Best Online Course Platforms from a Course Creator
Table of Contents
- The Evolution of Education
- What is The Best Online Course Platform?
- What Are Online Course Platforms?
- How To Create an Online Course That Sells
- Best Online Course Platforms: Quick Summary
- Bottom Line: Online Course Platforms
The Evolution of Education
Online learning (aka e-learning) has exploded in popularity thanks to lightning-fast internet connections and modern online course platforms.
Oh and can’t forget a lil’ thing called the coronavirus pandemic.
Now get this:
The global e-learning market is worth over $200 billion and is projected to reach $375 billion by 2026.
But here’s the thing:
More than ever, people have zero attention spans, hate being lectured, and despise boredom.
Just ask Kanye:
If you want to create an epic online course that sells like hotcakes?
Provide high-quality information that’s easy to consume, babycakes.
After all, if you make learning fun?
People tend to get a lil’ excited:
The bad news?
It’s not enough to offer both entertaining and informative content these days.
You also need to deliver it on a silver platter.
Or better yet, a platinum platform.
Here’s the deal:
To make this article fair and objective, I created a spreadsheet of the top learning platforms I could find and ranked them in order of their reviews.
I also took into account the platform’s longevity, user-friendliness, features, dashboard appearance, 3rd party integrations, customer support, and cost.
The results of my research (and having no life) are below.
Your trust means everything to me. I may earn a small commission from affiliate links below but any recommendation I give you is what I’d buy for myself and doesn’t affect your cost whatsoever. Thanks for your support.
Now check out the diamond-studded details:
What is The Best Online Course Platform?
1. Best Overall: Thinkific (free or $49/mo)
And that’s not just my opinion.
During my research, it was the #1 recommended course software on Google.
Companies like Samsung, Intuit, Hootsuite, and Aweber use Thinkific.
Big-name entrepreneurs such as Grant Cardone, Ryan Serhant, Lewis Howes (School of Greatness), and John Lee Dumas (Entrepreneur on Fire) use it.
Trainers and coaches use it.
Moms who are baking experts use it.
Even family pets are using Thinkific these days.
Okay, maybe not but you get the point.
Here’s a few of my favorite features:
• User-Friendly: One of the first things you’ll notice is how easy it is to navigate around Thinkific’s intuitive dashboard and start building your course.
• Simplicity: The ability to drag and drop your content allows you to quickly organize course modules with the click of a mouse.
Check out this quick 2-minute demo:
• Customization: Choose your own colors and URL, add your brand logo, and customize your content to include virtually anything you can think of.
And we can’t forget about all the marketing tools Thinkific provides such as Sales Widgets you can place on any blog, website, social media, etc. to easily promote and sell your course.
✓ Easiest course platform to use
✓ User-friendly dashboard for quick navigation
✓ Courses look professional with sleek pre-made templates
✓ Fast course creation thanks to drag and drop Site Builder
✓ Tons of customization options (colors, logos, branding, images, etc)
✓ Sales Widget feature makes it easy to sell courses from any website
✓ Beautiful landing pages to market your course and offer discounts
✓ Supports live video streaming or webinars (e.g. Zoom, YouTube Live)
✓ Free trial option allows potential students to try some of your content
✓ Excellent how-to training courses provided by Thinkific
✓ Email autoresponder and payment processor integrations
✓ Compatible with multiple content types (upload videos, PDFs, images, etc)
✓ Add voiceovers to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations or Keynote slides
✓ Conversion tracking with Facebook pixels
✓ Group discussion areas & course completion certificates
✓ Flexible payment plans for student tuition
✓ Works well with WordPress and Google Analytics
✓ Stellar customer service includes phone support
✓ Affordable for any level of course creator
✗ Free version has limited features
✗ Lacks integration with sales funnel software (ClickFunnels, etc)
✗ Built-in discussion forum is a bit awkward
• Free: This limited package allows you to try the platform and build up to 3 free online courses with unlimited students, quizzes, and content hosting.
• Basic: $49/month ($39/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses & students, coupons, email students, drip content, affiliate program reporting, custom domains, email & Zapier integrations, manual enrollments.
• Pro: $99/month ($79/mo if paid annually). All Basic features plus 2 site admins, 5 course authors, private & hidden courses, flexible payment plans, course certificates, custom themes, and priority support.
• Premier: $499/month ($399/mo if paid annually). All Pro features plus 5 site admins, up to 50 course authors, onboarding call, and priority support.
(Note: All Thinkific plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
Looking for the easiest way to build an online course quickly?
For just $49 per month, you get everything you need to build an online course that sells like buttermilk-flavored crack at an IHOP convention.
That’s about $1.63 a day. Literally less than a latte from Starbucks.
Needless to say, I’m a fan (and user) of Thinkific’s platform and have no problem giving them a shameless plug.
You should give Thinkific a try by signing up for their free 30-day trial below.
2. Runner Up: Teachable (outstanding for beginners)
Check this out:
And it’s easy to understand why — Teachable makes the process of building an online course easy as pie:
With its simple yet powerful page builder, nearly anyone can set up a world-class course with plenty of quick tutorials to help you along the way.
Easily connect to your existing website and use the Power Editor to create fully customizable lessons with minimal technical headaches.
The e-learning platform also offers high-converting sales pages, sales tracking dashboards, and allows you to accept student payments from 130+ countries.
✓ Very easy to use
✓ High-quality course designs
✓ Choose color schemes to match your brand
✓ Customizable sales and thank you pages
✓ Easily add quizzes and tests for your students
✓ Course completion certificates
✓ Student payment plan options (one-time, monthly, or subscription)
✓ Provides many free training resources for course creators
✓ Good customer support
✗ Free plan is limited to a max of 10 students
✗ Could use more course design templates
✗ Sales page creation can be difficult and time-consuming
✗ Many email integrations only available through 3rd party Zapier
✗ Can take a while to hear back from customer support at times
• Free: This test-drive package allows you up to 10 students, unlimited courses and video content hosting, course creator training, and email support.
