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5 features to tick off when selecting an online learning platform

Online learning platforms are not a new phenomenon in the 21st century education world. My earliest experience with it was during the early 2010s, when my recorded classes and assignments were delivered through it. But it was not mainstream.

Fast-forward to today, and online learning platforms have become a rapidly growing form of education, especially after two years of COVID-19. An undeniable piece of evidence is the rising number of Learners and Teachers interested in online learning as means to gather new skills or knowledge and teach a class.

Fortunately, many online learning platforms meet such demands.

Popular online learning platforms include Coursera, Skillshare, Udemy, MasterClass, edX and Udacity.

So, it got me thinking. With so many similar platforms out there, how do Learners and Teachers decide and pick the best match?

Thus, to help make this process easier, I came up with a list — of features that make the best online learning platforms deliver high-quality learning experiences.

What is an online learning platform?

Before we jump to the list, I think it’s good to define an online learning platform.

An online learning platform is an infotech that provides an environment to help Learners gather new skills or knowledge while Teachers deliver them.

Through it, Learners get the opportunity to access knowledge or skills that interest them without a geographical barrier. It is also an easy relationship where they can search for and pay for classes directly. There are many types and categories of these platforms, targeting varied demographics. But the majority is more educational-based and strictly offers university-level education.

Defining an online learning platform. Source: Survey on the Effectiveness of Online Teaching, 2021

What makes the best online platform?

As I went over 20+ alleged best online learning platforms (as claimed by various sources), I noticed a couple of similarities among them, making them the frontrunners of the industry. So, I weighed each pro and con and deep-dived into their business delivery.

The goal was to decide what constituted the best.

Without further ado, below are some features that both Learners and Teachers should look for when selecting the best online learning platforms:

  1. Personalised learning dashboards
  2. Variety of learning resources
  3. Collaboration and social learning tools
  4. Expert-curated learning programs
  5. Easy payment methods

#1 Personalised learning dashboards

First on the list and of utmost importance is the availability of a personalised learning dashboard, tailored to each Learner’s goals and aspirations.

There are a few elements that make a good, personalised learning dashboard, which are:

  1. Recommenders
    • A top-tier online learning platform will provide Learners relevant recommendations on courses, teachers, communities and more – essentially providing recommendations on things that matter to you.
    • These recommendations are made based on the data gathered on a Learner’s goals, aspirations and, to some extent, consumption behaviour
    • Some leverage on robust algorithms enabled by artificial intelligence to make this possible
  2. Progress trackers
    • Progress trackers are vital, as most Learners and Teachers want to know the milestones they achieve throughout their online learning journeys
    • A dynamic progress tracker will guide Learners and Teachers through a structured learning program to achieve quantifiable outcomes

We see the personalised dashboard in most, if not all, online learning platforms, but there are differences in each.

For instance, LOCO Analyst, the Moodle dashboard, and GLASS are tools that visualise Learner feedback and different levels of performance in different ways. Student Inspector visualises the use of data in the Active Math environment. Tell Me More provides visualisations of exercise results. The CALM system visualises comparative levels of knowledge through self-assessments.

All with their own merits. Choosing the dashboard that works for you is crucial and dependent on your needs and preference.

#2 Variety of learning resources

Most of the best online learning platforms provide a variety of learning resources. From on-demand delivery to multi-formatted content, the options help meet a user’s learning preference. Learners can study based on their schedule, and Teachers can retain the authenticity of their teaching style.

Based on an informal survey with online Learners, 9 in 10 believe that they learn better when there is multi-formatted learning content. Clarity and convenience are the highly cited reasons.

However, some leading online learning platforms provide single format content. MasterClass, for example, famously produces pre-recorded videos to teach Learners how to cook, write, design, and a few more skills. Though, I noticed this strategy works when the educator is delivering skill-based knowledge.

Thus, one should look for a platform with a variety of learning resources when it comes to university-level education.

#3 Collaboration and social learning tools

There’s a proverb that states, “it takes a village to raise a child”, which means that an entire community is necessary to interact positively with children to help them gain experience and grow. This is true for Learners too.

To be a successful Learner, one cannot learn in a silo. Therefore, seeking out an online platform that provides collaboration and social learning tools is essential for development.

A top-tier platform will provide access to a like-minded community of Learners as well as integrated communication tools, such as Zoom, Blackboard, to help Learners connect with peers and Teachers.

Such engagements enable active learning, which keeps Learners excited about growing their knowledge base. Subsequently, platforms improve the efficacy rate of their learning programs.

#4 Expert-curated learning programs

One can differentiate online learning platforms by the content they provide. This differentiation increases when top institutions or experts provide the content.

This is visible in platforms such as eDX, which provides programs, degrees and short-term courses from world-leading universities such as Oxbridge, Harvard and others.

Source: edX website, 2022

Many Learners are compelled by them because of the accreditations they will receive, which some say can open doors to new avenues and career paths.

Furthermore, enrolling on an online learning platform with expert-curated programs closes the gap for anybody at any geographical location to learn some of the world’s best knowledge. Ultimately, bringing more inclusivity and equality to education.

To me, this is a feature that deserves applause; just a decade ago, it was unfathomable.

#5 Easy payment methods

The last feature, which we should not overlook, is the simplicity of the payment.

As the internet serves as the host for online learning platforms, it enables global access. Due to this, the best platforms need to make transactions the least concern for users.

Globally, there are a plethora of payment channels beyond Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. Best-in-class platforms should have versatile payment protocols for Learners and Teachers to focus on their journey.

Transaction failures shouldn’t deny education. This feature is a prerequisite for the best online learning platforms.

Final verdict

In the fast-changing world we live in today, elevating your knowledge has become more critical than ever. Regardless of your current life stage, online learning platforms give you the convenience to do just that.

With so many options available, I sincerely hope this article gives you a head start in selecting the perfect online learning platform for you.

References

Darius, P.S.H., Gundabattini, E. & Solomon, D.G. A Survey on the Effectiveness of Online Teaching–Learning Methods for University and College Students. J. Inst. Eng. India Ser. B 102, 1325–1334 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40031-021-00581-x

Corbu, E.C.; Edelhauser, E. Responsive Dashboard as a Component of Learning Analytics System for Evaluation in Emergency Remote Teaching Situations. Sensors 2021, 21, 7998. https://doi.org/ 10.3390/s21237998

Get critical career skills (2021) https://www.edx.org/

Delfino, D., Here Are Some Of The Best Online Learning Platforms Right Now (2020), Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-personal-shopper/2020/04/02/3-of-the-best-online-learning-platforms/?sh=122be8604c51

Raouna, K., 27 Best Online Learning Platforms (2022), Learnworlds, https://www.learnworlds.com/online-learning-platforms/

Coursera Blogs (2022) https://blog.coursera.org/

Where possibilities begin (2022) https://blog.udemy.com/?ref=footer

Learn from the world best (2022) https://www.masterclass.com/articles

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