I’ve been selling online courses for about 3 years, here in my dashboard you can see that I made over $220k with one of my courses in the first year of the pandemic when I was afraid that no one would be buying anything because people were in a panic and trying to save.
And in the past few years, I’ve tried and tested many online course platforms because I had to pick one for my one course and even after choosing one of them, I still keep an eye on the competitors, their prices, and innovations because of course I want the best quality for the money invested in the tool and the best user experience for the members of my programs.
I’m sure you are looking for the same perfect combination but the problem is there are so many options and on the surface, many look quite similar.
The Best Online Course Platforms
Thinkific is my top choice and so I decided to cover it first because it works great for me and I’ve been using it for about 3 years now. It has one of the most affordable pricing options on all online course platforms.
Thinkific is your classic example of a course platform, it is not an all-in-one solution, as I still have to use ConvertKit for sending emails to my list.
Aside from being cheaper than many competitors, Thinkifc also offers a complete and high-quality course experience for both the course maker and students:
- You can create on Thinkific customizable course websites
- You can also design an optimized sales page
- You can either give access to the entire course at once or drip it out over time.
- Free Wistia video hosting (just this alone has a huge value!).
- Can provide your students with customizable course certificates
What’s even more interesting, you can get started at Thinkific for free.
The paid plans start at $49/month (Basic Plan), $99 (Pro), $499 (Premier).
To be completely honest with you, I personally have used the Basic Plan like forever and it includes everything that I ever needed from my course platform.
The free plan has a few limitations but it doesn’t have any hidden fees and you can run one course with unlimited students. If you are not sure how fast you’ll start making enough money with your course to comfortably pay the monthly fee, you could totally run a course on a free Thinkific plan for as long as it takes you to take your course off the ground.
I can also tell you that in my 4 years of running an online business, Thinkfic’s support team has been always given me the most meaningful and helpful responses.
It’s not like I had a lot of issues with the platform to contact them often but when I made some mistakes and needed help, the answers were always very meaningful.
By the way, if you are in the process of creating your online course, and you want to avoid the most critical mistakes that beginners in the online business often make, check my FREE Masterclass that will show you the worst mistakes that get you stuck in the process.
I consider Thinkific the best platform for beginners who are just trying to sell their first online course because you can stay on a free plan for as long as you need it, without having to pay for your own domain name, website hosting, and so on. You can use Thinkific to host your video lessons, course sales page, and all of this for free.
LearnWorlds would work better for businesses, larger course providers, and corporations because it offers way more advanced features. Things that advanced course creators might need like quizzes, gamification, interactive videos, and so on.
Your students can also take notes and highlight important points in the educational content that you provided. Be aware that on the Starter plan which is $24/mo paid annually, you’ll have to pay an extra $5 fee per course sale.
The good point is that LearnWorlds offers a free 30-day trial so you can check the link in the description below as well.
If you are a complete beginner and you want an easy and quick online course platform, then Teachable is for you. They have a very easy setup process, website theme customizations, course completion certificates, and more.
Overall, Teachable and Thinkific have similar features and pricing but there are several extra fees from each sale that you make through Teachable. This was the biggest pitfall for me. You see, I started my course on Teachable but had to migrate to Thinkific in about 10 months because at that time Teachable experienced growth issues. The platform was often down or too slow to watch and upload the lessons.
Plus, they were in the process of changing their pricing model, added extra commissions from each sale for using Teachable’s gateway.
The free plan on Teachable is not really free like on Thinkific because you’ll pay $1 + 10% from each course you sold. If you make the math, you might end up paying in these fees more than a Basic paid plan.
On the Basic plan with Teachable, you’ll still pay a 5% fee per transaction in addition to the price of the plan, so you again will end up paying a lot more than on the Basic plan with Thinkific. You also don’t get to have affiliates for your course on the Basic plan on Teachable which is included on the Basic plan with Thinkific.
So with Teachable you are kind of forced to use the plan that costs over $100 a month if you want to avoid transaction fees and if you want to have affiliates.
I might be slightly biased when I compare Thinkific and Teachable because I use Thinkific but if you compare the pricing structure, definitely Thinkfic wins with their Free and Basic plans.
One important note I have to make is that with Teachable on the $100/mo plan if you use Teachable’s gateway, they will handle taxes for European buyers and affiliate commissions will be deducted automatically. On Thinkific, this is not even an option. In order to do this, Teachable will keep your earnings for a month from each purchase.
