Teachers and tutors, are you searching for the perfect online course platform?

With the industry set to see exponential growth in the next 2 years, this could mean both good and bad news for online course creators.

On one hand, we welcome the disruptors and competitors who keep the major players on their toes, on the hand, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate the quality platforms from the fly-by-night operations.

Choosing the right platform can pretty much make or break the experience for both you and your students. So, it’s important to carefully review the tools you’re after.

If you’re just starting out or looking to try a new platform, you’ll find a great introduction to online course platforms and learning management systems in this guide.

The online course revolution

Eight Signs You Should Invest in Online Training
Image source: Mindflash.com

The global e-learning industry is poised for a massive leap forward in the next 2-3 years. As it stands, the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) market is expected to reach approximately USD 25.33 billion by 2025.

Online courses are moving from part-time revenue generating side hustles to full-time jobs for top course creators. And, with this growth comes a need for even more robust platforms to make it easier to create, host, facilitate and sell online courses.

One of the major market drivers is the increase in student enrollments. Lower internet connection fees, higher speeds, and the growth of video content online have also contributed to the growing popularity of online courses.

Even a quick search on Udemy pulls up over 100,000 online courses in an ever-growing list of categories including design, IT, music, photography, coding, IT, personal development, business and so much more.

How do teachers make money using online course platforms?

Everyone is a potential student these days and you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to get started with teaching online.

Online course platforms have made it even easier to put together great online lessons because they’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you and have greatly simplified the process. This has really opened up the industry to new creators who are cashing in on a brilliant new revenue stream.

Here’s how some of the top course creators use online courses to generate income:

  1. Creating courses that complement your skills and business offering. For example, if you are a designer or artist, you can offer beginner design classes.
  2. Use your online courses to lead potential customers to other products that you sell – as part of your marketing funnel. You could sell guitar lessons, while using that as an opportunity to sell music equipment or products to your students.
  3. Reselling. This is a big draw card for its ‘passive income’ appeal. If you create evergreen course content, you can potentially resell the same course throughout the year in different packages.
  4. Free courses with paid certification. This is one of the many ways in which creators make money with online courses. You could offer a free course and only charge for a certification that people can use to add to their resumes and further their careers.

Now that you’re inspired, let’s begin our review of the best online course platforms.

11 Best online course platforms to create and sell your courses

We reviewed some of the more established online course platforms as well as the newcomers to pick the best of the best for all types of course creators.

We rated these tools from 1 – 10 according to the following criteria:

  • Product features
  • Price vs features
  • Trusted and verified customer reviews on sites such as Capterra.com and G2.com
  • Overall value for money
  • Ease of use

1. Teachable

Online course platforms - teachable
Image source : https://teachable.com/

If you prefer to have full control over your online courses and maintain ownership of your work and brand, consider Teachable. Unlike with some online course marketplaces, you can create your very own course website, manage content, pricing, and customise your product just as you would with an online store.

Best for: Course creators who want flexibility and uniqueness in their course websites at an affordable rate.

Price: Free plan. Basic: $29 p/month, Professional: $99 p/month, Business $249 p/month.

Free trial: No

Our rating: 9/10

Main Features:

  • Drag and drop course website builder
  • Unlimited students
  • Drip scheduled course content
  • Multimedia support
  • Customisable, responsive layouts
  • Multiple languages
  • Course completion certificates
  • Course compliance
  • Third-party integrations: MailChimp, Zapier, Zendesk
  • Analytics
  • Supports multiple instructors

Pros:

  • Fully hosted solution, so you can have everything in one place.
  • Extremely powerful platform.
  • Unlimited students on all plans.
  • Unlimited video, courses and hosting.
  • No fees on free courses.

Cons:

  • Price. The lowest plan at $29 p/month doesn’t give you access to all the amazing features. that make Teachable such a great platform. For someone just starting up, this is quite a high price.
  • 5% transaction fees on the Basic plan.

Examples of courses on Teachable: https://learn.vrdev.school/, https://sketchmaster.com/#all-courses.

Website: https://teachable.com

2. Podia

Video source: Podia

Instead of trying to make a huge e-commerce platform work for your online course, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a platform that has stripped out all the unnecessary features and focussed on the following: selling online courses, memberships and digital downloads.

Set up a storefront in just a few minutes and you’ll be up and running in no time at all!

Best for: Course creators who are looking for the quickest path to setting up their storefronts without needing any technical or coding experience. Those who are looking to sell digital downloads and memberships.

