Because of today's technology, learning a skill and improving your education has become easier than ever before. In recent years, one of the most popular methods of gaining an understanding of a subject is through MOOCs or massive open online courses. These often can range from general skill improvements like Masterclass, acute educational degrees like Coursera, and specialized courses for a particular career like TreeHouse.
To find out which one is the best for you and your situation, it's a good idea to know what you are looking for. Two well-known options that are often talked about when looking for a top-tier MOOC are both Udemy and LinkedIn Learning.
In this breakdown, we will go over both platforms as well as their history before ultimately determining a winner.
Course Overview & History
Like many online education and learning platforms, both LinkedIn Learning and Udemy share a lot of similarities with one another. They both offer thousands of different available courses, skilled instructors, and certificates upon completion.
That said, there are a few differences between the two. Here, we will briefly talk about the history of both learning sites as well as what their individual goals and objectives are.
Known initially as Lynda Learning, LinkedIn Learning was started in 1995 before officially changing its name in 2015 after being acquired by the LinkedIn company. After its acquisition, the platform expanded greatly to accommodate the LinkedIn user base, focusing primarily on business-related and leadership skills to make them more desirable professionally.
The goal of LinkedIn Learning is to “help anyone learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals”. They have partnered with well over 10,000 different organizations and have courses in over 5 languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
Founded over a decade after LinkedIn Learning got its start, Udemy was first created in 2010. There, Eren Bali, Gagan Biyani, and Oktay Caglar created the company in San Francisco California. Since then the platform has amassed an incredible user base and course library. As of 2021, they have over 40 million students and 155,000 available courses. The platform is all over the world in over 180 countries and has courses in over 65 different languages.
Udemy is unique in that it allows anyone to create a course on their platform so long as it meets their requirements. Because of this, they have become particularly well-known for their large catalog and affordable rates. In fact, despite being based in the US, 2 out of 3 students are out of the country.
Now that we have a bit more information on their history, let's determine just how these two platforms stack up concerning one another.
As every person is different in what they want from a specific course, platform, or learning experience, we are going to focus on very specific factors that are worth considering no matter what type of platform you are considering looking into or using. These points are course quality, course variety, quality of support, certificate relevance, and overall pricing.
- Course Quality: What is the quality of a course on the platform. This point determines if the material is accessible enough for new students while challenging enough for experts in their chosen field.
- Course Variety: What level of variety is available on the platform. This is meant to determine whether one's options are large enough to justify its existence.
- Quality of Support: How high is the platform's level of overall support. This point is to determine whether the platform has an effective support option or helpful instructors.
- Certificate Relevance: How useful is a certificate from the platform in any part of the career world. This point is meant to determine just how important a certificate from either platform is in acquiring a job or advancing in one's career.
- Overall Pricing: What is the overall pricing for either course. This point is based on how much it costs to use either platform as well as what is included in that price tag.
The point of these variables is to determine which course has the most going for it at a base, universal level. As such, if there are individual preferences that you are more interested in maintaining, certainly factor that into your decision-making process. For example, even if Udemy has a higher number of courses offered, if you are looking for more professionally established and set up courses, LinkedIn Learning would be your best bet.
Starting with course quality, your platform must produce materials and courses that are actually beneficial to you. Platforms with untrained instructors or curriculums that are too simplistic are naturally of a lower quality compared to those with much more engaging courses or capable instructors.
First starting with LinkedIn Learning, the platform itself has some good as well as some bad going for it. The site is filled with a ton of practical and actionable materials for both beginners and intermediate-level students. Not only that, but it also offers a ton of different courses built around acquiring different job skills as well as using different software platforms.
LinkedIn Learning primarily uses videos and video-based learning to teach concepts, meaning that students will watch slide shows and other content through visual examples. While not quite as interactive, students can also ask additional questions that will be responded to after the lesson is completed, giving it that university-like setting.
And, while it is not to the same degree as other platforms, LinkedIn Learning has advanced level topics for those looking to take their learning to the next level. Especially for those looking to improve their technical skills, there is more than enough to impress most advanced and high intermediate students.