Some people might prefer things done all by the platform. I personally didn’t need it nor did I like the fact that my earnings were held on Teachable for extra 30 days while with Thinkific the payments go directly to my Paypal or Stripe account right away.
On Teachable you will get:
- Customization + easy setup
- Unlimited students
- $1 + 10% per transaction (on the Free plan)
- Instant payouts
- Unlimited courses
- Unlimited coaching services
- Product bundles
- Course design templates
- Graded quizzes
Teachable’s monthly plans start at $39 (Basic), $119 (Pro), $299 (Business).
Podia is also is striving to be an all-in-one online course platform for online courses, digital downloads, webinars, and subscriptions. Their selling point is that they give focus on membership options. Interacting with members, giving tiered plans to your customers, and integrating with Facebook Groups and Slack are all ways to develop your own online community – which Podia can offer.
They also offer:
- Course pre-selling
- Drip courses
- Membership coupons and
- Affiliate Marketing system to help you sell your products.
Podia’s monthly plans start at $39/month and Podia also offers a very generous forever-free plan (with an 8% commission from sales).
The main advantage of this relatively new learning platform is that you can create cohort-based courses and use many advanced features that are not available on platforms like Teachable:
- integrated community features (including built-in group chat, significant announcements, session reminders, and alerts);
- Graphy’s classroom player allows one-to-many video conferencing with up to 20,000 learners through Graphy’s classroom player;
- Students can share their progress in real-time in the web browser or via Graphy’s Android and iOS apps.
You can try Graphy here.
If you already have a WordPress website or blog and you want to start selling courses, then you should try out LearnDash. LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that gives you everything you need to offer courses on your website. The full-featured course builder from LearnDash works nicely with their email drip campaigns.
LearnDash works in a different way compared to all the other platforms I mentioned earlier in this video because you must have your own WordPress website where LearnDash will work as a plugin. This solution has a big pro – the pricing starts at $159 per year, not monthly.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that because LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that works on top of your website, it might be quite challenging to manage and maintain this system without technical skills. If you are not tech-savvy, you might have to hire someone to set this up for you and it’s an extra cost.
But I thought it was important to mention a different type of solution for selling online courses for those of you who are not afraid of technical challenges if the price is more attractive. Obviously, if you use your own WordPress site, you don’t have to worry about any kind of extra fees per sale which I mentioned is the case on some other platforms.
They also offer:
- Focus mode – a learning portal creating a distraction-free environment for students
- Drag & drop course builder
- Advanced quizzing
- Dynamic content delivery
- Flexible prerequisites
- Automated notifications
LearnDash’s monthly plans start at $159/year (basic), $189 (plus), $329 (pro).
Kartra is used by a wide range of online businesses, many of which sell online courses, videos, or other items that require membership management, lead collection, and payment processing functions. Software developers, agencies, membership websites, and online retailers with both physical and digital merchandise are among the companies and businesses that utilize Kartra.
We can categorize Kartra as an all-in-one platform. It allows you to build
- Customizable course websites
- Optimized sales pages
- Membership sites
- Funnel building
- Affiliate management
- Marketing automation
With Kartra‘s Starter Plan, you can store up to 2,500 leads, send 15,000 emails, sell 20 products, and build 2 membership sites. With only their Starter Plan, you can already store up to 2,500 leads, send 15,000 emails, and more!
From the first look, it might seem like Kartra is a more pricy solution compared to say Thinkfic or Teachable but you need to realize that with Kartra, you don’t need to use an email provider like Convertkit.
And you can build your sales pages and the entire funnel right here, inside Kartra. I have a friend who runs her store with several digital products on Kartra and she never needed to pay for a separate email provider as she has all email automations set inside Kartra. You can also set up your own affiliate program in Kartra.
So if you are looking for a way to manage your entire funnel in one place, Kartra could be the way to go!
Kartra’s monthly plans start at $99/month (Starter), $199 (Silver), $299 (Gold), $499 (Platinum).
Systeme.io is similar to Kartra in the sense that it’s an all-in-one platform and as a newer player on this market, it’s currently way more affordable.
