Udemy, Treehouse or Lynda.com – Which is the Best Online Course Provider?

Udemy, Treehouse and Lynda.com are three of the biggest names in online learning. So, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge, learn new skills or solve a particular problem, turning to one of these platforms is a great option.

Sure, there is free content out there that covers similar topics, but being able to access high-quality learning materials that have been pre-approved and are well organized can make picking up a new skill so much easier. The question is, which platform should you choose? Treehouse, Lynda or Udemy?

In this guide, we’ll outline the best features — and the main downsides — of these three platforms, helping you to find the best option for your needs.

Whatever you want to learn, there’s a high chance it’s covered by one of these three providers. So, let’s begin with a quick overview, before taking an in-depth look at Udemy, Lynda and Treehouse.

Udemy, Lynda and Treehouse Pricing

Treehouse and Lynda.com both work on subscription models, while the courses at Udemy are available individually. (Note: Lynda is now a part of LinkedIn Learning.)

Here’s a quick overview of the prices, so keep these in mind while reading our evaluation of each platform:

  • Lynda LinkedIn Learning: One-month free, then $29.99 per month paid monthly, or $24.99 per month paid annually.
  • Treehouse: Seven-day free trial, then $25 per month for the Basic plan or $49 per month for the Pro plan, with discounts for paying annually.
  • Udemy: Courses purchased individually. Prices start from $10.99, with lifetime access to each course.

Although Udemy doesn’t offer a free trial, all courses have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Udemy also often runs promotions and discounts on its courses. For example, at the time of writing, lots of courses were available to new users for a reduced price of $10.99.

Although the Basic and Pro plans from Treehouse include access to the same set of courses, the more expensive Pro plan includes access to the members-only forums, a code challenge tool, the ability to download videos for offline learning, plus a few extras.

Lynda by LinkedIn Learning keeps things simple with a single access-to-everything plan — although you can save money by paying annually instead of monthly.

So, with the basic information out of the way, let’s start with an in-depth look at Lynda and the LinkedIn Learning platform.

Lynda by LinkedIn Learning — A Wide Range of Courses on Numerous Topics

Lynda.com was founded in 1995, and is now one of the leading providers of video courses, with content on a wide range of subjects. Since the acquisition of Lynda in 2015 by LinkedIn, who themselves have since been bought by Microsoft, the Lynda courses are now part of the LinkedIn Learning platform.

Lynda-com Homepage

Lynda is now part of the LinkedIn Learning platform.

Because of this acquisition, all Lynda users — both new and old – access the learning content through the LinkedIn Learning website. There, you can find all of the courses previously hosted at Lynda.com, as well as new content, which is added on a regular basis. In fact, with new material added each week, there are currently more than 10,000 expert led-courses available on the LinkedIn Learning platform.

Course Menu at Lynda LinkedIn Learning

The courses from Lynda and LinkedIn Learning cover a wide range of topics.

The course categories available from Lynda and LinkedIn Learning include:

  • Business Software and Tools
  • Data Science
  • Mobile Development
  • Project Management
  • Photography
  • Web Design

As well as broader courses, such as Web Development Foundations: Full-Stack vs Front-End, there are also just as many specific courses, such as the WordPress Ecommerce: WooCommerce option. Therefore, if you need to quickly learn how to solve a particular issue, such as optimizing your website for search engines, or if you want to get a deep understanding of a topic, such as how to think like a leader, you should be able to find something suitable from Lynda and LinkedIn Learning.

Lynda Course Learning Paths

Learning Paths help you to find a series of courses on the same topic for deeper learning of a subject.

Another nice feature of the Lynda and LinkedIn Learning system is the Learning Paths. These paths offer a series of courses that cover a whole subject. They’re great for going beyond just taking a single course on a topic. Instead, they take you through a series of related courses that share the same focus, taking you towards your end goal.

