The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning

See also: Online Education and Learning

The internet has made learning more accessible to more people around the world than at any other point in human history. While some online learning costs money, much of it is free, and it can be broken down into three different kinds: educational, personal, and occupational. The third category will be the focus of this article, which breaks down some of the most powerful learning platforms as well as the designations you can choose to study.

Making full use of the myriad of online learning options available when it comes to skills and professional training can set a person up with gainful employment that could last a lifetime. With all of that in mind, here is the ultimate guide to online learning.

Free Online Learning Platforms

There are myriad online learning platforms offering free courses and certification that you can use not only to inform and educate yourself, but to help you stand out on job applications. Many large and prestigious universities such as Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and UC Berkeley offer free courses you can take; Digital Defynd and Udemy offer free IT certifications; Udacity offers free online courses and what are referred to as “nano degrees", and Microsoft Learn offers free IT certifications.

All of these learning opportunities are fully online and free. Many can be done on your own time and at your own pace while others still have somewhat strict study and completion requirements to get the certificate or accreditation. Whether you want to explore these options simply for the sake of learning, or because you are trying to differentiate yourself in a competitive job market, all of the above opportunities will impart valuable skills and knowledge that can be put to use in the modern labour market.

Paid Online Learning Options

You can choose to pursue some of the free online web design courses from places like Udemy, Udacity, Treehouse, Linkedin, Launch School, Pluralsight and Skillshare. Or you can enrol in paid courses through post-secondary and other institutions around the world. The best thing about a web design certificate is that it is something that does not require a large time investment and the benefits are long-lasting.

Web designers can make between $60-75,000 per year, with many opportunities to ply your trade freelance and as a side hustle. Web design is also a great thing to learn because it is something you can do for yourself as well if you wish to strike out on your own as an online entrepreneur. All of the skills you need to excel as a web designer can be learned online.


Cybersecurity is another one of the designations in high demand right now and for good reason: the rise in cybercrime over the last year has been astronomical. Rapidly increasing digital transformation and the work from home revolution have created innumerable new vulnerabilities and entry points for hackers, thieves and extortionists. Because of this, cybersecurity budgets have and will continue to expand, meaning there will be a sustained demand for cybersecurity professionals to help protect businesses against what is largely considered one of the largest potential costs to a business.

There is a wide range of online learning options and certifications for those looking to get into the cybersecurity field or for IT professionals who would like to step their game up in the wake of these new trends. Certifications like the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), CompTIA Security+ and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) are all designations and educations that you obtain through online learning.

Digital Marketing and SEO

Brick and mortar is essentially a thing of the past, and non-digital marketing channels have been, for most demographics, completely taken over by SEO, social media and PPC. Businesses that haven’t already invested a lot of time and money in developing their digital marketing and search engine optimization efforts, if they don’t act quickly, will find themselves quickly losing market share as the vast majority of purchasing of goods and services takes place online.

Because of this, online learning that focuses on certificates in digital and search engine marketing will continue to be highly sought after by employers and are learning opportunities that can be leveraged not only to find jobs, but that can also be applied to any personal online venture and entrepreneurship. The Google AdWords Certification, the Google Analytics Certification, HubSpot’s Content Marketing Certification and Hootsuite’s Social Media Marketing certifications are all online learning opportunities that could potentially translate into important employment and self-employment opportunities.

HR and Recruiting

The labour market and workplace were radically changed, likely irreversibly, by Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 which has placed unprecedented importance on both these business segments. Productivity, onboarding, engagement, employee well-being, benefits, and the efficient discovery, allocation and deployment of human capital have become organizational imperatives in ways that they, perhaps, have not been for some time, or ever. Getting into HR and recruiting is a sound career move right now and there is a multitude of certifications and online earning options to take advantage of.

Wharton Business school’s online HR Management and Analytics Course, HRCI’s Senior Human Resources Professional, Coursera’s Human Resource Management and AIHR’s People Analytics Course are all great additions to an HR-oriented resume.

Software Development

The recent impressive growth in software, and particularly business to business software, will continue into the following years, as more and more businesses look to automate and make their operations more efficient and streamlined. Software developers are already in high demand and command good, competitive salaries, and this will continue well into the third decade of the 21st century. There are plenty of online learning opportunities to start building coding and development skills and entire certifications that can be done from home. Partnering with an education software development company can significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of online learning platforms, providing a more engaging and interactive educational experience.

Google’s Certified Professional Cloud Architect and Oracle’s Application Express Developer Certified Expert or Certified Professional MySQL 5.6 Developer certifications are all well-respected credentials that can help you land jobs in software development.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

The Skills You Need Guide for Students

Skills You Need

Develop the skills you need to make the most of your time as a student.

Our eBooks are ideal for students at all stages of education, school, college and university. They are full of easy-to-follow practical information that will help you to learn more effectively and get better grades.


Learning online takes some self-motivation as well as discipline to set aside the necessary time to go through the learning modules and satisfy the certification requirements. Some of these certifications require significant investments of time and money, though these usually pale in comparison to classroom learning at four-year institutions. The internet is a powerful tool for self-education and career advancement if you know where to look, understand the skill sets that are in high demand, and can bear the time, money and opportunity costs required to pursue online learning.

About the Author

Sam Summers has been covering the education, tech and digital marketing industries as a freelance writer for years and is passionate about helping people learn and self-improve. When she is not writing, she is probably out walking her dogs.