Are you looking to make your mark on the world of online education?
More and more people around the world are turning to e-learning to gain the knowledge and skills they need at their own pace, so there’s never been a better time to see what you have to contribute.
While everyone has something worth sharing with the world through a course, not everyone knows exactly how to make their idea happen.
One of the most important things to be aware of is the variety of online course platforms out there.
It’s important to choose a platform that is a good fit for your budget and level of knowledge.
Not sure where to start?
Read on to discover essential information about five of the best online course platforms available today.
This guide to the best online course platforms covers:
What is an online course platform?
An online course platform is a place where educational programs of study are hosted and delivered via the Internet.
Just as it's a lot easier to create a website if you use a platform like WordPress, it's a lot easier to deliver an Internet course through a dedicated platform.
Rather than having to learn dry, in-depth technical aspects of course uploading and maintenance, you can focus on what matters most – helping your students succeed.
If you want to share your knowledge and skills with the world, but are worried you don’t know how to go about putting it all together, don’t stress! An online course platform is exactly what you’re looking for.
So how do you go about choosing the right one for you?
How to choose the best online course platform for your needs
Choosing a place to host your online course is no different than selecting any other important app or service.
You simply need to have a solid understanding of what your needs are, the online platforms available to you, and the best fit between those two factors.
When you first come across the wide array of different course platforms out there, you might feel overwhelmed and tempted to rush into your choice.
As understandable as that is, you should avoid it at all costs!
Instead, approach your choice of platform systematically. A great start is taking the time to answer the following nine questions:
- How much can you afford to invest in an online course platform?
- Would you need to acquire any specialist technical ability to use an online course platform, or is it within your current level of skill?
- Are there any features you are looking for in an online course platform that are dealbreakers?
- Do you want a course platform that makes heavy use of automation, or would you rather be hands-on and involved in the day to day administration of your course?
- What kind of media will your course consist of, and is any platform you are considering set up to handle it?
- If email will form a large part of your course, are you confident that the platform you want to use integrates well with your existing email setup?
- Do you need a platform that can handle payments onsite? Is it vital that particular forms of payment are compatible with your intended platform?
- Would you prefer a course platform that will help you with customer support, or are you already set up to handle that without outside interference?
- Are you looking to store and process the data generated by the people who take your course?
When you’re trying to choose between various online course platforms, knowing the answers to those nine questions will keep your search focused and fruitful.
After all, the only true best course platform is the one that meets your unique set of requirements.
The nine steps of online course creation
If you’re at the stage where you are considering particular online course platforms, you probably already have a solid idea of what you want to teach, and who you want to teach it to.
However, if you’re keen on the idea of an online course, but aren’t sure exactly how to make it happen, we’ve got you covered!
These nine steps allow you to create an effective course worthy of being hosted on any platform out there:
- Select a topic for your course.
- Make a full, detailed outline of the material for your course.
- Look ahead and determine your ideal course outcomes, regarding both the success of your students and the success of your course itself.
- Find the most compatible course platform for your requirements and budget.
- Create your course content. You can either do this yourself, hire someone to do it, or use a mixture of both routes.
- Get all of your content uploaded to your chosen course platform.
- Set up and check any integrations you want for your course to save any headaches after students start learning.
- Determine the price point for your course and your target revenue.
- Get to work marketing and operating your virtual course.
If you ever feel overburdened or unclear on how to move forward with your course creation, the nine-step plan shown above will help you stay on track!
Reviews of the best online course platforms
To help you on your quest to find the best place to bring your wisdom and experience to the world, we’ve looked into five of the best online course platforms on the market today.
Read through these and find the one that is most compatible with your unique set of requirements.
Teachable has been one of the major players in the e-learning world since launching back in 2014.
The main concept behind Teachable is making online course delivery a realistic objective for anyone out there, regardless of their level of technical ability.
This platform is favored by some major names in the online world including Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.
How much does Teachable cost?
You might be attracted to Teachable as it has a free plan available.
The free plan is a great way to get a feel for Teachable and if it’s a platform you will enjoy using, but it’s not a realistic option for a long-term course, as it only allows for a very small number of students.
As you can see from the above image, Teachable has three paid options when it comes to pricing.
Basic is a good choice if you’re comfortable with the transaction fees and limited functionality.
Professional might be your best choice if you’re looking for added features such as graded quizzes and integrated affiliate marketing.
The Business tier requires a higher level of investment in exchange for features like advanced theme customization and group coaching calls.
What features does Teachable have?
So what are some of the functions offered by Teachable you might find most useful?
- Customized certificates
- The ability to drip content
- Multiple admin users
- Group coaching calls
- Coupons and promos
- Extensive integrations
- Graded quizzes
What kind of customer support does Teachable offer?
Teachable offers support in two ways:
- Read through their extensive knowledge base to find your own answer
- Reach out to their customer support to open a ticket
This type of support will be fine for most users but is something to keep in mind if you require live help.
How easy is it to get started with Teachable?
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get started with a new platform and finding it confusing.
Thankfully, Teachable allows you to go from sign up to course creation in a short space of time.
Signing up to Teachable is very straightforward and can be done with five simple steps:
- Head to the Teachable site and hit the button marked ‘create a course’
- Enter all the info needed to create a new account
- Let Teachable know what your course’s name is going to be
- Input your personal and business details
- Head to your dashboard and get going
If you’re looking for one of the quickest ways to begin delivering a course, Teachable might be ideal for you.
What does Teachable integrate with?
Having the right integration capabilities can make or break an online course platform.
If you already use these services and want to integrate them with your Teachable course, you'll find it easy to do so.
Overall verdict on Teachable
A versatile course delivery platform that’s very easy to get started with.
If you’re looking for a course platform that can do more than just courses alone, look no further than Kajabi!
Kajabi doesn’t just allow you to deliver courses. It’s a complete solution for pipelines, products, and landing pages as well.
How much does Kajabi cost?
As you might expect from a platform as versatile as Kajabi, it costs more than a simple course-only platform would.
As you see, Kajabi does require a higher level of investment than Teachable, but they are very different products. If you think you need the advanced capabilities of Kajabi, weigh up carefully whether the extra investment cost is justified.
You’ll also notice there is a ‘start for free’ option for each Kajabi pricing tier. This isn’t a full free trial tier with Teachable, but instead a time-limited trial of the paid plan.
What features does Kajabi have?
As stated, Kajabi goes far beyond the world of courses.
If you opt for Kajabi as your platform of choice, you can enjoy:
- Around the clock live chat support
- Unlimited landing page creation
- Advanced automation capabilities
- Webinars and events
- An affiliate program
What kind of customer support does Kajabi offer?
Unlike Teachable, Kajabi offers 24/7 support via the medium of live chat.
You can also attempt to solve your own problem by checking out their database of help articles and videos.
How easy is it to get started with Kajabi ?
Unsurprisingly, for a platform so feature-rich, it’s a little harder to get started with Kajabi than with Teachable.
There’s a specialist training program called Kajabi University to help lessen your learning curve and make it more manageable, but you have to be willing to put the time in to get to grips with this system.
What does Kajabi integrate with?
You can use Kajabi with many major online services and payment platforms, including:
- Google Analytics
Overall verdict on Kajabi
Although you’ll need to invest more to use Kajabi, in terms of both money and time, it will be worth it if you require their advanced functionality.
LearnWorlds has a focus on allowing people to create and run courses from their existing website.
This is a great choice if you want to keep people in your site's ecosystem, but you need to have a technically capable website and enough traffic to make this worthwhile.
How much does Learnworlds cost?
So how does LearnWorlds stack up when it comes to the amount you need to invest?
If you want to try LearnWorlds for free, their plans come with a 30-day trial, although there is no full free tier unlike Teachable.
One of the best things about LearnWorlds is the level of functionality that comes with even the second price tier, Pro Trainer. This affordable tier allows you to offer unlimited courses taught by up to five instructors, customized certificates for your successful students, and the option of holding live classes and webinars via Zoom.
What features does Learnworlds have?
One of the things that screams out when you look at LearnWorlds is its emphasis on customization. You can use a wide range of templates to ensure the visual experience for your students is what you want it to be.
LearnWorlds also has extensive white-labeling and branding capabilities, which is appropriate as its focus is offering courses through your website.
Some of the best features on offer at Learnworlds include:
- Auto-transcripts and subtitles for your videos, to help with accessibility
- Advanced affiliate management capabilities
- A customizable iOS and Android app (paid add-on)
- Interactive video content – add quizzes and graphics to your lessons
If you’re looking for a customizable and innovative approach to online education, you’ll find a lot to like at Learnworlds.
What kind of customer support does Learnworlds offer?
The type of support you get with Learnworlds depends on the pricing tier you end up choosing.
Users of the Pro Trainer tier can get around the clock email support, while subscribers to the Learning Center plan enjoy a Premium support option.
How easy is it to get started with Learnworlds ?
Like everything else to do with Learnworlds, getting started is a simple and intuitive process.
All you need to do is provide some basic details:
- The language you want to use
- The time zone you are in
- Your preferred currency
After LearnWorlds has this basic information it will guide you through the process of finalizing your course by asking you a series of questions. Hints and tips are featured on the side in case you’re not exactly sure how to answer!
What does Learnworlds integrate with?
As you would expect, you can use Learnworlds with many of the major marketing and analytics tools out there.
Some of the most useful integrations offered by Learnworlds include:
- Google Analytics
- Google Search
Overall verdict on Learnworlds
If you’re looking for an attractive and innovative online course platform with a superb reputation, Learnworlds is worth checking out further.
Along with Teachable, Thinkific is one of the most well-known legacy course platforms out there.