• Basic: $39/month ($29/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses & students, basic quizzes, custom domain, coupon codes, 3rd party integrations, drip course content, and email support.
• Professional: $119/month ($99/mo if paid annually). All Basic features plus 5 site admins, private & hidden courses, lecture comments, course completion certificates, flexible payment plans, and email support.
• Business: $299/month ($249/mo if paid annually). All Pro features plus 20 site admins, 0% transaction fees on paid courses, advanced reports, email and chat support.
(Note: All Teachable plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
Teachable is a company that prides itself on making the course creation process as easy as it gets.
It’s a solid e-learning platform that offers virtually any feature you could want as an online instructor.
You can try Teachable by signing up for their free 14-day trial below.
3. LearnWorlds (best student engagement features)
This cloud-based course builder offers simple drag and drop options, interactive video player, exams & quizzes, and student coursework tracking.
With the option to build a social community, it gives your students the chance to interact, discuss, and share what they’ve learned from your course.
LearnWorlds also provides an abundance of marketing features such as high-converting sales pages, funnels, and customizable checkouts.
It’s a great option for anyone looking to build and sell an online course.
✓ E-learning software known for providing interactive courses
✓ Clean and modern course designs
✓ White label option and customizable branding
✓ Zapier automated workflows can send targeted certificates/emails
✓ Integrates with social networks to build a social learning community
✓ Supports larger online schools, allowing multiple teachers, unlimited courses, multi-lingual support
✗ Student progress tracking is somewhat lacking
✗ Pages use one of a few standard templates, not customizable
✗ LearnWorlds takes a cut of every course sold from low-tier accounts
✗ Limited flexibility in how you can price your courses
• Starter: $29/month ($24/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses, $5 fee per course sale, branding & theme editor, ready-made templates, built-in community, quizzes & tests, conversion tracking, 24/7 email support.
• Pro Trainer: $99/month ($79/mo if paid annually). All Starter features with zero transaction fees, up to 5 admins, subscription installments, customizable checkout page, live classes in real-time, 24/7 priority email support.
• Learning Center: $299/month ($249/mo if paid annually). All Pro Trainer features with up to 20 admins, full white-label options, interactive video, custom mobile app, 24/7 premium support.
(Note: All LearnWorlds plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
You can try LearnWorlds by signing up for their free 30-day trial below.
And with no transaction fees and instant payouts, you can see why Podia has more than 20,000 users and growing.
Here’s a quick demo:
The course platform also provides built-in email marketing tools, plenty of storage to host your video lessons, and embedded checkout options that allow your students to buy your course without leaving your site.
✓ Course builder offers simplicity and intuitive ease of use
✓ No transaction fees
✓ Platform designed to sell courses, memberships, webinars, and digital products
✓ “Unlimited Everything” (courses, users, etc.)
✓ Customizable storefront pages with embedded checkout pages
✓ Built-in email marketing feature
✓ Customer reviews indicate that email/chat support is very helpful
✗ Course builder lacks design customization options
✗ Shortage of learning engagement or tracking features (graded quizzes, certificates, etc)
✗ Limited range of personalization options for email marketing
✗ No phone support available, only email/text chat
• Mover: $39/month ($32.50/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses & digital downloads, custom domain, email newsletters, pre-launch products, Google analytics, live chat & email support.
• Shaker: $79/month ($65.83/mo if paid annually). All Mover features plus audience memberships, embedded checkout, blog, offsite buy buttons, affiliate marketing, and 3rd party integrations.
(Note: Podia does not offer a money-back guarantee but has a free trial.)
You can try Podia by signing up for their free 14-day trial below.
5. LearnDash (best WordPress plugin)
Its user-friendly dashboard with drag and drop capabilities makes it simple and easy for anyone to create a professional-looking course online.
Other LearnDash features include course completion certificates and awards, quizzes, drip-fed content, and several payment options for your students.
✓ Used by major universities and Fortune 500 companies
✓ Clean and user-friendly WordPress dashboard
✓ Focus Mode feature eliminates distractions for your students
✓ Gradebook tallies and grades student quiz scores for you
✓ Integrates with WooCommerce, Stripe, and many 3rd parties
✓ One-time fee (instead of subscription) is a very good value
✗ Requires WordPress (and reasonable WordPress knowledge)
✗ WordPress site performance can suffer with too many students
✗ Not as easy to use as many stand-alone LMS software (e.g. Thinkific)
✗ Some of the most useful features are premium add-ons with extra cost
✗ Customer support is limited to M-F business hours only
• Basic: $159/year. One site license, unlimited courses & users, content protection, drip-feed lessons, quizzing, certificates & badges, course forums, email notifications, free integrations, 1-year support & updates.
• Plus: $189/year. All Basic plans with up to 10 site licenses and includes ProPanel add-on.
• Pro: $329/year. All Plus plans with up to 25 site licenses and includes ProPanel add-on.
(Note: All LearnDash plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
You can try LearnDash for $40 off by signing up below.
This means you can build an entire website, blog, marketing funnel with upsells and digital marketing products, along with an automated email campaign all within Kajabi’s robust platform.
Kajabi also offers many attractive course designs, powerful engagement features, and various “pipelines” that allow you to serve up promotional offers and sales pages to ensure that you earn while your students learn.
