With many options to choose from, it can be a difficult task trying to settle on an online course platform that will work for you. You’ll need to think about cost, flexibility and how easily your chosen platform can support the type of learning you’re looking to make money from.
Whatever your specific needs, you can use this guide to help you compare your options.
An online course platform is a type of Learning Management System (LMS) that works a bit like a digital classroom where you host the sharing of your expertise in a certain area. These platforms can provide a host of added features to facilitate your teaching, including multimedia like webinars and animation. They can also help you market your lessons, helping you turn your knowledge into hard cash.
The type of learning you want to provide can range from a one-off, intensive session to ongoing courses that last weeks or months.
Generally, online course platforms can be split into the following categories:
- Online learning marketplaces. Your course is one part of a wider catalogue and you’re given an existing base of students. You’ll typically deliver your course content with a limited number of amendable features; you can expect the ability to edit your course’s landing page as a minimum.
- Hosted software. An online course that uses hosted software – or a WordPress plugin, as with providers like LearnDash. These platforms usually includes a range of customisable options and content formats, without the need to be tech-savvy. Using hosted software essentially gives you more control over how you present your content.
- All-in-one platforms. Many providers today, such as Kajabi, offer complete platforms where you run your website and course site together, complete with a wide choice of easy-to-use tools that can help you to grow your audience.
The features of online course platforms vary quite a lot, and whether or not you can use all of them depends on what pricing tier you choose.
- Multimedia. Does a platform easily support images, PDFs, video and audio?
- Real-time interactions. How easy is it to communicate with your students?
- Features. Can you pre-schedule courses, share interactive content or add quizzes?
- Payments. How does the platform’s fees structure work? How easy is it for you to collect payments?
- Security. Is the platform secure and how easy is it to back up your course?
- Marketing. Does a platform make it easy for you to reach and grow your audience?
Try to pick a plan that works best with the type of course creation you have in mind.
We reviewed these websites in November 2020. We endeavour to ensure that the information on this site is current and accurate but you should confirm any information with the product or service provider and read the information it can provide.
Important. Many online course platforms are US-owned, so expect to see lots of prices in USD. Keep this in mind during your comparison and be clear about how much it will cost you with foreign conversion rates, as well as the provider’s overall costs.
There are a number of different types of online course platforms to consider, including the following:
Thinkific makes it very easy to create and customise your courses using a drag-and-drop editor. Using the Zapier tool, you can integrate Thinkific with more than 1,500 apps – without the need for a WordPress plugin. What’s more, their responsive customer support team is on-hand to help with any problems you may have and there’s a bunch of support and learning guides available.
- Lots of customisable features
- Supports various forms of multimedia
- Name up to five user admins
- Has a free plan
- Less suited to experts in search of cheap courses
Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that gives customers plenty of ways to get paid, including via user memberships and file downloads in addition to your full online course. What’s more, its email service has a range of editable features to help you customise your updates.
- Email functionality is included in all plans
- The Pro Plan could be a great fit for complex courses
- Free 14-day trial
- Plans are quite expensive, no free option
LearnWorlds offers lots of interactivity and social learning tools, as well as regular course content. Its user-friendly platform lets you upload and edit your content to help you present it in the way you want.
- Free 30-day trial
- Four quality plans to choose from
- Supports four payment gateways
- There’s a $5 charge per sale on its Starter plan
Teachable has a Pro-plan option that includes a range of website theme customisations, quizzes, certificates and support for up to five admins. There’s a flexible pricing model and you can link an existing website to their platform with a custom domain.
- Great option for new teachers
- Easy to set up and use, complete with useful sales tools
- Few in-platform marketing features
Udemy offers a simple sign-up process and, once you’re a premium instructor, you can start creating video content of at least 30 minutes in length. A great perk with Udemy is there’s numerous ways to market your work from within their platform, which may include being placed in their marketing emails.
- User-friendly, helping you to create your courses with ease
- Access to a large user base
- Your video series must have at least five lectures
- Must have either PayPal or Payoneer account
LearnDash comes with a WordPress integration, meaning you can plug it directly into your existing WordPress site. This programme includes a number of useful features including a ‘Focus Mode’ to hide unnecessary sidebars and navigation, ensuring a smoother experience between you and your students.
- Competitively priced plans
- Easy to customise menus
- Limited design features
- No free trial
- Only annual pricing
TalentLMS is an online business learning platform with an intuitive design that can help you to deliver training to your clients or colleagues in a hassle-free way. The platform is very easy to navigate and it won’t require much training to get you started. Helpful features with TalentLMS include its support for multiple file types and multimedia options.
- 24/7 customer support
- Customise your courses for different clients with ease
- Free plan
- User experience can be clunky
Podia is an easy-to-use platform with a straightforward fees structure: you’ll pay a flat charge each month and there’s no limit to the number of courses or products you can use. Its webinar functionality is impressive, as you can schedule them in advance, share replays, and more. You can provide some of these for free as a way to grow your customer email base.
- Free 14-day trial
- No direct transaction fees apply
- Create and sell digital downloads
Ruzuku comes with an easy to use, customisable platform and you won’t have much trouble with the quick sign-up process. The platform itself is simple for students: they can mark activities as they complete them, while you can track their progress with the minimum of fuss. You can choose to pay for Ruzuku on a monthly or yearly basis.
- Easy to use
- Free 14-day trial
- Fix different price points for the same course.
- High starting price
- Basic plans don’t come with teleconference or webinar options
How can I create an online course?
Here are four immediate steps to consider when it comes to online course creation:
- Define the goals of your training and be clear about the needs of your audience
- Create a structured outline of your course
- Build out your training content
- Work out how you’ll get your content in front of your trainees
Once you’ve delivered your course, make sure you get feedback – collect as many engagement metrics as you can in order to improve your course.
Is Zoom good for online learning?
Yes, Zoom has a range of features which can be learned with a bit of training. Its multi-user interface makes it easy to host meetings and share data. Read more about Zoom in our guide.
Are there any free course platforms I should think about?
There may be some free course platforms, but it’s hard to guarantee their quality. You may find you’re better off sticking with free versions of a provider listed above, such as LearnWorlds or Thinkific.
If you’re set on a free option then make sure you do plenty of research about the provider’s credentials and look for genuine user reviews first.
What are some of the most popular online courses/categories?
Some of the most searched for online courses include the following:
- Business administration
- Interior design