Unlike most other online learning platforms, LinkedIn Learning also has a mobile app available. This means that students can learn from virtually anywhere without being tied to a computer or computer station.
The downside to the MOOC, however, is the fact that it does not do all that well in terms of interactivity or all-around practicality. With rare exceptions, there are virtually no quizzes or particular course understanding on the site. Similarly, very little of the information manages to escape the hypothetical or the academic, making it potentially difficult for some students to apply this in their real lives.
On the other side of the field is Udemy. One of the biggest differences between LinkedIn Learning and Udemy comes by way of their intended focus for different courses and classes. While LinkedIn Learning primarily focuses on professional and business-building skills, Udemy, as we will discuss, is quite varied in what it offers. In reality, because of its lax instructor requirements and large user base, the platform is much more like a Skillshare or a Masterclass.
Udemy offers its students classes in everything ranging from photography to music to software programming to engineering to personal development. The information is taught primarily through video courses alongside some downloadable worksheets or files, though this is largely based on the instructors. The classes are entirely self-paced, meaning you are not rushed to compete for the course and can even skip different parts of the lessons if you want.
The downside to this is that, like LinkedIn Learning, the amount of interactivity is fairly limited as well as the overall practicality of it. Not only that but because there is not much the platform is willing to do to screen instructors, the overall quality of the courses themselves can certainly range (though the platform does allow for students to rate the course, giving it a potentially accurate outlook).
The reality is that both platforms are virtually equal in terms of quality content. While certainly, LinkedIn Learning is more focused on business and professional skills, they aren't nearly as applicable as other platforms out there. Even keeping it strictly compared to Udemy, the classes in and of themselves are largely the same with only the quality of the instructors varying between the two.
Udemy, on the other hand, may have fewer verified instructors available but because of their wide variety and fairly effective rating system (real students that previously took the course) classes are around the same level as LinkedIn Learning.
Ultimately, in terms of quality content, both are all-around indistinguishable from one another, with very little difference between the two.
Course variety is largely to do with what exactly is offered on the platform. Whereas quality determined how good the content was (in effect), variety determines just how many options you have as a student.
LinkedIn Learning has several thousand courses available on the site. If you are a student that is looking to get into the tech-related or business-minded world, LinkedIn Learning has you covered. It has on the site a wide breadth of materials available such as teaching Python, Power BI, and SQL just to name a few.
In addition to that, the MOOC also has Learning Paths which act as a way for beginners to learn a concept through a curriculum-like setting.
Unfortunately, that's where the platform falls short. Like many other specialized online learning sites, it has a very narrow focus. This means that, if you aren't looking to improve your technical, creative, or business skills, the platform has very little to offer you.
Comparatively speaking, Udemy on the other hand is chock-full of information on a huge variety of content. While certainly the content itself may not be verified through the same means as LinkedIn Learning, that doesn't negate the fact that virtually any topic or course option is available on the platform. As a true show between the two, while LinkedIn Learning has over 16,000 courses available, Udemy has well over 155,000 by comparison! That is almost 10 times the content available!
Not only that, but the courses are incredibly varied and span across a litany of different topics. Whereas LinkedIn Learning focuses specifically on business, technology, and creative learning, Udemy's courses include music, health & fitness, finance & accounting, development, business, lifestyle, marketing, music, photography, and personal development just to name a few.
This is a no-brainer. While LinkedIn Learning certainly does its best with the materials it offers, the fact of the matter is that Udemy has far and away the most content and the most varied content. It doesn't matter if you're an aspiring author, photographer, or business exec, Udemy has something for you.
Quality of Support
When it comes to a platform, the fact of the matter is that it requires a good level of support, both from the help and support staff itself as well as from the instructors. No matter how great your content is, if there is little help offered, more often than not, the amount of benefit acquired will be limited.
Specifically relating to the available support, it isn't quite as much as you would expect. While certainly not the worst out there, LinkedIn Learning isn't the most impressive in terms of ensuring that you “get” the material. They do not have a way to chat with support and largely require going through mail or the main support page.
Student support is a bit better by way of the instructors, though even this isn't particularly great. Here, students can ask questions for the instructors and get help, though not so much in a 1-on-1 setting. Instead, courses have a group forum to ask the instructor questions after the class. And while this is certainly helpful, it isn't on the higher platform levels like Coursera, as an example.
