Choosing the right online course platform is crucial if you want to maximize sales. From creating a course website and taking payments, to uploading videos and interacting with students, the best online course platforms can help you meet your goals. In this guide, we ranked and reviewed the 17+ best online course platforms, along with our top 5 choices, so that you can pick the best one for you.Best Overall
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With the acceleration of online learning due to social distancing, online course platforms are experiencing huge growth.
In fact, the e-learning and online course market will be worth $325 billion by 2025.
Are you ready to tap into this market and sell online courses?
You need the best online course platform.
Here’s the secret: you need to pick a platform that gives your students a custom, professional learning experience so amazing that they’re completely unaware they’re using a platform. 🤯
If you’re unfamiliar with course platforms, these are browser-based platforms that help you:
- Create an online course website (or integrate your course with an existing site).
- Build sales landing pages.
- Price your course and collect payments (either one-time or in installments).
- Upload your videos, add assignments and quizzes, creating interactive content, and engage with your students.
- Create membership communities.
- Host live webinars.
Listen while you read: After our real and honest testing, here’s a video with our top 3 online course platforms and a preview of their dashboards:
Video created by AdamEnfroy.com and Codeless.
Let’s get started.
What Are the Best Online Course Platforms?
Here are my top picks for the best online course platforms to use this year.
Best Overall Online Course Platform (Free or $49/mo)
I personally love Thinkific and use them for my own online course business, selling my course Blog Growth Engine. They provide an awesome student experience, easy integrations with Stripe and checkout providers to make collecting payments easy, and they have an expert support team that’s been super helpful. Overall, I recommend Thinkific wholeheartedly as my #1 recommendation for selling online courses.9.3out of 10
Free – $79/month
Yes – Save 20%
Thinkific is the best overall platform to sell online courses.
It’s my #1 choice because the pricing is exactly in line with other affordable options on this list and it can deliver a high-end course experience.
- Course websites can be customized and you’d never guess they were Thinkific.
- Sales pages are highly optimized and look great.
- Student dashboards look nice and are customizable (you can add videos, text, and any downloadable file type to the same page).
- You can either send your entire course at once or drip it out over time.
- Free Wistia video hosting (a huge value).
That’s honestly all that you need for an optimized course website.
In fact, even though Thinkific plans start at just $49/month, huge brands like Fiverr use Thinkific to sell online courses.
I would have never guessed that this massive learning database was a Thinkific site until their team told me:
Their best (and most popular) Pro Plan offers a one-month free trial to get started.
First, this plan gives you the ability to create unlimited courses. It also features memberships and bundles, advanced pricing options, landing pages, certificates, and marketing tools.
Here’s a little preview of the experience creating a Thinkific course.
All that you do is create and customize your course with their drag and drop editor:
Next, you upload your content and choose one of their website templates:
Lastly, you set up payment methods (you can collect payments in over 100 currencies):
There are also a ton of customization options. If you want to build a completely custom site, their onboarding team takes your vision and helps you turn it into a reality.
Pros of Thinkific:
- Marketing automation and email features.
- Simple free plan to get started.
- Can fully edit the code of your course site.
- Customizable course certificates.
- Custom domains.
- Affiliate marketing help and reporting.
Here’s what people are saying about Thinkific:
- “You need to get on Thinkific. The team is creative, reliable, and offers unbeatable support. They always make sure all my bases are covered and, as a business owner, that’s invaluable.” – Lewis Howes
- “By teaching our audience how to scale and grow their business through online training, we’ve grown ours. We couldn’t have done it without Thinkific.” – John Lee Dumas, Entrepreneurs on Fire
- “I seriously can’t be more impressed with your customer support team. They are the perfect blend of efficient and personable. It’s like having my very own IT department.” – Kim Garnett
- Basic ($49/month): Unlimited courses and students, drip (scheduled) content, custom domain, email integrations, and coupons.
- Pro ($99/month): Basic features, plus memberships and bundles, private courses, certificates, advanced HTML and CSS editing, assignments, live lessons via Zoom, and priority support.
- Premier ($499/month): Pro features, plus 50 course admins, onboarding package, and unlimited growth package (best for big teams).
Overall, I recommend the Thinkific platform as my #1 choice for course creators and entrepreneurs who are serious about creating, marketing, and selling their own course content.
You can get started today with a One-Month Free Trial of their Pro Plan with my link below.Try Thinkific
Best Course Creation Software for Interactive Learning ($24/month)
I think Learnworlds is one of the best course platforms for interactivity. If you’re looking to give your students an engaging course, with quizzes, interactive videos, surveys, and certificates, Learnworlds is a good choice. While it doesn’t have the ease of use of Thinkific, it does have strong student community features.8.8out of 10
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Learnworlds is a platform that’s best for course creators looking to interact in unique ways with their students.
Think quizzes, gamification, interactive videos, etc.
While the student experience isn’t as nice looking as a Thinkific course, it’s unique in that it offers students more interactive eLearning content.
Pros of Learnworlds:
- Interactive videos, e-books, gamification, and downloadable attachments.
- You can offer free courses.
- Can extract transcripts from your courses.
- A custom domain name and white-labeled content.
- Students can take notes and highlight important points.
- Certificates of completion.
- Custom mobile app on iOS for course.
- The ability to create coupons and discounts.
- Social media integrations.
- A new analytics platform to optimize your sales.
- The ability to create membership sites.
- A strong knowledge base.
- 24/7 support.
- Starter ($24/month paid annually): one admin, $5 fee per course sale, custom domain, unlimited courses, page builder tool, 4 payment gateways, coupons, and drip feed courses.
- Pro Trainer ($79/month): Starter features, plus no transaction fees, 5 admin accounts, subscriptions and memberships, custom checkout pages, live classes via Zoom and Webex, assignments, and affiliate management.
- Learning Center ($249/month): Pro Trainer features, plus a branded corporate academy, premium cloud servers, flexible invoicing, premium support, and premium account manager.
Best High-End Online Course Platform for Professionals ($119/month)
In my opinion, Kajabi is one of the best platforms for professionals that want to scale their business. With so many features included in their plans, you can develop your online training just the way you want it, and build out as many features within your platform as needed. Whether you want to send newsletters, host podcasts, or even build membership sites, Kajabi can work for your needs.8.4out of 10
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Kajabi is the best high-end course builder tailored toward information business, not tiny course creators.
It’s best when it comes to email marketing automation. Automation is a crucial component of pre-sale, pre-webinar, drip course, and upsell emails – and Kajabi does it best.
Their “Pipelines” feature lets you create fully-automated marketing campaigns and funnels. These are pre-built frameworks for lead generation, with pre-written copy optimized for conversions.
It also features powerful course site themes, the ability to sell digital products, a customizable checkout, and blogging functionality.
Overall, it’s the best high-end course platform with more built-in tools and features, but it costs a little more than others on the list.
- Best all-in-one software for a true information business.
- Wistia video hosting is excellent.
- Major focus on sales and marketing tools.
- More built-in tools than other platforms.
- Can offer monthly recurring subscriptions.
- Integrated with Stripe and PayPal.
- Big names use Kajabi, including Amy Porterfield.
Kajabi pricing is mainly based on the number of courses and active members you have:
- Basic ($119/month): 1 website, 1 admin, 3 products, 3 pipelines, 10,000 contacts, and 1,000 active members.
- Growth ($119/month): 1 website, 10 admins, 15 products, 15 pipelines, 25,000 contacts, 10,000 active members.
- Pro ($319/month): 3 websites, 25 admins, 100 products, 100 pipelines, 100,000 contacts, and 20,000 active members.
Where Kajabi really excels is its marketing automation tools. You can segment users in your list, send emails at certain times based on advanced triggers, and send professionally branded messages.
If you’re an established business and want to try one of the more advanced platforms on the market, Kajabi is a solid choice.