The program has a sophisticated statistics tool that displays a sales report, the value per e-mail contact, and the value per customer on the dashboard. So you could get with Systeme.io all of these
- Sales funnel
- Email marketing tool
- Easy website builder
- Evergreen webinars
- Online course platform
Systeme’s has a completely free plan and the paid monthly plans start at $27/month (Startup), $47 (Webinar), $97 (Enterprise).
Even the free plan on Systemeio is very generous and gives you an option to use your custom domain and you can run your own affiliate program (both things are not available on the free plans with any other tools in this list), and you get up to 2000 contacts – all for free! If you are on a tight budget but want to start your online course business right away, you could start with the free plan on Systeme.io!
Mighty Networks is a great online course platform that will help you create communities, sell memberships, and grow your course sales. Mighty Networks offers insights, data, and analytics that you can’t get anywhere else. And if you need a platform that can accommodate a huge number of members, then this is the right online course platform for you as Mighty Networks can scale to up to 300,000 members or more with their unique technology that personalizes each member’s experience with their most relevant topics, groups, courses, and other members.
More of their features include:
- Native course builder—gate your content, add a course community, or teach a live, cohort-based course
- Charge for courses or memberships as recurring subscriptions or one-time purchases
- Charge in hundreds of local currencies
- Create an Ambassador program to incentivize members to refer new members
- Rich member profiles
- Private direct messaging
- Small group chat
- Match by location or interest
- Member categories
- And more!
You can start using Mighty Networks through a free trial. Their monthly plans start at $39 for their Community Plan, $119 for their Business Plan, and a personalized pricing plan for the Mighty Pro.
10. iSpring Learn
iSpring Learn or iSpring Solutions is an award-winning eLearning tool that helps you create interactive online courses and assessments with no technical experience required! You can develop and launch a training program in a couple of hours using iSpring’s excellent technology. You can add several learning materials including presentations, PDFs, Word docs, guidelines, videos, photos, and other resources in just a few seconds! iSpring Learn also automatically manages training deadlines, as well as sending invites and reminders so you and your students can always be reminded with their studies and be up to date with any course updates. With iSpring’s detailed reports and analytics, you can track the learning progress of any team or students. Use this information to make better personnel decisions and improve training efficacy.
More of their features include:
- Industry-leading authoring tool to help you develop interactive courses, quizzes, and branching scenarios in no time.
- Learning portal with your branding
- Integration with your IT ecosystem
- Data security guarantee
- 24/7 customer service through call, chat, or text
- Mobile learning
- Unlimited storage space
- And more!
You can start a 30-day free trial with iSpring Learn but their monthly plans start at $3.00 per month with 300 users, and $2.82 per month with 500 users.
WizIQ is an easy to use and affordable virtual classroom for live interactive online classes. WizIQ also has their own mobile app on both Android and iOS so that your students can choose to study and view your courses at any time of the day. WizIQ is also a great place to do tutoring online, training operations, and more. They provide cutting-edge live training technologies such as discussion boards, video streaming, mobile alternatives, exams, and analytics. The platform also allows you to sell more of your courses and resources with a payment gateway integrated into your learning portal.
More of their features include:
- Virtual Classroom
- Course Builder
- Tests and Assessments
- Reports and Analytics
- Mobile Learning
- LMS eCommerce
- And more!
You can start using WizIQ with a free 14-day trial and you can contact them for a personalized pricing plan that will fit your needs.
12. Academy of Mine
Academy of Mine is a premium high-end online learning platform that creates, manages, and delivers the highest quality educational content in a unique way that works for your business. The platform highly specializes in customization and personalization. They also have prebuilt layouts so will not need to build anything from scratch. Academy of Mine also has an Integrated Dashboard where you can manage all your courses in one place. You can build courses and host webinars that include text, video, audio, SCORM, PDF, live streaming, quizzes, and much more.
More of their features include:
- Analytics & Reporting
- Locking – Control how a student moves through the sections and items in your course by requiring them to finish a section or item before moving on.
- Software integrations
- Translations – offers the platform in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and many other languages
- 24/7 Customer Service
- And more!
You can start using Academy of Mine by requesting for a free trial. Their monthly plans range from $599 per month, $899 per month, and a custom pricing for big organizations or classes.
