Higher education is changing, with students questioning the value of a traditional bachelor’s or master’s degree or finding that they need to learn new skills to keep up with changing technologies. Many students are turning to online courses (also known as Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs) as a cost-effective, flexible way to gain new knowledge, start a different career path, or explore an area of interest. With so many platforms offering online courses, it can take a lot of work to know which ones are actually worth your time and money, so we created this list of the best online course providers.

Top 9 Online Course Providers

Best Free Online Courses And Classes Badge 2022

How We Chose the Best Online Course Providers

A quick search reveals dozens of companies offering online courses, certificates, degrees, and more. We evaluated over a dozen popular providers to find the best ones, creating a list of top-quality educational platforms that can help students achieve their professional and personal goals.

Our evaluation process included the following:

  • In-depth review of each provider’s specific course offerings and materials via website and catalog reviews
  • Sample lessons and study materials when available
  • Analysis of student reviews and comments on platforms like G2, Trustpilot, and Facebook Reviews.

We used the following four criteria to determine which programs belonged on our list.


The flexibility to study on their own time, from anywhere, is why many students seek online courses. The companies on our list make learning accessible and convenient with on-demand, self-paced lessons, flexible virtual meetings, and asynchronous assignments. We also considered how long it takes to complete the courses a provider offers. We looked for courses that could be completed in a few weeks to a few months, ensuring students learn with minimal time commitments.


Another appealing aspect of online courses is that they typically cost significantly less than traditional two- or four-year degree programs. However, we wanted to ensure that these courses still provide high-quality education even if they come with a lower price tag. We compared what providers offer in terms of course materials, length of access, course completion documentation, and more to guarantee that students are getting the skills, knowledge, and support they deserve.

Student satisfaction

With so many online courses available, a single organization can’t test them all. That’s why we turned to students who have completed courses with these companies to hear what they had to say about their experiences. We scoured platforms like Reddit, Trustpilot, G2, and others for user reviews on their experiences with these providers, including the quality of the education they received and their interactions with faculty and customer support.

Faculty and course developers

We also reviewed who designs and teaches the courses students take through these online providers. Several, like edX and Coursera, aggregate courses from the world’s top universities, like MIT, University of Toronto, Kyoto University, and more, giving students access to renowned faculty. Other providers, like Codecademy, partner with industry-leading companies to create courses focused on in-demand skills across a variety of industries.

Top 9 Online Course Providers

EdX – Best Overall

EdX logo

EdX started in 2012 as a massive open online course provider created by Harvard and MIT. Over the past decade, it has become a leading online education platform offering individual classes, professional certificates, boot camps, and degrees. EdX aggregates courses from respected universities around the globe, giving students access to high-quality education regardless of their location. As a result of their comprehensive course offerings, connections with renowned institutions of higher learning, and affordable prices, we picked edX as our best overall online course provider.

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    What We Like

    One of the aspects of edX that we like best is the variety of courses students can access on the platform. There are over 3700 courses available in 31 different subject areas, including business, computer science, humanities, and STEM. Classes are available at introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels.

    Students also have several options for how to complete their education through edX. In addition to individual courses, edX offers boot camps, professional certificate programs, and complete degree programs. We like their unique learning pathways, like the XSeries, which are expert-designed course sequences that provide an in-depth study of a particular topic, or their MicroMasters and MicroBachelors programs, which can help students accelerate the process of earning a full degree.

    While most of edX’s courses are offered in English, the platform has some language variety, with a significant number of courses in Mandarin, Spanish, French, and Italian.

    What We Didn’t Like 

    While prospective students can filter through edX’s courses in a variety of ways, such as by subject, level, and educational partner institution, there’s no filter option for the price. Since edX’s courses range from free to a few hundred dollars, it would be helpful for students to be able to sort through edX’s classes based on their budget. EdX could also further help prospective students find the right class with an assessment or questionnaire and personalized course recommendations.

    What Students Are Saying 

    Users give edX a 4.5-star rating on software review site G2 and a 3.4-star rating on Trustpilot. According to one user, edX has multiple benefits. “You can find courses for all different interests, presented by some of the best in the field. The certificates can easily be integrated into various platforms such as LinkedIn, which makes it easy to include them in every resume.”


