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Whether you have found yourself home with extra time on your hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, or you’ve realized that in this remote working world, it would benefit you to level-up your skills, there are plenty of options to help you meet your goals. From short, self-paced classes that teach a specific skill to expert-taught certifications and degrees, several platforms offer a wide variety of free and paid online courses.

The options are endless. Tap into classes on design, tech, business analytics, AI, and more. Or, if you have your own expertise to share, design a class that showcases your skills and earns some money on the side. Several platforms make it easy to set up your own beautifully designed online course or website.

Special business packages often are included on these platforms that unlock hundreds of courses for an organization’s employees, providing professional development opportunities that will benefit your business.

We’ve broken down these 5 popular platforms and their best features to help you upskill your career expertise.

1. Coursera


For learners

With access to hundreds of free classes, paid courses, specializations, certificates, and online degrees, Coursera challenges you to “learn something new.”

This entirely online global learning platform launched in 2012 with the collaboration of Stanford University professors. Courses are offered at a variety of different levels, from self-paced massive open online courses (MOOCs) to specializations to degrees. Topics—led by expert university faculty and industry leaders—include engineering, business, computer science, humanities, social sciences, digital marketing, and more.

Coursera partners with more than 200 top universities and businesses to deliver a variety of quality courses. Collaborations include universities such as Stanford, Penn, and Duke and leading companies like Google and IBM  

These online courses open up access to on-demand video lectures, real-world exercises, and discussion forums. Paid courses include features like assessment quizzes, exercises, and course certifications. A typical course lasts between four to 10 weeks. Offshoots like Coursera for Business and Coursera for Government focus specifically on transforming talent and providing in-demand, industry-specific skills.

Coursera classes don’t require prerequisites. Many classes are self-paced, while paid courses are timed.

Quick glance:

  • 42,000 diverse courses.
  • 58 million users worldwide.
  • 430+ specializations.
  • 20 online degrees.
  • 15 professional certificates.
  • 15 MasterTrak Certifications.
  • 13 languages.
  • Free audits of any class.

2. Teachable


For instructors

Coming from the angle of the instructor, Teachable is an online learning management platform that provides an easy and affordable way to create and sell online courses. The site states they “do the heavy lifting so you can focus on what matters—creating courses with our user-friendly interface.”

More than 124,000 instructors rely on Teachable to develop beautifully packaged online classes. This platform makes it easy to develop an attractive online course with a top-notch virtual classroom experience. It also promises ease of use to attract students who can preview your curriculum and purchase the course.

If you have a specialty or expertise that you can showcase and share in a course with others, Teachable is a great way to move forward. You can develop your course for free and access anything needed to deliver interactive lectures.

Teachable makes it simple to add multimedia features like videos, images, texts, and PDF files. To enhance the course, instructors can include quizzes, course completion certificates, student feedback, app integration, and course compliance tools.

Instructors can use existing content and webpages, or use Teachable’s drag and drop feature to make new pages. The website is highly customizable and responsive, so students are able to view courses on whatever device is most convenient for them. For those who want to reach an international audience, Teachable offers tools to translate parts of the course into different languages.

Plenty of available marketing tools make it easy to promote courses. Users can access and incorporate coupons, advanced pricing, customizable sales pages, and more.

Teachable markets its platform as “sharing your knowledge in five easy steps”:

  1. Create a free course.
  2. Access endless tools to develop interactive lectures.
  3. Customize a well-branded course website.
  4. Build your community.
  5. Engage with students to sell your course.

Quick glance:

  • 124,000+ instructors.
  • 310,000 active courses.
  • 28 million students learning.
  • $300 million generated in sales.

3. Upwork


For businesses and contractors

Upwork connects businesses with expert freelancers around the world. For 20 years, this freelance platform has helped businesses access a global talent pool to explore and hire freelancers, independent professionals, and agencies.

Upwork provides freelancers with a platform to share and market their skills in areas like app development, design, content writing, SEO, social media marketing, and more.

Freelancers develop their individual pages that include information like bios, a photo, resumes, a set rate, certifications, or skills. On each profile is a job success score, stats such as a number of clients and completed projects, and reviews from past clients.

By creating different profiles, freelancers can feature the work they do best. For example, the same freelancer might promote a graphic design profile that showcases recent design work and a creative writing profile that includes clips from recent articles and blog posts. This helps potential clients to search for freelance profiles by skill and determine, based on the displayed work, if that freelancer is a good match for the proposed job.

Businesses post a job and wait for freelancers to bid on the job. Within that job posting, businesses can tag specific skills they prefer, set an hourly or one-time rate, set a skill level, provide basic job information, and give a proposed deadline. Businesses also can search for freelancer profiles and invite someone specific with the necessary skills to consider the job that’s posted.

This platform is a one-stop-shop that makes remote work easy. It enables businesses and freelancers to collaborate on one platform that includes a chat function, video calls, file sharing, and payments with hourly or fixed rates. Everything can be done in one place on the desktop or through the app.

Additionally, Upwork offers tools for staffing services, pre-packaged projects, managing services, and more to help businesses manage their projects.

Through numerous partnerships, Upwork also offers services that help freelancers and businesses grow. Platforms like Coursera and SkillShare offer professional development opportunities, while HonestDollar guides contractors through a user-friendly Individual Retirement Account. Regular webinars provide information on topics such as launching your own agency or tips for excellent remote working experience.

