The online learning industry continues to grow as more people seek to learn new skills. Online course creators have an opportunity to become a part of a $300B+ industry. However, you must be strategic before deciding on how to create and sell an online course. Choosing the right online course platform is one of the most important step.
In this list post, lets talk about 13 popular online course platforms of 2021. But first, lets take a quick look at the factors to consider when selecting an online course platform.
What Factors to Consider while Selecting a Course Platform?
There are many online course platforms on the internet. But, you must use a platform that will help you meet your needs. An excellent online course platform should help you create and sell your course.
So what factors you should consider before signing up for an online course platform?
- Type of the online course platform
- Your budget
- User experience
- Customer Support and resources
#1. Platform Type
As an online course creator, you need to determine the type of online course you want to deliver. Different online course platforms belong to various categories based on their functionality.
The most popular different types of an online course platform include:
- Hosted online course platforms
- All-in-one online course platforms
- WordPress LMS plugins
- Online course marketplaces
A hosted online course platform means that you can create and sell your course on their platform without worrying about the hosting or technical know how. However, most of the hosted online course platforms lack major marketing features. For instance, you cannot create a marketing funnel using the hosted platforms.
An All-in-one online course platform will allow you to create, sell and market your online course. They have compelling marketing and email features included.
Beginner creators with independent websites can opt for the WordPress LMS plugins. These are plugins that will help you deliver your online course. An excellent example of a WordPress LMS plugin is the LifterLMS platform. These platforms are budget-friendly and very easy to use.
Lastly, online course marketplaces do more than host your course. You will find a detailed outline for each one of these online course platforms in the next section.
#2. Your budget
Online course platforms have different pricing plans. If you are a beginner course creator, I would advise you to start with a free or basic plan. Well, unless you have a lot of starting capitals.
Most online course platforms allow you to upgrade your plan to access additional features. It is called the pay as you grow pricing models. You can always scale your online course business.
#3. Customer Support
You will need an online course platform with reliable customer support. Choose a platform that allows you to chat, email, or schedule a call with the customer support team.
Most online course platforms also invest in help center pages. Here, you will find all the information you could need about the platform.
#4. User Experience
I always advise beginners to register for a trial version of an online course platform. It will give you some time to monitor the platform’s performance. Luckily, most platforms offer 14-day to 30 day free trial offers.
You should also do some research on the features of various platforms before choosing one. Check out the reviews and user testimonials before settling for an online course platform.
Most online course platforms will need third-party integrations to boost performance. Besides, not all online course platforms have in-built features like a payment processor. You might also need additional marketing tools such as GetResponse for email marketing.
Choose an online course platform that allows integration with your preferred apps. These are some of the factors that should guide you to choose an excellent online platform to create and sell your course.
The Popular and Best Online Course Platforms of 2021?
Creating and selling an online course has proved to become one of the most profitable businesses in 2021. Experts and trainers can make a lot of money given that we are always trying to improve ourselves. Well, here are the 13 best online course platforms you can use to earn from your expertise:
Hosted Online Course Platforms
A lot of online courses are built on hosted online course platforms. These platforms are beginner-friendly, and you do not need any tech skills to create and launch your online course.
They come with a course builder, and you can also create a website and a sales page using a hosted online platform.
I will highlight a short review of each one of the above-listed online course platforms. I hope that by the end of this article, you can choose an online course platform that will meet your needs.
Podia is among the most preferred online course platforms. It is not only a course creator but allows you to sell your digital products. These could include a PDF file, e-book, or even videos. I think a lot of creators choose Podia because it is both affordable and easy to use.
Podia is better than its alternatives but has a steep learning curve. The drag-and-drop editor makes the platform easy to use and very customizable. Besides, Podia provides many templates that you can choose to edit before launching your site. You will also find attractive course player templates.
Podia also allows you to sell individual digital products. If you want to sell an e-book or a video tutorial, go for this platform. I also think that Podia is an excellent platform since it has in-built marketing features. You can create a sales page even though you cannot formulate a complete marketing funnel.
Podia allows you to create a sales page even though you must learn the dashboard. Once you know how to use the platform, Podia delivers a good marketing experience. Creating a new website can also be a complex process.
Podia also has an affiliate program for creators. You can also use third-party integrations to enhance the functionality of the platform. These could range from payment processors, Coupons, and email marketing.
If you have an existing WordPress website, Podia will offer free migration.
Unfortunately, Podia does not allow you to generate work certificates. This platform lacks a mobile app, and you cannot import content from the cloud.
Podia has very fair pricing, starting at $39/month for the Mover plan. It is an excellent platform for online course creators who want to monetize their digital products.
Thinkific is a popular online course platform, thanks to its fair pricing. The basic plan goes for $49 per month, and you can access all the tools you need to create and sell your course. I recommend Thinkific because it is straightforward to use with excellent course delivery.
Thinkific also has a website builder with plenty of templates. You can select your theme based on your course industry.
One of the most exciting features of Thinkific is the ability to generate a course certificate. You can customize and award your students with a certificate when they complete the course. Additionally, Thinkific allows you to create surveys, assignments, and quizzes for your students.
I also like their student area interface because you can engage with your students. You can also create a student community for interactive discussions.
You can upload different types of course content. Thinkific supports PDF files, text content, videos, and even live sessions with your students.
In terms of marketing, Thinkific allows a wide range of integrations. This platform also has payment processors, upsells coupons, and coupons for marketing.
Thinkific has reasonable pricing plans depending on the size of your business and your requirements. You can use the free trial to see if this platform works for you. The preliminary program is $49/month, while the Pro plan goes for $99/month.
You can use Thinkific to create engaging courses supported by quizzes and student surveys. The software has a very rich knowledgebase, and you can always contact the customer support team.
Teachable is an online course software that supports course creation and coaching. If you like teaching to share your knowledge, Teachable has a lot to offer. You can also upload different content forms such as videos, PDF files, e-books, audio, and text content.
Teachable has an easy-to-use dashboard and a drag-and-drop editor. The learners’ portal allows students to attend the lessons at a self-paced approach. Besides, you can track your learner’s progress and when they have completed the classes.
You can also create quizzes to engage with your students when using Teachable. I think that this online course platform offers more than creating and selling a course. Teachable also has some in-built sales and marketing features. However, you will have to use integrations to activate the full functionality of the platform.
Teachable comes with unique templates to help you build your website or course. It is also mobile-friendly, which delivers a great learning experience to your students.
It’s a shame that Teachable does not have a sales funnel builder or email marketing automation features. But don’t let this discourage you, as you can opt to use integrations to improve functionality and course delivery.
Another downside to using Teachable for your online courses is that you cannot build a community. Teachable does not support membership sites and offers limited app integrations.
Overall, Teachable is a brilliant option for beginner online course creators. It is easy to navigate and allows you to award your students with completion certificates. Teachable is a brilliant choice for online course creators who want to scale their business.
Teachable pricing starts at $39/month with a 5% transactional fee. You can avoid the transactional feel if you use the Pro plan to host your course. Both plans do not limit the number of learners you can accept at a time.
Kajabi is among the most advanced online course platforms on the internet. It is also an all-in-one platform that allows you to create, sell, and market your online course. Kajabi would be a brilliant choice for businesses or established course creators. However, beginner creators will find Kajabi too complex.
Kajabi offers plenty of marketing features to ensure successful course pre-sale, email automation, and course upsells.
You will access 5+ website and course templates that you can customize using the drag-and-drop editor. If you are looking for a course platform for professional online course delivery, Kajabi would be ideal.
You can upload all forms of content to enhance your course. These could be videos lessons, PDF files, assignments, e-books, quizzes, and generate certificates for your students. This makes your online course more interactive. Kajabi has a mobile app where you can access your dashboard.
I like that Kajabi has a lot of resources to guide you through the course creation process. But, you will need to spend a lot of time learning the platform. You can also visit the Kajabi University to learn more about the platform.
Besides, Kajabi has responsive customer support. Their team will get back to answer all your questions and guide you through the platform. You can be sure that they will always respond.
Kajabi has an upside when it comes to sales and marketing your online course. You can build an entire sales funnel via the sales pipeline builder. This might include a landing page, in-built email marketing tools, and Kajabi does not charge any transaction fees.
Kajabi has an expensive pricing plan, thanks to their executive features. Their basic plan starts at $119/month, and their Pro plan is $319/month. Kajabi is a good option if you are scaling your business.
Kartra is an excellent option for people looking for online course marketing software. It offers a lot of automation, and you do not need to integrate with third-party apps to perform well. And besides, Kartra allows you to create membership sites to build your online community.
Kartra does not focus on course creation more than it focuses on marketing. I also like their user interface because it allows you to automate all your marketing efforts.
Kartra also comes with a ready sales funnel and ad campaign ideas. You can also create your website or sales page without having to use integrations. It would be a good choice for entrepreneurs and online course creators working within a budget.
One unique feature with Kartra is that you can automate all the tasks. For instance, Kartra will send follow-up emails to your subscribers. Kartra also allows you the freedom to manage your email list.
