Perhaps you've tried some of the more informal online learning sites like Udemy and now you're ready to take things to the next level. Coursera and Lynda are both solid choices if you're looking for something a bit more in-depth and with some degree of accreditation.
But which one offers a better online learning experience overall? That's what we're going to take a look at today.
What are the main differences between Coursera and Lynda?
Coursera partners with some of the leading universities and academic institutions in the world to offer certificates and even full degree programs. Lynda is a more flexible and cost-effective option. For a single subscription, you gain unlimited access to all of their courses and videos.
In this article, we'll be comparing Lynda and Coursera based on price, time commitment required, courses available, accreditation, and more. Then you'll get an overall list of pros and cons for each of these online course providers.
Out of the two options, Coursera offers a significantly more curated online education experience.
In fact, it's hard to find a close match for Coursera when it comes to course quality and presentation.
The platform features degree programs and individual courses that have been crafted by some of the top academic institutions in the world, like Stanford, UPenn, Duke, University of Michigan, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and more.
Of course with the rise in prestige comes a higher level of commitment that will be required of you. Although it can depend on what kind of course you choose.
Through Coursera, you can either complete a single course, a specialization, or a degree program. Specializations are a small group of courses designed to help you gain or improve a specific skill.
The more work that you put in to the program, the more you get out. So you may end up with a certificate of completion at the end, or even a complete degree.
Most Coursera courses take several weeks to complete, and include graded assignments (either peer-reviewed or auto-graded) and participation. Degree programs on the platform can take up to three years to complete.
Of course with lengthy and thorough courses also comes more expensive costs. Coursera is one of the more expensive options out there when it comes to online courses.
There's also less flexibility, since courses start and end on specific dates, so a higher level of commitment is required.
Check out this promotional video from Coursera to understand more about the types of courses they offer and who they are aimed at:
In contrast – Lynda is much more flexible when it comes to how courses are presented.
Where on Coursera you pay individually for courses, Lynda has a subscription model. You pay a flat fee each month to gain access to their entire library of courses and content.
That means you have a lot more freedom and flexibility to pick and choose what you learn, when you learn it, and how long it will take.
Where Coursera tends to restrict you to a specific program or group of courses, Lynda gives you full freedom to pick from a wide range of topics. You can learn about computer programming one day, and then decide that you want to take a course on design the next.
Lynda is great for professionals who are constantly working on continuing education and trying to improve themselves.
If you are looking to learn a little bit about a broad range of topics, then you can definitely get your money's worth out of the monthly or annual Lynda subscription.
However, it might not be the best choice if you're just looking to take a single in-depth course about one specific topic.
Watch this short video from LinkedIn Learning (the new brand name for Lynda) to understand more about what the platform offer it's students:
Lynda is best for learning practical and carreer focussed skills and learning the "how-to" of a particular task. Usually this is related to things like photography or using specific software for example.
Coursera is better if you're more interested in academics and learning the "why" about a particular topic in much more detail, with a view to gaining a qualification to use on your cv or in your work.
On Lynda you get a free one month trial. After that, you need to pay a monthly subscription to access the course materials. A subscription currently costs $29.99 per month.
That gets you access to more than 13,000 expert-led courses that you can access either on your computer or via mobile device. You can even access course materials while you're offline.
Courses assess your progress using quizzes, give you project files to practice with, and allow you to earn a certificate when you complete a course. You can show off your certificate directly on your LinkedIn profile.
There's no limit on how many courses you can take, and dozens of new courses are getting added each week.
Lynda even gives you personalized course recommendations that are based on your current skills, job, and what other professionals in a similar position are currently learning.
One big downside I see to Coursera is that it's difficult to see course prices without signing up. The pricing simply isn't listed unless you're logged into an account.
When I'm researching different online course platform options, I like to be able to see clear and obvious pricing. But it's hard to get that with Coursera. It honestly feels a bit strange, like they are trying to hide something.
With a bit of digging, you can see that Coursera charges different prices either for individual courses, specializations, or degrees.
A single course on Coursera will cost you between $30 and $100.
Specializations are a series of courses. For these, rather than paying a single amount, you pay a monthly fee to get access to the material. Usually a specialization costs between $40 and $80 per month.
In my opinion, this really gives you an incentive to try and work through specializations as quickly as possible. Because the longer it takes you to complete them, the more you'll end up paying.
Degree programs are usually a multi-year project that you'll be undertaking, and the cost is much more significant.
Expect to pay between $15,000 and $25,000 for a full degree on Coursera. These are the best agreements that Coursera has with prestigious universities to bring you top-notch content.
Although the cost feels a bit high. While they save you the cost of having to move and live near a specific university and attend classes in person, it seems a bit costly compared to a standard university education or individual course prices.
On Coursera, some of the main subjects covered include:
Each course tells you the name of the university, as well as the professor who is teaching it and a brief introduction on what the course is about.
In addition to text, there is also usually a short video with the professor explaining the course as well.
Each course has a starting date and says how long the course will last. It also gives a recommended background that you should have to take the course.
There is also a course syllabus, and the course format is discussed.
Finally, there's a brief FAQ that explains what kind of certificate you'll receive when you complete the course, if any.
On Lynda, courses are available in English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and German.
Topics range from design, animation, photography, business, computer programming, and much more. You can expect basically any topic that applies to the workplace or a particular career to have some representation on the platform.
Each course gives a brief outline of what the course teaches, provided by the instructor.
You're given the level of the course, such as beginner, intermediate, or advanced.
You can see the release date of the course. This may be important to you if you want the most current information, as some Lynda courses are from 2010 or potentially even earlier.
You'll also be able to see the length of the course in hours and minutes. As well as a table of content that goes over each subsection of the course.