    FutureLearn – Best for Accelerated Courses

    FutureLearn Logo

    FutureLearn is a UK-based online learning platform that gives students access to MOOCs, microcredentials, online degrees, and professional certification programs. Their organization is based on the values of social learning, empowerment, transformation, and experimentation. Through FutureLearn, students can access a catalog of courses from top universities, global companies, and professional organizations. Their ExpertTrack and Microcredential programs offer students an efficient way to upskill and gain valuable new knowledge quickly.

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What We Like 

We chose FutureLearn as our pick for best accelerated courses for the variety of options they give students who are looking to gain new skills and credentials in as short a time as possible.

Students seeking an individual class can choose one of FutureLearn’s Short Courses, which take 2-4 weeks to complete. ExpertTracks group together classes so students can deep-dive into a particular topic and earn a professional certificate in as little as six weeks. Microcredentials are another way FutureLearn helps students accelerate their education. Many microcredential courses are accredited, meaning students can apply them to traditional degree-granting programs.

We also like the FutureLearn gives students a variety of options for paying for their courses, including monthly or annual subscriptions. With an unlimited subscription, students can choose as many courses as they want from the platform’s library of classes in 14 different subject areas, including IT and computer science, language, law, business and management, literature, and more.

What We Didn’t Like 

FutureLearn’s website is a little challenging to navigate, with users having to search out FAQs and Help pages to find key information, like the cost of subscriptions and FutureLearn’s educational partners. Searching for this information could be a turn-off for some users, who may seek platforms that make important information easier to find. They also need to allow prospective students an option to filter courses by level, which would be helpful.

What Students Are Saying

FutureLearn users give the platform a 4.8-star rating on Facebook Reviews, a 4.4-star rating on G2, and a 2.8-star rating on Trustpilot. Satisfied users like that FutureLearn offers them an opportunity to learn from leading universities around the world and that their video lessons are short, straightforward, and easy to understand.


Coursera – Best for Credentials


Coursera is a robust, comprehensive online education provider that partners with more than 275 universities and organizations around the world. Their offerings range from individual courses to full degree programs, which is why we chose them as the best online course provider for students seeking credentials. Through the platform, students can access 100% online bachelor’s and master’s degrees from some of the world’s most prestigious universities, as well as hundreds of industry-leading professional training certificates.

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What We Like 

Coursera aggregates courses and programs from some of the world’s top higher education institutions, like Imperial College London, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Tokyo. Students can use Coursera to access fully accredited, 100% online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in in-demand areas, including data science, engineering, public health, and more.

For those with bachelor’s degrees who want to continue their education without committing to a master’s degree, there are Coursera’s MasterTrack courses, which focus on advanced skills in a particular subject. Professional certificate programs are designed by industry-leading companies like Google, IBM, and Intuit. Meanwhile, students who receive a university certificate can apply their credits towards their degree should they choose to enroll in a master’s program.

We also like that Coursera offers classes in over 50 different languages, the most of any online course provider on our list. When exploring course options, students can filter by a specific language to find a class that meets their communication needs.

What We Didn’t Like

Although Coursera offers access to a wide variety of online degree programs, they’re generally just acting as a middleman. The universities themselves teach classes and grant degrees, and students will still have to apply for acceptance. Students may opt to go to the institution offering the program they seek, apply, and register directly. Coursera is also among the more expensive providers on our list, with monthly subscriptions starting at $59 per month.

What Students Are Saying

Coursera has a 4.5-star rating on G2, and 2.9 stars on Trustpilot. Positive reviews cite Coursera’s wide range of available courses and top-quality course providers. Negative comments reflect Coursera’s hefty price tag, with users suggesting discount codes or sales to help make their classes more affordable.


Udacity – Best for IT Courses

Udacity Logo

Udacity was the brainchild of Stanford University instructors who wanted to make tech education more accessible for students regardless of their location. They offer a number of popular, skill-based programs that prepare students for careers as data scientists, programmers, business analysts, UX designers, and more. By specializing in IT content, Udacity is able to provide high-quality courses designed and taught by tech industry leaders and landed itself as our recommendation for the best online IT course provider.

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What We Like 

Udacity’s catalog features free and paid courses that cover multiple areas within the IT field. Some of their classes are exclusive to the platform, including programs in artificial intelligence, self-driving car engineering, and robotics software. The platform partners with international companies like GitHub, Microsoft, and Accenture for curriculum design and instruction, guaranteeing students learn the most cutting-edge information, innovations, and skills.

The centerpiece of Udacity’s offerings is their nanodegree programs, most of which can be completed in 3-5 months of online classes and coursework. Nanodegrees allow students to deep-dive into a specific topic, providing them with the foundational, intermediate, or advanced skills they need to start a new career or advance in their current fields. Udacity supports students with flexible classes, career services resources, and mentorship support.

