Are you ready to take your business to the next level and launch an online course that helps others achieve a goal while driving traffic to your website? As technology constantly evolves, there are more new and innovative ways to help expand your online business than ever before. Using one of the best online course platforms on the market, you’ll have the tools and resources to successfully launch a course online that’s accessible from most digital devices.
What is an online course platform?
An online course platform is essentially a digital learning management system (LMS) that offers online classes on specific subjects. Classes can range from fitness, lifestyle, entrepreneurship, social media management and everything in between. The window of opportunity is there and open for all to explore online learning of various topics.
The best online learning platforms offer ways for students to take notes, fulfill assignments, and even take exams. The demand for online learning is expected to grow at an annual rate of 14.6%, with a total market value of $374.4 billion by 2026. As a result, several different types of online course platforms are now available to meet this growing demand.
What types of online course platforms are there?
If you’re thinking about investing the time and money to build and sell an online learning course, it is crucial to understand the various types of platform technologies.
A few different types include:
- open-source platforms
- learning destination sites
- traditional LMS
- custom-built learning platforms
Each type of platform offers unique features to help your course stand out from the crowd and meet your specific course needs.
What should you look for in an online course platform?
With so many options to choose from, the decision process can be overwhelming. When selecting the best software for online courses, there are a few things to consider that will help streamline your search. Strive for user-friendly interfaces that make learning easy and fun.
Many platforms will offer features that help integrate external solutions such as memberships and e-commerce functionalities. If you are new to online learning platforms, choose a platform with dependable tech support to help you build a course confidently.
Additionally, it’s important to find an online course platform that fits your budget. Many platforms offer free trials to allow for a test run before you fully commit to a plan.
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What are the best online course platforms for 2021?
Teachable is hands down one of the best online course platforms out there, with over 10 million students. The Teachable platform helps you create unique online courses and coaching services that deliver a meaning learning experience. Prominent features like unlimited bandwidth, flexible pricing options, and 24/7 monitoring to catch any potential outages, help take online learning to the next level. It’s hard not to love Teachable, considering how immersive this online learning platform is.
With built-in marketing tools, you can grow a strong email list and set up segmented campaigns, in addition to providing professional templates that are easy to use and customizable to fit your needs. Teachable also offers third-party integrations with Zendesk, Thrivecart, and Intercom, to support a streamlined experience for course creators.
Teachable offers a Basic Plan for just $39 per month. This includes unlimited students, instant payouts, and a members-only community to help you create a one-of-a-kind learning experience for your students.
They also offer a Pro plan for $119 per month with additional features like quizzes and completion certificates for your students. To get the best experience possible, check out their Business plan for $299 per month. Course creators that opt for annual billing will enjoy a savings off of these monthly prices. You also have the option to sign up for a free 14-day trial to test the Teachable software before investing.
Teachable could make a great fit if you:
- Are new to online course platforms
- Are seeking an intuitive admin interface to making building online courses easy
- Want a platform with direct third-party integration tools
Learn more about Teachable
Thinkific is a robust online course software platform that makes it easy to launch a course on your website. It’s an all-in-one platform that is more than capable of scaling as your business grows, making it one of the most adaptable platforms around.
With top quality and customizable template designs, innovative drag and drop editor, and comprehensive e-commerce features, Thinkific packs a powerful punch in online learning. It also can integrate seamlessly with third-party marketing tools such as Mailchimp, Segment.io, and Mixpanel.
Thinkific offers everything you need to craft a successful online course, from fully customizable websites, live lessons, progress tracking, memberships, and much more. The platform is equipped with an exceptional support team that is rated high in online education.
Businesses can set custom pricing with coupons, subscription plans, or monthly payments. On top of that, Thinkific has no transaction fees. Test drive Thinkific by signing up for a 30-day free trial that includes all core features such as unlimited students, quizzes, surveys, and content hosting.
f you’re interested in creating a unified learning experience that truly embodies your overall vision, then their Basic plan at $49 per month could be a great start. For advanced users, consider their Pro plan for $99 per month. The Thinkific Premier plan for $399 per month is for content creators who want no limitations on access to the platform’s features. Discounts are available if you choose an annual plan.
Thinkific might be right for you if you:
- Have an online business that is constantly evolving
- Want a transaction fee free experience
- Want to launch an online course on an existing website
Get started with Thinkific
Kajabi is one of the best online learning programs if you want to design a personalized learning experience for your students. It’s a content marketing platform created to help businesses sell engaging online courses or coaching programs. Kajabi allows its users to build, market, and sell with no coding experience required. It’s as simple as signing up and creating your online course.