✓ Kajabi provides everything you need to run your online course biz
✓ Easy to use and upload content/structure your course lessons
✓ All-in-one platform offers many automated marketing tools
✓ Attractive course designs and iOS/Android mobile app
✓ Set up websites or blogs and build complete sales funnels
✓ Comes with its own email list marketing automation
✓ 24/7 customer support with online training and community
✗ High monthly fee
✗ The number of features and tools can be overwhelming for someone who just wants to create a course
✗ Certain features can be confusing to learn (e.g. Pipelines)
✗ Some complaints about email deliverability
✗ Limited reporting metrics and other tracking features
• Basic: $149/month ($119/mo if paid annually). One website, 3 products & pipelines, unlimited landing pages & marketing emails, 1k active members, 10k contacts, templates, quizzes, chat support.
• Growth: $199/month ($159/mo if paid annually). All Basic features with up to 10 admins, 15 products & pipelines, 10k active members, 25k contacts, advanced automation tools, white label, 24/7 chat support.
• Pro: $399/month ($319/mo if paid annually). All Growth features with up to 25 admins, 3 websites, 100 products & pipelines, 2M marketing emails, 20k active members, 100k contacts, 24/7 chat support.
(Note: All Kajabi plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
You can try Kajabi by signing up for their free 14-day trial below.
The main difference between Udemy and course creation software such as Thinkific and Teachable is that it also provides instructors with the ability to list their courses in Udemy’s massive online directory.
At least, in theory.
In reality, only the top 1% of all course creators on Udemy manage to make a full-time income.
(You should check out my detailed explanation of e-learning platforms here.)
✓ One of the best online learning platforms with large pre-existing user base
✓ No transaction fees, all courses have a 30-day money-back-guarantee
✓ Instructor dashboard provides simple way to load video course lessons
✓ Marketplace analytics suite identifies promising (or overcrowded) topics
✓ Optional marketing programs available to help sell your course
✓ Courses can include quizzes, assignments, slides, videos, etc.
✗ Hard to stand out among 100,000+ courses and 60,000+ instructors
✗ Mostly part-time income except for top 1% of course creators
✗ Split profits with company, no ownership over student information
✗ Average course prices are pathetically low (e.g. $50 or less)
✗ Major lack of customization options (all courses look similar)
✗ No live support, just form on website
• No fees or applications to create a course on Udemy. But just like Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning, Udemy pays their course creators based on a revenue share model.
• If you handle the marketing of your course (e.g. sell it on your blogging website), you get 97% of the profits and Udemy gets 3%. If someone purchases your course on Udemy’s marketplace, you split the profits 50/50.
• Udemy also uses paid advertising (e.g. banner ads) and search engine optimization (SEO) to market their courses and will pay you 50% if someone buys your course through a search engine, 25% if from a paid ad.
You can try Udemy for free by signing up below.
Courses are a mix of video lessons and “class projects” (actual work) and all new courses get temporary high placement on the Skillshare main page.
Skillshare also uses a revenue sharing model where you can earn income based on how many premium subscribers your courses have.
✓ Well-established online course marketplace with over 4 million students
✓ Course lessons are limited to short, easy to digest 10-25 minute videos
✓ Provides excellent features for student participation
✓ Eye-catching dashboard is simple to use and navigate
✓ Offers a popular marketplace to promote your course and make sales
✗ Competing against more than 8 MILLION course creators
✗ Instructors are paid through a royalty system
✗ Average teacher only makes $200 per month
✗ Minimum of 25 students before you get paid
✗ Email support only
• Skillshare uses a royalty system to pay their course creators. Teachers are paid based on the total number of Premium Members they bring to the platform and the number of course minutes their students watch.
• The catch is that you only get paid if a minimum of 25 students enroll in your online course or watch 30 mins of your course learning materials.
• Once you reach 25 students, you’ll receive $10 per Premium referral or a percentage of revenue based on your course minutes watched.
You can try Skillshare for free by signing up below.
With a red carpet service that specializes in attention to detail, Academy Of Mine offers fully-managed plans and a support staff that will customize and personalize nearly any course feature you can think of.
Academy Of Mine also supports SCORM course authoring tools such as iSpring and Adobe Captivate.
But if you’re looking for an inexpensive plug ‘n play course building platform, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Academy Of Mine Pros
✓ Trusted by large corporations and universities
✓ Highly personalized attention and limitless customization options
✓ All-in-one platform includes both e-learning tools and marketing features
✓ Supports SCORM, credentialed learning for accredited courses
✓ Offers 24/7 live client support with a dedicated account manager
Academy Of Mine Cons
✗ Exceedingly high pricing
✗ Course building interface is non-intuitive and has a steep learning curve
✗ Some customer complaints of long load times for the software
✗ Lack of clear tutorials, relies on you contacting support
Academy Of Mine Pricing
• Main: $9,997/year ($833/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses & students, quizzes & assignments, integrated eCommerce, custom user fields & payment gateways, group onboarding, 24/7 customer support.
(Note: All Academy of Mine plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
You can request a free trial and demo of Academy Of Mine below.
Along with typical course features such as student quizzes and multiple types of lesson content, Ruzuku also lets you host webinars on-demand and live courses.
More importantly, students can track their own progress and participate in a course community where they can create profiles and post in the forum.
Overall, Ruzuku is a simple course building software that’s mostly suited for start-up course creators not looking for a lot of design customization options.
✓ Very easy to use course creator
✓ Offers built-in webinars (similar to Zoom) with live chat and other features
✓ No transaction fees (student payments come directly to you)
✓ Daily backups to protect your course content
✓ Course-wide Q&A, social profiles, and e-learning community
✗ High monthly fee for what you get
✗ Very limited course design customization
✗ Few integration options
✗ No direct contact with your students
✗ Support is limited to email and phone callback requests
• Bootstrapper: $99/month ($75/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses & students, unlimited video/audio/data hosting, single instructor, 0% transaction fees, accept PayPal or Stripe, email & phone callback support.
