Learn it, earn it: the 9 best online course providers to build your skills

Meg Timbrell
Content & Social Media Manager
6 min read

Nine of the best online course providers to build your skills from the comfort of your living room.

The internet has enabled the creation of the digital classroom, with anyone now being able to build up their core skills from the comfort of home. Following the impact of Coronavirus forcing everyone indoors and working from home, online learning has become the new norm.

But before deciding if digital learning is for you, take some time to consider the pros and cons:



The inherent nature of online courses means that you can undertake courses in your own time and in any location. For certain individuals who might struggle to attend physical classes due to distance, time-management, or other reasons, this may be more suitable. 

Cheaper than traditional study/university fees

Attending university can be a huge financial strain. Online courses may be an alternative mode of study that enables you to gain the same skills as you would in the physical world for a much lower cost. Included in our list are a mixture of free and low-cost options.

When you need experience to get experience

It can be incredibly hard when applying for jobs to be told you need more experience when the only way is through a job. Building up core skills that you might obtain through a job online can be a great way to show off your initiative and skills to future employers. 


Not as reputable (sometimes)

Many may view online courses as not as reputable in comparison to traditional study. Although this of course depends on the type of course you are undertaking, and how reputable the course provider you have chosen is. There are now many well-respected courses available online, and many enable you to gain full qualifications for your study.

More demanding

Online study requires a higher level of self-discipline and self-motivation, so if you feel as though you may not have these traits, distance learning might not be for you.

Less 1-2-1 interaction

Online courses often offer less physical 1-to-1 interaction than traditional methods of study, if you really enjoy being able to ask direct questions 'in the moment', you may find this approach to study more difficult.

There are a variety of course providers out there that offer core skills courses, with some even offering degrees. 

Our Top 9 Online Course Providers


With world-class universities and industry experts, you can learn 100% online with FutureLearn, developing hobbies, new skills and career-changing expertise with their flexible courses. After you finish the course you’ll be rewarded with a Digital Certificate. 

Most of their courses last between six to eight weeks, but they do also have shorter courses which are two to three weeks. 

You can even earn degrees with FutureLearn. Subject areas include Business & Management, Creative Arts & Media, Healthcare & Medicine, History, IT & Computer Science, Language, and many many more!


Open Learn (Open University)

The Open University is a great way to benefit from a variety of distance learning courses for free, in a huge range of different subject areas. Their ‘distance learning’ page is clearly laid out dedicated to explaining the specifics of how their online courses work, with links to other pages that show the multitude of courses that they offer.  

From 1 to 100 hours of learning, they have hundreds of free courses to inspire and inform everyone. Their course categories include Health, Sport & Psychology, Education & Development, History & The Arts, Languages, Money & Business, Nature & Environment, Science, Maths & Technology, and Society, Politics & Law. 


Udemy is a great site to enrol on online courses. They have a range of different courses, with anything from ‘Core Skills for the Future of Work’ to ‘English Grammar Launch: Upgrade your speaking and listening’, and ‘The Complete Presentation and Public Speaking/Speech Course’ to ‘JavaScript: Understanding the Weird Parts’. They have over 50 million students, 150,000 courses, and over 65 languages.

They are highly reputable, stating that 80% of Fortune 100 companies trust Udemy for employee upskilling. With a mixture of free and paid courses, they're generally quite low in cost and often offered at discounted pricing.


Alison is a reputable online course-provider awarding recognised certificates to course participants, with more than 13 million learners in 195 countries. The great thing about Alison is the courses are free.

Courses range from topics like ‘Creating Powerful Presentations with Powerpoint’, ‘Microsoft Digital Literacy - Computer Basics’, and ‘Introduction to Business and Travel English Language Skills’. 

They've also just recently launched a brand new Alison app.

“We believe that free education, more than anything, has the power to break through boundaries and transform lives.” - Alison.com


Coursera enables you to gain easily shareable certificates which, for example, you can post on your LinkedIn profile to clearly demonstrate your skills to future employers.

Some of their core skills courses include ‘Effective Communication: Writing, Design, and Presentation’, ‘Getting Started with Google Sheets’ and ‘Chinese for Beginners’. Despite the courses being free, you often have to pay to obtain a certificate to prove your completion. 

You can even obtain a degree from Coursera, in a number of subjects including Public Health, Business, and Social Sciences. 

“87% of people learning for professional development report career benefits like getting a promotion, a raise, or starting a new career.” - Coursera Learner Outcomes Survey - 2019

Centre of Excellence

Centre of Excellence pride themselves on providing a state of the art online learning platform, learning available 24/7. With the option to learn on your mobile, tablet, laptop or via audio, there are over 1 million learners. 

“Our mission is to inspire you to live your dream life” - Centre of Excellence 

Courses aren’t free, but they are renowned for high quality training courses, and have been recognised with several awards. They have a huge number of course categories with everything from ‘Corporate Wellness’ to ‘Animal Care’ to ‘Life Coaching’. 


Learndirect has a wide variety of courses, from core skills to free life skills courses (such as time management), student courses at GCSE level, and business courses. Learndirect has a mixture of free and paid courses, and they also regularly offer discounted prices for their paid courses. They are the UK’s largest provider of skills, training and employment services, having provided services to help more than 4 million people, with 20,000 using the platform daily. 


You can learn over 30+ languages for free with Duolingo. Duolingo offers personalised learning, opportunities to receive immediate grading, and the ability to stay motivated with rewards. They even have an app for Android and Apple users, so that you can learn on-the-go.

There's the option to upgrade to Duolingo Plus, to remove ads and support free education.


Interested in learning to code?

You can choose what you want to learn - from building websites to analysing data - if you’re not sure where to begin with coding, you can take their ‘Sorting Quiz’ to find out what option is right for you. 

Codecademy pride themselves on ‘learning by doing’, so within minutes of choosing an option, you’ll be writing real, working code in minutes. Your code will be tested as soon as you submit it, so you’ll always know if you’re on the right track. Apply your learning to real-world projects, and test yourself with tailor-made quizzes. 

Their free plan includes interactive lessons and daily practice, or you can pay £15.99/month where you can receive members-only content, peer support, real-world projects, certificates of completion, flexible start dates, and much more. 

“First, we invented the best system for learning to code. Nine years and 50 million learners later, we’ve perfected it.” - Codecademy 

Not sure what your next steps are in regard to your skills? Click here to read 'What skills do I have and what skills do I need?'

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