Example of a Lynda LinkedIn Learning Path

The Become a Full-Stack Web Developer Learning Path takes you through a series of courses on this topic.

There are good course-filtering facilities too, making it possible to view courses of a certain level, such as beginner or advanced. You can also quickly filter courses by their length — ideal if you’re short of time and want to squeeze in a ten-minute learning session.

Like Treehouse, you can watch as many courses or videos as you like while your membership is active. Downloadable resources are provided with courses where relevant, such as practice web development files or Photoshop templates. Some courses also contain quizzes to help you to see how much you’ve learned, while shareable certificates that can be published on your LinkedIn profile are released for each course you watch. With Lynda and LinkedIn Learning you’ll also find courses in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

On paper, Lynda by LinkedIn Learning sounds great, but what’s it like to use, and are the courses any good? Let’s find out.

Lynda and LinkedIn Learning User Experience

Getting started with Lynda and LinkedIn Learning is pretty straightforward. Thanks to the free trial, you don’t need to pay anything for the first month, although you must enter your payment details.

Now that Lynda is part of LinkedIn, you do need a LinkedIn account to sign up. Thankfully, the registration process is relatively painless, and, even including the mandatory phone number verification, it doesn’t take long to gain access to the Lynda LinkedIn Learning content.

Navigating the Lynda Courses at LinkedIn Learning

Once you’ve signed up, you can start building your profile by entering the skills you’d like to learn. Alternatively, you can skip this and head straight to the courses. If you do enter your areas of interest, relevant courses will be displayed once you reach the main Lynda by LinkedIn Learning dashboard. However, as mentioned earlier, this learning platform makes it easy to find the courses you’re interested in.

Skill Selection

Selecting the skills you want to learn helps Lynda recommend relevant courses.

To begin learning, you can use the search tool to find courses, or browse the different categories from the LinkedIn Learning dashboard.

Lynda LinkedIn Learning Dashboard

Courses you may be interested in are recommended through your dashboard.

When viewing the course options, the number of viewers for each course is displayed, as well as the author and running time. Like Treehouse (but unlike Udemy), there’s no rating system to give you an idea of how well the course has been received by those who’ve taken it. The course pages at Lynda and LinkedIn Learning do display the number of likes a course has received from users, but there’s no way to register a ‘dislike’ for a course.

Course Options

Length and number of viewers are displayed on the course selection page.

Clicking through to a course gives you the ability to view a preview, check out the structure and access any downloadable exercise files. Thanks to the integration with LinkedIn, you can click through to the instructor’s profile to view their credentials and see if they’re someone you want to learn from.

View Instructor Information

The integration with LinkedIn makes it easy to learn more about the course instructors.

Another nice feature of Lynda and its integration with LinkedIn is that you can see some information on the people who’ve viewed the course. With so many courses on the platform, anything that can help you to narrow down your options and make a decision is appreciated.

Information on Course Viewers

Getting an idea of who’s viewed a course can help you to decide whether to view it yourself or not.

Taking a Lynda Course

Once you’ve clicked through to a course page, you can start watching it right away — there’s no need to enroll or sign up. Navigating the lessons in a course is easy with Lynda, too: Simply click on a lesson title from the course contents area to jump to that segment.

Lynda Course Video Player

The course videos are well presented with a good set of controls.

The video controls give you the option of speeding up the playback to increase your rate of learning. Other controls include turning on the closed captions, toggling the continuous play, and switching between the full screen and regular display modes. The ability to change the video quality can help those with limited internet connections maintain steady playback. Another useful feature of the Lynda interface is the button that skips the video back ten seconds to quickly hear the last section again.

Lynda by LinkedIn Learning Apps

Since the acquisition, the LinkedIn Learning app has replaced the Lynda app. There are now versions for a range of devices, including Android, Apple iOS, Roku and Apple TV, giving you lots of options for using the courses — especially when compared with Udemy, which only has apps for Android and Apple iOS, and Treehouse, which no longer has any apps. Once you’ve signed in to any of the LinkedIn Learning apps, your progress is synced between devices, making it easy to continue your education when away from your main computer.

