1. Most courses priced $18 - $20
2. Over 155,000 courses available
3. Broad range of subjects
The World Wide Web gets a bad rap at times, but one very obvious benefit of the internet is that it's made it incredibly easy to learn new things. Want to master the piano? Hone your cookery skills? Discover how to code (opens in new tab)? With just a few clicks of your mouse, or taps of your smart device, you can find online lessons and courses that'll fulfill all of those ambitions and thousands more.
Most people would probably head to YouTube as a first port of call, but if you're looking for a more structured approach you might be better off using one of the dedicated online learning platforms.
One such platform is Udemy (pronounced you-de-mee). Launched in California in 2010, the 'Academy of You' – as it was originally known – is now the world's largest online learning organisation, with more than 155,000 courses on its database. These cover everything from business studies to breakdancing, personal development to pottery, and span over 65 different languages. It's no wonder, then, that the platform now has around 35 million users from more than 180 countries.
When we tried it, we were impressed with the range of classes available, which are very reasonably priced. It came out top in our round-up of the best online learning platforms (opens in new tab) and it ranks highly in out guide to the best coding courses online (opens in new tab). There's not much of an interactive element to classes – but while high school students might need the guidance of the best online tutors (opens in new tab) to really improve in a subject, we think that everyday learners will be quite content learning via pre-recorded videos.
Udemy review: How does it work?
Udemy is a platform for both people who want to learn ('students') and people who want to teach ('instructors'). Anybody can become an instructor and share their knowledge – there are currently more than 7,000 instructors on the site, who upload their courses or lessons in the form of videos, PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, audio files and more.
If an instructor wants to charge people for their expertise, they must become a 'premium instructor', which is free but requires them to fill out an application form and provide identification details. Even though premium instructors are obliged to give a percentage of their profits to Udemy, the income potential can be huge – in 2015, the top 10 Udemy instructors made more than $17million in total revenue.
Once a student has chosen their preferred course (creating an account is compulsory whether the course is paid-for or not), they can take it completely in their own time as there are no deadlines to meet. Conveniently, courses can be accessed via a desktop computer (opens in new tab), laptop or smartphone (opens in new tab), enabling you to dip in and out of your tuition no matter where you are (you're likely to need a Wi-Fi or network signal, though, as most courses are not downloadable for offline access). Previews are available for most courses, but if you feel dissatisfied with your choice, you can claim a refund within 30 days of purchase.
If you are a company or organisation, you might be interested in something called Udemy for Business, a subscription-based service that enables teams to access a suite of more than 5,500 top-rated courses to help them develop workplace skills.
Udemy review: How easy is Udemy to navigate?
In all honesty, though, it's not too hard to find what you're looking for. A 'categories' heading at the top of the page lets you browse by topics such as Photography & Video, Heath & Fitness or Music, with horizontal dropdown menus enabling you to optimise your search to finer areas of interest.
And there's also a search bar, which allows you to whittle down your options by skill level, language, price, whether or not they have subtitles, etc. When you click on a course you like the look of, you'll be directed to its dedicated web page, where you'll find details of what the course entails, any requirements to complete the sessions and, in some cases, previews of what you can expect. As with YouTube, eBay, etc, you'll also be given a list of other options that you might like, based on your initial choice.
When it comes to paid-for courses, Udemy is much like any other e-commerce site in that you choose what you want and then either add it to your cart or 'buy now'.
Udemy review: How good are the courses on Udemy?
With more than 155,000 courses on the Udemy platform, there's inevitably going to be some inconsistencies in quality. But, like we said before, you can preview each course before you start, so if it looks like the tuition might be badly presented or the audio a little incomprehensible, you can always go elsewhere.
As part of our review, we tested two different coding courses – Coding for Beginners 1: You Can Learn To Code (opens in new tab) and 100 Days Of Code: The Complete Python Pro Bootcamp For 2021 (opens in new tab). Both were very approachable, having been broken down into bite-sized video clips fronted by instructors who spoke clearly and with authority. In terms of scale, the former included eight hours of on-demand video, while the latter was a marathon offering at 63.5 hours. This was largely to do with the differences in complexity between the two subject matters, with the latter set of classes being more complicated than the former.
We also tried out a hip-hop dancing course, but, while the presenter was very likeable and explained the moves in a way that was simple to follow, the audio was a little echoey and out of sync, meaning it was sometimes hard to hear what she was saying.
Were the courses we tested better than what you could find on YouTube? It varied, though it was nice being able to find such an extensive range of focused tuition options in the same place.
Note that the courses offered on Udemy are not accredited and are therefore unlikely to be recognised by a university or college. You will, however, receive a certificate upon completion of a paid-for endeavour – and, of course, the skills you learn could still help you to progress in your chosen field or occupation.
Udemy review: User reviews
Udemy has a really straightforward reviews system, which can help you decide whether or not a course is worth your time. Students leave a rating out of five on courses they've completed. Often, pupils leave comments too, outlining how they found the course.
It's a system that works a lot better than LinkedIn Learning (opens in new tab), where courses are only given 'likes' by students. In our experience, Udemy course reviews tend to be unanimously good or bad, too, so you can clearly see which lessons are a hit with students.
Udemy review: Cost
The Udemy pricing system will seem quite strange when you first visit the platform – you'll notice that almost every course has had its price slashed significantly. To give you an example, a course that might originally have been marked as costing $80 dollars will now be priced at just $18. This can be a little disconcerting to newcomers, as you're left wondering if there's something wrong with the content for it to be given the bargain-bin treatment. There's really not, though – our guess is that it's a marketing strategy to make people think they're getting a good deal.
In our opinion, $18-25 is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for tuition that's clearly taken a great deal of time and effort to put together. But with so much online content available for free these days, we wouldn't blame people for hunting down even more wallet-friendly alternatives. There are, of course, a fair few free courses on Udemy, though these are in the minority.
Udemy review: Should I pay for a course?
Udemy is undoubtedly one of the best online learning platforms in the world. Trawling through the vast number of courses can be quite addictive, and before you know it, you've signed up to learn about half a dozen new skills (we'll get round to completing that belly dancing course one day). And in our experience, the quality of the courses easily matches the quantity, with a great deal of care and attention having been taken to help you learn your chosen craft. It's probably true that most people could achieve a similar degree of mastery on YouTube, but the convenience of having everything on one, easily navigable platform cannot be underestimated.