Unfortunately, Kartra does not have a free trial. On the upside, Kartra allows you to host and market live webinars and documentary videos. At the same time, Kartra has reliable 24/7 customer support and a knowledge base. You can also schedule a phone call with the customer support team. Members also have access to the community forum.
You will also love other Kartra features such as email auto-responder, campaign management, and reliable analytics. Kartra also offers access to a CRM, and it allows credit card processing.
Kartra pricing starts at $79/month, and there is no free trial.
LearnWorlds delivers an interactive learning experience by adding quizzes and assignments. Using LearnWorlds, you can customize your online course videos by adding captions and subtitles. LearnWorld also allows you to upload downloadable content.
Besides, LearnWorlds allows you to create exams for your students for enhanced interaction. You can also generate a completion certificate for your students. LearnWorlds has invested in a modern course player and allows you to edit your videos after the upload.
In terms of marketing, LearnWorlds features a page builder. The builder allows you to create a website and also a sales page to fuel your marketing efforts. LearnWorlds also offers coupons for e-commerce users.
LearnWrold will charge you 5% transaction fees on every sale that you make. However, this is only for the basic plan as the Pro plan does not charge any transaction fees. LearnWorlds is beginner-friendly even though the platform does have a mobile app.
LearnWorlds has an analytics feature, but it does not generate valuable data. You will also have to pay to access the themes, and it can be limiting. LearnWorlds pricing starts at $29/month, while the Learning Centre goes for $299/month.
WordPress LMS Plugins (Self Hosted)
Investing in an online course platform is a big decision. It means that you will spend more money and probably need to learn the platform of your choice. But, you can also deliver your online course from your existing WordPress website through a WordPress LMS plugin.
However, there is a downside to using LMS online course plugins platforms.
- You need to buy separate domain and hosting.
- You need to setup WordPress on your new website.
- You need to install LMS on your WordPress site.
- Buy a Video hosting platform to host your course videos
The gist is that you must have the technical skills to manage and optimize your online course.
And there are some upsides too:
- You are in full control of what exactly you want to achieve, display or configure for your students.
- These plugins can help you to monetize your online course even with Ads.
Let’s look at the four best WordPress LMS plugins in detail:
Online course creators and universities have used LearnDash to build online education centers for years. Well, LearnDash offers exciting features to facilitate course creation and marketing. We covered a detailed article on how to use LearnDash earlier. Hop on the link in case you missed it earlier.
I think that the LearnDash drag-and-drop editor makes it very easy to use. You can customize your online course to boost engagement and performance. Besides, LearnDash allows a lot of integrations that extend its functionality.
LearnDash is a good plugin for creators and trainers who want to interact with the students. Thus, it allows you to create quizzes, prerequisites, and exams. You can also generate certificates and badges for your students.
For sales functions, LearnDash comes with an in-built shopping cart. You can process payments using various processors, including Stripe and Paypal.
However, LearnDash prices their plans annually. The basic plan will license one website and goes for $159/year. The Plus package facilitates more than ten websites and costs $189/year. I think LearnDash has a reasonable pricing strategy.
LearnDash is one of the most popular online course LMS plugins. It would be an excellent choice for beginner course creators.
LifterLMS is an ideal alternative to LearnDash. It offers a free trial plan to test the waters before paying for your plan. We recently covered how LifterLMS offer an impressive user interface and suitable for creators who want to boost student engagement.
With LifterLMS, you can create quizzes, assignments and later generate completion certificates. Additionally, this plugin lets you create a learning path to guide your students, and you can develop a community forum.
Besides, you can use the add-ons to increase the functionality of your online course. LifterLMS has robust e-commerce features, including a one-time or recurring payment processor. You can also use the coupons to boost your sales.
LifterLMS allows you to create and sell one online course, but you can also build an entire learning center. I think this gives the platform an upper hand in terms of online course delivery. LifterLMS has responsive customer support and is mobile-friendly.
Overall, LifterLMS delivers an excellent learning experience. It is a good platform for business and corporate trainers as well as scaling online course businesses.
LifterLMS pricing starts at $99/year, making it a better option for LearnDash. I think the LifterLMS plugin offers good value for money.
Tutor LMS is a simple WordPress LMS plugins for online course creators. The plugin has a very effective learning portal that enhances course delivery. It is an excellent choice for beginner and experienced corporate and business trainers who are using WordPress Websites.
Besides the excellent course authoring feature, Tutor LMS has friendly themes for online courses. The plugin also integrates with WooCommerce to drive course sales. It does offer a free trial plan which is a plus for beginners.
However, there are several things that I don’t particularly like about Tutor LMS. First, the platform does not support quizzes, assignments, or even exams for evaluation. As a result, there is minimal interaction between the trainer and the students.
Second, Tutor LMS cannot generate completion certificates for students. And third, you cannot rely on their customer support.
Tutor LMS has compelling features that will help you develop an online course. It allows integration with multiple third-party Apps to monitor and enhance performance. You can start with the free trial before committing to a standard plan that costs $149/year.
If you want an all-in-one online course platform, AccessAlly is also a good choice. It offers features that facilitate creating, marketing, and selling your online course. You can also use the membership feature to build your online community.
It has a drag-and-drop editor that will allow you to customize your course site. AccessAlly is one of the WordPress LMS plugins that enable you to create quizzes, assignments and track student performance.
For marketing and sales, AccessAlly allows integration with multiple apps. You can also create order forms and run your affiliate marketing program.
AccessAlly hosts more than 100,000 businesses and online course creators with over 2 million learners. The cheapest plan costs $99/month, making it a little pricey.
Unfortunately, AccessAlly does not offer a free trial.
Online Course Marketplaces
Online course marketplaces allow different creators to list their courses for sale. In exchange, the marketplace takes a specific percentage per sale. Some platforms will charge as low as 25%, and others can charge a commission of up to 75%.
Online course market places are a great way to create, market, and sell your course without any third-party applications.
But, there is one thing I dislike about the online course marketplaces. They allow minimum control over your student’s details. Online course market places restrict trainers from accessing their email lists.
Your students are basically marketplace students, not yours.
This can be discouraging for creators who plan to be in the business for a long time.
The upside is you get lot of student enrollments pretty quickly and that too without spending any money on advertisements; which you would ideally do with a hosted or self hosted platforms.
Let’s look at the best online course marketplaces on the internet in 2021.
This name is the most common. Almost everyone has learned something on Udemy, whether creative or professional skills. It is the most prominent online course marketplace. Trainers can optimize their courses to become searchable on Udemy.
Udemy customer support will also guide you through the course creation process. Beginner online course creators can take advantage of the help to set up their courses. Unfortunately, this also means that Udemy will limit you from customizing your course as you please.
When using Udemy, you do not have to worry about marketing your course. Udemy has a solid marketing strategy to promote all the online courses listed on the platform.
Udemy does have an impressive course player and supports any form of content. You can upload PDF files, E-books, or video tutorials on Udemy.
Udemy will charge you a commission of 50% per course sale. If you decide to promote and market your online course independently, Udemy will charge 3% per sale. Besides, you will not pay Udemy to start creating your online system. This means that you can monetize your skills as soon as you make your first course.
SkillShare is also an effective online course marketplace. It is a brilliant choice for creatives who want to teach their skills. Besides, you do not need a lot of experience to start selling your online course after registration.
SkillShare allows multiple types of content, including video lessons. You can create short educational video lessons ranging from 20-60 minutes.
With SkillShare, creators can design a class project with a sequence of 10-25 minutes. SkillShare also supports student workshops and live classes. But there is a huge downside to using SkillShare to make money since you need 25 students before you can earn.
SkillShare will be challenging if it is your only source of income. But it is an excellent choice for beginners to start selling online courses. It is also the perfect side hustle for creatives. You will become an online tutor without having to pay for the platform.
OpenSesame is an online course marketplace for business and corporate trainers. It allows you to build your profile and upload your course before listing it on their marketplace.
Being a cloud-based system, the platform allows you access to any learning machine system on the internet. And you can use the dashboard to monitor your course sales. However, OpenSesame will charge you a commission of 50% of the total sales.
OpenSesame has a responsive customer support team. You can either use the online live chat, email or reach them via the phone. Besides, you can also access OpenSesame on their mobile App.
Other OpenSesame features include e-commerce management, certificate generation, and a robust analytic and reporting tool. You do not need to pay any money to start selling your skills.
Which Platform is Right for Me?
So the final question arises that which platform is right for me?
I tried to list 13 most popular ones however there are a lot of other online course platforms too on the internet to help you monetize your skills. But not every platform will work for you. You must decide the features you want based on your target market.
Choose an online course platform based on your skills. Other factors to consider may include your budget and other specific requirements you might have. The goal is to choose a platform that meets your needs and helps you monetize your online course.
If you are a beginner creator, go for an easy-to-use platform such as Podia (Currently my fav. too). You can also try to look for some course platform deals on Appsumo to get a lifetime offer. Experienced creators with tech skills can always go with platforms like Kajabi or WordPress LMS.
Questions? Post in the comments below.