• Up-and-Comer: $149/month ($83/mo if paid annually). All Bootstrapper features plus unlimited webinars, polls & quizzes, subscriptions & payment plans for students, email & phone callback support.
• University: $199/month ($125/mo if paid annually). All Up-and-Comer features plus your own website domain and dedicated account manager.
(Note: All Ruzuku plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
You can try Ruzuku by signing up for their free 14-day trial below.
In fact, nearly half a million instructors from 200 countries are using WizIQ to teach over 4 million students worldwide.
Features include all the bells and whistles from whiteboards and screen sharing to audio/video communication and a content library.
However, it’s fair to say that WizIQ is not ideal for those only looking to put together pre-recorded online courses and there are reports of tech issues with little customer support.
✓ One of the best training platforms for live virtual classrooms
✓ Live training with audio/video chat, polling, whiteboards, screen sharing
✓ User-friendly interface, can be accessed through mobile phone
✓ Unlimited storage space
✓ Relatively low starter price
✗ Numerous complaints of lackluster customer support
✗ Many complaints of downtime and issues for slow internet connections
✗ Platform does not support many languages, confusing for non-English speakers
✗ Complaints of audio issues with larger class sizes
• VC Professional: $25/month (paid annually). Dedicated virtual classroom, 10/25/50 participants, audio/visual communication, chat, whiteboard, content library, up to 2hr class time, 24/7 live support.
• VC Enterprise: $68/month (paid annually). All Professional plan features with up to 100 participants, custom website integration, white label, up to 300 minutes class time, screen sharing, polling, 24/7 live support.
• LMS Elite: $80/month (paid annually). Self-paced courses, unlimited tests with multiple choice questions, learner mobile app, discussion forum, integrated payment gateway, 25GB storage, email support.
• LMS Infinite: $107/month (paid annually). All Elite features with up to 50GB storage, completion certificates, white label, onboarding and success manager, 24/7 live chat and phone support.
(Note: WizIQ does not offer a money-back guarantee or refunds.)
You can try WizIQ for free by signing up below.
✓ Partnered with some of the top universities in the world
✓ Students can audit a ton of courses for free
✓ Individual and Professional course certificates are fairly priced
✓ World-class experts provide top-of-the-line instruction
✓ Offer a 14-day refund policy on their courses
✗ Lack of personal interaction with course instructors
✗ Many complaints of poor customer support and missing certificates
✗ Course quality varies from excellent to outdated/very poor
✗ Can be very difficult to receive a refund
• Individual Course Certificate: $49 to $99 (one-time). 4000+ courses from top universities and companies which include video lectures, written content, assignments, and discussion forums.
• Specializations and Professional Certificates: $39 to $79/month. Specializations include 400+ course packages based on a specific topic. Professional certifications are more career-specific.
• Coursera Plus: $399/year. Unlimited access to 3000+ courses which include individual courses, specializations, and professional certificates.
• MasterTrack Certificates: $2000+. Comprised of online coursework and live instruction that are part of a Master’s degree program.
• Degrees: $15,000+. Equivalent to earning a legitimate Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an accredited institution.
(Note: Coursera has a 14-day course refund policy.)
You can try Coursera for free by signing up below.
Available to all LinkedIn Premium subscribers, the site is packed with video lectures ranging from project management training and entrepreneurship courses to data science and web development.
One where you have to justify your expertise in both teaching and the subject matter upfront, in addition to providing course descriptions and sample video.
As you can imagine, plenty of applicants are rejected.
But if you do manage to get accepted as an instructor, LinkedIn Learning will give you a guaranteed cash advance on royalties for your course.
LinkedIn Learning Pros
✓ LinkedIn has unmatched brand popularity among business professionals
✓ Collaborate with some of the top course producers, directors, and editors
✓ Students can access courses via mobile, play vids at half/double speed
✓ Courses can use videos/documents/links, include quizzes/assessments
✓ Accepted instructors are offered guaranteed income with royalty advances
LinkedIn Learning Cons
✗ Tough application process, only top instructors accepted
✗ Royalty-based payment model
✗ LinkedIn Learning owns your course content
✗ Mainly focused on business-related topics
LinkedIn Learning Pricing
• No fees to create a course but instructors are accepted by application only.
• Similar to Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning uses a royalty system to pay their instructors. The monthly revenue the company generates is split among the authors of the most popular courses in any given month.
• How much depends on the course topic, skill level required, longevity in their library, and overall author quality. For most instructors, this adds up to maybe a couple hundred per month (only a few make thousands).
You can apply to become a LinkedIn Learning instructor below.
Options include course infographics, certifications, assessments, engagement features, and limited theme customization.
For students, TalentLMS provides a simple and clean user interface that even non-techie folks will find easy to navigate.
✓ Intuitive interface, easily accessible for student users
✓ Uploading courses and importing SCORM files is simple
✓ Analytics, reporting, and progress tracking for students and customers
✓ Some whitelabel and customized branding options
✓ Offers infographics, certifications, gamification, and surveys
✗ Customizations outside the standard template builds are difficult
✗ Reporting features could use improvement
✗ Small number of students allowed on starter plan
✗ No phone support or live assistance on most plans (email only)
• Free: Up to 10 courses, max of 5 students, unlimited email support.
• Starter: $79/month ($59/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses, up to 40 students, unlimited email support.
• Plus: $329/month ($249/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses, up to 500 students, custom reports, automations, custom domain SSL, success manager, unlimited email support.
• Premium: $529/month ($429/mo if paid annually). Unlimited courses, up to 1000 students, custom reports, automations, custom domain SSL, success manager, unlimited email & live chat support.