Udemy, conversely, isn't nearly as effective. Despite LinkedIn Learning having the same method of contacting support, Udemy has consistently been reported to have long wait times between responses, meaning you will likely wait several days before hearing back from them, most times with a need for a follow-up point, which will likely take more time.
This is largely due to its exceptionally high number of students compared to its smaller support base. That said, it doesn't negate the fact that you aren't going to hear from them for quite a while.
As for the instructors, it's more of a mixed bag. Though the majority are legitimate, the fact that anyone can become an instructor on the site means that a student is likely to come across someone simply trying to upsell them on an outside course rather than ensure that they understand the materials.
Similarly, even if the instructor is legitimate, that doesn't negate the fact that they are likely not as trained in the information as an instructor from LinkedIn Learning, which has been vetted for the position before them teaching a lesson.
Verdict: LinkedIn Learning
When it comes down to it, LinkedIn Learning is very much “middle of the road” in terms of support. It does not support a live chat and assistance from the instructor is largely shared among other students and only during the times right after a lesson.
Still, this shows that, despite this fact, Udemy's unverified instructors and long wait times make it even worse of a support structure.
The victor in this area is LinkedIn Learning.
For virtually all students, while certainly, the course itself is great, getting something to show for it by way of a certificate upon completion is even better. While most platforms will offer this certificate, the overall strength it holds when finding a job or moving up in one's career it's important to determine which online institution will carry the most weight when you've completed the course and are ready to work.
While you'd expect that a LinkedIn Learning completion certificate would hold some weight or relevance in the market, you'd be sorely mistaken. The courses are not accredited meaning that they will neither transfer to an actual school nor will they hold a high enough degree of importance on a resume.
That said, there are still more than a few benefits to getting a certificate upon completion. Those that complete one of a select number of courses are eligible for a CEU, also known as a continuing educational unit, that can be used for some of their other school offerings. Similarly, students that complete a course are offered a badge that will register on their LinkedIn account. This, while not a sure-fire method of landing a position, does have real weight and consideration behind it.
Udemy does not many of these traits going for it. Because instructors are not verified, there is no evidence or baseline trust in the completion of the course. As such, its certificate is much weaker when bargaining in the real world for a job position.
Verdict: LinkedIn Learning
Another win for LinkedIn Learning. While certainly not the most impressive in terms of the strength of the certificate, it is much more weighted and trusted than the one from Udemy.
Finally, finding a proper pricing level for your platform is important. With a price that is too high, the students will be physically unable to fully take advantage of the course, ultimately making all of its benefits pointless.
For LinkedIn Learning, it runs off of a subscription-based model. This means that, rather than pay for an individual course, students instead pay to have full access to their content library.
There are two separate options offered. A monthly and an annual price. For the monthly rate, it costs around $29.99. The annual rate, on the other hand, is $220 per year. This is a $139 savings and worth looking into for those interested.
On the other side of the payment spectrum, Udemy is set up as being a “single-payment” option. Here, students must pay for each class rather than the entire library itself. These prices can vary between $20 and $200+.
That being the case, Udemy often runs numerous discounts on their courses, often at a 95% discount on a course, with many even being completely free. As a result, Udemy is by far one of the most affordable MOOC platforms available for learners today.
While certainly an inexpensive option for most students, LinkedIn Learning simply does not have the same variety offered for that price.
Comparatively, Udemy has thousands of course options that are either heavily discounted or outright free of charge. Not only is that great in and of itself, but because they are single-payment courses, the student has them forever without worrying about losing them over time.
All-in-all, Udemy has the best price-to-content value out there by far.
Verdict: A Tie
Yes, that's right folks, we have a tie. While both are great in their ways, when the chips fall, they have just as many pros going for them as cons working against them. Luckily here comes the personal element.
If you are someone looking to improve skills primarily in the business or technical sector, LinkedIn Learning is your ideal offer. If you are looking for a wide variety of options, however, you'd be more at home with Udemy. Both are great in their ways and it will require you to determine what is important to you as a potential student and what you are looking for.