What truly makes Kajabi stand out from its competitors is its automation features. Using Pipelines, you can cohesively connect landing pages with checkout pages. In turn, this reduces the number of clicks potential customers must endure to purchase your course. This helps to optimize your conversion rates.
Kajabi also offers impressive SEO and content marketing features so that you can reach more customers all from a single dashboard. While this platform is more expensive other platforms, its features make up for the difference.
Their Basic plan is $149 per month (or $119 per month with annual billing). With this, you get access to unlimited landing pages and marketing emails, and you can enroll up to 1,000 active members with 0% transaction fees. If you are looking to offer more than three courses, consider the Growth or Pro plans at $199 per month or $399 per month respectively. With annual billing for any Kajabi plan, you’ll receive a generous discount. If you are not ready to make the leap just yet, you can sign-up for their 14-day free trial.
Kajabi works best if you:
- Are looking for a one-stop-shop for your online education business
- Want a software that provides detailed analytics
- Strive for intuitive marketing automation tools
- Have a bigger budget for more exciting features
Podia is one of the online learning industry’s most popular software platforms. It allows you to build an entire storefront from scratch or you can use one of their many intuitive templates. Podia offers separate membership sites, but they also allow multiple online courses and the ability to create digital downloads all from one single place. If you have more than one online course, you can create individual landing pages that cater to each course, which can help you tap into several different markets conveniently from the platform itself.
A unique feature Podia has is pre-orders. Perhaps your course is nearly complete, but you are not quite ready to fully launch just yet. Podia has a built-in feature that allows you to market pre-orders to help you build up a customer base early on before the course even launches.
In addition to online courses, you can also sell digital downloads such as eBooks, assessments, and more. Podia is one of the few platforms that integrates a Live Chat feature to help you better connect with potential customers.
The Mover plan is competitively priced at $39 per month. With this plan, you get access to the fundamental elements of creating and running an online course. If you need more features, consider the Shaker plan at $79 per month. The Earthquaker plan is $179 per month and gives you access to all the Podia course platform has to offer. Annual billing will score you a discount on any of their paid plans. Podia offers a 14-day free trial to test out their course software to determine if it’s the right fit for you.
Podia is a good option if you:
- Want all the bells and whistles
- Have a large email subscription list
- Want to build an online course storefront
Get started with Podia
If you have an existing WordPress website, then LearnDash could be the right course software choice for you. Unlike other online learning platforms, LearnDash is one of the best online course platforms for building an online course on WordPress. LearnDash is a WordPress LMS plugin that integrates only on an existing WordPress website.
This platform is excellent for schools and entrepreneurs who already have an online presence. Some of their iconic features include their unique Focus Mode feature that allows you to build a branded learning course that is distraction-free for students.
Its drag and drop course builder tool helps to create a course quickly and pairs with impressive marketing and sales tools. LearnDash takes pride in delivering an engaging learning environment with some of the best technology. Additional features include incentivizing the learning experience for students with badges and certificates, discussion forums, course points, and leaderboards.
For more functionality, LearnDash allows third-party integration with payment software such as PayPal, Stripe, Mail Chimp, Zapier, and WooCommerce, among others. LearnDash pricing starts at $159 per month for the Basic plan and goes up to $329 per month for the Pro package. A mid-range Plus package is $159 per month. LearnDash is one of the few platforms that does not offer a free trial, but they do offer a 30-day money back guarantee.
LearnDash might work best if you:
- Have an existing online presence
- Have an existing WordPress website
- Are looking for the most third-party integration features
Check out LearnDash
Like most online course platforms we’ve reviewed, LearnWorlds provides exceptional analytics, marketing tools, and customizable templates. Over recent years, it has quickly become one of the best software platforms for online courses. It is a premium option due to its striking interactivity, from video, eBooks, and digital downloads to pre-made course catalogs. A few key features LearnWorlds includes in its courses are quizzes, certificates, assignments, exams, and more.
LearnWorlds users can create public profiles to connect with other students and build a professional network. LearnWorlds has some of the most affordable plans to choose from. Their Starter plan comes in at only $29 per month plus a $5 fee per course sale. The Pro Trainer plan at $85 per month or the Learning Center plan at $255 per month are best if you have more than 5 Admins/ Instructors with unlimited courses. LearnWorlds offers a 30-day free trial.
LearnWorlds could be a good fit if you:
- Have a smaller budget but still want great features
- Love having a high level of interactivity
- Want a simple yet flexible and robust online course platform
Get started with LearnWorlds
Udemy hosts the world’s most extensive collection of online courses with a marketplace of over 150,000 courses to choose from. The Udemy platform delivers a straightforward way to create strong course content using PowerPoint slides, PDFs, and embedded YouTube videos for a comprehensive learning experience. Udemy allows you to launch courses in various topics such as design, business, marketing, and much more.