Udacity creates a customized experience for students by having them complete a short questionnaire upon registering, which the platform uses to recommend courses to help students meet their goals.

What We Didn’t Like 

Udacity’s focus on IT-related courses and programs may be a plus to some, but it does mean that they will only have some things students could be looking for in an online learning platform. Students should also be aware that some nanodegree programs may take several months to complete. This is longer than some of the accelerated courses other providers offer, so individuals should consider how much time they have to devote to their studies.

What Students Are Saying: 

Udacity has a 4.9-star rating on Facebook Reviews, 4.8 stars on Trustpilot, and 4.4 stars on G2. As one reviewer noted, “The program is tailored for every learner type. Those who are biased towards a self-paced learning approach will be satisfied by the classrooms and reference links they offer.”


Codecademy – Best for Coding Courses<

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Leading SAAS company Skillsoft created Codecademy to help students learn computer programming, one of the tech industry’s most in-demand skills. This online course provider allows students to learn coding basics for free and also offers a number of professional development programs that include in-depth lessons and practice, career coaching, and certificates of completion. Through Codecademy, students can learn all the in-demand coding languages, including Python, Java, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Swift, and more.

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What We Like

Whether students are new to coding or looking to deepen existing knowledge, Codecademy is a great place to start. This online learning platform offers individual programming language classes at the beginner and intermediate levels. Most classes are available for free, although students will need to upgrade to a paid plan to access all of a course’s features, including projects, assessments, and certificates of completion.

For students who choose to pay, Codecademy offers two subscription plans – Pro Lite, which is ideal for students who want to focus on skill-building, and Pro, which features curated learning paths and career guidance to help students obtain jobs as engineers, developers, data scientists, and more. Pro Lite plans are $209.88 annually, and Pro plans are $299.88, making Codecademy an affordable option for many seeking additional skills or a new career.

We also like Codeacademy’s on-demand delivery format. Classes take anywhere from one to 30 hours to complete, and learning is done through reading assignments and hands-on practice.

What We Didn’t Like 

Codeacademy is best suited for independent, self-motivated students who like to learn by reading and doing. The classes don’t include any kind of video or audio component, which may make completing the courses more difficult for students who learn better by listening or watching demonstrations of concepts. Additionally, Codeacademy’s free courses are somewhat limited, as students must pay for a Pro Lite or Pro plan for access to graded assignments and experiential learning projects.

What Students Are Saying 

Codecademy students give the platform 4.6 stars on Facebook Reviews and 4.4 stars on Trustpilot. Positive reviews include this one, saying Lessons and projects have all been relevant and well-structured. The learning community on discord has been supportive and very helpful. It’s been the most fun and challenging experience I’ve had in a long time.”


HubSpot Academy – Best for Marketing Courses

HubSpot Academy Logo

Since its founding in 2006, HubSpot has become a leader in developing software for sales, customer service, and inbound marketing. With HubSpot Academy, their online education platform, they’re looking to help the next generation of marketing, sales, and development professionals access the training they need to pursue fulfilling careers. We recommend HubSpot Academy for students seeking online marketing and sales courses for their affordability and industry expertise.

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What We Like

HubSpot Academy is a niche online course provider focusing on marketing, sales, and development classes. Because of this, students who enroll in HubSpot Academy courses know they’re receiving training in the most current industry practices and skills, getting trained in the most current industry practices and skills. Some courses focus specifically on learning HubSpot software, while others cover broader topics like customer support training, social media advertising, and business analytics.

Students can choose to enroll in individual courses or HubSpot Academy’s certification courses, which group together lessons for in-depth learning on a particular topic. Individual courses are offered free of charge, but students must upgrade to a paid plan to receive their certification.

Signing up for a HubSpot Academy account is easy, with students answering a few questions about their industry, job title, and employer. Upon registration, students can immediately begin their course through HubSpot Academy’s simple, user-friendly learning interface.

What We Didn’t Like 

As a niche online course provider, HubSpot Academy obviously won’t have everything students want. We also didn’t like that HubSpot Academy advertises its courses as free, even though students must upgrade to a paid plan to receive their certification. That information could be stated more clearly on the website rather than being somewhat hidden within the course information.

