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Review: Online UX Courses

February 16, 2015

As a UX professional, I continually learn about new UX topics through online courses, in the form of video lectures. In this review, I want to share my experiences learning from online video lectures that are available from the following learning resources: All You can Learn, Udemy, Lynda, and SkillShare. While all of these sites offer online video lectures, they tailor their lectures for different learning outcomes. Table 1 provides an overview of all of these services.

All of these sites synchronize their courses across different devices. So, if I watch a part of a virtual-seminar video on my notebook computer, then switch to my Android device, I’m able to continue watching it where I left off.

Table 1—Online learning resources for UX professionals
Resource Overview Topics Desktop Mobile Fees

All You Can Learn

Online library of UX seminars

Wide variety of UX topics

Accessible through Web site

Web site accessible on mobile devices

30-day free trial

Monthly membership, $23 USD

Udemy

Online library of self-paced classes

Broad categories such as Design, Yoga, and Programming

Accessible through Web site

Mobile apps available for iOS and Android devices

Enroll in individual courses

Lynda

Online library of self-paced classes, with curated recommendations that are tailored to students’ learning interests

Categories such as Education, IT, Marketing, Design, and Video

Accessible through Web site

Mobile apps available for iOS and Android devices

Basic monthly membership, $25 USD

Premium monthly membership, $37.50 USD

SkillShare

Online library of self-paced classes, with a focus on student projects

Categories such as Design, Culinary, Fashion, and Gaming

Accessible through Web site

Web site accessible on mobile devices

Mobile app available for iOS

Premium 14-day free trial

Premium monthly membership, $8 USD

Team monthly membership, $24 USD

All You Can Learn

The All You Can Learn Library features an amazing list of virtual seminars on high-quality UX topics and talks from UIE’s annual conferences. Virtual seminar topics assist UX professionals in honing their skills in areas such as user research, design process, experience design, or critique. These seminars have a consistent duration of 90 minutes, which includes a 5-to-10 minute Q&A. I’d like to share some observations about my experiences listening to virtual seminars on All You Can Learn:

  • On the landing page for a specific seminar, there is no timeline showing where the Q&A for that seminar begins. Often, I listen to a seminar more than once, including the Q&A. Currently, when I listen to a seminar for the first time, I make a note of where the Q&A starts, so I can scroll directly to that specific time when I want to watch the Q&A again later on. A timeline showing where the Q&A begins would be helpful.
  • There’s no option for exporting or printing a PDF transcript. Being able to export a transcript of each seminar would be a great help when I’m traveling without Internet access.
  • The site doesn’t support offline viewing. Adding an option for viewing virtual seminars offline when there is no Internet connectivity would be helpful.
  • The site should combine the Watch History and Watch List. The only difference between these two lists is the dates on which I watched a seminar or added a seminar.
  • There should be an easier way to remove a seminar from my Watch List. Once I add a seminar to my Watch List on the seminar’s landing page, I must go the Watch List page to remove the seminar.
  • Some seminars lack previews. While there are previews for most seminars—in the form of a slide deck or a video lasting approximately two minutes—a few seminars do not have them, so I have to skim through a seminar’s transcript to understand more about its topic.
  • The visual indicator that I’d already watched a seminar was missing. Recently, I watched a virtual seminar right away, without first adding it to my Watch List. Then, when I went back to the virtual seminar’s home page, ┬áthere was no visual indication that I had already watched it. The seminar was not added to the Watch List. I had to go to the Watch History to confirm that I had watched a specific seminar.
  • There are no links to UIE podcasts for related Q&As. A few virtual seminars have follow-up podcasts that provide answers for questions that weren’t answered during the virtual seminar’s Q&A due to a lack of sufficient time. Providing a link to the relevant UIE podcast on the virtual seminar’s landing page would be helpful.
  • There’s no way to add time notations or other notes during a seminar. Both would be useful.
  • There is no way to see a list of subtopics at a glance. The site categorizes seminars by presenter, event, and topic. If I click a topic to see a list of seminars, I have to navigate back to choose another topic. At the top of the page are links to high-level topics such as Visual Design, User Research, and Design Process. Adding a drop-down list comprising a list of subtopics for each high-level topic would be helpful, allowing me to see related subtopics at a glance.

Watching a 90-minute video in one sitting can be bit too time consuming. At my office, one team member watches the seminar and shares its key highlights with the team in a conference room, where the team then discusses the topic. Team members who are interested in knowing more can watch the video themselves.