(Note: TalentLMS does not offer a money-back guarantee or refunds.)
You can try TalentLMS for free by signing up below.
Add-on features include student progress tracking, advanced quizzes, lesson completion notifications, no transactions fees, and seamless integration with nearly any WordPress theme.
To get all these features though, you’ll need to pay for them so LifterLMS isn’t exactly a “free” plugin per se, not to mention you’ll need to excel at WordPress to get the most out of this online course platform.
LifterLMS Learning Pros
✓ Core WP plugin is free
✓ Highly-rated by WordPress users
✓ Simple, drag and drop course builder is easy to use
✓ Wide variety of add-on features available
✓ WooCommerce and Astra WP theme integrations
LifterLMS Learning Cons
✗ Add-on features can get pricey at $99 a pop
✗ Design is a little outdated and clunky
✗ Limited email marketing integrations (Mailchimp & ConvertKit only)
✗ User interface not optimized for Apple iPhone or other mobile screens
✗ Support tickets only
• Core Plugin: Free. Create unlimited free courses for unlimited students, achievement badges, certificates, automated emails, basic quizzes, manual course sales only (no credit card or PayPal payments).
• Individual Add-Ons: $99/year per add-on.
• Universe Bundle: $299/year. Includes core plugin, 5 active sites, automated payment processing, design add-ons, ecommerce add-ons, marketing & CRM add-ons, form add-ons, priority support.
• Infinity Bundle: $999/year. Includes core plugin, unlimited active sites, automated payment processing, design add-ons, ecommerce add-ons, marketing & CRM add-ons, form add-ons, priority & live office support.
(Note: All LifterLMS paid plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
Besides all the usual features such as quizzes, progress tracking, checklists, etc — AccessAlly really shines in the marketing and sales department.
Solid membership site management, free trials, 1-click upsells, integrated affiliate tracking, and attractive order forms are just a few of the standout features.
If you’re looking for more one-on-one support, AccessAlly also has a pricey option where they’ll give you personalized hand-holding to get you set up.
✓ Premium WordPress LMS plugin
✓ Solid e-commerce platform built for marketing and selling
✓ High amount of flexibility and control, everything can be customized
✓ Single or drip courses with custom field credits for gamification/points
✓ Conversion features include affiliate marketing, coupons, 1-click upsells
✗ Price is significantly higher than similar competitors
✗ Course builder not very intuitive or user-friendly
✗ Customized sites difficult to update without WordPress knowledge
✗ Several complaints of integrations and tags not working correctly
• Essentials: $99/month ($82/mo if paid annually). Includes 1 site license, unlimited courses & members, mobile-friendly order forms w/ Stripe & PayPal, 1-click upsells, 2 monthly training calls, email & phone support.
Pro Plan: $129/month ($108/mo if paid annually). Includes all Essentials features plus built-in learning management system & social sharing, flexible quiz types, certificates, private notes, student analytics.
In-House Training: $2500/year. Includes all Pro features plus in-house Pro Training License for instructional purposes, step-by-step digital training, 5 team training seats for your entire team.
(Note: All AccessAlly plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.)
If you get accepted as a publisher, you can create a wide variety of courses that will be compatible with any learning management system on the market.
OpenSesame’s easy LMS platform integration makes it a perfect fit for training firms and businesses who can bring hundreds or thousands of users to your course.
✓ Trusted by well-known publishers like TED and Big Think
✓ E-learning platform can integrate with any LMS
✓ Allows course creators to reach huge global audiences
✓ Very high course quality standards
✓ Accepted publishers get a lot of helpful support
✗ Course creators must share profits with the company
✗ Publishers are accepted by application-only
✗ Not an ideal solution for solo edupreneurs
✗ Some complaints of technical glitches using the platform
• Free to get started as a course publisher (by application only).
• Once you’ve been accepted as a publisher, you can upload your courses to sell on the OpenSesame marketplace.
• Publishers split their course profits 60/40 with OpenSesame.
You can apply to become a publisher for OpenSesame below.
Helpful e-learning features include a powerful quiz creator, course previews, Q&A, and a sleek course lesson viewer that’s enjoyable to use for students.
Of course, simplicity comes with a downside:
While TutorLMS is only half as complicated as most WordPress LMS plugins, it also lacks some of the features and flexibility offered by other plugins like content dripping, shopping cart integrations, and better email automation.
On the other hand, you can try out a free version of TutorLMS to see if this promising WordPress LMS is right for you.
✓ Free basic version
✓ High overall rating by users on WordPress
✓ User-friendly frontend dashboard
✓ Courses can include prerequisites, multiple instructors, 10 quiz types
✓ Reports and analytics allow you to easily track course sales
✗ Lacks some marketing features such as shopping cart integration
✗ Limited number of template styles available
✗ Customized sites difficult to update without WordPress knowledge
✗ Email automation is basic and could use improvement
✗ No phone support available
• Basic: Free. Unlimited lessons & courses, advance quiz creator, Q&A section, student & instructor dashboards, course rating & review, native video, YouTube & Vimeo, WooCommerce support, content security.
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What Are Online Course Platforms?
Online course platforms are learning management systems (LMS) that specialize in delivering content for virtual classes and training programs.
Wanna teach your peeps the manly art of knitting?
Now you can, cowboy.
Or perhaps you’re an expert on how to make money in your spare time:
(No risk, no reward.)
Or maybe you’ve been composting your own crap for years:
(Pretty sure that guy’s full of sh*t.)
In any case:
Typical features include hosting your video and text content, custom course designs, student progress tracking, payment options, marketing tools, etc.
Basically everything you need to build and grow a successful online course.