What Students Are Saying 

Users give HubSpot Academy 4.7 stars on G2. In praise, one student writes, “The videos are short, sweet, and to the point. It’s easy to get through several videos in one learning session. The teachers all speak very clearly, and the writing is concise and well structured.”


Udemy – Best for Business Courses

Udemy Logo

Udemy was founded in 2010 as an online learning platform designed to help connect individuals worldwide with the training they need to advance in a variety of industries. Their online business courses cover a comprehensive range of subtopics, including entrepreneurship, strategy, law, management, and sales. We chose them as our pick for the best online business courses because of their robust offerings, affordable prices, and language diversity.

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What We Like

One thing we like about Udemy’s online business courses is that they cover hard skills in areas like e-commerce, real estate investing, and human resources, as well as soft skills applicable to any number of fields. These courses include public speaking, leadership, and management. Regardless of what specific business topic or skill students want to focus on, they’re likely able to find it through Udemy.

The website’s interface allows students to sort through their thousands of courses by topic, level (beginner, intermediate, and expert), language, and more. Udemy’s mission is to be a global hub of learning, so they offer courses in multiple languages, including Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, German, and more.

Udemy’s courses are delivered as video lessons designed and led by experts and industry leaders. Many courses include supplemental reading assignments, quizzes and tests, and hands-on learning exercises. Videos are broken up into short sections, making it more convenient for students to fit lessons into their busy schedules.

What We Didn’t Like

The sheer volume of courses available through Udemy is a double-edged sword. While the platform likely has content available to meet any student’s learning needs, sifting through the thousands of courses offered can be a bit daunting. Udemy’s filtering options allow students to sort between classes that are free and paid, but within the paid courses, there’s no way to sort by specific price point. This would help students search for classes that fit their budget.

What Students Are Saying: 

Udemy’s rating is 4.5 stars on G2 and 2.4 stars on Trustpilot. Positive feedback includes praise for their easy-to-use interface, accessibility via the website and mobile app, and knowledgeable instructors. However, negative comments largely focus on poor customer service experiences and confusing dynamic pricing on some courses.


LinkedIn Learning – Best for Creative Courses

LinkedIn Learning Logo

In 2015, the professional networking platform LinkedIn purchased the online learning company, Lynda, creating LinkedIn Learning. This division has now grown to include hundreds of courses in a variety of areas, including business, technology, and creative fields. This last category makes it unique among online course providers, as many don’t provide education in creative subjects. Therefore, we decided to highlight LinkedIn Learning as our pick for best online provider for creative courses.

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What We Like

LinkedIn Learning is a great place to start for individuals who are looking for online courses in creative fields. They offer courses in topics like music business and production, photography, animation, video editing and production, and more. Online courses in these subjects can be harder to find,  making LinkedIn Learning an excellent resource for students interested in these areas.

LinkedIn Learning gives students the option between enrolling in an individual class for focused learning in a particular skill or pursuing a Learning Path, which groups together multiple courses around a broader topic. Learning Paths typically lead to a LinkedIn Learning certificate, which students can use to demonstrate their expertise in that area. Learning Paths within the creative fields can help students prepare for careers as recording engineers, graphic designers, fashion designers, and more.

Students must pay for a LinkedIn Learning subscription, but the company does offer a generous one-month free trial.

What We Didn’t Like

The interface for LinkedIn Learning could be more user-friendly. For example, finding an explanation of what exactly a Learning Path is and how it differs from individual courses took more time than it should have. Having to dig for specific information about what options are available through LinkedIn Learning could be a turn-off for potential students, especially with many other course providers with more easily navigable websites.


What Students Are Saying

Reviews on G2 give LinkedIn Learning 4.4 stars. Positive reviews for the platform include praise for the variety of courses LinkedIn Learning offers, the concise nature of its courses, and the easy integration of certificates with LinkedIn profiles. Users also point out some negatives, like the lack of language diversity in courses.  


The Great Courses – Best for Lifelong Learners

Great Courses Logo

For many students, online learning is about upskilling and improving their career and salary prospects. For others, however, it’s about personal fulfillment and intellectual curiosity. For those students, there’s The Great Courses. On this platform, individuals who love to learn simply for the joy of it can choose from nearly 1300 courses in a range of topics, including music and fine arts, food and wine, language and literature, travel and more.

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What We Like

We like The Great Courses because, while most other online course providers are very skill- and career-focused, this platform focuses more on sharing knowledge for the purposes of satisfying intellectual curiosity. Popular courses focus on subjects like cooking, painting, dog training, history, and geography.