Start your free 14-day trial of Kajabi today.Try Kajabi
Best Online Course Platform for Beginners ($0-$249/mo)
I think that if you’re just starting out and want a solid foundation to build your business, Teachable is the way to go. This online course platform allows you to focus on sharing your knowledge without getting bogged down with the technical aspect. This is why I recommend it for those that are at the startup stage in their business.8.2out of 10
Yes – Save 17%
Teachable is an option if you want a fast and easy course builder.
I consider it the best for beginners getting their feet wet in the course world as it’s one of the cheapest options and easy to use.
You can choose to use their free plan (with $1 + $0.10 for all transactions) or select one of their three plans ranging from just $29/month to $299/month.
I recommend their most popular Pro Plan at $99/month as it’s the first plan with zero transaction fees.
Teachable also gave me a unique and limited-time promo code (200 left):
Use PROSOCIATE1MFREE at checkout to get one month of their Pro Plan for free.
- Very easy setup.
- Unlimited everything – bandwidth, students, courses, and coaching services.
- One-click checkout.
- Optimized storefront and sales pages.
- Live Zoom courses on their pro plan.
- International payment plans in 130+ currencies.
- Graded quizzes.
- Custom course completion certificates.
- Website theme customization.
- Can have 5 user accounts on their pro plan.
- Basic ($29/month): 5% transaction fees, 2 admin users, drip content, course builder, members-only community.
- Pro ($99/month): Basic features, plus no transaction fees, 5 admin users, advanced reports, and course certificates.
- Business ($249/month): Pro features, plus advanced coding customizations, 20 admins, bulk student enrollments, and group coaching calls.
Best All-In-One Online Course Platform for Webinars, Downloads, and Memberships ($39/month)
Want to sell any of your digital work online? I think Podia is definitely a platform to consider. With the ability to sell online courses, digital downloads, host webinars, and even build a community, Podia is a platform that can adapt based on your needs.7.8out of 10
An All-In-One Solution
Yes – Save $398/yr
Podia is an all-in-one online course platform with over 50,000 members that is great for digital downloads, webinars, and memberships.
Its main types of courses include:
- Standalone courses that include images, video and audio files, MP3x, PDFs, quizzes, and more.
- Pre-sell your course by taking payments before launch.
- Cohort-based courses with a future start date.
- Drip courses deliver your course in a section-by-section format.
- The ability to add coupons and memberships.
They truly excel with their membership options. You can grow your own online community by interacting with members, bundling products for specific groups, offering tiered plans, and connecting with Facebook Groups and Slack.
Podia also acts as a webinar platform to host either live or on-demand webinars.
Another awesome feature is the ability to run your own affiliate program inside of Podia. You can view all of your affiliates in one place, view helpful reporting, and make payouts based on your own customized commission structure.
There is 24/7 support, no transaction fees, and a simple three-step process to get your course website up quickly.
Although they don’t charge fees, their payment processors have transaction fees of 2.9% + 30¢.
- Mover ($39/month) – Unlimited everything, zero transaction fees, sell courses, digital downloads, and 5k emails sent per month.
- Shaker ($79/month) – Everything in Mover, plus the ability to create membership communities, add affiliates, and 15k emails sent per month.
- Earthquaker ($179/month) – Everything in Shaker, plus dedicated account manager, personalized onboarding, and 50k emails sent per month.
Overall, if you’re looking for strong membership functionality and the ability to increase your sales with the help of affiliates, Podia is a unique and worthwhile course builder to try out.
You can sign up and give it a test run with a free 14-day trial.Try Podia
Great Online Course Software LMS for WordPress Users ($13.25/month)
LearnDash is a WordPress plugin and the one platform you need to sell courses with a WordPress site.
This popular WordPress LMS plugin is used by some big websites using LearnDash include Yoast, Infusionsoft, the University of Michigan, and WP Elevation.
One of their first helpful features is their “Focus Mode,” which blocks out all distractions when students run through a course.
LearnDash’s full-featured course builder meshes well with their email drip campaigns. You can build a great online course on your own website and match your content with an email drip schedule to send lessons according to a program.
Their Gradebook* technology takes LMS to another level. This technology gives students an overall grade based on quiz and homework scores, creating a weighted average for teachers to review.
In addition to grading, course points award points for actions, and badges and certificates award students for course activities.
If you’re a teacher looking for grading systems that compete with the features of college curriculums, LearnDash is the best LMS plugin.
You can get started today with a $40 discount and a full 30-day money-back guarantee on their annual plans.Try LearnDash
The Ridiculously Easy Online Course Platform ($74.75/month)
Ruzuku allows you to create a step-by-step online course with their learning platform, PDFs, and text in minutes. You can quickly create course outlines, edit and reorder your steps with ease, launch your course, and generate sales in no time.
Ruzuku integrates with tools like MailChimp, Infusionsoft, and payment gateways like Stripe and PayPal to accept payments – and they don’t charge transaction fees.
They’re also known for their desirable community. When you join Ruzuku, you’re not buying a teaching tool; you’re joining a team to help your students learn.
Called “the ridiculously easy course creator,” Ruzuku comes with some excellent features listed below:
Finally, their platform offers unlimited courses to unlimited students on all paid plans.
You can get started with a 14-day free trial and 30-day money-back guarantee.Try Ruzuku
8. Academy of Mine.
The Enterprise Online Course Platform Custom-Built to Your Business ($499/month)
Academy of Mine is a high-end eLearning platform founded on personalized customer success and philosophy of customization.
It’s truly a learning management system that works best in different business niches. A standard feature of any plan is completely free development hours to help set up and launch your course with customized integrations.
One of their goals is not just to set you up and help you launch. They also want to help sell your course with their marketing tools and analytics dashboards.
Personalization is at the heart of its strategy. Are you a healthcare company that wants to create a full curriculum for continuing education credits (CECs)? They can help with that.
Are you an insurance company that requires continued training due to constant changes in a particular legal code at the state level? Are you looking to create online courses to manage your facility?
That’s also no problem with Academy of Mine.
While these enterprise offerings may be overkill for typical users, they are necessary for small to medium-sized businesses needing a robust training system for their employees or clients.
If this sounds like the eLearning solution you’re looking for, you can get started today with their 30-day free trial.Try Academy of Mine
Affordable Live Virtual Online Classrooms ($27/month)
WizIQ offers teachers and educators an easy way to set up virtual classrooms for live interactive online classes. Over 400,000 instructors have leveraged WizIQ to teach over 4 million students virtual classes across 200 countries.
They provide the latest tools for live training such as discussion boards, video streaming, mobile options, assessments, and analytics.
If you are an educator or corporate leader that wants to reach your audience live anywhere in the world, you can get started with their 14-day free trial.Try WizIQ
What Are Online Course Platforms?
Online course platforms are types of learning management systems (LMS) that provide users with access to digital classes. These virtual courses are similar to offline classes in a lot of ways: an instructor provides an engaging educational experience through video, image, text, audio, and PDF files.
Students follow along with the LMS software, take notes, perform exercises, and complete exams to test their knowledge.
Tools like Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, Podia, and Ruzuku all feature a robust feature set for course creators.
Course software includes features like a fully responsive website experience, easy content uploading, the ability to edit the look and feel of the class, marketing features, course completion certificates, a sales funnel, and more.
Basically, they give you everything you need to sell an online course. Some even allow you to build your course for free.
If you’re an educational institution looking to replace your on-premise classes with online learning, you can check out my other guide to choosing the best learning management system (LMS).
Course creators choose a platform to use, then charge their students a set fee to access their courses.
What Are the Best Online Learning Platforms?
Now for the student’s point of view.
With social distancing becoming the norm and many colleges moving to online classes, there are plenty of ways to educate yourself from home.