With the connections, tools, and services offered through Upwork, it’s no wonder this platform is the leader in flexible talent solution.

Quick glance:

  • 14 million users.
  • 180 countries.
  • $1 billion in freelancer billings annually.
  • 3 million jobs posted annually.

4. Udemy


For industry

For the past 10 years, Udemy has been a leading global marketplace for online instruction that allows users to learn on their own time.

Udemy offers thousands of courses—many of which are free—in areas like business, design, photography, marketing, IT and software, and personal development. Udemy focuses its efforts on professional development, attracting corporations that want to provide courses based on job-related skills for its employees.

Users can filter through classes by topic, language, price, instruction level, and features. Most classes are industry-focused. Courses are taught by expert university faculty and professionals from top companies worldwide.

Udemy lets users access the platform as a learner or instructor. Learners can improve skills with classes on writing, personal finance, graphic design, entrepreneurship, cyber security, leadership, and thousands more. Many classes offer a certificate of completion at the end.

Through Udemy for Business, companies can unlock top-rated business and technical courses to offer employees as professional development. More than 4,000 courses focus on skills like productivity, design, management, and programming.

Instructors have the opportunity to offer their expertise by developing classes through Udemy. Instruction is primarily video-based and shared through the Udemy platform. Instructors also can interact with students through online discussion boards. When a student buys a course, the instructor gets paid.

In addition, Udemy supports users with the latest news, ideas, and opinions on its company blog.

Quick glance:

  • 150,000 online courses.
  • 57,000 instructors.
  • 50 million students.
  • 190+ countries.
  • 4,000+ courses through Udemy for Business.
  • 65+ languages.

5. Udacity


For tech

Udacity offers a fast and efficient way to master in-demand skills for the workforce. It promotes job-focused content and real-life projects that prepare learners to upskill in their industry.

Similar to Coursera, Udacity grew from the popularity of massive open online courses (MOOCs) about 10 years ago. It launched from free computer science classes offered at Stanford University. Udacity states it offers job-ready skills that prepare users with job-focused content, practical application, live help, real-life projects, practitioner-level skills, and personalized code reviews.

This online learning platform hosts professional and vocational classes that are heavily focused on programming and computer science. Classes can be taken at the user’s convenience, although some are timed. Course areas include AI, programming, autonomous systems, cloud computing, and business.

Udacity schools include:

  • Self-driving Car Engineer.
  • School of Artificial Intelligence.
  • School of Autonomous Systems.
  • School of Business.
  • School of Data Science.
  • School of Programming.
  • School of Cloud Computing.

Users can search for courses based on skill level. Many courses require moderate expertise, but Udacity also offers classes for users who are new to tech, beginners, or advanced. These self-paced courses help users who are learning part-time graduate while dedicated about 10 hours a week to classes.

Udacity has many resources available outside of its class offerings to help users succeed. Mentors are available to users around the clock. Career services and hiring talent help users take the skills they learn from Udacity right into the workforce. Career resources include career coaching, resume review, LinkedIn review, and more to help users build a professional network and gain the attention of recruiters.

Another unique feature of this platform is Udacity Talks. Users can gain insight with professionals through live chats. These discussions give users access to some of the biggest names in the tech world.

 Past Udacity Talks speakers include:

  • Leah Busque, founder and executive chairwoman of TaskRabbit.
  • Scott Cook, co-founder of Intuit.
  • Marc Andreesen, co-founder and general partner of Andreesen Horowitz.
  • Theresia Gouw, co-founder and managing partner of Aspect Ventures.
  • Tony Fadell, founder, and CEO of Nest.

Quick glance:

  • 200+ course offerings.
  • 11.5 million users.
  • 100,000 Udacity graduations and counting.
  • 160,000 students.
  • 190 countries.
  • 200+ industry partners building content.


Now, more than ever is an opportune time to upskill your career expertise. Countless courses and resources are available through these online platforms that allow you to easily grow and share your skills.

Whether you want to improve in one area or learn something new, there are a variety of options offered through long-standing, reputable companies. Countless free courses can easily introduce you to a new topic or skill or help you to improve a job-specific function.

Paid courses can open your professional world through new certifications or online degrees. Instructors typically come from top-rated universities or top businesses, allowing you to interact with and gain knowledge from some of the best in their fields.

Before you get started, think about your goals and how that matches the offerings from each platform. Are you trying to get a quick refresh in one particular area? Do you want to learn something new? Are you hoping to gain skills that help you move up in your company or shift to a new career?

Peruse course offerings, prices, the time commitment to each course, and additional resources available to see which platform makes the most sense to you. For example, platforms that offer discussions with industry professionals, webinars on business trends, data-driven statistics, or real-life learning opportunities will provide you with more knowledge and skills above and beyond your actual course.

Also, consider what you get at the end of a class that benefits you in your career. Do you get a certificate of completion that can be shared on your LinkedIn profile? Can the time you spent learning a skill convert into course credit in college? Did you gain a specialization or master skill? Have you increased your network and resources?

With a renewed energy behind remote work and education, there are countless options awaiting you.

Written By
Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion , a college and career prep company that offers consulting and mentorship on college and graduate school admissions and career services. Jason has been featured in publications such as the BBC, Washington Post, NBC News, Fox Business, Niche, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, and Fast Company. He and his company have helped over 1,000 students and professionals.

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