Lessons are video-based, available by streaming through The Great Courses’ website or mobile app or on DVDs. Many lectures are also available as streaming audio, making it even easier for students to learn whenever and wherever is convenient. Course materials may also include PDF guidebooks and practice assignments. However, The Great Courses have no grades or certificates of completion. The benefit is the knowledge one gains by completing the course.

The price of courses can range from around $20 to a few hundred dollars, but The Great Courses regularly offers sales and discounts, making their courses more financially accessible. The Great Courses also partners with Wondrium, a subscription-based online learning platform, which gives students unlimited access to a library of courses for as low as $7.50 per month.

What We Didn’t Like

Students who are seeking online learning to gain marketable, career-focused skills may need help finding what they’re looking for through The Great Courses. This platform doesn’t offer completion certificates, or the type of hands-on practice students need to really master new skills. Lecture-based video lessons may not appeal to all learners, especially those who prefer experiential learning or reading assignments.

What Students Are Saying

Users of The Great Courses give the platform 3.8 stars on Trustpilot. Writes one student, “I have been enjoying courses from this company for the last ten years, in the fields of history, linguistics, science, literature, music, economics, theology, and photography. These courses have broadened my outlook on life, educated me, and entertained me.”

What to Consider Before Signing Up for an Online Course

Your education goals

Why do you want to take an online course? Are you seeking an alternative to traditional higher education? Do you need to learn new skills in order to advance your career or switch fields? Is it for intellectual stimulation or personal growth? Knowing your goals will help you choose the online course provider that best aligns with them. Many, like Codecademy and LinkedIn Learning, provide career-focused programs designed to give students the training they need to get jobs in their preferred industry. Others, like The Great Coursestarget lifelong learners who want to pick up new knowledge and skills for various reasons.

Your budget

In many cases, taking an online course is less expensive than completing a traditional degree. However, costs can add up if you’re taking multiple classes. Plus, online courses typically aren’t eligible for financial aid or scholarships, meaning students must pay the total amount out of pocket. Knowing how much you can afford to pay for an online course will inform the course provider you choose. If you’re planning on taking a lot of courses, a subscription-based provider, like FutureLearn, may make sense. You may find that different providers offer similar courses at different price points for individual courses.

Your learning style

Online learning has many advantages, but it’s not for everyone. Self-motivated learners who focus and do well with reading assignments, lectures, and self-guided practice tend to do well in online courses. However, kinesthetic learners who need accountability and engagement with instructors and classmates may not be well-suited for online learning environments. If this is your first time taking an online course, providers like HubSpot Academy offer free courses. This is an excellent way to test out online learning before committing to paying for a course in case you find out it doesn’t meet your learning needs.

Your tech set-up and learning environment

Before enrolling in an online course, check what type of tech set-up you need. Generally, the bare minimum is an internet-connected device and an internet connection that can handle video streams or downloads. Most students use computers for online learning, but many providers also have mobile apps for increased accessibility. You’ll also want to make sure you have a distraction-free environment when you’re attending classes or completing assignments. Investing in a set of noise-canceling headphones can be beneficial, especially if you will be studying in a busy or loud environment.

Differences between free and paid online courses

Many of the providers on our list offer free courses as well as paid programs. In most cases, paying for a course comes with numerous advantages, including access to more course materials, grades, assignments, and completion certificates. Investing money into a course can also give students an incentive to successfully finish the class.

However, there are instances in which a free course may suffice. Before signing up for a class, students should consider the following factors to help them determine what type of course is right for them. They should also read all the fine print when registering for a course to ensure they understand the financial commitments they’re making.


One of the key benefits of a paid program is that they typically provide some sort of documentation of completion, which can help students when applying for jobs or seeking further education. However, proof of completion isn’t always necessary, especially if a student is taking a course for personal interest. Students should consider whether they need a certificate in deciding whether a free or paid course is right for them.

Length of access

Another significant difference between free and paid courses is that with paid courses, students get extended or unlimited access to course materials. For students in free courses, access to lessons and materials is typically limited. Those who want more time to complete their course or the ability to return to lessons and assignments may find that it’s worth it to pay. If that’s not the case, a free course may suffice.

Limited versus full access

Generally, only paying students get full access to all features of a course. Companies typically put features like graded assignments, quizzes and tests, experiential learning projects, and certificates behind a paywall. Students who want to get the most out of their courses will have to pay, while others may be satisfied with the basics provided by a free course.



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