Often called massive open online courses (MOOCs), they are slightly different than paid platforms. Instead of hosting files yourself, courses are in a marketplace where students pay for them directly, or via a subscription.
The benefit for course creators is that you can leverage these websites to reach a new audience. The downside is you won’t earn as much money per sale, and there is stiffer competition in the market.
Ultimately, I recommend using one of the providers above to sell courses.
If you’re looking to sign up for a platform to learn new things, here are my picks for the best online learning platforms.
Udemy is one of the best online course platform marketplaces with over 24 million students, 35,000 instructors, and unbelievable 80,000+ courses. The first step to creating a course is to sign up to be a premium instructor.
Once your account is approved, it’s effortless to get started creating your courses. When creating your video content, keep in mind the material has to be at least 30 minutes long and contain five lectures.
Another benefit to adding your course on Udemy is that you can easily promote your class inside their platform. You can use their marketing features to be included in site-wide discounts, be placed in their marketing emails, or join their affiliate program with tiered commission rates.
What does Udemy cost?
It is free to use. They charge a 3% rev share for sales through instructor coupons, 50% for students who found your course through organic search (SEO), and 75% for transactions made through paid search marketing efforts.
Udemy is one of the best online course platforms for professionals. The first advantage is that you get access to a large user base. Udemy’s 40 million users are all potential students who will pay for your course. But just because you’re on their platform, it doesn’t mean you’ll start raking in sales right away.
You have to develop a strong marketing and sales strategy, much like a new e-commerce company, author, or real estate agent. It’s all about getting your name out there.
They provide a substantial revenue share for tuition fees. Instructors set their course prices and receive revenue at 100% of the tuition fee for new users and 50% for existing users. That’s a substantial commission on sales and a massive benefit to using their platform.
You can participate in their marketing promotions. Every so often, they run promotions that can help you reach a larger audience on their platform. These marketing promotions are opt-in, so instructors can choose to participate or not.
They have reliable technology and support. They offer free 24/7 support, and they also have a vast library of helpful articles.
There is intense competition with other courses. Instructors are at the mercy of the placement and appearance on the Udemy website, which is controlled by their proprietary algorithms.
It can be difficult to outrank other instructors on particular topics if you’re new to the platform.
There is also stiff competition with other course publishers. Udemy isn’t the only course marketplace ranking on search engines for your course topics.
Other marketplaces like iSpring Learn, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare can compete with Udemy in organic search, which can be a disadvantage for instructors.
They have lenient return policies. Refunds are guaranteed to all students within 30 days for any reason. Because of this, students could take a course, complete it within 30 days, and get a guaranteed refund – decreasing your sales.
Udemy Review: Final Verdict
First, they’re one of the most well known, widely used, and professional online course marketplace out there. With a robust rev share model, a vast audience to tap into, 24/7 support, and marketing offerings, you can’t go wrong with their platform.
Although there is healthy competition with other course creators and platforms, the company is likely to maintain its lead in the market.
Get started with Udemy for free today.Try Udemy
2. Shaw Academy.
Shaw Academy is a platform that gives its students access to professional, accredited online courses. Students sign up for Shaw Academy and get access to all of their long-form courses.
They offer courses in three distinct categories: for hobbyists, for professionals, and for entrepreneurs.
For example, in their “For Professionals” category, they offer a globally-recognized Digital Marketing Course. This course includes 32 videos and takes an average of 16 weeks to complete.
What Does Shaw Academy Cost?
Courses are offered for free for the first four weeks. You can then continue learning by paying for a monthly plan.
The cost then ranges from $49.99 to $60 per month.
Shaw Academy Pros
Their courses are all globally-recognized and offer certifications to help you in your career. If you’re a working professional, their classes on digital marketing, project management, web development, Photoshop, and Microsoft Excel are very in-depth.
Entrepreneurs can also access helpful classes on social media marketing, viral marketing, wedding, photography, etc.
Their courses are all flexible and you can complete them on your own time. They also offer helpful support and the ability to download class recordings to watch them offline.
The four-week free plan is also a great bonus too.
Shaw Academy Cons
Although they offer a lot of good courses, you may not find the right one for you depending on your industry. They also don’t have the same volume of hobby classes as platforms like Skillshare.
Shaw Academy Review: Final Verdict.
If you’re a professional looking for flexible, accredited courses that you can start completely free for 4 weeks, this platform is a great choice.Try Shaw Academy
Skillshare is a large marketplace focused on creative education. Topics include anything from graphic design and music production to fine art and cooking.
They also have classes on more technical topics like data science, analytics, and e-commerce. Skillshare has more than 5 million users and has paid over $5 million to teachers.
Each class is 20-60 minutes broken down into shorter lessons, plus projects and a community discussion forum to connect with other students.
The open discussion is very beneficial for their creative topics, as students can share their progress and get feedback from others. They also can help premium members with production, course planning, and can even help with online course creation at their studio in New York.
What does Skillshare cost?
It is free for creating a premium course experience. They pay instructors $10 for paid membership referrals and monthly royalties for each minute of content watched.
They have a large user base of creators and entrepreneurs. If you are offering content that would be suited for a creative audience, Skillshare is a great platform to get noticed.
Lessons on web design, building your email list, photography, painting, personal branding, and creative topics are the most popular.
The quality of the classes is reliable. They pride themselves on professional, high-quality courses. They can help with outlining your course based on the needs of their audience, and can also assist with production.
Earnings run through a royalty system. Each month, between 30 and 50% of Skillshare’s premium subscription revenue goes to a royalty pool for teachers.
The remaining funds go to marketing and promoting classes, supporting the platform, and running day-to-day operations. This royalty system works for well established teachers, as the more minutes watched, the more revenue share you receive.
However, this makes it difficult for new instructors to receive much compensation when they’re just starting. Plus, students who watch at 2x speed only count as half the minutes toward the royalty pool.
Another disadvantage is they only offer email support. Although they have helpful support articles, the only option to contact them is via email.
Skillshare Review: Final Verdict
Skillshare is an up and coming online course marketplace with over 4 million students. With a large user base of creators and entrepreneurs, it is a great option for instructors in creative fields.
Their classes are all high quality, and they can help make sure that your class will best match the needs of their audience for maximum impact.
However, based on the royalty system for earnings, and no live support, you may be able to make a lot more sales with a marketplace. If you’re a creative course creator and want to reach a new audience, their online courses are worth a try.
Sign up with Skillshare and get 2 months of free classes.Try Skillshare
4. LinkedIn Learning.
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda) is another online course marketplace tailored to business professionals. With over 1,000 business courses on topics like project management, web development, and digital marketing, they’re an excellent platform for working professionals looking to keep their skills up-to-date.
They also offer certifications that you can add to your LinkedIn profile, showcasing your expertise and improving your online resume.
What does LinkedIn Learning cost?
Monthly fees tie to a premium LinkedIn membership, which is $29.99/month or $24.00/month if you pay annually.
Try LinkedIn Learning today and get one month free.Try LinkedIn Learning
Treehouse is a relatively new marketplace that believes in the democratization of education. Their platform is “committed to making education accessible to students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds.”
They feature 300+ technical courses on coding and development, over 50,000 students, and over 27,545 minutes of video (and counting).
Treehouse partners with some big names, including Microsoft, IBM Watson, Amazon Alexa, and Google Developers.
What does Treehouse cost?
Treehouse offers a 7-day free trial. Then you can choose from three different plans ranging from $25 to $199 per month.
Their basic plan features on-demand courses, interactive practice sessions, and access to their online community.
The pro plan gives you access to bonuses, beta features, and downloadable content.
And if you’re looking to create a real portfolio and get job-ready skills, their Techdegree plan gives you personalized feedback, real-time support, and a custom curriculum.
