Alison (opens in new tab) is an online learning platform (opens in new tab) that was started in Galway, Ireland in 2007 by its CEO Mike Feerick. It indicates that it is one of the largest free learning platforms in the world, dedicated to education and skills training, and continues to offer numerous free courses to stay true to its original mission to allow access to education for all.
- Interested in Alison? Check out the website here (opens in new tab)
Twenty million learners have taken advantage of over 3,000 courses, from 195 countries and Alison also has over 3.5 million graduates.
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The course catalog for Alison is fairly expansive, and covers a variety of subject matter. The categories cover areas found at colleges, such as Business, Engineering & Construction, and Language among the nine areas. Among each category, courses are organized by further subdivisions, such as under the Management category, the areas cover Manufacturing, Operations and Supply Chain Management among multiple others. Not all categorizations are so obvious, as the Human Anatomy subcategory falls under the Teaching & Academics category, with an argument to be made that it would be more easily found under the Health Category.
For learning while on the go, apps are available for the smartphone platforms, both iOS, and Android.
Learners get the option to pursue different types of course pathways. There are Certificate Courses that focus on a specific subject area. They are designed to take 2 to 3 hours to complete. Popular examples include Administrative Support, and Customer Service Skills.
Then there are Diploma Courses, which offer expertise on related areas. These focus on professional subject areas, and can be completed in 8 to 10 hours. Examples include the Diploma in Mental Health, and the Diploma in Dog Grooming.
Finally, Learning Paths that broaden skills in a larger area. Each is designed to take 18 to 20 hours for completion, such as Communication Skills in the Workplace, and Ecology and the Environment.
Plans and pricing
While Alison endeavors to offer free education for learners around the world, it also does need to make some money, and keep the proverbial lights on. It accomplishes these goals by offering the content for free, but then gaining income streams from selling merchandise, advertising, and selling Certificates and Diplomas to graduates that wish to document their educational achievements.
Towards that end, Alison starts with a Free tier (opens in new tab). This generously entitles the user to the catalog of over 3,000+ courses, including course assessments, and a learner record. It also has plenty of value-added features (downright surprising for a free tier), such as career guidance, learning hubs, and study reporting. The learner can take advantage of both Certificate and Diploma courses.
Those looking for a still affordable experience would check out the Premium tier (opens in new tab) subscription for €7.99 monthly. For the cost that beats out many video streaming subscriptions, Alison adds features such as removing all advertisements for less distractions while studying, access to a CV Builder function, additional monthly discounts, and 50% off of certification.
For those that just want to remove the ads, check out the appropriately named Remove Adverts tier (opens in new tab). For an annual cost of €79, or a lifetime fee of €499, all of the ads from the Alison site get removed.
Those that need documentation for a course, can pay a flat fee of €15 for an attestation letter, which can serve as proof of education to their employer. It includes the date of the education, and the employer is even provided directions to confirm the validity of this online. There are also options for a formal certificate upon completion of the course, such as the digital certificate for €21, or a printed one for €27. For those that complete a course of study, the digital diploma is an option, which is digital for €65, or printed for €96.
The support options for Alison could be better, but keep in mind the emphasis on affordability. The options are accessed by clicking on the “Customer Support” button on the bottom of the home page. While there is a link to email Alison’s “Help section,” this does not bring up a contact portal, but rather brings us to a FAQ style (opens in new tab) search box. Other than that, we do not find any way to establish direct contact.
There is a direct mail address, but it will take a while to get in touch via postal mail as the only address is in Galway, Ireland.
Without a phone number, users need to rely on the predone FAQ content, which at least is neatly organized into categories including “Learning,” and “Certification and Payments.” While not in the support area, when browsing the courses, we did find a chat box in the lower right corner, which as it was after hours in Ireland, did offer to let us send a message as chat was not available. For those that need more direct contact, this will be a stumbling block for using Alison.
Over at the iOS store, there is an Alison app that receives a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars, although this is based on only 88 ratings. Some users are quite pleased, did not mind the ads, and are thankful for the education received, with plans to do additional courses. However, others suggest some improvements, such as tweaks to the search function, or less ads. What is also notable is that most of the comments did receive a developer response to address the concern.
Alison provides an inclusive take to online streaming video education. The critics can certainly take it apart, criticize the lack of degrees, the annoying ads, and the laissez faire approach to support. However, looking beyond that, we see an educational opportunity that is more than affordable with its multiple tiers, and covers such a wide variety of topics that many learners can benefit. If you have been betwixt and between on pursuing further education, Alison is the one to try with a course or two to finalize a decision.
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