Since Udemy is considered a marketplace, there is less marketing to be done on your part to build your audience. Udemy has a growing audience of well over 30 million users who are ready and eager to learn something new. It is the eBay version of online course platforms.
The platform is easy to navigate and makes the course creation process seamless. A few key features include powerful monitoring tools, branding, video recording, integrations, and multiple languages.
Udemy is a platform where you can create an online course for free. That’s right, for free! However, Udemy does have payment fees up to 67% from each sale made. You can earn more per sale by driving traffic to your course yourself. Pricing your course on Udemy is up to you, but there are benefits to Udemy instructors who participate in the Udemy Deals Program which offers discounts to students on courses.
Udemy could be a good choice if you:
- Want to join an existing massive marketplace
- Enjoy creating video-based lessons
- Want your course accessible on mobile devices
Skillshare is by far one of the best online course platforms catering to teaching creative skills. Like Udemy, Skillshare is a marketplace platform. Skillshare differs in that it enables learners to explore their creativity to the fullest.
Skillshare is an excellent online course solution if you are a designer, writer, entrepreneur, chef, musician, or artist. Ultimately, it taps into nearly all creative fields. Instructors are provided with the tools needed to create a course that features video lessons and a class project all students can partake in.
It is entirely free to get started using Skillshare and they offer a 14-day free trial to test out the platform’s unique features. As a Skillshare teacher, once more than 25 students watch your class, you are eligible to join Skillshare’s Partner Program. You can then start earning royalties based on the number of minutes watched in your classes each month. Since Skillshare offers a paid subscription to its viewers, any Premium Members who join Skillshare from your referral link earns you $10 per member.
Skillshare could work for you if you:
- Are launching a creative online course
- Are looking for passive income
- Want an easy way to scale your online course business
Get started with Skillshare
Like LearnDash, AccessAlly is an all-in-one WordPress plugin that features a drag and drop course builder tool. This platform supports course features such as certificates, quizzes, and monitoring, to name a few. AccessAlly is an exceptional online course solution with impressive eCommerce functionality.
Even though it’s a WordPress plugin, it gives you the power and flexibility you need to build a successful online course. AccessAlly takes pride in delivering a service that helps you sell more, teach better, and increase engagement. A few additional key features include a cross-selling dashboard, abandoned cart pop-up, affiliate tracking, and much more to help you get started strong.
AccessAlly has three payment plans beginning with their Essential plan at $99 per month. The Pro plan comes in at $129 per month with access to additional features. The In-House training plan includes all features from the Essential and Pro plans and runs $250 per month. By purchasing an annual plan, you’ll receive two months free.
AccessAlly does not offer a free trial option, but you can schedule a free demo with a support team member for a quick walk-through of the software capabilities. What’s more, they offer a full 30-day money back guarantee on all of their paid plans.
AccessAlly could be a good fit if you:
- Are an edupreneur
- Want to launch a membership site
- Have an existing WordPress site
Coursecats is one of the best online learning platforms for entrepreneurs. It enables users to confidently build a unique website that serves as the foundation for selling online courses and growing email lists. With a dedicated Concierge Service to help you set up your site, you don’t have to worry about the tedious technical stuff. They can help you take care of the nitty gritty so that you can focus on creating an online course with precision.
Coursecats helps with hosting, domains, and theme installations with plenty of customization features. Due to their simple website building process, you can have your course up and running over a weekend.
Coursecats offers two paid plan options of $59 per month or an annual subscription for $497. Both plans have zero transaction fees and include a 30-day free trial with Concierge Service included.
Coursecats is ideal if you:
- Need help with the technical aspects of launching a course
- Don’t want to hire a web developer or designer
- Want an easy to use platform for hosting online courses
Get started with Coursecats
Final Thoughts About Best Online Course Platforms
Now that we covered the best online course platforms out there, the next steps for choosing the perfect platform are to compare the features of each platform. Before you do that, be sure to have a clear understanding of the type of online course you want to offer.
If you are striving to launch a graphic design course, Skillshare could make a great match. Or maybe you want to join a massive marketplace with an existing audience. In that case, Udemy could be a great fit. Each of these platforms deliver excellent quality and are industry leaders for many reasons.
If you want to start your own online course business, consider one of the platforms like Teachable or Thinkific. To offer courses within your WordPress site, plugin platforms like LearnDash or AccessAlly could be for you.
Once you decide on a platform, remember that many of these platforms offer significant cost savings when you purchase an annual plan. Most of all, when shopping for the right platform, be sure to consider all factors that are important to you from tech support to key features to pricing. This will help you determine which one of these online course platforms best suits your needs and goals.
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