Let’s see if it’s still worth it all these years down the line!
How much does Thinkific cost?
You’ll notice that of all the platforms covered so far, Thinkific is the only one other than Teachable that offers a full free tier rather than just a trial.
The free option at Thinkific is a great way to get hands-on with the platform as you can use it to deliver 3 entire courses with no cap on the number of students.
As for the paid Thinkific options, the Pro tier has a lot to offer for its $99 price point, including the ability to create communities and offer advanced levels of customization.
What features does Thinkific have?
So what does Thinkific bring to the table in terms of features?
One of the main reasons a lot of people like to use Thinkific is it allows you to design on a drag and drop basis. Have you ever designed a website using a WYSIWYG interface? It’s a little like that.
If you’ve got some knowledge and experience when it comes to design, you might find Thinkific to be a little simple, but that won’t apply to the majority of people.
As a Thinkific user you benefit from:
- The option to store your course materials directly on Thinkific
- The ability to bundle and sell courses together for extra revenue
- Deliver live training via Zoom
- Offer payment plans or subscription-based courses
- Instant access to the revenue your course generates
There’s nothing that really stands out from Thinkific’s features, but it has everything you would hope to see.
What kind of customer support does Thinkific offer?
Customer support is one area where Thinkific differentiates itself from some of the other course platforms you have heard about.
Not only can you get help via email with Thinkific, but you can also reach out via phone. That’s not an option that many other course platforms highlight.
How easy is it to get started with Thinkific ?
In terms of being able to get started easily, Thinkific is one of the most user-friendly options in this guide.
You get started by answering a series of drop-down questions. After you’ve made it through to the Thinkific backend you will find the dashboard experience to be very straightforward.
What does Thinkific integrate with?
So how can you incorporate Thinkific into your existing tools and services?
Some of the key services Thinkific can smoothly integrate with include:
- Facebook pixel
Overall verdict on Thinkific
Thinkific is a good value option if you want to create an online course without needing a massive amount of technical know-how.
Unlike the other options you've read about in this guide, LearnDash is a WordPress plugin.
Other course platforms integrate with WordPress, but LearnDash is exclusively offered on that basis.
This means you should only consider using LearnDash if you have a WordPress site that meets the requirements. It's also smart to ensure you have sufficient knowledge of the WordPress backend, as this may be less intuitive than the other course platforms dashboards if you lack experience
How much does LearnDash cost?
Just as LearnDash is a little different from the other course platforms in terms of its format, it's also different in terms of its pricing.
While the other course platforms offer a subscription model, where you can pay either a monthly or annual fee to use the service, LearnDash requires you to get an annual license to it as a WordPress plugin.
What’s the implications of LearnDash’s pricing?
You will need to be able to pay the higher up-front cost that an annual plugin subscription represents. There is no way to get this on a monthly basis.
LearnDash also doesn’t offer a free trial or tier. It does have a money-back guarantee though in case you decide it’s not right for you.
What features does LearnDash have?
So you know that LearnDash is a little different in terms of what it is and how much it costs.
Does it also have different features and capabilities?
Some of the interesting capabilities that LearnDash has to offer include:
- Community forums for your students to interact and share
- Badges to reward people for their progress through your course
- Offer bundles by selling students access to multiple courses at once
- Course points to grant access to new courses by completing old ones
- Drip-fed content so you can ensure your course is taken at the pace you are comfortable with
If any of the LearnDash features in particular appeal, weigh up whether you’re comfortable with the fact this option is a WordPress plugin and everything that entails.
What kind of customer support does LearnDash offer?
While LearnDash does offer support, it’s a lot more restricted than most other platforms. The hours are limited to 07.00 to 16.00 Eastern time and there is no weekend support available.
Think carefully about whether this is an option you’re comfortable with before committing to LearnDash as your chosen course platform.
How easy is it to get started with LearnDash ?
Of all the course platforms featured here, LearnDash is arguably the hardest to get started with.
If you’ve comfortable with WordPress, and you really should be if you’re installing LearnDash, you’ll probably find it quite easy to get going.
However, if you’re looking for a course platform that has the minimum amount of technical know-how, LearnDash isn’t the best choice for you.
What does LearnDash integrate with?
As you'd expect from a course platform built around the flexibility of Wordpress, LearnDash has a lot of integrations.
It’s compatible with:
Overall verdict on LearnDash
Overall, LearnDash can be seen as a reasonable-value solution to your course platform needs, provided you’re comfortable with the fact it’s on WordPress and offers very limited support hours.
What’s the right online course platform for you?
Now you know the vast potential that online course platforms have to share your wisdom and experience with students.
There’s only one thing left to think about – what kind of course are you going to create?
If you’re eager to learn more about how to create an online course, why not check out Course Building for Authors from our partners at Self Publishing School?
You’ll not only get everything you need to create a profitable course your students love, but also an exclusive discount on Teachable!