Figures 1 and 2 show the All You Can Learn site on my notebook computer.

Figure 1—A virtual seminar’s page on a notebook computer
A virtual seminar’s page on a notebook computer
Figure 2—A virtual seminar’s landing page on an Android device
A virtual seminar’s landing page on an Android device

Udemy

Udemy is an awesome online marketplace comprising self-paced, video lectures on diverse topics, including UX and Design. For most Udemy courses, the instructors share downloadable resources such as templates and checklists. I am a Udemy member, and here is my review of the service:

  • self-paced courses—These courses have excellent instructors and include peer discussions.
  • reasonable prices—The prices of individual courses can be very reasonable because Udemy offers great discounts throughout the year.
  • offline video viewing in mobile apps—Using Udemy’s mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, you can download videos or video lectures, then watch them offline. However, it is not possible to do this from the Udemy Web site.
  • progress reporting on downloads—When using the Udemy mobile app on my Android tablet, clicking a Download icon to download specific courses or videos just displays a message, stating that the lectures are being added to the download queue. To check the actual progress of the downloads, I have to visit the Notifications section, where I can see the download that is currently in progress, the most recent download, and the remaining number of downloads.
  • guarantee—Udemy offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee for each course.
  • messaging—It is easy to message the instructors of courses for which you’re enrolled or are on the wish list. Instructors respond very quickly.
  • discussions—You can join or view instructor and peer discussions.
  • poor categorization—It is not possible to view a list of course topics that are categorized by specific subject areas or keywords. Currently, Udemy categorizes courses only as in progress, not started, or completed.

Figures 3–5 show the Udemy Web site on a notebook computer; Figures 6–8, the Udemy mobile app on an Android device.

Figure 3—Dashboard for my Udemy account, showing discounts for courses that I can access from my notebook computer
Dashboard for my Udemy account, showing discounts for courses that I can access from my notebook computer
Figure 4— ;A Udemy course on my notebook computer
A Udemy course on my notebook computer
Figure 5—A video lecture for a Udemy course on my notebook computer
A video lecture for a Udemy course on my notebook computer
Figure 6—My list of offline courses in the Udemy mobile app on my Android device
My list of offline courses in the Udemy mobile app on my Android device
Figure 7—The table of contents for a course in the Udemy mobile app on my Android device
The table of contents for a course in the Udemy mobile app on my Android device
Figure 8—A video lecture for a course in the Udemy mobile app on my Android device
A video lecture for a course in the Udemy mobile app on my Android devic

Lynda

Lynda provides an online library of excellent videos covering various topics that are relevant to UX professionals. Each course comprises a series of video lectures, a transcript of the video lectures, and closed captions; plus exercise files that are available only to premium members. I’ve recently become a member of Lynda.com. Here are my comments on the experience:

  • onboarding experience—After signing up for a new account on Lynda.com, I was really impressed by their onboarding experience. I shared my learning interests, and Lynda.com recommended courses on categories such as Business, Design, and Development, as well as on applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator. In case I didn’t like the recommended options, Lynda asked me what other subjects or software would interest me.
  • transcripts linked to video—Clicking specific text in a transcript lets you navigate to the corresponding spot in a video.
  • closed captioning—The service adds closed captioning for videos once a new course has been on the site for few weeks.
  • playlists—You can easily categorize classes by adding them to playlists for different topics. Plus, the Playlist Center provides playlists that Lynda.com experts have curated to help you get started with any subject.
  • My Notes Beta—Recently, Lynda.com launched My Notes Beta, which let me write notes relating to a specific time period in a video. But once I created one new note, then another, I could not see my earlier note. Where did my notes go? I checked the Support section on their site, but I couldn’t find any relevant information.
  • mobile app—In the mobile app, certain courses have neither transcripts nor the My Notes Beta feature. HD video is enabled by default, but it might be helpful to turn the HD video option off automatically if a user’s Internet connectivity is weak.

Figures 9–12 show Lynda.com on my notebook computer. Figure 10 shows my Learning Matrix, where I can see lists of courses that I’ve watched or watch-listed, plus recommended courses in specific topic areas, ranging from beginner to advanced skill levels. Figures 13 and 14 show the Lynda mobile app on an Android device.