Before we move on, let’s define the two main types of e-learning platforms:
Online Learning Platforms
Also known as massive open online courses (MOOCs), these are marketplaces with large directories of online courses to make it easier for students to connect with a wide variety of subject matter experts.
As an instructor, you can build a course and host it in their online directory for a share of your sales.
Examples: Udemy, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, etc.
Upsides: Tap into an existing brand popularity, student base, and web traffic.
Downsides: Highly competitive, less control over your branding, lower course prices, no access to your students’ email addresses, split your profits with the platform, mostly part-time income.
The key takeaway here is that your chances of getting enough enrollments to ‘get rich’ or to start using a money counter to keep track of the dollars you earn on Udemy are veerrrry slim.
The chances of you getting enough enrollments needed to raise a family and put kids through college are somewhat slim as well.
On the flip side, your chances of earning a very decent side income are pretty darn good. And your chances of funding your Starbucks habit for six months also very good.
If you’re just looking to make an extra couple hundred bucks a month by selling an online course as a side hustle?
Joining a marketplace like Udemy might be a good fit since you prob’ly won’t make a full-time income but you won’t have to worry about traffic, either.
If you’re serious about creating a six-figure online business by selling a course that you own and control 100% of the profits, design, pricing options, and students?
Here’s a better option:
Online Course Platforms
These are pieces of software that give you the tools to easily build and sell an online course yourself, offer much higher prices, host it on your own course website, and control your own marketing.
Examples: Thinkific, Teachable, LearnWorlds, etc.
Upsides: Charge any price you want, no splitting profits with the platform, maintain complete control over your branding and student information.
Downsides: You’re responsible for all traffic generation and marketing.
Speaking of which, here’s a list of common features available in modern course software:
|Top Online Course Software Features|
|Browser or cloud-based (no downloads or software installation)|
|Supports text, video, audio, PDFs, and image content|
|Free, paid, and subscription-based course options|
|Unlimited number of courses and students|
|Lesson discussions & student community|
|Content dripping or time-limited content|
|Private, hidden, or self-paced courses|
|Quizzes, surveys, and exams|
|Student progress reports|
|Online course reviews|
|Course completion certificates|
|Drag & drop webpage builder|
|Custom themes, colors, and domains|
|Email autoresponder integrations|
|Payment gateway integrations|
Seems like a bit much, right?
The question is:
How do you create an exceptional online course in the first place?
Let me show you right now:
How To Create an Online Course That Sells
Check this out:
Research shows that e-learning can boost retention rates by up to 60% and participants can learn 5 times more material in the same amount of time.
Behold the learning pyramid:
As you can see above, typical classroom teaching methods of reading and lecturing only have retention rates of around 5-10%.
Unless you’re a knowledge sponge like this lil’ gangster:
But for the rest of us dummies, e-learning (when done correctly) combines passive and participatory teaching methods for much higher learning retention from home.
The only problem?
That’s assuming the online instructor knows how to put an effective and successful program together.
So here are six things you must do to create an online course that sells:
1. Choose a familiar niche.
First off, you should pick a topic that you have some skills or experience in.
You need to realize that most folks base their decision to buy an online course on the teacher’s (aka YOUR) credibility and expertise.
Now, don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying you have to be a world-class expert here. Not even close.
For example, I have a lot of experience in the lead generation niche so it’s only natural for me to have a lead gen course.
And a big part of its success comes from the fact that people can tell I know what the hell I’m talking about.
If I tried to bullsh*t my way through a topic like social media marketing (which I’m clueless about), my obvious incompetence would quickly shine through.
Not to mention it would be super-hard for me to put the course material together since I have no firsthand experience.
Tip: If you’re stuck, make a list of topics your friends and family are always asking you to help them with. Or what have you helped yourself accomplish that you’re proud of?
There’s a catch though.
And it’s one of my golden rules of marketing:
Sell what people want to buy. But give them what they need.
• People don’t want a shovel; they want a hole.
But they need a shovel to get the hole.
• People don’t want a lawnmower; they want a nice yard.
Cue John Deere.
• People don’t want a diet or exercise program; they want a flat stomach.
Going back to my lead gen course example, our students aren’t interested in learning how to rank websites and generate leads for local business owners.
The outcome they really want is more time and financial freedom that a successful lead gen business can provide.
Here’s a few more examples:
|COURSE TOPIC||SPECIFIC OUTCOME EXAMPLES|
|Golf||Add 50 yards to your drive||Break 90 strokes in 90 days|
|Photography||Take awe-inspiring photos in 5 easy steps||Build a home studio for less than $500|
|Relationships||Double your dating in 30 days||Find your soulmate with online dating|
|Investing||Full-time income from Forex trading||Make six-figures from home by day trading|
|Fitness||Put on 10lbs of muscle in 5 weeks||Get a flat belly with hot yoga|
|Clowns||Turn that frown upside down with fart jokes||Hilarious makeup in less than 10 minutes|
Get the idea?
It all boils down to this:
Don’t overthink this — just narrow it down to a few specific outcomes, choose your favorite one, and you’re set.
Tip: Use your chosen outcome to name your course but avoid picking a vague, boring, or confusing title. People are looking for clear results, not clever puns.
Course name examples (keep it simple, specific, and brief):
Good: Hit 300-Yard Drives
Bad: Un-fore-gettable Golf
Good: More Muscle Every Month
Bad: Lift Long and Prosper
Good: Double Your Dating
Bad: The Relationship Principle
Good: Take Spectacular Photos
Bad: Focusing On Photography
Good: The Truth About Abs
Bad: The Best Weigh To Go
Good: Five-Figure Forex Trades
Bad: Investing in the 21st Century
(Note: Some of these are actual course names so don’t copy, just imitate.)