If you are looking for a very beginner friendly online learning course platform, then Ruzuku might just become your new best friend. You will have everything you need in creating a course all in one place when you decide to go for Ruzuku. The platform integrates with useful tools like Mailchimp and other payment gateways like Stripe, Paypal, and more. Students can have social profiles, bios, and photos in the course community, and they can also mark each of their activities as “complete”, and track their own progress. You can host teleconferences and online training with slides, group chat, and automatic recording. Ruzuku also offers daily backups of your content as well as sends reminders and email announcements to your students for you.
More of their features include:
- Discussion questions/prompts for specific activities/content
- Live (scheduled calendar-based) courses with automatic email notifications
- Global Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Easy access customer support
- General course-wide Q&A and forum
- And more!
You can start using Ruzuku with a 14-day trial. Their monthly plans start at $99 per month, $149 per month, and $199 per month.
Udemy is slightly different from the different online course platforms I have mentioned. Udemy is a type of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform where instead of hosting files yourself, the courses are in a marketplace where students can purchase them directly or through a subscription. The good thing about platforms like this for course creators is that there is a higher chance for you to reach a new audience without doing much marketing. The disadvantage is that you will not earn as much money each sale, and there will be more competitors in the market.
But moving on to Udemy. Udemy has a broad selection of courses ranging from 185,000 online video courses with new additions published every month. Yes, you can become an instructor at Udemy and publish your course, teach what you know, and help learners explore their interests, gain new skills, and advance their careers. They also have a quick support team to help you through the process.
Udemy is completely free to use but they do charge a 3 percent rev share for teacher discounts, a 50% rev share for students who discovered your course through organic search (SEO), and a 75% rev share for transactions done via sponsored search marketing initiatives.
Like Udemy, Skillshare is another popular MOOC platform mainly focused on creative education. This means that Skillshare is particularly famous for its arts and creative courses but all their classes range from creativity, the arts, design, freelance, entrepreneurship, lifestyle, and productivity. Their top earning teachers make $100,000+ each year. And just like any other course platform, you can create your first class on Skillshare by filming your video content and publishing it with their easy class upload tools. You will be paid monthly for every member who watches your classes, forever.
Another good thing about Skillshare is that because Skillshare is based on a membership model, your class will have an audience from the outset. They also provide a ton of suggestions to help you advertise your class in your own community and optimize your success.
Creating a course on Skillshare is completely free!
You probably see now that course platforms can be divided into 2 main categories. One is just a course platform, and another type is a platform that is more like a CRM.
What is CRM?
CRM means Customer Relationship Management and is a process or tool that often includes strong email marketing and automation tools. This means that it is centered around attracting and retaining customers to your business. In this case, you have fewer software tools to connect with the online course platform because they are already included in the all-in-one platform.
And when you decide to run an online course business, you will need to decide for yourself – do you like to keep all your eggs in one basket and use an all-in-one solution. Or do you prefer to keep your email list in one place, host your sales pages on your own website and host the online course on a third platform?
As for me, when I first launched my course, only the first option was even an option. Moving to a new system is a lot of headaches so I keep running my course on Thinkific, I keep my email list on Convertkit and my landing pages are built on my own WordPress website.
But my choice is only my choice. I will help you with this article to make an educated decision for yourself.
BENEFITS OF ONLINE EDUCATION
There are several advantages to why online education might be better for you. Sure, in every pros, there are cons, but I honestly believe that each person has their own way of learning. And if you are wondering what the benefits of online education or online courses are for your future students, then read along to find out:
You can learn at your own pace and time
Taking online courses is a great way to not feel pressured in studying unlike when you go to physical classes where there are time constraints. Almost all online courses do not require you to finish a certain chapter or module in a specific time. So, yes, if your students are working moms or busy business owners, you can freely study after work, before work, or during your free time.
The materials are accessible
Unlike physical classes, online classes do not require you to go to a library to find a certain book or buy certain materials for learning. Most online courses will offer you everything all in one place – the sources of their study, questionnaire, exercises, videos, photos, and more. Aside from this, said resources will never expire and your students will have access to them at any time of the day. With this, your students will be saving time as well as money.
You can do a background check on your teacher
When your students search for online courses, they will first immediately check who the course creator or their teacher is. And as an online course creator, you must already have your credentials and achievements listed on your website or course page. With this, your students can do their own background checks about you and this is also a great way for you to further convince potential students to trust in your expertise.