Try Treehouse today.Try Treehouse
Coursera is a professional online course marketplace with virtual classes from some of the world’s best companies and universities like the University of Michigan, Duke, and Stanford.
Instructors teach Coursera courses at some of the world’s top universities, take about 4-6 weeks to complete, and include video lectures, peer-reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums.
What does Coursera cost?
Coursera is free to join, and you must be logged in to see pricing information on individual courses. There are three tiers of class offerings at Coursera.
- Main courses run on a subscription basis and cost $29-99/month. These take the standard 4-6 weeks to complete, and you receive an electronic course certificate upon completion.
- Specialization courses are for mastering a specific career skill and cost between $39-79/month. In these online courses, you tackle real business challenges with hands-on projects and more rigorous coursework.
- Online degree programs. If you’re looking for a more advanced education, you can even take part in university-recognized online degree programs. These take 1-3 years to complete and cost anywhere from $15 to $25,000.
Give Coursera a try.Try Coursera
Other top platforms to take courses include ALISON and General Assembly.
How Do I Create and Sell Online Courses?
The first step to sell online courses is to start with your end goal in mind and work backward. How are you going to transform your students’ lives and how will they be different once they’ve completed your course?
You should start your course by planning the transformation your students will achieve.
To understand what your students want to learn, hang out in forums related to your topic, and look at the top questions people are asking. Quora is an excellent place for this.
Once you understand how you can solve your student’s problems, create a clearly defined learning path that will guide them to a predetermined goal. During each stage of the course journey, make their outcomes clear.
By setting a learning path and clearly defined end goal, your students will stay more engaged and active with your content.
Here are the top 10 ways to create and sell online courses.
1. Figure Out the Cost to Develop Your Online Course.
The cost to develop your learning platform depends on many factors, including depth of content development, research and analytics expenses, and marketing. Studies estimate that a professional online course can cost between $5,850 and $15,600 to produce.
However, that’s a pretty high estimate, including professional video development, paying a subject matter expert (SME) to teach the course, market research, email automation or webinar software, and promoting the course. Source: racoongang.com
If you’re starting and want to create a course yourself, it can be much cheaper. For example, if you have a quality webcam, a microphone, screen sharing tools, and video editing software, you can create a course for under $200.
Your most significant investment is time. Keep in mind that costs rise with your effort. The more effort you put into analyzing your audience, market research, creating an outline, and shooting professional media with an engaging instructor, the higher the cost.
2. Use the Best Software and Equipment.
Creating a course isn’t as simple as add a webinar to a website. You need to produce the course first!
Software and equipment are required to create high-quality content. Remember, you’re replacing an in-classroom experience with a virtual course, so it needs to look professional.
However, you don’t need the most expensive, high-end equipment to get started – but you will need a few essential items.
Microphones are crucial. Bad audio is much easier to detect than shaky video, and you need a quality microphone for your course to sound excellent.
Use the best microphone you can afford. You can use a standard receiver, lavaliere mics, or even a headset, but I recommend a USB microphone.
One of my favorites is the Blue Yeti. And don’t forget to get some microphone accessories to improve your audio quality further. Pop filters, foam balls, shock mounts, and acoustic panels are critical if you’re recording in a small room.
Having a good set of noise-canceling headphones will help tremendously during the editing process. They also come in handy when conducting interviews and recording someone.
3. Screen recording program
If you’re creating a class on a piece of software or computer program, you’ll have to show the screen to highlight the work you’re doing. There are lots of options when it comes to screen recording software, but one of my favorites is Screencast-o-matic.
4. USB Webcam
Mostly all online courses will require live webinars or videos of an instructor for a personal classroom feel.
Recording equipment can include something as simple as your iPhone or a webcam, or run up to professional DSLR camcorders. The most significant factor is your budget.
5. Audio and video editing software
Once you’re done shooting your course, the real magic happens with editing. Some of my favorite options include Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. If you’re looking to spruce up your animations, try Adobe After Effects.
6. Lighting and accessories
Quality three-point lighting is crucial to ensure your instructor shines (pun intended). You can purchase a full studio light set or only some accessories for your iPhone.
Either way, you’ll want to research interview lighting techniques to certify you look professional.
3. Create Valuable Content.
This one is a no-brainer. You need a detailed vision of who your ideal students are and what they are interested in learning.
Do they want to develop a new skill and earn an online certificate? Do they want to help grow their own business? By understanding your audience’s pain points, you can create a vision for your course.
Create compelling video courses. Use video plus interactive worksheets, PDFs, quizzes, and other elements to engage with your students on a deeper level. Also, make sure to condense learning into shorter sentences – no one wants to read long paragraphs.
4. Differentiate Your Website.
Focus on your niche and provide the absolute best content with a focus on your unique value proposition (UVP). Unless you want to become the next EdX, you have to specialize and be the best at an exceptionally focused niche.
Offer an exclusive hook statement and differentiate your course’s UVP out of the gate. Ask yourself: What makes my course different than the rest?
For example, if your niche is graphic design, don’t create a course called “Graphic Design for Beginners.” That’s too broad. A class called “Adobe InDesign for Ebook Publishers” is more focused and more natural to market.
Don’t focus on too many different areas. Your online course should have one focal point and not stray away from it or go off-topic. Only after you see some initial success with your teachings should you diversify into other topics.
5. Take Time to Market Your Business.
After pouring all of your hard work into creating your course, your job is just getting started. Now you need to market it.
You need a dedicated website. To help people find you and view you as an expert in your field, you need a professional web presence. Your website should have an active blog with content related to your niche, which is search engine optimization (SEO) optimized.
Build a social media following. Create your own Facebook Business page so that you can engage with your community. Share your latest updates on Twitter and Instagram.
Having a regular post schedule and providing engaging social media content will help build a community behind your brand.
6. Have Control Over Your Brand.
You should have complete control over your brand. You should be able to set your pricing and policies, incorporate your logo, and make the experience consistent with your business.
If you are developing your brand, you should be the face of the course and have the ability to showcase your personality in the class design.
7. Deliver an Exceptional Learning Experience.
The platform should deliver a great learning experience. You should include multiple content types like audio, text, documents, and more. Other features to look for include the ability to create quizzes and send completion certificates, forums, and “drip” courses sent to students over time.
8. Integrate with Other Tools.
Choose a platform that integrates well with other solutions. You’re going to want to make sure your learning platform can work with other tools like email marketing services, analytics solutions, and more.
Check for popular integrations with tools like MailChimp, Google Analytics, WordPress, and more. For example, if you started a blog and are selling courses with a WordPress site, you need to choose a platform that can easily integrate into your current website.
If you do want to create an online course business with WordPress, you can search their plugin directory for a list of the right plugins:
9. Align Sales with Your Budget in Mind.
The platform should fit your budget and offer flexible pricing options. To make money selling online courses, you need to spend money. But by looking into pricing information first, you get a better understanding of your potential return on investment.
You should also be on the lookout to see if any platforms charge a hidden transaction fee on your course sales.
When creating your online course and choosing an online learning platform, most paid plans remove heavy transaction fees.
10. Leverage Customer Support if You Need It.
The platform should offer excellent customer support and training. A lot of services offer free resources and training, a dedicated account manager, and a helpful instructor community that can help you succeed.
Make use of those resources if you’re stuck – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What Are the Most Popular Online Courses?
Whether you want to sell online courses from your website or use another platform, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the most popular classes this year.
It’s challenging to come up with great ideas to engage students. The Online Course Report recently came out with their list of the 80 highest-rated on-demand courses.
Their catalog includes some of the most popular and highly rated online courses:
- EdX: The Science of Everyday Thinking
- Udemy: The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0
- Udemy: SEO Beginners: How I Get 1,000 Visitors a Day with SEO
- Coursera: An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python
This is the most popular developer class.
As you can see from this list, students are looking for highly informative, impactful education. Now you don’t need to top the list to be successful.
But you need to create classes that are not only high quality but also train your students on topics they love.
Summary and Top Picks
When choosing between the best online course platforms, remember to do your research: consider the student experience, marketing features, and pricing.
The truth is, all of the best online course platforms let you easily upload your content, provide training for your students, and generate course sales.
All offer course creation tools and features for online teaching.
Ultimately, the critical factor is you.
The success of your course and ability to sell courses online is based on both the quality of your content and how well you can market yourself.
A platform is just that, a platform.
Yes, it’s a branded, engaging, interactive piece of media with your insights and experience, but it still needs planning, market research, development, and most importantly, marketing.
Here are my final top picks:
- Thinkific: Best Overall Online Course Platform
- Learnworlds: Best for Interactive Learning
- Teachable: Best for Beginners
- Kajabi: Best for High-End Information Businesses
With all of the high-end features you need at the most affordable price, Thinkific is the clear overall winner.
Ultimately, with an endless amount of topics to teach, and millions of students ready to learn from you, why not get started today?
15+ Best Online Course Platforms in 2022
Last updated: Jan 2022
It is no secret that online courses are more popular than ever. The latest data shows the eLearning market will grow to $375 billion in 2026! Publishing your own course is a big opportunity with so many people eager to learn.
But to craft and sell an online course you’ll need the right tools. You need an online course builder. I know, I’m building a course myself. In this guide, I review the best online course platforms for you. So take a breath and lets dive in.
In this guide:
1. The best Online Course Platforms
These are the best platforms where you create and host your online courses:
Thinkific – Best overall online course platform (free or $39 month)
Teachable – Best platform for starters (free trial or $29 / month)
Podia – Simple and to the point course platform (free trial or $39 / month)
Learnworlds – Create most engaging, professional online courses (free trial – $29 / month)
2. The best All-in-One Course Platforms
These are the best tools to build your course, website and marketing all from one platform:
Thinkific – Best overall online course platform (free trial or $39 / month)
Learnworlds – Create most engaging, professional online courses (free trial or $29 / month)
Kajabi – A complete, high-end online course platform with community ($119 / month)
Academy of Mine – High-end enterprise eLearning environment ($599 / month)
3. The best WordPress LMS Plugins
Install and host your online courses on your own WordPress site:
LearnDash – Best overall WordPress LMS Plugin ($189)
LifterLMS – Modern WordPress LMS Plugin ($360 / year)
Masterstudy – WordPress LMS Theme with Plugins included (starts at $55 )
4. The best Online Learning Marketplaces
Learning platforms to take courses, where you could also sell your course.
Udemy – Best for general knowledge learning and trainers
Skillshare – Best for creative courses and teaching
Coursera– Best for Academic courses
Code Academy – Best for programming
Selecting the best online course platform the quick way (and how I was dumb to “waste” 50+ hrs in research)
One thing you need to know upfront. Most e-learning tools aren’t made for selling your online course or marketing your business.
Nope, most online course software is made for corporate and internal training. An LMS (Learning Management Systems) like that is extremely customizable and can cost a fortune.
But if you are looking to sell or market your online course, it’s a lot easier. There are only 4 different types of online course software.
I was dumb, worked through all of the platforms, and listed all of their features. I got overwhelmed twice along the way. Don’t repeat my mistake please.
Looking in the right category makes it super easy to pin down the best online course platform. So I divided this article up into the types:
|If you want to…
|You’ll need an…
|• Create and host your online course.
|Online Course platform
|• Have your course, website and course marketing together in one platform.
|All-in One Course Platform
|• Host your courses on your own WordPress site. (only for those technical enough to do it.)
|WordPress LMS Plugin
|• Put your course on their site, so they try to sell your course for you. (also called online learning platforms).
|Course Selling Marketplace
You know, after hours and hours of researching there are only a few top course platforms. Provided you first pick the right flavor. Know the type you want, and you are down to one or two good choices.
All of the listed online course platforms are good choices. That’s also what the online course reviews by new and longtime users tell. And with creating courses, don’t waste too much time on the platform selection: just get started. Getting started is the hard part.
Based on your preferences, any of these can be your ideal tool. Also, if a company has an affiliate program, we will usually join. It is no cost to you, and we can see how much new business we drive to them and get you some discounts because of that.
I have personally tried and vetted most of the online course software listed here, but STARTED WITH ZERO EXPERIENCE on online course tools, just like you. And we are building online courses on all of them now, to give the insider scoop.
Time to review which online course creation tools there are!
What is an online course platform? and how will it help me be successful?
An online course platform is a tool that helps you build your online course, host it, and market it to your customers.
A virtual course can be much like an offline course in a lot of ways:
- Students are enthusiastic about a new course the heard about and enroll
- The teacher gives an inspiring class through video, slides, presentation, text, and downloadable course material.
- The students follow the course through the learning management systems (LMS) software. They can take notes, watch videos, complete exercises, and test their knowledge in exams and assessments.
An online course platform gives you a clean framework for these steps, so you don’t have to worry about the technical side of it. And can focus on the content of your courses.
An online course platform gives students access to digital classes. The best online course platforms offer everything you need to create, market, and sell a successful online course.
You’d be surprised at how much functionality goes into these tools: Web hosting, domain name, landing page designer, video and content hosting, quiz and survey, shopping cart or payment gateway, email marketing…the list goes on.
Everybody has something to teach, but you’ll need the right tools to create and market your e-courses.
The Best online course Platforms
Here is a review of online course platforms with pros and cons. Giving you a comparison of the best e-learning tools. We also look at cost plus on how easy it is to build and sell your course.
1. Thinkific Review – Online course platform
Thinkific is one of the most popular online course platforms. They help you create and sell your digital courses. It includes easy-to-use features, email marketing tools, membership site integration, and 5 star-rated 24/7 customer support.
It is an all-in-one online course system, but you can also use it in combination with your site and marketing tools.
Thinkific standout features:
Thinkific is a great choice as a complete platform to build and promote your courses.
- Support for all types of media and external resources: file types, including video, PDF, Audio, HTML, quizzes, surveys. But also outside resources such as Typeform, Articulate, and Storyline, which liven up your course for an amazing training experience.
- Full e-commerce and student enrollment/tracking functionality. It has reporting to keep track of your sales and student progress.
- Integrations with tools such as Segment.io that means if you want to connect the data with another system, that is easy.
- Completely white-label your course platform, so no one can see that Thinkific is under the hood.
- The knowledge base is excellent. Every time you have a question, You will be able to find an answer right away.
Help getting started and creating your online course
What I like very much is that Thinkific is helping you to get started and launch their courses. That is what the Thinkific Fast Track is about.
You can get the Thinkific Fast Track via my link here. That includes a free month of the whole online course maker. Fast Track is a free course where they will take you by the hand and build out your course in 3 hours, so you can launch it in 30 days or less.
Get Thinkific quick launch training
What does Thinkific cost?
I suggest you take advantage of the free trial that Thinkific has. They also have a free course creator version. Thinkific paid starts at $39 per month.
The Pro version $99 ($79 with our discount) has a membership site and more payment and customization options. There are zero transaction fees.
Thinkific discounts and extras
Yes, as mentioned, there is a Thinkific discount of 20% if you go for the annual plan. So the platform becomes $31, no transaction fees.
2. Teachable review – Online course platform
Teachables’ catchphrase is “Everything is Teachable.” I see what you did there! 😀
Teachable is a very popular online course creation software. They have over 124,000+ instructors and over 28 Million students. That’s a lot!
The course pages look beautiful. Set-up is simple and you don’t need any technical knowledge.
Teachable is best for course creators
Teachable is great for course creators that want to get started fast. You won’t be able to customize every single small detail of your pages, but in return, it is easy to use and quick to set up. The platform has perks like unlimited courses, unlimited students, and full course hosting included. You can customize the site and add personal branding.
Teachable is easy to use, both for building smaller courses and more advanced / longer online training and membership sites.
Getting started with the Teachable Online Course Builder
Once you sign up for free, you’ll get access to the course creation software dashboard.
From there it is simple to start with the online course builder and set up everything including payment system, your course materials, the course landing and sales pages, and the rest.
Teachable features and special functions
Why do we like Teachable? Teachable might be the best online course platform for you, because it is so easy to use. But don’t discount these special functions:
- The Teachable course area has a professional design, which I think is important.
- Amazing is Teachable Discover, a marketplace where they help their client sell their courses.
- Video hosting is included, so you can upload your course videos directly.
- Teachable lets you run an affiliate program, so letting others sell your course (while you sit back?)
- Teachable has its own payment processor. They might be the only one that does that, there are the transaction fees (just like other payment processors).
A minor point is that you can’t totally whitelabel your course platform if you would like that.
What does Teachable cost?
Teachable has a free online course creator version, so you can start making your course and check out the platform without any risk.
The free course creation tool includes unlimited courses, unlimited videos etc. But it comes with a 10% transaction fee. After that, the starting price is $39/month for the Basic plan.
The teachable business version is for real corporate users. With advanced quizzes, more customization, and 100 users. The business plan has no transaction fees and clocks in on $299, but…. There is a discount which brings us to:
Teachable discount and extras:
There are Teachable discounts. 20% discount if you choose to pay per year. The Basic plan is only $29/month while the Business plan billed annually is $249/month. You get a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.
You can sign up and give it a test run via my link below.
Get Teachable here
3. LearnWorlds Review – Online course and LMS software
Learnworlds is one of the top online course platforms for creating, selling and marketing your online courses. LearnWorlds is nearly an all-in-one teaching tool. It has more functionality for the creation of amazing online courses and training programs than others.
You can add interactive video’s with pop-up texts and quizzes, there is social learning/community, and even interactive eBooks (with note-taking) to add to your course.
LearnWorlds is good for beginners and advanced
LearnWorlds is a good fit for beginners and advanced trainers. Even if you are creating your first online training, you can get your course set-up in a few hours.
Teachers can grow into more advanced features after their first launch.
Learnworlds stands out from the competition because you can make courses with a high level of student interactivity and engagement.
Getting started with the online course builder
Once you sign up, you gain access to the course admin area. All the options you need are on one screen. After a minute you know where all the functions are (in the left side navigation).
You can start adding the lessons in the online course builder, add users, videos, content. Fill your sales and signup pages and all the marketing materials, and lastly look at reports.
LearnWorlds Features and special functions
LearnWorlds is in this list of best online course platforms for a reason. We like it because it has a bunch of unique features that add value to you (and your students.)
- Interactive eBooks, where learners can make notes while they’re reading.
- A built-in social network, to connect students with each other, without the need for Facebook groups.
- Strong course assessments, Test student knowledge, including quizzes, assignments, and exams.
- An automated newspaper feature, make communication relevant and share article headlines, social posts, etc.
- Interactive video with pop up text, links to more resources, navigation, and in-video questionnaires.
- Sell your course with a sales page builder that is easy to use and has hundreds of quick-start templates on every plan.
- Your own Mobile App. With LearnWorlds you can create a mobile app for your school. Interact on mobile and get in front of new potential customers in Google Play and Apple App Store.
What does LearnWorlds cost?
You can try Learnworlds for free with all functionality. If you like the platform, the paid version is only $29/month. That includes a custom domain and unlimited paid courses. $99/ month gives extra a full site builder with unlimited pages, membership payment options, and no transaction fees.
The biggest version is the online learning center, that is when you want to have a full online school with 20 teachers, and 1000s of students. One of the best online teaching platforms. That is pretty impressive.
Learnworlds Discounts and extra’s
Are there any extra or discounts for LearnWorlds available? Well, yes there are. I’d say to take advantage of their 30-day free trial. And if you want the full experience in a paid plan:
Normally the price would be $29 and $ 99 a month, but you get a LearnWorlds discount of 20% on a yearly plan. Also, full access to their LW teaching Academy with help to make your course.
LW has generously offered you a Learnworlds discount code on top of that. Use code “JVR30” for 30% off for the first month on monthly Pro Trainer plans or above.
You can get started today and get a month free and the Academy for free with my link below.
Best online course platforms (All in one)
Vendors like Kajabi and Thinkific can take care of everything for you. From course building to web security, online course hosting, to marketing your online learning products.
If you want to sell courses and build a business around it, but don’t have other tools like a website or email marketing tool yet, this is the easiest to get started.
In selling your e-learning courses, it is smart to pick the set-up that is easiest to start. So you can focus on the course creation and successfully sell your courses.
4. Thinkific as an all-in-one platform
Thinkific is also great as a hosted online course platform + marketing + sales + eCommerce + membership tool.
The all in one Thinkific set up is especially interesting if you want to create a course in no time. You get a lot of pre-made resources. And templates to design sales pages, so it’s easier to validate your course idea and take off. Creating the basic offer and test if people are eager to join!
You can still use your own email marketing tool and website CMS like WordPress, WooCommerce, and all of those if you want. But Thinkific has your back on those as well.
- Full e-commerce and student enrollment/tracking functionality. It has reporting to keep track of your sales and student progress.
- Included checkout pages – and Payment gateway integration
- Website and sales page creation a CMS with lots of templates
- Build sales funnels, lead magnet funnels, webinar funnels, etc.
- Full Membership area
- Built-in email marketing / automation tools
- White-label your course platform completely, so no one can see that Thinkific is under the hood.
Creating your online course in a flash
Thinkific can help you to get started and launch your course quickly. You can get the Thinkific Fast Track for free via my link here. That includes a month of the online course platform and a free course designed to take you by the hand and build out your course. It is 3 hours with power help, so you can launch your course in 30 days or less.
5. Kajabi Review – all in One platform: A bit more pricey but complete.
Kajabi is a full online teaching platform. It has an online course builder and all functionality for selling your course. Create landing pages, sales funnels, drip campaigns. In other words: get visitors to sign up for your courses.
You can do all of your email marketing from Kajabi. Including drip and follow up campaigns through their own Kajabi email. The course platform also integrates with email software like Mailchimp, Aweber, or ActiveCampaign.
Good looking out of the box + Theme marketplace
The pages and courses look great right out of the box. They have a good number of standard templates you can use.
And – and this is special – There is also a marketplace for themes if you want something different. Which is a great idea. An online course builder with pre-made designs and templates (from the community) and you won’t see that with Teachable, Thinkific, and alternatives.
Video hosting and streaming is included
Kajabi has Wistia (one of the best streaming video platforms) – standard integrated for your videos. This is all included in the price, baked in, considering Wista pro costs $99, that is a great deal.
Live events, virtual summits, etc. are easy to set up
Kajabi is very strong in live events. Set up virtual summits or conferences. The templates are all there for streaming classes/events. Start a Webinar in Kajabi and customize your funnel by just changing around the text and video links on the registration, promotional emails, and post-event follow-ups.
Customer support and Hero university
We need to mention Hero University, it is an online training and community that helps you as a user. The support and documentation are great, but if that isn’t enough, there is a lot going on in the community, also because companies have created custom themes and a lot of additional blogs online.
Standout features of Kajabi
According to Kajabi users, the most stand out and valued features are:
- Create an engaging course with video, PDFs digital products and mobile app.
- Memberships, quizzes, and assignments
- WordPress-like CMS for your pages and blog
- Build all kinds of funnels: product launch funnels, lead magnet funnels, webinar funnels, etc. Including with checkout pages – you can add up- and cross-sells.
- Simple payment cart included and integration with Stripe and PayPal
- Email and automation tools you will use
What does Kajabi cost?
The starting price for Kajabi is quite a bit higher than other platforms, which is a reflection of the width of all the features. There is a 14 day free trial and 30 day money back guarantee. The platform starts at $149, but there is also a discount which brings us to…
Kajabi discounts and extra’s
Kajabi offers a 20% discount with a yearly payment plan.
6. Podia review – online course software
Podia is a different kind of all-in-one e-learning and marketing platform. Podia offers everything you need to sell online courses, downloads, webinars, and memberships, but it limits in what you can tune about it. Upside: you don’t have to worry about the tech.
Strong points are no technical headaches, zero transaction fees, and unlimited everything. You can create a storefront in minutes and start selling your digital products.
Both the frontend (storefront) and the backend (course player) has a clean, modern design out of the box. It is super easy-to-use. But this ease of use comes with almost zero flexibility to customize. Every part of Podia, whether it’s the online course builder, page builder, you’ll find they always go for simplicity over customization options.
Podia launched in 2018 (before that it was called Coach). The freshness shows because the store-front and course design are sleek, minimalistic, and up to date. But there is only one design/theme and it doesn’t allow you to customize a lot. (did I say that already?)
There are fewer features compared to others. Like doing assignments or automatically grading quizzes is missing. You can’t do lessons with mixed media in one lesson. So if you want to do a video and a pdf download, you’ll have to create separate lessons/steps for each.
Who is Podia the best online course platform for?
Podia is simple and to the point. If you want to create a membership site or give a fairly simple online course, Podia could still be a good option. It doesn’t have a full width of features and customization like Podia alternatives.
For some creators, a simple way to email their customers is just what they need, so Podia offers a simple email tool included. Other creators may want more from their email marketing, so Podia integrates with the most popular email service providers out there. Including the ones we have reviewed like
Mailchimp and alternatives, in our Sendinblue review, Mailerlite review and such.
Podia Features and special functions
Podia is in this list under All in One platforms. the interesting thing is that users are not only selling courses, but also digital products (I heard somewhere it is also popular for crowdfunding?!)
- Podia uses Wistia and offers unlimited video hosting as part of your subscription.
- Free migration, to move your content from wherever it’s hosted or saved.
- Storefront and Sales pages
- Handles EU VAT / digital taxes
- Easily accept payments through Stripe or PayPal
- Email capture and email marketing tools for a sales funnel
- Live chat plugin included.
- Selling tools like coupons, upsells, affiliates, and more
What does Podia cost?
Podia pricing comes in two plans: Mover and Shaker. Or rather said, simple and full-featured. The notable important difference for shakers is they can offer memberships.
The starting price is $39, but you can always begin with the 14-day free trial.
There is a Podia discount of 2 months on a yearly plan. So that is a $78 to $398 discount on Podia, not so bad. 😀
You can sign up for a Podia trial via my link here
7. Academy of Mine – Enterprise online training software
Academy of Mine is one of those Enterprise training platforms.
The platform is the most expensive on this list starting at $599 per month. It is an all-in-one online training solution, and the team fully customizes your environment. A full website and branding for you to launch your brand and start selling courses online.
Academy of Mine can be a good choice for bigger businesses, with use cases for internal training, HR, your online language or coding school etc. Since it’s a complete course building and learning management system – it is a higher price point, but you get premium service.
- Create self-Paced Courses with free-form text, HTML, video, audio, Powerpoint, PDF, SCORM, TinCan, and more.
- Do live Virtual Training
With video conferencing, live chat, screen sharing, collaborative whiteboard, and presentations.
- Sell in bulk / Corporate and Group Onboarding
Because Academy of Mine caters to bigger schools and clients, they have specific functionality for bulk selling, directly to companies and businesses. A Group Onboarding feature allows to sell course seats in big numbers and delegate the student management process to representatives of the company.
- Advanced functionality includes In-Person bookings, Calendars, E-Books, Downloadable Products and for instance user roles with personal audit trail (no kidding, they mean business).
Best WordPress LMS plugins
A WordPress Learning Management System (LMS) is course software you install on your WordPress website. Obviously that only works if you already have a WordPress site and domain name.
In general this is attractive when you are a bit more tech-savvy and want to have (a lot of) additional control on everything.
8. Learndash Review – best WordPress LMS plugin
Learndash is a WordPress LMS plugin that will turn your WordPress website to a self hosted learning environment. LearnDash is also the most popular WordPress LMS plugin today. With an online course builder and lot of features.
One of the features in LearnDash since version 3.0 is their “Focus Mode”. Students will be void from distractions when they go through your course. (because all other things are hidden from your membership pages).
LearnDash LMS comes with a drag and drop online course builder. You can simply create courses with lessons, videos, quizzes, and more. Email drip campaigns are included. Of course you can offer all the lessons at once, but you can also build your online lessons and then send the content paced via the email drip feed.
Being a WordPress plugin, this Learning Management system works well with bbPress, MemberPress, and other WordPress eCommerce and membership plugins.
The Learndash WordPress LMS lets you sell individual courses, offer subscriptions, memberships, or use the shopping cart for selling access to your online training courses. Use a payment gateway like PayPal or Stripe. Once a student buys your course, a WordPress member profile is automatically created for them.
The automatically generated Certificates and Badges (with for instance their own name and scores) are a nice touch. So you can award your students with official certificates based on quiz performance and on completing a full course.
What does Learndash WordPress LMS cost?
You can start today with a $40 discount and a full 15-day money-back guarantee on their annual plans. You still have to figure out online course hosting, meaning where to host your online course videos, as I wouldn’t suggest uploading your course videos to your WordPress environment.
9. Lifter LMS: WordPress course software
LifterLMS is a powerful Learning Management Software plugin for WordPress. You can easily create and sell online courses on your own WordPress site.
You can expand the core functionalities by integrating extensions, including Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, and more. Of course you can also integrate with the email marketing or marketing automation platform you use.
Like LearnDash, LifterLMS offers features to engage your students, like certificates, badges, and some social interaction. It can mix with 1:1 coaching. The LMS platform can be used the sell individual courses, but you can also create and sell bundles or offer a membership site type (with discounts).
Get addons. for $120, or the universe bundle for for $360.
10. Masterstudy LMS – WordPress online course Plugin and theme
Masterstudy LMS is a modern online education and learning management system plugin for WordPress. The pages have a sleek design and it is very responsive thanks to being built completely in vue.js. The template builders at StylemixThemes developed the whole WordPress plugin and themes.
MasterStudy LMS has an easy to use course admin panel, a messaging system, quizzes, and course announcements.
As an online course builder, you can create three types of lessons: text lessons, video lessons, and slideshow lessons.
You can add in additional elements, use templates, and add text blocks per type.
The MasterStudy WordPress LMS Pro version has extra features like a Udemy Course Importer, Prerequisites, Online Testing and assignments, Sequential Drip Content, a Gradebook, Lessons Live Streaming, Group Courses, and WooCommerce integration. The full WordPress Educational Theme comes with more functions, including more customization options.
The best online learning Platforms (Marketplaces)
Online marketplaces for courses like Skillshare and Udemy are spending a lot of time to attract students (and course creators). They will do some of the selling for you and take a lot of design, hosting, etc headaches away. So we made a list of online learning platforms.
Just be aware that courses don’t really sell themselves. And even in one of the best online teaching platforms / Marketplaces like Udemy there is competition between course creators.
Udemy – best learning platform for general knowledge and business
Udemy is one of the most popular online learning platforms today. It certainly is the most visited to buy online courses, with more than 40 million students. The learners on this educational platform can use ratings and reviews to filter the highest quality. But is it a good place to build your course and sell it?
Pros of the Udemy learning platform:
Udemy allows course creation for everyone. You can use training materials like PDF documents, Powerpoint, text, and video content.
- No setup or platform cost
- Online course hosting is taken care of
- Self-paced learning and video courses
- No need for technical knowledge – at all
- A large built-in audience that might buy your courses.
The platform tends to promote the courses that are already selling well, so success also depends on your marketing. Udemy has control over the price of your course and often sells with a discount (good for students).
Udemy is good for teachers, instructors, educators, and freelancers who are just starting out with their online courses.
Pricing: You can start for free, the Udemy learning platform charges a 3% administration fee on courses you sold through your links.
The commissions on sales that Udemy sells for you is quite hefty, between 50 to 75%.
Go to Udemy
Skillshare – Best learning platform for Creative learning
Skillshare is one of the best online learning platforms. There are more than 4 million students and 24,000 lessons on their course marketplace.
Course lessons are between 20 – 60 minutes and courses are built with a series of small videos. There are class projects and a member community with interaction through a class discussion forum.
The online training platform has courses in the categories “Create, Build and Thrive”, but actually they are divided into four course categories.
1. Creative topics: This forms the biggest part of the training platform and ranges from Music lessons to graphic design, cooking, etc.
2. Business courses: like marketing, freelancing and business analytics
3. Web and technology: including web development, UX/UI design, and e-commerce.
4. Lifestyle: Learn languages, wellness, interior design, and more.
Nice about Skillshare is that, next to being online course creation software, it has a discussion forum where students can interact and give feedback. And it is a complete package. If a student goes premium, he can take over 20.000 classes for one fee. Some would pitch Skillshare vs Teachable in functionality – difference is of course that Teachable is primarily an online course hosting platform for your classrooms and not a marketplace.
Skillshare is good for teachers who want to make little income on the side. Instructors can make royalties from their courses and be in the Skillshare referral program.
Have a look at Skillshare here
Coursera – Best learning platform for Academics
Coursera is an online learning platform founded in 2012 by two former Stanford professors. Coursera instructors teach at top universities and big companies and offer MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses. Interesting for online learning, but unless you teach at Harvard, you can’t just create a course and arrange your online course hosting on Coursera.
There are the main courses, but also specializations, and online degrees in a variety of subjects like engineering, data science, machine learning, mathematics, business, computer science, digital marketing, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, etc. Coursera is free to sign up for, the training on the platform are mostly between 4-6 weeks with 2 calls a week. The price of certification and degrees are shown behind the login and run from $29-$99 /month and higher for the specializations.
The classes run up in levels so you can be able to build websites, apps, and many types of advanced programming.
In the free plan, there are 180 hours of learning, the Pro membership is also free for one week.
Learn to code at codeAcademy
How to create and sell an online course
There isn’t one fixed way to build your course, but here are the steps to creating your first course quickly.
1. Let the experts show you how to create your own course
I’d say the easiest way to learn how to create your course is to let an expert take you through it step by step.
Luckily, the platforms in this guide really want you to launch a successful course. Because it is the only way you’ll become and stay a customer.
So these experts often offer free training on how to launch your first course. They are typically set up to help you to launch your online course step by step.
The added benefit is that you also learn about creating courses by taking courses. You can go through the lessons and experience what you like to have in your training.
These are my favorite free trainings to launch your online course:
Learnworlds Academy (free)
Thinkific Fast track (free)
Take a course somewhere else: $500 bucks and maybe not so good?!
2. Pick a course topic your audience is interested in
Picking a course topic is as easy as knowing what people would like to learn. Everybody can teach something. Something you know just a bit more about than your students.
No need to overthink it. If it is your very first course or training, I would recommend you create a short course as the first one.
The only goal is to learn about course creation and get a feel for the course platform you’re working with.
While building your first course, you learn A LOT for your “real” second course. Later on, you can repurpose this short one to build your email list or even as the intro to your real course.
3 killer ideas for your first micro-course
Idea 1: Pick a smaller subtopic and make a three-lesson course from it.
If your topic is weightlifting: Create the first class about the correct posture
If your topic is email marketing: Create a first training on writing a great subject line.
A lesson structure can be
1: Why is it important and what will you learn.
2: A few do’s and don’ts
3: A few examples and one exercise.
Idea 2: Talk about the four biggest trends in [your topic]. Each trend is a lesson.
Idea 3: Find a big blog article about [your topic] and turn that into a few lessons.
I like the idea of starting with a micro-course / training because now is better than never to start making your online course a reality.
3. Figure out how much creating your online training costs
Some reports say that creating an online course is very expensive, an average of $3.000 – but that is a bit steep. You can go big in budget or keep an eye on costs.
You can build your online course on a very modest budget.
If you have PowerPoint, a laptop, a webcam, and a can-do attitude, you have everything you need to get started in course creation.
you can create a decent online course under $250. Put aside $100 – $500 as a budget to create the course. Your biggest costs will be the time you put into it.
The hosting, marketing, and selling your new course can be done through the course platforms we reviewed. Here is an overview of the 4 best online course platform prices. Starting PriceFree trial?View all pricingLearnworlds$24Yes, start hereView all pricingThinkific$49Yes, start hereView all pricingTeachable$39Yes, start hereView all pricingKajabi$119NoView all pricing
You might wonder, are there any free online course platforms? They are all a bit free. Either a free trial or you can start your first course for free. That will allow you to get started for free. After that, I know a free online course platform looks appealing, but realize the biggest investment is usually in time (not the platform).
4. The best equipment for creating an online course
You don’t need the most impressive set-up to craft an online course that sells like gangbusters. You do need some equipment though. Lets walk through your main course gear options.
Microphone:($30 – $99)
Even if your content is amazing, bad audio quality is a big turnoff for ea learning experience. Audio matters more than video.
- You can try the Samson Go Mic– a small USB microphone with great sound capture, costs around $30
- I have the Blue Yeti USB desk microphone myself. A bit more pricey, but great quality and you have the quick podcasters / course creator vibe built-in. It is one of the most popular microphones for creating webinars, courses and podcasts.
Webcam / Camera ($0 – $60)
Most laptops and computers come with a built-in camera, so you might not need an extra. But if you need a webcam–or want to upgrade to higher quality have a look at the Logitech BRIO Ultra HD. Place it on your monitor and record 4K video. For some trainings you may want to show off your skills on camera or on location. Fortunately, your smartphone has an amazing quality camera built-in.
Screen capture recording software ($0 – $20)
Monitor and screen capture, mixed with your video is a format often used for online courses and mixed learning. At the moment I am using Zoom.us (for meetings and online live training) and Loom for screen and video capture. They both have free options. Make sure to download all your video’s and let attendees know if they will be recorded with regards to their privacy.
Lighting kit ($0 – $50)
There is a lot to be said about lighting your video course recording. Natural light is usually best to use (and free), just sit close to the window facing it for even lighting. A ring light or desk lighting kit will make sure your training videos are even well lit in the evening.
Cool Course Creators Coffee mug (you know you want it!) $10
So you see that the best course creators don’t need the world to get a great course going. If your video course is a “talking heads” presentation style, it is similar to what you would need for a conference call or webinar!
How to choose the best online course platform for your business
As you’ve realized by now, the best online course platform will depend completely on your needs.
Here are a few recommendations based on specific wishes:
- You want the best tool to create your online course with engaging content and experience
– Check out Thinkific or Learnworlds.
- You need an all-in-one tool for online courses, email marketing, website, memberships and sales funnels
– Thinkific is for you.
- You’re mainly looking for a quality e-Learning tool, but you still want full email marketing and drip campaigns
– Go for Teachable
- Your online course software should have a solid membership and login section:
– Thinkific and Kajabi are the platforms to look into.
- You are looking to get a running start and help with setting up your training.
– You’ll find Learnworlds (with their Academy), Teachable, and Thinkific to be very helpful.