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Making the most of online learning platforms

Choosing where to study, even online, can be a challenge. The internet has opened up seemingly limitless options for acquiring new skills or knowledge. But with what seems like infinite choice, where do you start?

Identifying the best online learning platforms is a good place to begin, and picking the right one will have a significant impact on your studies. Whether you're looking to learn a new language or you’re looking for degree-level study in specific areas, giving yourself a head start in choosing the best platform for you is important.

In this article we will explore online learning platforms, what they are, how to choose between them, as well as exploring how to get the most out of your chosen platform.

Online learning platforms: What are they?

An online learning platform, sometimes referred to as an online course platform or teaching platform, is a portal filled with educational content combined with live instruction in a particular subject. Most platforms are membership-based, but there are other options where users can learn for free without registering.

When you start exploring online learning, you will inevitably come across the term Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). These are courses designed to be undertaken by large numbers of students, either on a set schedule or at students’ own pace.. Take a look at our recent article to learn more about MOOCs and the best alternatives to them.

In many ways, an online learning platform could be described as a toolkit and a good one should have a collection of tried and tested features and facilities, or tools, that support your online education. These tools might facilitate online learning, blended learning, virtual classrooms, quizzes and assignments, and when selecting an online learning platform, you should only pick the tools that help you achieve your end goal.

How to choose an online learning platform

Before selecting your online learning platform, it is important that you have your end goal clear in your mind. Maybe you want to learn a specific skill, earn a degree, supplement your studies, or prepare for university. Your end goal is key in choosing an online learning platform, as some will be better suited to some types of education than others.

Cost could be a driving factor when choosing a platform. Depending on what you are planning to study, you may be willing to pay for a high quality standard of teaching. Even if this is the case, it is likely that you will be looking for value for money when selecting an online learning platform, and it is important to evaluate each option in order to arrive at the teaching platform that provides the optimal value for you. 

All online teaching platforms structure their courses differently. Many platforms use schedules to manage the student experience, where content can be accessed at any time and is then supplemented with live teaching at specific times. 

Some platforms structure their courses so that they are completely self-paced, with the content able to be accessed and studied on demand. This can be extremely appealing to those who are scheduling their studies around other responsibilities. However, a potential downside to this can be a lack of interaction with course staff.

Finally, some online learning platforms deliver courses that are taught 100% in real-time, which is the closest to traditional methods of study. 

With everything from single subject teaching platforms to online learning platforms with thousands of courses, you will find that the platforms vary greatly in the range of courses they offer. Some platforms will focus on certain areas such as the sciences or technology whereas others will cover every academic discipline you can think of.

While you're researching the best online learning platform for your requirements, you should find out what resources the online course platform will offer and what supplies you will need. Try to also find out about their method of delivery and what technological requirements there might be.

Here are some of the most popular online learning platforms:

  • Shaw Academy - Offers more than 50 courses that focus largely on career development. 

  • Skillshare - Offers a wide variety of courses, largely in vocational subjects. 

  • LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda) - Offers business, technology, and creative education taught by industry experts. 

  • Udemy - Offers more than 130,000 video courses in a wide variety of subjects.

  • Treehouse - Offers more than 300 courses in disciplines such as programming and design. 

  • Coursera - Offers a broad range of teaching, from free courses to professional certifications. 

  • FutureLearn - Offers free online courses as well as online degree programmes.

If you are using your course specifically to prepare for university, Cambridge International Academy provides specialist Pre-University and Pre-Masters courses to prepare you for the rigours of higher education, and bolster your applications. 

How to get the most from your chosen online learning platform

Once you’ve chosen your online learning platform, you want to be sure that you’re going to get the most out of it, achieving your goals for studying.

First off, figure out your schedule. Ultimately you should have an overview of the time of day and days of the week that you will dedicate to your studies. It’s important to think about when you will have the energy to learn. The most important thing is to set a schedule and stick to it.

Whenever you choose to study, it’s important to begin the week understanding what you intend to achieve. These are three things that you might find helpful in doing this.

  1. Write a study plan

See where you are and what you need to achieve for the week ahead. Then create a checklist. There are plenty of to-do list apps that can help keep you on track, but pen and paper can do the job too. The key thing is getting a plan in place before you start your study week.

  1. Set aside specific study time. 

Plan into your diary when you are going to do your studying, especially if you are fitting it around other things in your life - it’s important to be intentional with your time.

  1. Plan a time to review your week. 

A review session at the end of the week to see how things went is a good way to evaluate progress against your goals which can inform your plan for the following week.

Whatever your reason for choosing an online learning platform, it’s important you pick one that suits your needs. Taking the time to research teaching platforms will be beneficial to your studies in the long term.

For information on our online courses, please visit our website.

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