A Look at Coursera, The Shaw Academy and Lynda.com: Which One Stands Out?

The success of online learning has been growing at a steady pace over the past years. Schools all over the world have recognized the importance of integrating an online platform into their curriculum. This is because a study commissioned by the US Department of Education has shown that e-learning enables students to learn a wider range of subjects. Even businesses encourage its employees to further their studies to be able to expand their professional growth.


However, choosing the right online course provider is just as important as choosing which subject area to study. After all, their teaching process and methodology play a vital role in ensuring that students are able to grasp subject matters effectively. For this reason, let's take a closer look at three of the most popular online course providers today.

1. Lynda.com

Founded in 1995, Lynda.com has 4 million users to date and is considered to be one of the most popular online learning platforms today. It was also recently acquired by LinkedIn.

  • Students can choose from the 3,870 courses available. Subject areas are arts, business, computer science, design, engineering, finance, games, humanities, lifestyle, music, operating systems, and software.
  • Courses are offered in four different languages - English, Spanish, French, and German.
  • Courses are taught by industry professionals.
  • Videos on lectures are recorded and can be viewed anytime.
  • Available on mobile devices.
  • Students only receive a certificate upon completing a course.
  • All courses and tutorials are paid.
  • Lessons are not interactive.

2. The Shaw Academy

The Shaw Academy differentiates itself by focusing on live online education, teaching and human support. It offers 10 courses which include nutrition, marketing, photography and financial trading. It is recognized by various international organizations such as the International Compliance Association, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and the NCFE.


  • All courses are held LIVE, at multiple convenient times, with full student / teacher interaction.
  • New topical lessons are held several times per week for each subject matter, ensuring students are up to the date with best practices and stay ahead of the curve.
  • The courses are built in such a way as students are able to interact with their educators, tutors and fellow students.
  • Students can also complete courses at their own pace thus ensuring work-life balance, via both the live lessons and the recorded sessions
  • They have a dedicated portal where students can log on to take exams and quizzes, review modules, replay lectures, view additional content etc. All materials are available 24/7.
  • Round-the-clock educational and technical support teams are available for students.
  • Courses are offered in multiple languages
  • Course offerings are currently limited to 10 of the most popular high growth industries, though many more are coming soon
  • Certificates of Completion are only awarded to those who not only complete but pass final examinations

3. Coursera

Although Coursera only started operations in April 2012, it has already garnered over 4 million users to date. The main reason for this would probably because the courses they offer are free of charge. However, users would only be able to earn badges, a college credit, or a certificate at best, upon completion of a course.

  • Courses are offered for free.
  • There are 406 courses available on the site.
  • Learning materials are available in 7 different languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.
  • An online forum is available for users.
  • Lessons are interactive.
  • Available on mobile devices
  • Some courses may require students to attend lectures on-campus.
  • Some courses have to be completed on a set schedule.
  • Due to the fact that courses are offered for free, some users may have to wait a while to get a slot in the course of their choice.


At the end of the day, the main factors you need to consider when choosing an online course provider is whether they offer the area of study you are looking to take, time flexibility, and the cost. While others prefer to take online courses that offer blended lectures, this may not be the right fit for those who have full-time jobs. Make sure to assess your own needs before you decide on which online course provider to go with.