Figure 9—Lynda.com dashboard on a notebook computer
Lynda.com dashboard on a notebook computer
Figure 10—Lynda.com Learning Matrix on a notebook computer
Lynda.com Learning Matrix on a notebook computer
Figure 11—Table of contents for a Lynda course on a notebook computer
Table of contents for a Lynda course on a notebook computer
Figure 12—A video lecture for a Lynda course on a notebook computer
A video lecture for a Lynda course on a notebook computer
Figure 13—Dashboard for my account in the Lynda mobile app on my Android device
Dashboard for my account in the Lynda mobile app on my Android device
Figure 14—Table of contents for a course in the Lynda mobile app on my Android device
Table of contents for a course in the Lynda mobile app on my Android device

SkillShare

SkillShare is an online library of videos that provides highly rated video classes. The site prominently displays popular and top-voted student projects in various categories, which act as good motivators for students. Previously, SkillShare’s pricing model required students to buy individual courses, but SkillShare has now switched to a monthly subscription model.

Each SkillShare course includes the following pages:

  • Home page—Provides an overview of assignments, current student projects, peer student projects, and the latest discussions.
  • Project Assignments—Shows details about the class projects.
  • Project Gallery—Displays peer projects based on popularity, most liked, and most recent.
  • Discussions—Displays discussions with students and teachers.

As a SkillShare member, I’d like to share my impressions of the service:

  • student-referral credits—If you invite a friend to sign up for a premium membership, both you and the friend you’ve referred to the site each receive a free month.
  • scholarships—Students over 13 years of age who are enrolled in an accredited school can get 50% off an annual Premium Membership.
  • email notifications—You can receive notifications about updates to classes, activity and comments on your projects, and discounts on wish-listed classes.
  • search feature—I wanted to share a link to a course in which I had enrolled. Before logging in, I searched for the course from the home page, and the search results indicated that the course was not available. However, once I had logged in, I was able to locate the course in my account, then copy and share the link with my friend.
  • no clear visual distinction for preview videos—As a member with a free account, I can browse and search for courses. However, SkillShare does not visually distinguish between preview videos and the actual videos for a course. Therefore, I may inadvertently click a video lecture for a course in which I cannot enroll unless I upgrade to a Premium membership.
  • no watch history—On my account dashboard, there’s just a video thumbnail displaying the video that I’ve watched most recently. SkillShare does not have a separate watch history. Instead, SkillShare combines the courses for which I’ve enrolled, my watch history, and my wish-listed courses in one list under My Classes. This is a bit confusing because I’m not able to see at a glance which are my wish-listed courses or those courses in which I’ve enrolled. To determine whether I’ve actually enrolled, I must scroll down the list or search for the course name and look for a Start This Class link next to the class name. SkillShare does not otherwise indicate under My Classes whether I’m enrolled in a class or have added it to my wish list, or which classes I can view only with a Premium Membership.
  • progress display—I would like the site to display the percentage of a course that I have completed rather than just the generic indicator, In progress.

Figures 15 and 16 show SkillShare on a notebook computer; Figure 17, on an Android device.

Figure 15—Dashboard for my SkillShare account on my notebook computer
Dashboard for my SkillShare account on my notebook computer
Figure 16—A video lecture for a SkillShare course on a notebook computer
A video lecture for a SkillShare course on a notebook computer
Figure 17—A video lecture for a SkillShare course on an Android device
A video lecture for a SkillShare course on an Android device

Summary

I have added many videos to my watch lists across these various learning platforms—and every month, these online learning resources release new courses. Prioritizing the videos among my watch lists is not an easy activity. Watching a 30-minute video takes at least an hour, because it’s necessary to take notes, and there might be frequent interruptions in Internet connectivity. Taking the time to watch an entire video competes with other learning activities such as reading eBooks, blogs, and newsletters.

Watching videos with a small group of colleagues enables me to share and learn from their different perspectives. Of course, this increases the duration of the learning activity, but the cost of the time spent pales in comparison to the benefits of a constructive group discussion.

UX professionals have different learning needs and their priorities vary based on their work and personal contexts. So I hope this review has given you a good overview of some of the available online learning resources that you might use to learn more about user experience and other topics that are of interest to you. 

Senior Usability Designer at Mobilitas

Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Arun Joseph MartinArun is a usability analyst who explores new ways of helping users to reach their goals. Prior to working in usability, he held technical support and technical writing roles. In addition to writing for UXmatters, Arun has written articles for Usability Interface, a quarterly newsletter of the STC Usability SIG, and is a volunteer for IxDA.  Read More

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