How we cover education and personal development products at Insider Reviews

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A relatively new section of Insider Reviews, the Education and Personal Development vertical began covering online courses in spring 2020 and has since branched out to review online programs, books, apps, and even products that make online or in-person learning easier.

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What products and services we cover:

Online courses and e-learning platforms: We review and round up free online courses (often led by top universities and organizations) from popular MOOC platforms like edX, Coursera, and FutureLearn. We also review paid courses within popular online course subscriptions such as MasterClass, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and Skillshare.

The courses we cover range in topics from psychology and medicine to building career skills like coding or writing. We also cover classes that are just purely fun to take, including ones taught by celebrities.

Online certificate programs and degrees: We also cover longer online programs, from popular exam prep websites to programs like edX MicroMasters, Coursera MasterTracks, and Harvard Extension School certificates that can act as more affordable and flexible alternatives to traditional college.

Additionally, we write about free study materials, program discounts, and scholarship opportunities to help ease the financial burden of continuing education.

Books: We cover book roundups around specific genres and authors, such as the best thrillers or the best Stephen King books. We also personally recommend some of our staff favorites and review books that are especially popular or offer meaningful advice. When relevant, we consult experts, such as professional bakers, journalism professors, or climate scientists, to recommend the best books to read.

Apps and other products that foster learning or growth: We like to think outside the box when it comes to education, which is why our coverage includes library apps, resources to learn about a specific topic, and even products that make it easier to balance work and school.

"How to Cook Everything" review
Senior reporter Mara Leighton tests Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything."

How we test or decide which education and personal development products to cover:

If we're reviewing products ourselves, we'll allow ample time to complete an online course, test an app, or finish a book. When reviewing, we'll focus on factors like cost, flexibility, time commitment, comprehensiveness, and overall retention (do the lessons learned in the book or course feel easy to integrate into your daily life?). For career-focused products (such as courses to help you get a promotion), we'll also consider factors such as in-demand skills and top-rated careers.

When covering something we haven't personally used (such as a scholarship, degree program, or longer roundup of books), we'll consult user reviews and ratings, course or book popularity, and, when applicable, the legitimacy and good-standing of the company offering the product itself.

Meet our expert team:

Our writersBios
An image of Julia Pugachevsky
Julia Pugachevsky, education and personal development editor
Julia is the education and personal development editor on the Insider Reviews team. Since October 2020, she's written about a popular Harvard persuasive writing course, a free UPenn course that explains the science behind COVID-19 vaccines, and a bestselling self-help book seen all over Twitter. She's also organized and edited a series on how to get unstuck during the pandemic as well as what to do when you get rejected from grad, medical, or law school.
"Image of Mara Leighton on a blue background"
Mara Leighton, senior education and personal development reporter
Mara Leighton is the senior education and personal development reporter for Insider Reviews. In the spring of 2020, Mara spearheaded Insider Reviews' new education beat. She's reported on Yale's most popular course on happiness as well as essential workforce recovery programs, free instructional courses for non-ICU workers on operating mechanical ventilators, and a Johns Hopkins' contact tracing course designed to fill thousands of remote jobs. She's interviewed Google executives, presidential policy committee members, psychologists, Ivy League professors, and NBC's Chuck Todd in her education coverage.
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Emily Hein, senior story producer
Emily is a Senior Story Producer for Insider Reviews. As a passionate writer, Emily has contributed to all of Insider Reviews' verticals - primarily covering mental health, education and personal development, and gifts. In pursuit of further expertise in these subjects, and with a deep personal interest in mental health advocacy, Emily will begin pursuing a Master of Social Work degree at New York University in Fall 2021.

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