Lynda LinkedIn Learning Mobile App

Lynda courses can be downloaded for offline access on smartphones, tablets and other supported devices.

With the apps, you have the option of downloading the entire course or individual lessons for learning when you don’t have an internet connection — something frequent fliers and those on limited data plans should appreciate.

Lynda Pros, Cons and Final Thoughts

The LinkedIn Learning platform with its courses from Lynda has lots going for it, with only a few negative points:

  • Large selection of courses on many topics.
  • User-friendly interface for finding the right course.
  • Learning paths that deliver a sequence of related courses.
  • Apps for a good range of devices.
  • LinkedIn integration provides information on course instructors and participants.
  • No course ratings and reviews to help you to assess the content.
  • Not the best value if you only want to access one course.

The LinkedIn Learning user interface, through which you access the Lynda courses and new material, is well designed. Finding courses is very straightforward, as is accessing the learning content in each course. Being able to sync your progress across multiple types of device is great too.

Although it’s impossible to test the quality of all the courses, the content we accessed was well presented and appeared to deliver on its objectives. The fact that the instructors are publicly identified via their LinkedIn profiles lends some extra credibility to their courses too.

With a one-month free trial, and then a monthly fee starting from $24.99 (for the annual payment plan), the Lynda and LinkedIn Learning platform is comparably priced to Treehouse, and much better value than the individually priced courses at Udemy –- provided you want to access multiple courses.

View the full list of courses from Lynda and LinkedIn Learning.

Udemy –- Large Online Learning Marketplace with Individual Courses for Sale

Compared with Lynda and Treehouse, Udemy is a relative newcomer to the online learning space. However, the company has been around since 2009, so still has a good amount of experience when it comes to online learning.

Udemy Homepage

Unlike with Lynda and Treehouse, anyone can submit an online course to be published on Udemy, with profits shared between the instructor and the platform. Courses are purchased individually by users, rather than through a subscription model, so you only get access to the course you’ve paid for. However, there are many low-priced options, and some instructors offer free samples of their paid courses.

Udemy User Reviews and Ratings

User ratings and reviews are key to finding the best courses at Udemy.

Although the courses are reviewed before being approved, to help to overcome quality control issues, students are encouraged to rate and review courses so that the best content rises to the top. With more than 80,000 courses to choose from, this rating and ranking system is invaluable.

Whereas Lynda and Treehouse focus on tech-related subjects, the courses on Udemy cover a broad range of topics — from business and office productivity to cooking and music. As anyone can apply to publish content on Udemy, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find courses on whatever subjects you’re interested in.

Udemy Course Categories

Compared with Treehouse and Lynda, Udemy has the widest range of course categories.

A notable feature of Udemy is the access to online discussion boards, which provide a space for course participants and tutors to communicate with each other. Students can also post a question while taking an individual course lesson without leaving the lesson viewer screen.

Ask a Question about a Lesson

As well as the general course discussion area, you can also ask a question about a specific lesson.

A sample of the course categories and their subcategories at Udemy includes:

  • Development, including web, mobile, and game development
  • Business, including finance, entrepreneurship, sales, and real estate
  • Design, including web, graphic, and interior design
  • Lifestyle, including arts and crafts, beauty and makeup, and pet care and training
  • Music, including instruments, production, vocal, and music software
  • Language, including Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Latin

As you can see from the above sample, there are courses covering a range of topics. But are they any good? Let’s take a look.

Udemy User Experience

There’s no need to create an account with Udemy to browse the catalog of courses and check out the preview lessons, but, if you do see a course you want to take, signing up only requires you to enter your name and email address.

Example Udemy Course

Non-registered visitors to Udemy can view course structures and preview the lessons before signing up.