2. Create epic content.
Epic content is any type of content that’ll ultimately change the game for those consuming it. It should always be at least educational, inspiring or entertaining – and if possible, all three rolled into one.
~ Chris Ducker, founder of Youpreneur.com
Now that you’ve decided on a profitable niche that has a specific outcome and named your course, you’ll need to develop the content.
Here’s the key thing to remember:
Quality always trumps quantity.
Years ago, I used to think the opposite and would buy a course largely based on how much information was being offered.
Kinda like buying tuna — I was paying by the pound.
I agree, pal.
And the result was the same every single time:
After a lot of skimming, I’d eventually give up and blame it on the course.
Obviously, I was being a lazy piece of sh*t who refused to take responsibility for my actions.
But along with that, I was a struggling entrepreneur who just wanted a glass of water but ended up performing fellatio on a fire hose.
What’s my point?
Whether that takes 3 or 30 hours, so be it.
Just keep in mind that information overload is real.
Most people have tiny attention spans and can quickly get overwhelmed if you blast them with too much information…
Truth be told:
Your goal should NOT be to cover everything there is to know about your topic — less is more.
So instead of asking yourself:
“How much content can I create for my students?”
Your motto should be:
“How little do my students require to get maximum results?”
In other words, your job is to deliver the most important, need-to-know information in as few lessons as possible.
Don’t worry about not having enough content.
Here’s an excellent template to follow when creating your course lessons:
Course Lesson Roadmap
Long story short:
The idea is to produce content that’s bite-sized and easily digestible.
According to Teachable, nearly 70% of their top online schools use video lectures that are less than 10 minutes in length.
A course with 6 modules comprised of three 5-minute focused lessons (1.5 hours total) is much better than 6 modules of 30-minute rambling videos.
Same goes for written content like a slideshow presentation — use short 1-3 line paragraphs, lots of images, and avoid huge walls of text.
Stick with me here cuz I’m gonna show you exactly how to do this stuff without breaking a sweat.
But for now, put it this way:
The drug dosage you prescribe (i.e. your content) should be just enough to solve their problem — no more, no less.
If you give them too much, you risk an overdose.
Too little and they’ll remain sick.
Got it, doc?
3. Set your price.
If you’re good at something, never do it for free.
~ The Joker
Let me ask you something:
Do you feel a lil’ nervous or unsure about charging people for your knowledge?
After all, why would they pay for something they can find for free on Google, right?
I know the feeling.
Don’t do that.
First of all, let’s dispel some myths:
“Online training isn’t as valuable as in-person training.”
FALSE. As long as your online course material can deliver the results it promises, it’s even more valuable since your students can learn at their own pace and from the comfort of their own home.
Here’s another one:
“You can’t charge a premium price for online training.”
FALSE. Your goal should be to create the best online course in your niche which can ultimately command a significant investment (i.e. become the Rolls-Royce of Results for your industry).
And finally, here’s my favorite common myth:
“It takes twice as much effort to sell a high-priced course than a cheap one.”
FALSE. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s just as easy to sell a high-quality course for $5k than it is to sell one for $500.
Hard to believe, right?
Here’s the key:
Sure, we all know folks who’d never invest in an online course yet are perfectly willing to spend untold hours sorting through free information on Google.
They’re the same type of person who doesn’t mind waiting an hour or two in a drive-thru if they can score a free coffee or burger.
Ignore these “cheaple” or “freeple” as I call ‘em.
These poor souls know the price of everything but the value of nothing (i.e. time > money) and you don’t want them as customers anyway.
These are your future students and they’re looking to get a course like yours in their hot little hands at this very moment.
So the question becomes, how much do you charge?
Brace yourself, here it comes:
Sorry but that’s all your crappy lil’ course is worth right now. Deal with it.
It really depends on your niche and what you’re offering.
Let’s say you create an online course in the health, fitness, or relationship space that provides little or no client support, interaction, or community.
Generally speaking, you’re prob’ly looking at charging anywhere between $100 and $500 for something like that — a true one-and-done type of deal.
Build a helpful community and actually give a sh*t about their results?
Well, now you can justify charging a lot more — anywhere from $500 all the way up to $2000.
And once you’ve been around a while, streamlined and refined your material, and have a bunch of proof in the form of real success stories and testimonials?
But in the beginning, there’s nothing wrong with starting small and charging a modest price or even offering a free training just to test your idea out.
“Free? WTF! You said if you’re good at something, never do it for free!”
Simmer down, hot sauce.
4. Use the right tools.
Even the simplest tools can empower people to do great things.
~ Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter
Watch me explain this section below if you’re feelin’ froggy:
Online course creation tools are important, but not as much as you might think.
But let me share a secret with you:
If this is your first course — or tenth, for that matter — you don’t need all that.
I once heard someone say that if you want to impress people, make things complicated. But if you truly want to help them?
Keep. It. Simple.
That’s why I highly recommend starting with a basic course where you create a slideshow presentation and then record an audio screencast over the slides.
The good news?
Anyone can do this with minimal equipment — even YOU 🙂
It gets better:
I know I sound like a broken record here but it cannot be overstated:
People are far more interested in the quality of your content (i.e. the positive outcome your course helps them achieve) than how pretty or fancy it looks.
Take my lead gen course, for example.
I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s not a work of art:
Kidding. My course ain’t that ugly.
But despite being a lil’ rough around the edges, the only reason it’s still going strong after six years (6k+ students) is because it gets results — everything else is secondary.
(We’ve also built a solid online community, but more about that later.)
That said, you obviously can’t drill a hole with a shovel.
So here are the tools I recommend to produce an awesome course:
• Slides — For slide-based course presentations, your best bet is to use either Canva.com, PowerPoint (for PCs) or Keynote (for Macs) to create your course material and write out each lesson script word-for-word.
