users can subscribe to a single language or purchase an all-access pass for an extra dollar a month.
AEC Daily offers classes for continuing education units—or CEUs, as they’re known in the industry—covering architecture, engineering, construction, and design, many of which count toward license and certification renewal in the U.S. and Canada. Unlike many other platforms, AEC Daily has both self-paced online courses and live learning in both digital and in-person formats. Although most of its classes are free, some premium ones, including AD PRO courses, cost a small fee.
Some, but not all online learning platforms offer the ability to gift subscriptions, though there may be some stipulations. MasterClass, for instance, allows you to gift annual subscriptions to its full catalog of courses, while Udemy and CreativeLive only allow the gift of a single course at a time. Other platforms only offer the purchase of gift certificates that users can put toward their registration fees.
Every online learning platform has its own rules about sharing subscriptions, but generally speaking, each subscription is for one person. MasterClass offers Duo and Family plans, which can be shared between two and six people, as well as corporate gifting options, which can be shared with an entire team. Skillshare also offers corporate gift cards that can be customized to your team’s specific needs.
Yes, some online learning platforms sell gift cards, including CreateAcademy and Pimsleur. But others only allow you to gift full subscriptions (like MasterClass) or specific classes (like Udemy and CreativeLive).
MasterClass and other online learning platforms are excellent tools to further your education in a particular subject, and you can often tap into the knowledge of experts in any given field. MasterClass is particularly well-known for its celebrity instructors.