Mainstream card payments and PayPal are accepted, and each course purchase is protected by a 30-day money-back guaranteed. Unlike the Treehouse and Lynda subscription platforms, Udemy courses are purchased with a one-time fee that includes lifetime access.

Navigating the Courses at Udemy

Courses at Udemy are listed with a title, image, price and user rating. Hovering over the course card displays even more useful information, such as the number of lectures in the course, its running time and when it was last updated.

Udemy Tooltip Panels

The hover-activated pop-ups provide lots of useful information on each Udemy course.

The user reviews and feedback component of Udemy gives a sense that the best content will be displayed more prominently than lower-quality courses. Similar to platforms such as Amazon and Airbnb, it feels like the importance of user feedback puts pressure on vendors to keep customers happy, which, in the case of Udemy, means delivering high-quality content that’s kept up to date.

Example Udemy Course Featured Review

The importance of positive feedback from students at Udemy should motivate instructors to deliver the best content possible.

Unlike Treehouse and Lynda, Udemy doesn’t have a learning path-style feature to help you to find a sequence of related courses. However, when checking out a course, a panel displays the courses that other students of the course have taken. You can also see courses that are frequently bought together, giving you an idea of what content would help you to continue your learning journey.

Udemy Course Cross Promotion

Cross-promotion is used at Udemy to help you to find more courses that may be of interest.

Searching the course catalog is straightforward too. The search bar auto-suggests course categories based on your input, and you also have the ability to filter the results by course rating and duration.

Taking a Udemy Course

Udemy My Courses Dashboard

Any courses you’ve signed up for can easily be accessed from your My Course area.

Once you’ve chosen and purchased a course, you can start viewing the lessons, as well as interacting with the instructor and other students. The courses are well laid out, so you can easily view and access the content.

Example of a Udemy Course Layout

As with Treehouse and Lynda, the Udemy courses are divided into manageable sections.

Depending on the course, it could also include an active Q&A area where students can ask the instructors or other students questions. This is very helpful if you need any assistance, or if you experience any problems while following the course.

Udemy Course Question and Answer area

The user rating element of Udemy should encourage course instructors to engage with their students in the course discussion area.

The Udemy course player is well featured. The controls let you skip forward or backward by five seconds, and one nice feature not present in Lynda or Treehouse is the ability to create custom bookmarks for your own reference on the lesson timeline.

Udemy Course Player Interface

The Udemy course player lets you create bookmarks, so you can easily find important sections of the lesson again.

Udemy Apps

Like Lynda by LinkedIn Learning, but unlike Treehouse, there are Udemy mobile apps for Apple iOS and Android devices. As with the apps from LinkedIn Learning, your course progress is synced across devices, making it easy to continue your education as your environment changes.

Udemy Android Smartphone App

Udemy has modern apps for Apple and Android mobile devices, with the ability to download lessons.

Udemy Pros, Cons and Final Thoughts

After checking out the Udemy learning platform, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular destinations for anyone looking for an online course. Here are some thoughts, as well as the pros and cons of this service:

  • Courses on a huge range of topics.
  • Good interactive elements inside courses.
  • Ability to purchase individual courses with a one-time fee, rather than having to pay a subscription.
  • Some may be put off by the lack of a subscription payment option that includes access to all courses.
  • No free trial, although there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • A range of prices, including some very inexpensive courses with regular promotions and discounts.
  • User reviews and ratings make it easy to find well-received courses.
  • No learning path feature that links together a series of related courses.
  • Course recommendation algorithm should help you to find courses of interest.

If you’re just looking for one or two courses, or you don’t want to commit to a subscription payment plan, Udemy and its one-time course purchase model is a great option — although the lack of a subscription model makes Lynda and Treehouse better value for those who want access to lots of courses on an ongoing basis.