You can join a community
In most online courses, students will have the privilege to join an exclusive group (mostly a Facebook group) with other fellow students to ask questions, interact with each other, share knowledge, and more. Another good thing about this is that students can also talk directly to the course creator in this group. This is a huge perk since students can treat groups like these as discussion forums where they can conveniently post a question and wait for other people in that group to reply. This is also a great way to gain new friends and long term connections (even business partners!).
You can have various freebies
Students of online courses will get tons of freebies and perks from the course creator. One of those is, just as I mentioned, an exclusive group with other fellow students. More freebies and perks can range from discounts to other courses, extra resources that aren’t offered anywhere else, one on one coaching with the course creator, and more!
REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CREATE AN ONLINE COURSE
Now that you know how to convince your students as to why they should start taking online courses, it is now time for me to convince you as to why you should start creating an online course (in case you are still on the fence about it):
Everyone is going online
Everything (and I mean everything) is now accessible online. And yes, this means online learning as well. People can now just Google their questions, and they will always find an answer. So this is the best time to take advantage of it! Today is the best time to start your own online course because there will come a day where your online course will pop up on the Google results page when people search for a certain topic.
You just need to do it once
Once you have made your course, that’s it. It exists and it will always exist, so you don’t need to make it again. Even if it takes you a month or two to create your online course, once it’s done, it’s done.
Earn Passive Income
You may start making money while on autopilot after you become an online course creator. This is because, just as I have said, you will only have to do it once and it will stay on the internet for people to sign up for unless you remove it.
So, no matter what you do, whether it’s gardening, traveling, or sleeping, you’re still making money and attracting students who could be interested in your course.
Reach a larger audience
Having an online course can also be a way to introduce your actual business or other side hustles since you will be able to reach a larger audience and gain long-term relationships with your students. For example, if you are a blogger like me, you can use your online course to introduce or mention your blog to your students.
HOW TO START YOUR ONLINE COURSE
What is your expertise?
The first and most important thing to do when starting your online course is to know what topic or field you are most knowledgeable in. You can’t be all over the place when talking about something because your students will take notice of it. Choose a topic that you won’t get tired of talking about. And if you have some real-life or hands-on tips and experience with that topic, the better.
Research more about the subject
Remember what I mentioned before? Never stop learning. And that includes even you as a course creator. Time changes and new things and knowledge gets introduced really quickly. Research more about the topic you are focusing on so that you will have something more to teach to your students.
Create the course outline and content
Make sure the content and style of your course materials are understandable and straight to the point. The devil is in the details, so verify and double-check everything before publishing it. Decide how often and in what format you want your information to be sent to your students.
Make High Quality Content
Now, the most important thing for you to do next is to actually start making high quality content. And no, I do not just mean the script or the written works. If you are going to upload video courses, then you should have a high quality video with no noise background and a professional looking room. You can’t have a noisy background or else your students will become distracted or won’t be able to focus at all. For written courses, make sure your content are direct to the point with no flowery sentences. Make everything short and simple and be sure everything is grammatically correct.
Upload on an online course platform
All your resources will all be placed and stored in one place. No, you will not need to get a file cabinet and print lots and lots of paperwork. You just need to find a good course platform and you are good to go. If this is your first time creating an online course, then it is important to choose a learning platform that meets all of your needs. You will want to look for an easy-to-use page builder, straightforward navigation, attractive layouts, and the option to share videos, blog entries, and other types of material.
Market Your Course
Now that you have published your very first course, the next thing you have to immediately do is to announce it to the world and find your students! You can market your course on Pinterest for free. You’ll be surprised at how many course creators go on Pinterest to find and get students. If you have a website, then you can easily integrate or add a page solely for your course.
When it comes to online courses, the accessibility and appearance must be appealing to both the creator and the students. For students, they must be welcomed with an easy to navigate page that does not require any technical skills. They must also gain knowledge that is worth the price they paid for. If they can easily find all the content on a single Google search, then they will be disappointed and might leave a low review. They would also want to become engaged with your course through activities and exercises at the end of each module.
As a course creator, your online learning platform must be easy to navigate and understand for you to customize your presentations and resources further. Your online learning platform’s monthly and annual subscription must also fit in with your current budget and not have any hidden charges along the way. With this, if you can find an online course with a free trial, then I highly suggest you try it. You must find an online course platform that has all the essential features a course creator and student needs: marketing features, email marketing tools, communication options, course-making features, and more.
With that said, let me know in the comments if you use any of the online course platforms I mention or if you have some more in mind!