Here are some examples of courses you can take on Lynda:
Here is a selection of Coursera courses:
Coursera gives you access to some of the best instructors available on any course platform. That's because they're literally some of the same leading professors who also teach in some of the best universities from around the world.
Almost all instructors on Coursera will have a Masters or PhD, along with significant real-world professional experience in their field.
While instructors on Lynda are typically also subject matter experts, they may not come with quite the same level of qualifications as those instructors on Coursera.
In addition to instructors and their video lectures, there are some other tools that both platforms use to further facilitate learning.
Specifically interactive quizzes, peer-graded or auto-graded assignments, and one-on-one interaction with your instructors and classmates.
If the main reason you're taking online courses is to gain accredited certificates or degrees, then Coursera is hands-down a better choice than Lynda.
Specific Coursera courses will give you a Statement of Accomplishment once you've completed all graded assignments with a certain score, and have finished all the lessons.
Other courses will give you a certificate of completion on behalf of the university that runs the course.
Coursera also has a new option called Signature Track. This allows you to earn a verified certificate for completing certain courses. This links your work to your real identity using photo ID. It's a more official recognition from universities than a standard certificate.
Employers and other parties are more likely to take a verified certificate seriously, and you can also provide it to them through a secure URL.
Lynda provides completion certificates for all of their courses. You can upload your Lynda certificates directly to your LinkedIn profile to show your progress.
But since Lynda courses aren't accredited or backed by universities or other educational institutions, your certifications through the platform may not be viewed as highly by potential employers.
Coursera provides better academic references on your resume or CV. While Lynda is better at giving you specific hands-on skills, like being proficient at Microsoft Excel that you'll be able to actually demonstrate.
Courses on Lynda are relatively short, especially when compared to Coursera.
Any given course will likely only take you a few hours at most to complete. So you can sit down and finish a course in an afternoon or weekend if you feel so inclined.
With Lynda, you also have the freedom to pick up or drop a course any time that you want. It's a lot more casual and laid back in terms of how and when you choose to access the material.
Since your Lynda subscription gives you unlimited access, there's no harm in dabbling between different courses and subjects until you find something that interests you.
When it comes to Coursera, time commitment is a completely different story. Individual courses may only be a few hours long, similar to those on Lynda. But when you get into
Coursera specializations, you may be looking at a commitment of weeks or even months to be able to complete them. And for actual degree programs, you're looking at a timeline that involves years rather than months.
Coursera courses also start on specific dates and last for a predetermined length of time.
That means you don't have the same freedom as Lynda to learn at your own pace. There's a deadline that you need to reach if you want to pass the course and receive a certificate for it.
For specializations or degree programs, you'll also have to organize your course load in a way that you can take part in your necessary courses when they come available, and make sure that you have all necessary prerequisites already completed.
Video courses on Lynda are easy to follow and great at walking you through the step by step processes needed to do specific tasks. Particularly when it comes to things like using a particular software. Videos are also higher quality than what you'd find on some other course platforms.
You can download the Lynda app to watch course videos on iOS and Android devices, as well as on your computer or an Apple TV. You can even watch content offline when you don't have a wifi or phone signal.
Lyndas instructors are experts in their field. But that doesn't necessarily make them good presenters or public speakers. Videos aren't always engaging or entertaining to watch.
Some people report that video streaming on Lynda can be slow at times.
Coursera courses and the multimedia used in them is up to a much higher standard than other platforms like Udemy or Skillshare, and even Lynda. You also get a lot more in-depth knowledge than what you have access to on other platforms. While Coursera has fewer courses available (around 2,000 in total), you're getting access to material more on par with what universities and other accredited institutions offer.
Coursera courses have an active community, which can be very helpful. Especially if you're taking courses on subjects like programming where you may need to bounce ideas off other people. You might always have difficulties or need clarification, no matter how good the teaching material is. So it's good to know there's a community there that can help.
When you visit the Coursera website, you can't immediately see how much individual degrees, specializations, or degree programs will cost you. You have to make an account and sign up to get this information. It can be a bit of a hassle when trying to compare to other online course platforms that publicly list their prices.
Unlike Lynda where you get access to unlimited course material for a single subscription fee, Coursera charges for each individual piece of course content. Even if you enroll in a specialization which has an ongoing monthly fee, you're still only limited to that one specific group of courses.
If you're looking for an alternative to Coursera which partners with accredited universities and institutions to provide world-class education, their biggest competitor is likely edX.
-> Learn more about the main differences between Coursera and edX here
They offer similar courses to Coursera, including several masters degree programs that you can complete online.
You might also be interested in Udacity, who run nanodegree online programs focused on various tech-based topics.
-> Read my comparison of the differences between Coursera and Udacity here
For an alternative to Lynda, check out Skillshare. It operates on a similar subscription model where you get access to all of their courses for one flat fee.
Skillshare has more courses than Lynda when it comes to specific topics like creative arts.
If you just want to take a course or two in a slightly less formal way, and at a lower cost, then try out Udemy, one of the leaders in online learning.
-> See my comparison of Udemy vs Lynda here
If you're interested in tech or IT courses you might also want to check out Pluralsight, who specialise in this area and offer a range of high quality learning.
-> To see how Lynda compares to Pluralsight read this
For a broad overview of online learning options, read my Complete Guide To Online Learning Platforms to help find the right one for you.
Coursera is able to offer curated classes on behalf of some of the most well-respected universities and institutions around the world.
You can choose whether you want to take a single course, or complete a full degree. Their instructors are top-notch.
Coursera is the ideal choice if you're looking for certifications and other credentials to put on your resume or CV.
Lynda is a more cost-effective and flexible option. For a single subscription, you get unlimited access to all of their course materials. The platform is better for picking up more practical hands-on skills like working with various computer software.
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