Compared with Treehouse and Lynda, there are more courses at Udemy, covering almost every topic imaginable. Although, as anyone can in theory publish a course on Udemy, the quality may vary. However, the reviews and rating system should help the best content rise to the top, while the poor-quality courses will hopefully sink without trace. We tried some positively rated courses, and found the quality was up there with the content from Lynda and Treehouse.

You’re sure to find a course that interests you at Udemy, and, although there’s no free trial, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. At the time of writing, there was a promotion running that offered new users access to any course for a reduced price, making Udemy a very affordable option.

View the courses and find out more at the Udemy website.

Treehouse — Tech-Focused Courses with Useful Learning Tools

Like Lynda, Treehouse gives you access to all of its courses in exchange for a monthly or annual fee. Unlike Udemy and its one-time fee model, when you cancel your subscription you lose access to the content.

Treehouse Homepage

Treehouse is another subscription-based online learning platform with a free seven-day trial.

Treehouse does offer a free seven-day trial, which, although less generous than the 30-day trial period offered by Lynda and LinkedIn Learning, should give you time to take a few courses and assess the overall quality before paying a penny. After that period, a recurring subscription payment of $25 or $49 per month is required to maintain access to all 300 of the Treehouse online courses.

Treehouse Course Topic Options

The Treehouse courses and lessons are focused on tech-related topics.

Although Treehouse has fewer courses than its rivals, they’re all heavily focused on tech-related topics, making it a great option for anyone wanting to learn a programming language or develop their skills in a similar area.

Some of the course categories and topics at Treehouse include:

  • Data Analysis
  • Databases
  • Machine Learning
  • Mobile Development
  • Programming Languages
  • WordPress

If the topics of the courses offered by Treehouse match your learning goals, this platform has some useful features that may help make it the best online course platform for you.

Treehouse User Experience

It doesn’t take long to sign up with Treehouse and gain access to a library of more than 300 online courses. Simply enter your name and email address, as well as payment details, and you can start learning online. If you take advantage of the free seven-day trial, you won’t be billed until this period is over.

Navigating the Courses at Treehouse

Once you’re in, you have the option of answering a few questions to help you to find the right courses for your goals. There’s also a chatbot that displays some useful information and links to courses to help you to get started.

Treehouse New User Survey

The optional Treehouse survey will help you to find courses that align with your learning goals.

Once Treehouse has enough information, it will recommend a track or series of courses for you.

More Treehouse Survey Questions

The survey is sure to demystify the process of finding relevant courses at Treehouse.

Compared with Lynda and Udemy, this aspect of Treehouse makes it much easier to know where to start, and removes the uncertainty that can arise when presented with hundreds or thousands of courses on one website.

Introduction Video to Treehouse

The Treehouse Tracks organize the content in an easy-to-follow format.

However, you can skip the survey and simply browse the course tracks and topics, or use the search tool to find what you’re looking for. There are also practice exercises you can take, helping to establish what you already know and reinforce what you’ve learned so far at Treehouse.

Treehouse Practice Session Options

Treehouse has 62 practice exercises that help you to test your skills and what you’ve learned.

For a more structured learning experience, Treehouse provides tracks that consist of multiple courses, workshops and other types of content to really cover a topic in depth. With tracks that are many hours long, you should get a good understanding of a topic by following the program prescribed by Treehouse.

Treehouse Learning Tracks

Learning content is organized into tracks at Treehouse to help you to dive deep into a topic.

Taking a Treehouse Course

Once you’ve joined a track or found an individual course or lesson you want to take, the videos are displayed through the custom Treehouse interface.

The course player compares well to the versions used by Udemy and Lynda, with controls for changing the playback speed, toggling the closed captions, and rewinding the video at ten-second increments.

An extra feature is the bookmarks, which allow you to quickly jump along the timeline to a predefined location. Although, unlike Udemy, you don’t have the ability to create your own custom bookmarks on the timeline.

Lesson Player Interface at Treehouse

The Treehouse lesson player has a few extras that help to elevate it above Udemy and Lynda.

As well as the teacher’s notes, the area below the video also includes the transcript and a discussion area for asking questions about the lesson. Plus, if you’re on the more expensive Pro plan, you can download the files provided with the lesson, which could be image files or code samples.

Another impressive feature of Treehouse, and one that’s not found in Udemy or Lynda, is the interactive workspace. When taking a lesson, you can open the workspace for that lesson and interact with the sample code and other content, and even test out your own code.

Treehouse Coding Practice Workspace

The interactive workspace area makes it easy to follow along with courses and try out what you’re learning.

Thanks to Treehouse Workspaces, you can work alongside the video tutorial in a purpose-built environment designed to help you put what you’re being taught into practice.

Overall, the Treehouse content is well presented and the topics are covered in depth. The extra features help to enhance the learning experience, hopefully increasing your chances of taking in and retaining the information.

Treehouse Apps

Unlike Udemy and Lynda, there are no Treehouse apps, and the courses and other content are only accessible through the website. While this is a bit of a drawback compared with the other two platforms, features such as the Workspace are integral to the Treehouse approach to learning, so, if they can’t be made to work effectively as part of a mobile app, then it’s understandable that these devices aren’t supported.

However, if learning on the go or accessing courses through a smartphone or tablet is a priority, then Treehouse probably isn’t for you.

Treehouse Pros, Cons and Final Thoughts

Treehouse definitely has a narrower focus and fewer courses than Udemy and Lynda, but, if you’re interested in covering tech-related topics in depth, there are lots of good reasons to choose this platform and only a few drawbacks:

  • Strong focus on tech-related topics, such as programming and web development.
  • Narrower range of subjects and fewer courses, compared with Udemy and Lynda.
  • More varied content types, such as exercises, tracks, courses and workshops.
  • Useful features to help you to find the right courses for your goals.
  • Good content structure and organization for subject progression.
  • Helpful Workspace feature for doing practical exercises during lessons.
  • Discussion area under each lesson’s video.
  • Two pricing plans, with some features reserved for higher-paying members, including lesson downloads.
  • Free seven-day trial and discounts for choosing annual instead of monthly payments.
  • No apps for accessing courses on smartphones and tablets.

The optional survey that points you towards the courses and tracks that align with your goals is a simple but effective feature. It should help to overcome the often overwhelming tasks of getting started, finding the content you need and knowing what to do next.

If you’re interested in the topics covered by Treehouse, then this platform uses a wider range of formats to ensure you get a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Final Thoughts

If there’s something very specific that you want to learn, such as growing your Instagram following or taking great photos on an iPhone, then Udemy is a good place to start. With so many courses to choose from, covering the widest range of topics out of these three platforms, as well as the ability to purchase courses individually for a one-time fee, Udemy is definitely appealing in certain situations.

However, if your goal is to get a deep understanding of a subject, such as building mobile apps or learning a programming language, then Lynda by LinkedIn Learning or Treehouse, with their subscription models, are better options. Having access to all courses for one recurring fee and a structure that helps with progression make Lynda and Treehouse ideal for in-depth learning.

Out of those two platforms, Lynda by LinkedIn Learning does have more courses on a wider range of topics. However, Treehouse, with its strong focus on helping you to find the courses that match your goals, and its organization that takes you through a series of connected content — not to mention the interactive workspace feature and the practice sessions — is the better overall product. Although, as Treehouse covers fewer topics than Lynda, it may not have the content you’re looking for.

Thankfully, both Lynda and Treehouse have free trials, while Udemy has a 30-day money-back offer, so you can start your learning journey and try all three platforms without risk.

Used/using Udemy, Treehouse, or Lynda? Thoughts?

By Joe Fylan

Joe is an experienced WordPress user who enjoys sharing the tips and knowledge he's picked up from using this fantastic platform for many years. You can find out more about Joe on his website.
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