Price: Mover: $39 p/month, Shaker: $79 p/month

Free trial: Yes

Our rating: 8/10

Main Features:

  • Simple storefront builder
  • Blog
  • Multiple languages
  • Built-in email marketing
  • Unlimited products, customers, emails, sales and hosting

Pros:

  • Simple and user-friendly.
  • No coding experience required.
  • Free migration.
  • 0 transaction fees.
  • Live chat, email and video support.

Cons:

  • Starting price at $39 p/month is quite steep.
  • Because they’ve kept things super simple, th.ere’s not a lot of room for deeper customisations.
  • Email marketing is quite basic, you might need an additional email marketing tool to run more complex campaigns.

Examples of courses on Podia: https://powerfuldigitalsolutions.podia.com/wordpress-website-online-course, https://kristinanthony.podia.com/go-design-something-building-your-job-winning-portfolio.

Website: https://www.podia.com/

3. Thinkific

Online course platforms - Thinkific
Image source: https://www.thinkific.com/

Thinkific is a versatile end-to-end online course platform. You can create, market, sell and grow your online course business all in place. What we love about Thinkific is that they offer a free plan which makes it easy set up and get started without financial risk, and is great for small businesses.

Best for: Creators looking for a free online course platform with easily customisable and beautifully designed templates.

Price: Free plan, Basic $49 p/month, Pro: $99 p/month, Premier: $499 p/month.

Free trial: No

Our rating: 8/10

Main Features:

  • Drag and drop course website editor
  • Immediate payment
  • HTML & CSS editing                                            
  • Multimedia support
  • Integration with Google Docs
  • Free video hosting
  • Private lessons
  • Third-party integrations: MailChimp, Zapier, ActiveCampaign
  • Supports multiple instructors
  • Drip scheduled content
  • Progress tracking and analytics

Pros:

  • No coding required.
  • Free plan.
  • Great mobile experience for students.
  • Powerful data-driven features.
  • Access to a rich library of tutorials.

Cons:

  • The jump from the free plan to the lowest tier at $49 makes the paid offering extremely expensive.
  • Customer service is less than perfect, expect delays if you log an issue via email.
  • Complicated pricing structure.

Website: https://www.thinkific.com/

Online education enables you to study or teach from anywhere in the world. This means there’s no need to commute from one place to another, or follow a rigid schedule. On top of that, not only do you save time, but you also save money, which can be spent on other priorities.

~ educations.com

4. Academy of Mine

Video source: Academy on Mine

Academy of Mine is an all-in-one e-learning platform with a focus on giving course creators the tools to truly customise the courses and learning experiences. Both corporates and creatives alike enjoy using Academy of Mine for their robust features and add-on services.

Best for: small business, corporate training, universities and colleges.

Price: Essentials: $499 p/month, Professional $899 p/month

Free trial: Yes

Our rating: 9/10

Main Features:

  • Drag and drop course website editor (white label websites)
  • Analytics and progress tracking
  • Custom certificates
  • 2TB storage on the essentials package
  • Bulk course licencing
  • Third-party integrations
  • Self-paced online courses

Pros:

  • Fully customisable LMS.
  • Free onboarding.
  • Unlimited courses and users.
  • A truly all-in-one online course platform.
  • Very capable and helpful tech support team.
  • Additional services such as website development, course creation, migrations .

 Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.
  • One of the most expensive learning management systems, the entry-level plan starts at $499 p/m.
  • Limited features for what you pay for on the Essentials plan.

Demos of Academy of Mine: https://medschool.academyofmine.net/, https://languageschool.academyofmine.net/

Website: https://www.academyofmine.com/

5. Kajabi

Another great all-in-one online course platform that is bursting with powerful features and supported by a great community, Kajabi is easily one of our favourites in this tier.

Over 25,000 experts and entrepreneurs are using Kajabi to sell a range of online courses, memberships and subscriptions.

Best for: Digital content entrepreneurs who are looking for a platform with a strong e-commerce system.

Price: Basic: $119 p/month, Growth $159 p/month, Pro: $319 p/month

Free trial: Yes

Our rating: 8/10

Main Features:

  • Ready to use one-click templates
  • Easily integrates with popular content management systems like WordPress
  • Flexible payment options for customers
  • Analytics
  • User forecasting
  • Progress tracking
  • Built-in email marketing tools
  • Automations

Pros:

  • Scalable and geared for growth.
  • 30-day money back guarantee.
  • Unlimited landing pages.
  • Includes unlimited hosting on all plans.
  • No transaction fees if you use the built-in payment gateway.
  • 24/7 support.

Cons:

  • The lowest tier at $199 p/month only allows for a maximum of 3 products and 1,000 active members.
  • You can only remove the Kajabi branding on the Growth plan.
  • Customisations are limited to what you can do within the templates.
  • Limited integrations with other payment gateways (only PayPayl and Stripe currently).

Examples of online courses using Kajabi: http://www.voicebodyconnection.com/, https://www.empowermentactivators.com/

Website: https://kajabi.com/

Thinking of turning all that course material into an educational podcast? With the right tool, you most certainly can! Check out our reviews of the best podcast software.

6. LifterLMS

Online course platforms - LifterLMS
image source: https://lifterlms.com/

Now for something a little different! LifterLMS is a learning management system developed for WordPress. What makes LifterLMS such a unique online course platform is that the core plugin is essentially “free” and you can include various add-ons to build a custom system that suits exactly what you need.

Tip: Purchase bundles with a set number of add-ons to choose from instead of the single core account as this will save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

Best for: Experienced users who want to move to a more customisable online course platform.

Free trial: $1 trial (almost free!)

Our rating: 9/10

Main Features

  • Drag and drop course website builder
  • Themes
  • Certificates and badges
  • Multimedia lessons
  • Drip content
  • Email Marketing and automation (MailChimp and ConvertKit)
  • E-commerce integration (WooCommerce)
  • Custom domain
  • Bulk enroll
  • Course content protection
  • Private courses
  • Student management
  • Individual student dashboards

Pros:

  • Generous full-feature 30-day trial for only $1.
  • Fast, powerful platform.
  • Flexible pricing, perfectly suited to scaling.
  • Highly customisable.

Cons:

  • Not suited for beginners, and requires a level of technical knowledge to know what each add-on does and how to work with all the features.
  • Customer support isn’t the best, but there is a great support community.

Website: https://lifterlms.com/

7. LearnWorlds

If you want to easily set up and monetise your online courses fairly quickly, LearnWorlds is a fantastic option. It’s very well suited for video-based online courses and we really liked the video-specific features such as automatic transcripts which are a really time-saver.

LearnWorlds is such a highly rated online course platform that we were completely blown away by the reviews we read on G2, Capterra, and TrustPilot.

Best for: Any online course creator looking for a trusted platform with brilliant support. Corporate trainers and coaches.

Price: Starter: $24 p/m, Pro Trainer: $79 p/m, Learning Centre: $249 p/m.

Free trial: Yes

Our rating: 8/10

Main features:

  • Automatically extracted transcript
  • Interactive quizzes
  • Fully hosted video courses
  • Drip feed
  • Branded certificates
  • Website builder
  • Knowledge hub

Pros:

  • Fully customisable
  • Unlimited students and courses
  • Great interactive features for fun learning experiences
  • Well suited to those without any coding experience

Cons:

  • The jump from the lowest to mid-level pricing plan is quite high
  • Lacking in email as part of their marketing toolkit

Website: https://www.learnworlds.com/

8. Udemy

Video source: Udemy

Udemy is famous for being one of the pioneers in online learning and now hosts the world’s largest selection of courses. According to their site, there are about 100,000 video courses currently available on their online course marketplace.

What’s important to know is that Udemy is a marketplace, so there are some limitations when it comes to having your own school or course website and brand, and there will be transaction fees placed on your online courses.

Best for: Instructors who only want to sell courses online and reach a large audience quickly without needing their own course website.

Free trial: No

Price: Free for instructors, fees deducted upon transaction and there is a revenue sharing model applied.

Our rating: 8/10

Main features:

  • Course set up and marketing tools
  • No need for a standalone website
  • Easy payment processes – you don’t need to set up anything besides your own account
  • Integrated with Google Docs and Microsoft Office

Pros:

  • Easy to set up. No approval needed.
  • Opportunity to reach a very large audience.
  • Very supportive instructor community.
  • Rich resource centre.

Cons:

  • 3% transaction fee.
  • Certain topics are restricted.
  • Lack of personalisation on courses.
  • No custom certificate builder.
  • No standalone website builder.

Website: https://www.udemy.com/teaching/

9. Skillshare

Like Udemy, Skillshare is an online course marketplace where teachers can make up to $100,000 annually! Skillshare is well suited to creatives such as designers, musicians, photographers, artists and crafters. The classes are pre-recorded videos with an opportunity to engage with students and set up class projects.

An online course marketplace is a great way to start earning money because it comes with a built-in audience. No need to go through a lengthy set up process and invest in marketing, you can start earning money right from the beginning with Skillshare.

Best for: Teachers creative fields who just want to sell their online courses to an established audience and start earning money right from the beginning.

Free trial: Yes

Price: Free

Our rating: 8/10

Main features:

  • Channel builder
  • Video courses
  • Referral links for marketing and promotion
  • Free classes
  • Monthly payments

Pros:

  • Free.
  • Teachers get paid by the minutes watched in a premium class + royalties.
  • Robust platform.
  • Easy to use and quick to get started.
  • Great learning hub and support network.

Cons:

  • Lack of personalisation in the courses and overall learning experience.
  • No one-to-one classes.

Website: https://www.skillshare.com/teach

While broad and general courses can absolutely work, niching down can help you build a course that provides people with real value. When you go deeper, people feel you’re speaking directly to them. And in a lot of ways, you are.

~ How To Make Over $100,000 Per Year Creating Online Courses, Forbes.com

10. Pathwright

Online course platforms: Pathwright
Image source: https://www.pathwright.com/

Over 1.1 million people have used Pathwright since 2012! As far as online course platforms go, this is an excellent option for corporate training or technical training because it allows teachers to set up learning paths or steps with demonstrations and tutorials.

What we love about Pathwright is that teaching and education is at the core of this company. Even though it provides an online platform for teachers, Pathwright is focussed on improving the way people teach and learn online.

Pathwright isn’t just a better LMS or way of digitizing educational content—it’s a whole new way to think about education.

www.pathwright.co

Best for: educators and businesses of all all sizes who are looking for something more customisable and scalable.

Price: Starter: $99 p/month, Essentials: $199 p/month, Complete: $499 p/month

Free trial: Yes

Main features:

  • Drag and drop course editor “Path Builder”
  • Practice quizzes and assessments
  • Automatic grading
  • Project planning
  • Creative customisations (cover art, backgrounds)
  • Discussion groups
  • Progress tracking
  • Analytics
  • Personalisation

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • Edit and update courses on any device.
  • Customisable learning experiences.
  • Integrates easily with Google Analytics.
  • Offer free trials, discounts, and preview access to help sell your courses.
  • No transaction fees.
  • Unlimited courses.

Cons:

  • It’s a pricey option, starting at $99 p/month.
  • No custom domain on the Starter plan.
  • Priority email support is only available on the Essentials and Complete plan.

Website: https://www.pathwright.com/

11. LearnDash

Image source: LearnDash

If you’re looking for the gold standard in WordPress learning management software for tertiary education and corporate training, the LearnDash LMS plugin is it.

Trusted by organisations such as Keap, ProBlogger, and numerous state universities in the US, LearnDash offers a complete solution for creating, promoting, and selling online courses.

Best for: Companies with corporate training programs, teachers working with universities and colleges.

Price: Basic: $159, Plus: $189, Pro: $329 – annual pricing

Free trial: No

Our rating: 9/10

Main features:

  • Drag and drop course builder and branded learning portal
  • Advanced quizzes
  • Drip-feed content
  • Certificates and badges
  • Flexible pricing including one-time purchases
  • Automatic email triggers
  • Group management
  • Detailed analytics and reporting

Pros:

  • Premium features at a fraction of the price
  • Great value for money
  • Active, and supportive online community
  • Highly customisable

Cons:

  • Shopping cart is a bit basic, you might have to use WooCommerce to improve the experience.
  • Bit of a steep learning curve when it comes to set up, you will need to have experience or assistance with navigating all the various features and plugins to customise your offering.

Website: https://www.learndash.com/

Choosing between online course platforms

As you review these online course platforms, it’s always important to fully evaluate what your needs are for now and for where you plan to be in the next 6 – 12 months. This will allow you to confidently review certain features and prices with a plan for the future.

Each platform and service provider on this is list is absolutely great in our opinion and it all boils down to personal preference, level of customisation, technical skills (or lack thereof), price range your personal time frame for going live.

Our top picks:

LifteLMS: for its incredible flexibility and customisations and their generous 30-day $1 trial

Thinkific: for their powerful, professional all-in-one solution.

Whichever you choose from these online course platforms, we have no doubt that you’ll become an important part of the amazing growth of the online course industry and we’re excited to watch it grow!

References:

15+ Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses (and Counting): https://www.learningrevolution.net/sell-online-courses/

G2: Business Software and Services Reviews: www.g2.com

Capterra | Find and Compare Software‎: https://www.capterra.com/

The 9 Best Platforms to Create and Sell Online Courses: https://zapier.com/blog/online-course-platforms/

Top 15 Most Popular Learning Management Systems – LMS: https://learning-management-system.financesonline.com/

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