• Screen Recording Software — I use and recommend Camtasia and Screencast-O-Matic ($20/yr for Deluxe), ScreenFlow or Screen Recorder (free for Mac users), and I’ve also heard good things about Loom.com.
• Microphone — Watch YouTube or Netflix and I’m sure you’d agree that audio quality is just as important as video quality (if not more so). Besides a quiet, low-echo environment to record in, use a quality mic like Blue Yeti.
• Video Hosting — My personal preference is Vimeo for hosting course videos. If you’re just getting started, Plus or Pro is the most cost-effective option and you can always upgrade later for more storage. Wistia is also good but pricey.
• Lighting — While you definitely don’t need to be on camera for your course, the best lighting simulates natural daylight. For affordable and high-quality lighting kits I suggest using Fovitec or HPUSN.
• Camera — If (and only if) you decide to be on film, you can’t go wrong with a top-rated DSLR camera like the Nikon D3500 or Canon EOS Rebel. Even a high-end webcam such as Logitech’s C920S can work fine.
• Custom Graphics — This is another optional course feature that isn’t 100% necessary but still nice to have. I suggest looking on Fiverr under Graphics & Design for a logo/slide presentation designer or check out 99Designs.
Now that you know the tools, let’s talk about what brings it all together:
5. Build a community.
Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.
~ Helen Keller
Want a successful program? Don’t skip this step.
Besides creating epic content for your course, the single most valuable thing you can do is set up an exclusive mastermind group for your students.
How it works:
Private FB groups are invite-only groups that allow members to see the posts from other members all while remaining hidden from the public.
As the admin of the group, you can simply invite each of your students to join and participate in your online community if they so choose.
Here’s the big idea:
Not only is this an incredible value-add for your course but the FB group can also be your support hub where members can ask questions, help each other, and celebrate victories together.
Without a doubt, our members-only FB group is critical to the success of my online course and one of the main reasons it continues to thrive after 6 years.
In fact, let me be blunt:
Now, don’t get it twisted…
You do NOT have to be a “Facebook expert” or social media fanatic to do this.
Personally, I think social media is a colossal waste of time for the most part.
But all you need to do is set up a simple FB group, pop in once a day to answer questions, and soon enough it’ll take on a life of its own.
You can even choose specific days/times when you’re available for a live FAQ session.
(Which will never end. Trust me, horrible idea.)
Instead, they can post questions inside the FB group and everyone can answer.
Which often results in your students experiencing higher success rates thanks to feeling like they’re part of a close-knit, helpful community.
Oh and can’t forget that more testimonials and success stories equals more proof that your online course works.
Which makes it easier to sell.
Which make you more money.
That’s the power of building an online community — everybody wins.
And considering how quickly and easily you can set one up, it’s a no-brainer.
Time for the kicker:
It’s all for nothing unless you do one last thing…
6. Master your marketing.
For starters, let’s do a quick recap:
So far, you’ve learned how to choose a profitable niche that you have some experience in, create epic content, use the right tools, and build a community.
But let me say this straight:
If you don’t know how to generate traffic and promote your online course…
Basically, there are 4 sources of internet traffic:
• Free organic traffic (Google, Bing, YouTube, etc)
• Paid advertising traffic (Facebook ads, Google ads, YouTube ads, etc)
• Social media traffic (Instagram, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc)
• Referral traffic (Your students, affiliates, blogs, podcast interviews, etc)
As you can prob’ly guess, I’m not gonna do a major deep-dive into each traffic source in this particular article.
But one thing’s for sure:
Here’s the secret to getting unlimited traffic:
Choose ONE traffic source and become great at it.
Like my boy Ricky Bobby says:
Seriously, just think about anyone who has a ton of followers online.
Doesn’t matter if they’re a popular YouTuber, influencer on Instagram, podcaster, blogger, whatever.
In most cases, each of them has one main source of traffic.
The Kardashians: Instagram.
Donald Trump: Twitter.
Joe Rogan: Podcast.
This blog: Pornhub.
(Kidding. Mine is Google.)
To state the obvious, of course it’s possible to have multiple traffic flows.
But are you a celebrity or household name?
Didn’t think so.
Million-dollar question time:
Which type of traffic should you choose?
You already know what I’m gonna say…
(Try to get THAT image outta your head.)
But if you’re starting from zero, I’d suggest choosing free organic traffic (from Google) or paid traffic (from FB ads, YouTube ads, etc).
For me, it’s Google.
For you, it could be something else.
The biggest takeaway?
There is no “best” type of traffic — they ALL work extremely well.
Choose your best fit and go all in. It’s that simple.
If you do that and follow the rest of the steps in this guide, you’re golden.
Okay, I’ll shut up now.
Best Online Course Platforms: Quick Summary (2020)*Mobile users: Scroll left/right on table if your screen can't fit all 4 columns
Bottom Line: Online Course Platforms
There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Settle down Clawdia, here’s my point:
There are many software platforms that can help you build an online course and some are better than others.
People buy courses to get results, right?
Having a pretty platform is nice and all but unless your content delivers exactly what it promises…
Kidding. We all know that crap is crap.
(My free guide shows you how.)
Here’s the good news:
That’s how much the e-learning industry is projected to grow by 2026.
So if you’re an online course creator, you’re in the right place at the right time.
And thanks to modern technology, it’s never been easier to build and sell professional-grade online courses.
But just like anything worthwhile, it still requires a lot of work.
How do I know?
Humble brag alert:
Our online course has generated over 7-figures even though my biz partner and I ain’t even close to being the world’s foremost experts on our niche.
Yeah, didn’t think so.
But it means you (yes, even YOU) can do this too, so you’re fresh outta excuses.
Speaking of fresh: