OneHourProfessor is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Creating online courses is one of the best ways to make money online, but finding the best online course platform is difficult.  A simple Google search, and you’ll see dozens of reviews full of generic summaries where authors haven’t even used the platforms.

That’s NOT how this guide was created. 

This buyers guide has taken me 40+ hours to develop. Not only have I created accounts on the platforms, but I’ve also recorded walkthrough tutorials, taken screenshots of the interface, and done an in-depth analysis far beyond other guides available.  For those looking for a quick answer, I have my top 5 choices below, followed by an in-depth analysis of each platform.

Thinkific

Thinkific is the best overall platform with a free plan. This is the most affordable solution with high-quality features that scale as your business does. I use this platform myself.

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds offers the best learning experience due to its unique interactive tools like ebooks, assessments, certificates, SCORMs, surveys, and more.

Teachable

Among all of the platforms on this list, Teachable has the most user-friendly dashboard and features for beginners to start building their first online course(s).

Podia

Podia is best for you if you'd like to go beyond courses and create webinars, membership communities, downloads, and more without worrying about technology.

Teachery

Teachery is great for those that want a simplistic platform that has basic functionality to create courses at a low cost with absolutely no transaction fees.

In the past year alone, online courses have made over $46 billion, according to Statista. The same study indicates that the e-learning market will likely grow to $240 Billion by 2022.

When I first started my online business, I focused 100% on selling online courses.  At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer because you don’t need a large following to make a decent income, and I definitely didn’t have that.

From the start, there were some months I could make over $500, which blew me away. But since then, things have changed, you can make a lot more money, and now there are DOZENS of online course platforms available.

But what is the best online course platform for you?

To answer this question, there are four main factors for each online course platform that every edupreneuer needs to consider:

  1. Creating Your Online School: How difficult will it be to create your online school website, especially if you don’t have coding experience?
  2. Build Your Online Courses: What’s the user experience when developing online courses with the platform?
  3. Marketing and Selling Courses: How many tools will the platform provide to help with marketing and selling your courses?
  4. Student Management: How does the platform help you manage your students and understand their behaviors within the courses?

Based on my decade of experience as a course creator, online entrepreneur, and college professor, I want to help make this decision easier for you, so let’s jump in.

What Are the Best Online Course Platforms?

  • Thinkific: Best Overall Online Course Platform with a Free Plan
  • LearnWorlds: Best for Selling Interactive Courses
  • Teachable: Best for Beginners
  • Podia: Best All-in-One Online Course Platform
  • Teachery: Best Affordable Course Platform Focused on Simplicity
  • LearnDash: Best WordPress LMS Plugin
  • Kartra: Best Premium All-in-One Course Platform
  • Systeme.io: Best Affordable All-in-One Online Course Platform
  • Graphy: Best Platform with Live Streaming and a Mobile App
  • Yondo: Best All-in-One Course Platform for Live Sessions

1. Thinkific

Best Overall Online Course Platform With a Free Plan (FREE or $39/month).

Thinkific

My Rating: 10 out of 10
Free Plan: Yes
Pricing: Paid Plans Start at $99/Month
Read Thinkific Review

Thinkific is my favorite free online course platform by far to sell courses. Granted, their free plan has its limitations, but it’s a great place to begin if you don’t want to buy anything just yet.

They boast 51,000 instructors and have helped people earn $340 million.

This tool is an all-in-one solution that is extremely easy to navigate, even for complete beginners. In addition, it allows you to customize your course to match your existing brand and has a very impressive array of marketing and sales tools.

This cloud-based online course creation software lets you manage your clients, payments, course materials, integrations, and much more from the user-friendly dashboard.

Thinkific Tutorial:


Key Features:

  • Pre-Built School ThemesFor those intimidated by technology, Thinkific has themes that can be loaded with a click and completely customized to create your own look.
  • Intuitive Course Creation DashboardOffers a very easy-to-understand dashboard with visual aids to intuitively create online courses successfully.
  • Course Templates: Thinkific offers numerous templates that allow you to quickly pre-populate an outline for any course you wish to create.
  • Student Certificates: After students complete your course, they’ll be able to get a certificate validating their knowledge.
  • Order Bumps and Course Bundling: This allows instructors simple ways to quickly and easily increase their average order size.

User Experience:

Building Your School Website

Thinkific does an amazing job of letting you easily create your own online school on its platform with no coding knowledge whatsoever. Thinkific has an intuitive interface with numerous design features that will save you both time and cost when developing courses.

At present, they have three themes on Thinkific where you can choose the color scheme and the overall layout of your online school. While this sounds underwhelming, the customization options of these themes will simply allow you a basic design to work with, and you can customize it heavily from there to give yourself a very unique look.

Creating Courses

While most people know Thinkific for creating courses, this is where the platform shines. Not only can you create courses on the platform, but you can create communities, memberships, and develop course bundles.

One of the things I really like about Thinkific is that when you choose to create a course, they allow you to use various templates to make the process easy. Naturally, you can choose to create a blank course if you’d like, but they also give you a template for the following:

  • Pre-Sell Landing Page: Create a pre-sell landing page and build a waitlist to gauge the interest of a future course.
  • Mini-Course: Create a free or low-cost mini-course to generate leads for high-priced courses or services.
  • Flagship Course: Build a full online course that can be a cornerstone of your online course business.
  • Webinar Replay: With this template, you can host a webinar replay video to allow registrants to review your presentation and whatever upsells you have.
  • Membership Resource Library: For those that host a membership with Thinkific, this allows you to host downloadable resources to be included in a membership bundle.

Marketing and Selling Courses

Thinkific has a significant amount of marketing and sales tools to help edupreneurs be successful with their online school. Sales and marketing tools are more prevalent on Thinkific than on some of the other online course platforms, and it’s important to realize that the more sales and marketing tools you have, the more likely you are to sell your courses.

Thinkific gives online course instructors access to the following tools:

  • Coupons: If you aim to discount your courses and sell them to your students, you can do this at any time and limit the number of redeemable coupons and when they expire.
  • Order Bumps: These are offers presented on the checkout page, which your customers can add to their order with a single click.
  • Sales Widgets: If you want to highlight a course for sale on various areas of your site, you can design the look of the widget and then copy/paste the code that’ll show your widget wherever you’d like.
  • Affiliate Program: This allows you to open up an affiliate program for other people to sell your course(s) for you and get a commission while doing so.
  • Memberships: If you’re looking to develop a membership community amongst your students, you can do so within Thinkific.
  • Course Bundles: Thinkific allows you to increase your average order size, or sell complimentary courses together within the platform.

Student Management

Selling your course is one thing, but making sure that your students stay engaged is a completely different challenge. Thinkific gives instructors many different tools to manage their students and better understand their behavior within the course(s). Thinkific gives creators the following tools:

  • Users: Here, you’re able to see all of the students you have in your school, the amount they’ve spent, when they joined, their email address, the enrollments they have, and what external source they came from.
  • Groups: This is a great feature if you want to sell your courses in bulk to organizations or groups of individuals. This feature allows you to enable hundreds of people to buy your courses at once with unique sign-up links, and automatically filter customers based on cohort, time, enrollment, job type, or organization.
  • Progress: This allows you to see how much each of your enrolled students has progressed through your courses.
  • Certificates: Certificates are a great way to reward your students for completing courses and keeping them engaged! You can automatically issue certificates each time a student completes a course.
  • Discussions: The discussions feature allows you and your students to chat, ask questions, leave comments and add a deeper dimension to the content they’re learning.
  • Assignments: Assignment submissions are evaluated by the instructor to be approved for the lesson as completed or rejected, requiring a resubmission.
  • Quizzes and Surveys: This is exactly what it sounds like. If you want to have quizzes in your course, or have surveys to be completed by students, you can do this here.

Product Updates

  • 8/4/22: Launched functionality to allow instructors to host live events within their communities of students that they’ve developed.
  • 8/2/22: Gives instructors the ability to get notifications when other students reply to comments within communities.
  • 5/2/22: Launched the Thinkific App Store, which includes over 80 apps for instructors to use to add functionality and integrate other platforms for a more seamless teaching experience.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Free planCan become expensive quickly
Substantial student analytics
Very user intuitive
Recurring payments/payment plans/memberships
Email Marketing

Pricing: 

  • Free ($0/month): Great to test out the platform and understand how everything works. Accessibility to 1 course, 1 community, 1 administrator, 1000 students, 0% transaction fee, fully integrated e-commerce, quizzes/surveys, and email/chat support.
  • Start ($99/month): Great for those with a growing online school. This plan includes all Free plan features with accessibility to 10 courses, 1 community, 1 administrator, 2,500 students.
  • Grow ($199/month): Great for those with a medium-sized online school. This plan includes all Start plan features with accessibility to 25 courses, 3 communities, 2 administrators, 5,000 students, and phone/email support.
  • Expand ($399/month): Great for those with a large-sized online school. This plan includes all Grow plan features with accessibility to 75 courses, 10 communities, 5 administrators, 10,000 students, and priority phone support.


2. LearnWorlds

Best Online Course Platform for Selling Interactive Courses (FREE Trial or $24/month)

LearnWorlds

My Rating: 9.6 out of 10
Free Plan: No, but 30-day free trial
Pricing: Paid Plans Start at $24/Month
Read LearnWorlds Review

LearnWorlds is a robust online course creation software designed to help you sell online courses with numerous interactive features. For instance, the video player and E-Book reader in the platform are interactive, providing a unique experience compared to other platforms. 

The course sales pages and payment process are optimized to get you high conversions and increase sales. Thanks to the simple drag-and-drop editor, anyone can easily create a course on this platform. No prior experience is needed. 

You get everything you need to build high-quality courses and sales pages to increase your course sales from your user-friendly dashboard, including responsive templates, interactive video functionality, and marketing automation. This software has all the tools necessary to satisfy every digital information publisher’s needs. 

LearnWorlds Tutorial

Key Features

  • Interactive Video Player and Reader: The unique feature of this course creation platform gives your students the ability to interact with the content you create.
  • Powerful Page & Site Builder: Fully customizable quick-start templates to help you create a fantastic school site or course page.
  • Multilingual Support: LearnWorlds offers excellent customer support in various languages. 
  • Assessment Engine: Advanced quizzes, exams, assignments, and more.
  • Built-in Social Media Network: You and all of your students can easily connect and communicate with each other with the internal platform. 
  • Mobile App Builder: Though there is an additional cost to this, Learnworlds allows you to create a customized mobile app to be included in your online school.

User Experience:

Building Your School Website

As you can see from the above screenshot, LearnWorlds does an excellent job in helping instructors create their schools. While they have drag-and-drop functionality to make designing school pages easy, I think the most impressive aspect of their platform is how many templates they have.

Unlike many platforms listed, LearnWords has templates based on use-case scenarios. They have pre-built templates for:

  • Art & Design
  • Coaching
  • Customer Education
  • Nonprofit Organizations (NGO’s)
  • Professional
  • Fitness
  • Healthcare
  • Medical
  • Financial

After looking through these themes, from what I can see, it looks as if they currently have 50 templates to choose from. Granted, this is likely to expand over time, but as of now, that is the number of fully customizable templates that LearnWorlds offers to its instructors.

One of the things I like the most about LearnWorlds is that they have a great onboarding process where they really help you step-by-step through the school creation process.

Creating Courses

Creating courses in Learnworlds has a different interface than many of the other platforms, but I like the way they’ve laid things out because it helps you quickly and easily see all of the aspects related to courses individually.

On the course creation screen, Learnworlds allows you to adjust the following:

  • Layout: This allows you to adjust the course landing pages by clicking/dragging elements, replacing text, and virtually anything you want to do to visually make the page stand out.
  • Contents: This is where you can add all of the lessons and material you’ll have in your course.
  • Access: This is where you can control how people access the course and the permissions of that access. They allow you to create courses and have the following statuses; Paid, Draft, Coming Soon, Enrollment Closed, Free, and Private.
  • Pricing: Here, you can adjust your pricing, discounts, bundles and coupons.
  • Settings: In this area, you can change the images associated with your course and the text to describe everything.
  • Course Player: This allows you to completely customize the course video player. LearnWorlds has some excellent functionality in their player that allows you to control all aspects of the learning journey with interactive elements like sequential navigation and elements that can be added to the videos.
  • Video Library: This area allows you to see all of the files within your course.
  • Dashboard: Here, you can see a quick snapshot of all of your important student metrics like users, revenue, exams, certification, and more.

In addition, LearnWorlds allows you to quickly and easily see a preview of your course at any time. But I think one of the coolest features of LearnWorlds is the click and drag functionality to change the layouts of course landing pages.

As you can see in the screenshot above, they give you a nice default landing page. But, the way you can change everything and customize it to exactly what you want without coding knowledge is a big win.

Marketing and Selling Courses

With LearnWorlds, there is an easy-to-understand navigation that lets you adjust all elements of marketing in one place. Here’s a list of the functionality that they provide:

  • Bundles: This allows you to control the bundling of courses to increase the average order size of your students.
  • Subscriptions: If you want to create a membership for your courses that students have to subscribe to in order to get access, this allows you to do that.
  • Promotions: In this area, you can create coupons and track their usage amongst your students.
  • Leads From Pages: If you want to capture the email information of potential students, you can do that here.
  • Multiple Seats: This is great for large organizations or for instructors who get approached by large organizations looking to purchase the courses in bulk.
  • Form Builder: This is where you can control marketing and course forms to showcase your courses on your site or get additional leads in related blog posts.
  • Affiliate Management: This area allows you to create and manage an affiliate program for your courses.

Student Management

Learnworlds does a great job of helping instructors not only stay in touch with their students but also better understand how engaged they are in the courses. As an instructor, this is crucial not only to accumulate positive testimonials but also to develop repeat buyers over time. They give instructors the following tools:

  • User Progress: Here, you can dive deep into engagement data to understand any individual user behavior in any of the courses that they’re enrolled in.
  • Course Insights: This area provides a great overview of your course engagement and focuses on average study time, scores, enrollments, certificates earned, and social interactions.
  • Scheduled Reports: I love this feature. In Learnworlds, you’re able to set up recurring reports to be sent to you automatically at the time intervals you decide.
  • Exam Analytics: This area allows you to understand the exam scores of all students, certifications, and question banks to manage what your exams ask your students.

Product Updates

  • 7/7/22: Updated significant functionality in various areas, including:

    Features that enable you to build Stellar Learning Experiences: Powerful Assessments, Flexible Self-Assessments, Review Center, 1-1 Sessions, and Groups Sessions.

    Features that help you create Mesmerizing Design Effects: Parallax Scrolling, Site Templates, and Page Templates.

    Features that empower you to Grow Without Limits: Digital Wallets, Buy Now Pay Later, Qualification Survey, NPS Survey, Bulk Seat Management

    Features that inspire you to Re-imagine Training On The Go: Mobile Offline Video, Mobile Guest User Flow, Mobile Integrations, Mobile Analytics, Mobile Reminders
  • 3/24/22: Launched custom user roles to allow for better workflow, privacy, and productivity.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Course player allows for engaging elementsNo free plans
Substantial student analyticsFeatures can be buggy at times
Membership and course bundles
Recurring payments/payment plans/memberships
Email Marketing

Pricing:

Starter ($24/month): A good way to begin using the LearnWorlds platform at a low cost. One admin role, $5 fee per course sale, unlimited paid courses, site builder (3 pages), popup builder (2 popups), community, coupons, drip feed courses, and 24/5 email support.
Pro Trainer ($79/month): Starter features with five admin roles, no transaction fees, unlimited courses, landing pages, and popups, subscription and memberships, installments, customize course player and checkout pages, certificates, live courses, form builder, SCORM support, 24/7 email support.
Learning Center ($249/month): Pro trainer features plus 20 custom user roles, white label options, interactive video elements, automated reports, API support, premium onboarding, 24/7 premium support.
High Volume and Corporate (Custom Pricing): Learning Center features plus more admins, bulk enrollment, premium cloud servers, Customized Support and pricing.


3. Teachable

Best Online Course Platform for Beginners (FREE Trial or $29/month)

Teachable

My Rating: 9.3 out of 10
Free Plan: Yes
Pricing: Paid Plans Start at $29/Month
Read Teachable Review

Teachable is a cloud-hosted solution that offers a user-friendly course builder interface built with beginners in mind.

As a course platform, this is (statistically) the most prominent platform to create online courses on the market. They have over 100,000 instructors on the platform and have helped people just like you and me earn over $500 million.

They’ve adjusted their focus so that it accommodates beginners by specializing not only in online courses but also have put a lot of emphasis on coaching as well.

Teachable has also recently added “Discover” – a storefront for online courses on their platform, and they’re putting a lot of effort into growing it right now, which should help new course creators sell in the future.

Teachable Tutorial

Key Features

  • Emphasis on Professional Coaches: While all of the online course platforms can help with coaching professionals, Teachable goes above and beyond and offers tools unavailable in other places.
  • Focused on Launching Fast: Teachable has numerous templates and tools to get instructors with little to no web experience launched quickly.
  • Accepts Numerous Payment Methods: Accept payments in over 130 currencies with numerous payment methods.
  • Customizable Offer Types: Teachable allows instructors to use free trials, subscription payments, installments, and more for added flexibility to increase sales.
  • Helpful Selling Options: Allows instructors to sell with order bumps, bundles, memberships, upsells, coupons, and an affiliate program module.

User Experience:

Building Your School Website

Teachable takes a very simplistic to creating a school website. While they do offer the functionality, they stick to one simple theme that instructors can design from.

With this platform, you can choose to insert a logo, thumbnail, and favicon. Beyond that, they allow you to change your font and color palette.

Other than that, Teachable allows you to create pages as needed. Overall, I’d say that the Teachable school design is both simplistic and efficient but lacks a lot of customization options.

Creating Courses

Creating courses in Learnworlds has a different interface than many of the other platforms, but I like the way they’ve laid things out because it helps you quickly and easily see all of the aspects related to courses individually.

On the course creation screen, Teachable has organized its course creation page in the following ways:

  • Information: Allows the instructor to adjust the course image, details, the author of the course, layout, and default pages.
  • Pages: In this area, you can adjust the sales, checkout, and thank you pages.
  • Curriculum: Here, you’re able to add to and adjust the course lessons. They also allow you to bulk upload details and preview the course at any time.
  • Design Templates: Teachable allows instructors to choose from two different templates, simple and colossal. Simply is, as the name implies, simplistic. While Colossal showcases more information in an organized fashion.
  • Pricing: This area allows you to choose the pricing model for the course, including free, one-time purchases, developing a payment plan, and a subscription.
  • Order Bumps: If you’re looking to increase your average order value, this area allows you to add one-click upsells to increase revenue.
  • Coupons: In this area, you’re able to create coupons for your courses.
  • Drip: Drip allows you to publish lectures over a period of time-based on the number of days after your students enroll.
  • Comments: Foster student engagement and interact directly with students when you turn comments on in your lectures.

Marketing and Selling Courses

Teachable is a little different than other options because they don’t necessarily have a marketing and sales section within the school dashboard. Instead, many of the marketing and sales functions are in various areas in the backend, which, at times, can make finding things a little bit difficult, in my opinion. Even though they don’t have a central area for these features, they do provide a lot of functionality to instructors, including:

  • Email Leads: With this function, you can view all current leads who have given an email address but have not yet purchased a course.
  • Upsells/Bumps/Drip Courses: Mentioned in the previous section, this allows you to use additional tactics to increase average order size or purchases.
  • Payment Plans: Teachable has many flexible payment plans to give options that work for your audience.
  • Email Marketing: Teachable has a full email marketing suite built into its platform to help you stay in contact with students.
  • Coaching: Coaching on Teachable lets you work with clients one on one by defining milestones to track and measure coaching progress, keep notes, and send messages between coach and client in one dashboard.

Student Management

Teachable offers a number of student reports that other platforms have, such as overall students, student engagement, completion, time per lesson, and most of the basic functionality you expect. However, Teachable sets itself apart by also offering very detailed information about how students are interacting with your videos, as you can see in the above screenshot. They do not have a specific reporting module in the dashboard, which can be a bit confusing at times.

  • User Progress: Helps you understand not just the progress for each lesson, but also progress through each of the videos/quizzes within lessons.
  • Completion Reports: This area helps you understand how many different student segments you have (free, discounted, bundles, and full price) and their average completion rates.
  • Dashboard View: In this area, you can quickly and easily segment data between dates and variables like earnings, revenue, course sales, new signups, active students, lecture completions, and course completions.
  • Student View: Here, you’re able to see individual students’ data like their email status, last login, when they joined, number of purchases, and emails you can send.

Product Updates

  • 6/1/22: Cohort reporting with user tagging, limiting product access duration on payment plans, lecture editor updates, options for group coaching, Q&A, and community.
  • 5/1/22: Additional integrations to connect Teachable with other platforms, Public API, coupons for existing subscriptions, and improved text editing in lectures.
  • 9/1/21: Released additional functionality like lecture comments, admin comment management, easier editing, ability to upload files in page editor 2.0, order bumps and coupons, Apple and Google pay integration and a newly positioned affiliate link generator.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Free planTransaction fees on cheaper plans
Allows drip contentNo webinar capability
Membership and course bundles
Recurring payments/payment plans/memberships
Email Marketing

Pricing:

Free ($0/month): Transaction fees of $1 + 10% of each course sale, 1 admin, 1 course, unlimited students, website builder, payment processing, and tax handling.
Basic ($29/month): Free features plus 5% transaction fees, 2 admin users, unlimited courses, custom domain, email marketing, private community launch accelerator, and email support.
Pro ($99/month): Basic features plus 0% transaction fees, 5 admins, public API, affiliate marketing, advanced reporting, live chat, and live group coaching.
Business ($250/month): Pro features plus 20 admin users, advanced theme customization, custom user roles, and bulk import student capabilities.


4. Podia

Best All-in-One Online Course Platform For Webinars, Memberships, Online Courses and More (FREE Trial or $39/month)

Podia

My Rating: 9.1 out of 10
Free Plan: Yes
Pricing: Paid Plans Start at $33/Month
Read Podia Review

Podia is the first platform on this list that truly has all of the tools you need to not only build an online school and sell courses but also to effectively grow an online business from the ground up.

As a course platform, Podia allows you to host a webinar, create downloadable content, establish a membership community, and even offer live chat for easy communication with your students to increase student engagement.

But the real benefit of Podia is that it has all of the tools other platforms do but includes access to a webinar platform, which is an extremely powerful tool when used effectively.

Key Features

  • Webinars: Allows users to run webinars in addition to online courses.
  • Coaching and Consultations: Has a special area for instructors to run individual consultations with students.
  • Locked Content: Grant or remove access to content in your course management system for any particular student. 
  • Email List Marketing: Podia has powerful built-in features like email marketing automation.
  • Live Chat: Allows users to support their customers with live chat capabilities.

User Experience:

Building Your School Website

As I’ve already mentioned, Podia is an all-in-one platform, and because of this, its interface is significantly different than the other platforms on this list. Instead of having standard school templates like the other online course platforms on this list, Podia offers templates to create a full website that will require more time to customize to get the look you want.

That said, Podia allows you to forego creating an online school website entirely, as you can simply create product pages for each of your online courses and share those directly instead of a full school website. Technically, you can share course pages with the other platforms as well, but this becomes a better option on Podia.

Creating Courses

The Podia course creation interface is easy to understand and very intuitive to the user, in my opinion. While they have all of the tools you need to create a course, one of my favorite things about their platform is that they have two substantive tutorials/walkthroughs right at the top the page.

While you aren’t required to watch them, I took a look and was really impressed as they are full video explanations from start to finish. Here are the tools that Podia offers to their course creators:

  • Lessons: In this area, you’re able to edit/adjust everything related to the courses. They have options to create text,
  • Details: Here, you can give the details about your course, including image, description, category of course, certificates, and comment visibility.
  • Pricing: Here you’re able to handle the pricing of the course as well as product upsells.
  • Availability: Within this area, you can decide your course status and visibility as well as any time access, start date, or sign-up limits.

Marketing and Selling Courses

When it comes to the marketing and selling of your courses, Podia doesn’t have a clear section for all of the tools. That said, that doesn’t mean the platform is lacking in features to help you sell more courses.

  • Email Leads: With this function, you can view all current leads who have given an email address but not yet purchased a course.
  • Upsells/Bumps/Drip Courses: Mentioned in the previous section, this allows you to use additional tactics to increase average order size or purchases.
  • Payment Plans: Teachable has many flexible payment plans to give options that work for your audience.
  • Email Marketing: Teachable has a full email marketing suite built into its platform to help you stay in contact with students.
  • Coaching: Coaching on Teachable lets you work with clients one on one by defining milestones to track and measure coaching progress, keep notes, and send messages between coach and client in one dashboard.

Student Management

While I love what Podia offers, student management is lacking compared to other platforms. While you can still see who has become a student in your courses and understand how they’ve progressed in an email list, student analytics are lacking significantly.

There really isn’t much to report on student management capabilities for Podia. The only solution they offer is a Google Analytics integration. While this won’t tell you everything you need, it does allow you to see some key metrics like how long users are on certain pages, what pages they’ve visited, and the average view duration of lesson videos.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Have coaching module and allows embed from calendlyDoes not host videos directly, it relies on embeds.
Allows for Webinars, which is lacking in most optionsStudent engagement analytics lacking
Allows live chat, which is rare in other platformsRelies on a Google Analytics Integration

Product Updates

  • 8/24/22: Allows instructors to set sign-up limits on courses, coaching, webinar seats, and product purchases.
  • 7/25/22: Added to the checkout flow, including updated payment methods, global tax support, and more.
  • 7/5/22: New update that allows creators to better manage and control community notifications. This update also helps members better control their own notifications.

Pricing: 

Free ($0/month): Transaction fees of 8% of each course sale, full website, email marketing, live chat, community capabilities with the ability to offer 1 download and coaching product.
Mover ($33/month): Free features plus no transaction fees and unlimited downloads, coaching, and courses.
Shaker ($75/month): Mover features plus unlimited webinars and an affiliate platform.
Earthquaker ($250/month): Shaker features plus priority support, onboarding calls, and a monthly creator call.

Or Read my In-Depth Podia Review to Learn More


5. Teachery

Best Online Course Platform on a Budget That Allows Unlimited Courses (FREE TRIAL or $49/month)

My Rating: 8.8 out of 10
Free Plan: No, but 14-day trial
Pricing: $49/month
Read Teachery Review

Teachery is one of the newest platforms on my comparison, and it’s worth including. Teachery is an excellent choice for beginners because they purposely limit the confusing functionality/design that other platforms include. Plus, they also have zero transaction fees, which is always positive.

While this is great for simplicity, it does limit the overall functionality.

Their most considerable differentiation from other platforms is they are highly beginner-friendly and help novice course creators get something up and start selling online courses to their audience quickly and easily.

A few nice things about Teachery are that they have no monthly fee, the platform is straightforward and intuitive, and uploading is simple, with unlimited courses and files allowed in your courses. 

Key Features

  • Unlimited Courses, Lessons, and Students: Unlike most other platforms that require membership upgrades for unlimited courses, Teachery lets you do this right out of the box.
  • No Transaction Fees: One of the greatest things about Teachery is its simple cost structure with no transaction fees.
  • Drip Content: Ability to create drip-style courses to allow students to learn in a paced environment
  • Affiliate Program: Teachery has a built-in affiliate program area to help you sell more courses.
  • Comments and Communities: Allows users to support a community with Disqus integration.

User Experience:

Building Your School Website

Although Teachery allows you to create an online school, you’ll need to do so with a bunch of landing pages to individual courses that you create. While other platforms give a central place to visit to see all of your courses, Teachery doesn’t do this.

That said, if you have your own website, you can simply embed or link to these pages to showcase your courses to your following to grow student enrollment.

Creating Courses

After jumping into Teachery, I have to give them credit for how easy it is to create a course. Generally speaking, if you need a bare-bones platform to create online courses, Teachery is it. They don’t have a bunch of features, they don’t have a ton of complicated tools, but they do have a basic framework that makes it very simple to create a course from scratch.

When creating a course, it focuses on lesson and sub lessons. Within each of these, you can quickly and easily add the information needed for each lesson and move forward. Here’s how the course page is laid out:

  • Landing Pages: This area allows you to design and create landing pages for each of the courses that you create on the platform.
  • Course Pages: This is where the lessons of your course reside. Here you’re able to create and customize content for your students to take when they enroll in your course.
  • Payment Pages: In this area, you can connect your Stripe account in order to accept payments from your students. You can also adjust promo codes and upsells.
  • Login Pages: Here, you can adjust your password and login information as well as adjust recurring payments.
  • Style Your Course: Within this section, you’re able to adjust the visual look and feel of various elements like buttons, test colors, sidebar as well as transcripts.
  • Course Emails: While Teachery doesn’t have a full email marketing suite, you are able to send welcome emails and course-completed emails. They also allow integrations with popular email marketing platforms.
  • Course Settings: Within this area, you’re able to manage various settings like code insertion, CSS, HTML code, and more.

Marketing and Selling Courses

While there isn’t a marketing area within Teachery, there are still various tools to help you market and sell additional courses. Though they are scattered a little bit throughout the back end, the platform has a decent set of tools to help instructors sell additional courses.

  • Promo Codes: This allows instructors to give a specific percentage or amount off of your course’s full price, and set how long a promo code will be active and how many people can redeem your courses.
  • Memberships: You’re able to create a membership for your students within this area.
  • Course Bundles: If you want to sell multiple courses at once in the form of a bundle, you’re able to do so with Teachery.
  • Email Marketing Integration: While Teachery doesn’t offer email marketing from within the platform, they do allow deep integrations with Mailchimp and Convertkit. While this is a bit limiting, it is nice that this is an option.
  • Affiliate Program: Within Teachery you’re able to create an affiliate program so others can sell your courses for you dn get a percentage of the profits.

Student Management

The default analytics for student management within Teachery is not very impressive, as you can see in the image above. While you can see the enrollment analytics and a small amount of how active they’ve been, the best way to get analytics related to your students is to integrate with Google Analytics.

This is pretty simple to do and will allow you to see how long students spend on each lesson within your course and where they’re logging in from, but does lack the significant detail that some other platforms provide.

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Simplistic for beginnersNo quizzes/tests
Allows drip contentNo student engagement analytics
Membership and course bundlesRelies on a Google Analytics Integration
Recurring payments/payment plans/membershipsNo email marketing within platform

Pricing: 

Monthly Plan ($49/month): Unlimited courses, students, landing pages, affiliate program, email provider integrations, analytics integration, promo codes, upsells/bundles, drip lesson scheduling, no transaction fees.
Yearly Plan ($470/year): Same as the monthly plan with a 20% discount.


6. LearnDash

Best WordPress LMS plugin for Businesses and Solo Course Creators ($199/year)

My Rating: 8.6 out of 10
Free Plan: No, but 15-day money-back guarantee
Pricing: $199/year
Read LearnDash Review

LearnDash is the most popular LMS WordPress plugin on the market right now. It’s great for anyone who wants a course platform that allows them to run everything from their WordPress dashboard. With this self-hosted tool, you will quickly set up and run your courses and have complete control over the creation and customization process. 

This powerful tool doesn’t have the limits of other hosted alternatives. You get an intelligent course builder with course completion badges and certificates. It integrates with countless plugins, and no technical skills are needed to get everything done. As a WordPress plugin, it’s hard to top the functionality that LearnDash offers.

If you’ve already been using WordPress, navigating this course creation software will be a breeze. 

The LearnDash WordPress Plugin is best for instructors already using WordPress and who want complete control over every aspect of their course business, including customization, branding, and customer information. In addition, Learndash has many add-ons, like the “Instructor Role” plugin created by WisdmLabs.

The instructor role that this plugin creates allows you to enable multiple instructors for your website and create online schools/courses with various teachers like Udemy and other course marketplaces.

Key Features

  • Course Awards: You can award anyone who passes a quiz successfully. 
  • Advanced Quiz: The software lets you create complex quizzes and assessments.
  • Course Progression: Prevent students from advancing until they’ve completed previous lessons/quizzes and learning modules.
  • Learner Progress: Keep track of learners’ progress via the sleek profile area.
  • White-Labeling – You can white-label all materials to your own business. 
  • Unlimited Courses – Because this is a WordPress plugin, there’s never a limit on the courses you can host.

Pricing: 

WordPress Plugin ($199/year): This is the full plugin that allows you to create and manage online courses directly on your website. They have their pricing broken down by 1 site for $199, 10 sites for $399, and unlimited for $799 per year.
Learndash Cloud ($29/month): This allows you to create a website directly on the Learndash platform and manage it there.


7. Kartra

Best Premium All-in-One Online Course Platform With Numerous Special Features ($1 14-DAY TRIAL or $99/month)

Kartra

Kartra is one of the best online course platforms because it doesn’t just stop at courses. With Kartra, you have so much functionality at your fingertips, including checkouts, the ability to create a membership site, and you can even host your own affiliate program. This is why it’s the best online course platform for those who intend to create a true community.

I feel that this platform is beneficial for those that are not simply looking to create courses but want to grow a business beyond the simplicity of a course platform. When you use this platform, you’ll be able to use advanced tools and functionality for marketing your course, along with being an administrator. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read my in-depth Kartra review here.


8. Systeme.io

Best Affordable All-in-One Platform For Those Looking to Build a Business. (FREE or $27/month)

Systeme.io

Systeme.io is an all-in-one marketing software that has everything an entrepreneur needs to start and run their online business or be successful when trying to sell online courses.

Launched in 2018, it has steadily grown to 5000+ users who depend on its multiple features to run online businesses smoothly.

On the dashboard, you can find the funnel builder, email marketing tool, marketing automation tools, and much more. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read my in-depth Systeme.io review here.


9. Graphy

Best Online Course Platform for Value with live streaming, and a mobile application ($999 Onboarding fee & 10% of each course sale)

No list of web-based course creation platforms would be complete without Graphy. Their all-inclusive solution provides a plethora of features for you to create an online course from scratch and market it beyond your existing network through their in-built marketing tools.

Even if you know very little about web development or coding, the no-code branded websites and apps that Graphy provides will be very helpful. They make delivery of online content as easy as pie.

Currently, this course creation platform boasts over 30,000 creators who make over $50 Million in revenue yearly, it’s newer than some other platforms on this list but I think it’s poised to become an industry leader in no time.  With a user-friendly dashboard and advanced instructor functionality, Graphy serves both new and existing instructors in the education economy.

You can test out all of the Graphy core features with any of their plans. The Launch plan requires a $199 onboarding fee, but all other plans have very reasonable rates and are priced primarily on a percentage of each course sale. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read my in-depth Graphy review here.


10. Yondo 

Best All-in-One Online Course Platform for Selling Live Sessions (14-Day FREE Trial then $69/month paid Annually)

Yondo is an all-in-one video platform that allows you to easily create and sell online video courses from your own branded online store. Sell your courses alongside your Online Videos On-Demand, Webinars, Online Group Classes, and Live 1-To-1 Video Consultations.  

The platform takes the pain out of every step of the customer journey.  Customers will be able to purchase your online courses from your eCommerce site and video landing pages. With the ability to sell your courses as one-off purchases, time-based rentals, and even subscription memberships, Yondo allows you to customize the way you sell your online courses. The platform is completely browser-based and mobile-friendly, meaning customers can take your courses anywhere! 


11. Digital Course Hive

Best Women-Owned, All-in-One system for building and selling online courses, memberships, & more (Free trial and then $49/month).

Digital Course Hive

The Digital Course Hive is one of the best platforms to use if you want to stand out from your competition. It is the only drag-and-drop online course builder on the market, perfect for creating custom courses and memberships that will set you apart. 

This all-in-one system allows you to build websites, funnels, courses, and memberships all under one roof. You can also manage your calendar, send emails and automations, and even sell physical products. It is truly an all-in-one system.


12.TrainerCentral

Best All-in-one online training platform that caters to solopreneurs, edupreneurs, and those that want to share their expertise (Free or $20/month)

TrainerCentral empowers online trainers with a comprehensive DIY tool kit with end-to-end services to set up their online business. Online trainers can build their own website, upload course videos, create course structures, host live classrooms, manage learner-trainer communications, handle payments and subscriptions, and much more on one unified platform. The platform’s integration flexibility and intuitiveness makes it the best choice for online trainers looking to launch or scale their teaching brand.


13. Payhip

Best All-in-One Online Course Platform for Ease of Use (FREE or $29/month).

Payhip enables anyone to sell courses as well as digital downloads, coaching and more from one simple platform. You can embed Payhip directly into your existing website or you can use the store builder to create your own website.

Payhip has an adaptive pricing model depending on where you are in your online course journey.  If you are just getting started, they have a free plan to help keep costs low and if you are scaling, they reduce the transaction fee to zero.


14. Academy of Mine

A Complete LMS E-Learning Platform For B2B And Corporate Entities ($499/month).

Academy of Mine

Academy of Mine allows you to create your very own customized learning management system. It’s ideal for professional development, continuing education, and certifications, as well as B2B training.

This makes it one of the best online course platforms for B2B, as you’ll be able to white-label all your courses to match your brand and use courses to train teams if needed. The software allows you to build a fully-fledged website so you can host and market your online training program from one convenient place. 

This learning management system is customizable and scalable. Its user-friendly interface makes it great for beginners and expert marketers alike. It’s also easy to share your expertise and knowledge with your students. This online course creation software is undoubtedly among the best ways for businesses and educators to market their online courses. 


15. FreshLearn

An All-In-One Creator’s Platform with a Free Plan (FREE or $25/ month)

FreshLearn is a robust upcoming platform for you to commence your online journey as a creator. You can get started by signing up for their absolutely free plan without having to punch in your card details.

Sporting an exponential growth curve within a very short span of time, they boast a family of 11,500+ creators.

This all-in-one platform comprises a user-friendly dashboard that lets you create and sell a number of digital products. These include on-demand and cohort-based courses, digital downloads, and live masterclasses, which you can customize your online learning platform with.

Plus, you can access some of the top-notch and advanced features to help you market your courses and engage your learners in an outstanding manner.


16. Kajabi

Best Web-Based Online Course Platform For Professionals ($119/month)

Kajabi

Kajabi is a one of the best online course platforms with powerful features like automation to help you create and sell your online courses more effectively. The platform is a complete cloud-based system and has multiple customizable site themes that you can use to create beautiful and unique courses for online learning.

Thanks to the different levels of features, this tool is perfect for both beginners and advanced users alike. The user-friendly dashboard is ideal for non-technical users. Thanks to the drag-and-drop feature, you’ll be able to get your customized digital courses (or digital downloads) up and running without the need for any special design skills. 

If it’s your first time making online courses, Kajabi’s marketing suite of tools will give you the advantage you need to get your knowledge in front of your target audience. 


17. iSpring Market

Best Online Course Platform For Simplicity and Functionality. (FREE TRIAL or $77/month)

iSpring Market

iSpring Market is an extremely easy-to-use but full-featured platform that allows you to set up an online course marketplace in a couple of clicks, upload learning materials in a flash, and start selling courses right away.

With an intuitive course builder, you can combine various types of content in any type of format into structured online courses. Unlike many other platforms, iSpring also supports interactive SCORM courses, quizzes, and role-plays built with an authoring tool.

iSpring Market has a great analytics engine. You can not only monitor your revenue data but also keep track of learner progress and results that can help you see what needs to be improved in a course to increase profits. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read my in-depth iSpring Market review here.


What are Online Course Platforms?

The best online course platforms help instructors create online courses to sell to their student body. You can think of them as traditional classrooms, but in a virtual environment.

Instructors are able to create an engaging virtual classroom environment by providing students with numerous media types like video, images, audio, downloadable files, text, and on some platforms, interactive elements like quizzes and whiteboards.

Just like in a traditional classroom, students will take the course and learn from the lectures, perform classroom exercises, take tests and quizzes, and take notes. Most of the platforms also allow for certificates of completion once the courses are complete as well.

What are the Best Online Learning Platforms?

Teaching courses is a great gig; heck, I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. But sometimes you need to spend time learning as well. Whether that’s to learn how to use a specific piece of software, how to grow an audience, how to create a funnel for your courses, or any other skill that’ll help you achieve a professional or personal goal.

And this is where online learning platforms come into play.

An online learning platform is a place where online course creators and anyone else can go to find verified instructors to teach you about topics you’re looking for guidance on.

An online learning platform is really nothing more than a course marketplace where people can learn skills. From a online course creator standpoint, the nice thing about course marketplaces is that have a large database of students already, which is great because it makes for a more collaborative learning environment, but it’s also a great opportunity for instructors to get exposure to potential students as well.

Often times these platforms have a free plan for those focused on course creation, limited or no transaction fees (though they take a % of the course sale), allows for digital downloads, and is a viable choice for course creation.

I encourage you to use one of my recommended online course platforms above because you’ll have control of all aspects of your business, but the list below of the best online learning platforms can be a great way to get started if you have no audience or if you’re looking to learn something new.

1. Udemy

Udemy

Udemy’s online learning platform allows you to easily create and publish courses on a wide variety of topics, such as marketing, business, entrepreneurship, web development, web design (even tutorials on web design software if needed), and much more. In addition, it allows students to go at their own pace, making it the ideal platform for busy people who want to advance their skills and knowledge in their spare time. 

In terms of online learning platforms, Udemy is far and away the largest online course platform marketplace.

As a course creator, you don’t have to build your audience. Instead, create courses and take advantage of Udemy’s massive audience of over 30 million students to start marketing your courses and make sales immediately. The platform is straightforward to use, and you’re guided every step of the way during the course creation process.


2. Skillshare

Skillshare

Skillshare is a great online learning platform that is dedicated to helping students to learn in an easy and engaging way and is at the top of my list. It offers courses on a diverse range of topics, including analytics, graphics design, eCommerce, cooking, music, and much more. They even have courses explaining how to make money blogging and even how to make a living from YouTube.

When you create a course here, it becomes part of the catalog, and as people watch your courses, you earn a revenue share of their membership fees. You can also earn $10 per membership referral as well. While earnings are typically low, this is a nice compliment to other platforms. 


3. Coursera

Coursera

Coursera is an incredible online learning platform that allows instructors to teach content that’s then featured at institutions like the University of Illinois, Duke, Google, IBM, University of Michigan, Stanford, and more.

While this is a great marketplace, the courses that are created as of the absolute highest quality, and the platform is invite-only for instructors. Aside from just courses, Coursera even offers online degree programs for students who attend.

From my understanding, instructors get 15% of the revenue that the courses generate, but the courses are free to MOST students on the platform. The revenue is typically made here when Coursera staff partner with educational institutions or companies or an individual purchases Coursera Plus. 


4. Linkedin Learning

Linkedin Learning

Formerly Lynda.com, Linkedin Learning is the best online course marketplace that’s been integrated into the wildly popular professional social media network.

Similar to Coursera, Linkedin Learning is very selective about the instructors that they allow to join their platform, and while they pay the instructors well, it’s not easy to be selected. I wasn’t able to find out how much income instructors make, but one can assume it’s a lucrative venture given the popularity of Linkedin as a whole.


5. CodeGym

CodeGym is an online Java course for beginners and middle-level learners, and also a web portal with useful information, around which a huge Java community has formed. The course is only about Java, it is a highly specialized project, unlike other platforms on the market.

CodeGym was created by a professional Senior programmer who loves and, most importantly, knows how to teach others.  CodeGym is focused on the practical side of programming. The course consists of lectures and practical tasks, and is structured in such a way that about 80% of the time students are writing code.

There are more than 1200 coding tasks in the CodeGym course, from very simple ones that help you learn the syntactic constructions or paradigms discussed in lectures, to fairly complex mini-projects with step-by-step instructions.

Most importantly, an intelligent validator is built into the course. It checks the user code for correctness and adequacy. If the problem is solved incorrectly, the CodeGym intelligent system picks up tips and clues to help the student complete the task. If that isn’t enough, users can message fellow students or someone from the CodeGym team to help.


Types of Online Course Platforms

While “online course platform” is an all-encompassing term, it’s important to understand that there are many different options for those that are looking to become a course creator and start teaching online. Just select which category works best for you, and you’ll see my list of the best platforms, or watch the video to better understand them.

Dedicated Online Course Platforms: For 98% of people reading this post, this is exactly what you want. These are platforms that are solely dedicated to helping you create courses and your own online school. This includes Thinkific, Learnworlds, Teachable, and Teachery.

All-in-One Online Course Platforms: These are platforms that go beyond simple course creation tools. With platforms like this, you’ll be able to create online classes but also run webinars, develop email sequences, and more. These include Podia, Kartra, Systeme.io, Yondo, and Kajabi.

WordPress Online Course Plugins: WordPress plugins are ideal options for anyone who wants to keep all of their course content within WordPress, and these are for folks who likely already have their own website. This includes Learndash.

Enterprise LMS Platforms: These are learning management systems that would be used to help businesses roll out training materials to their staff or sell courses online at scale and are less focused on individual small course creators. These include Academy of Mine and Wiz IQ.

Online Learning Platforms: These platforms are affordable online course marketplaces where students can go to learn skills while on a budget. They typically have hundreds or even thousands of instructors and an established student base but aren’t the best for teaching because you don’t have full control of your student information and pricing.


How to Choose an Online Course Platform

While all of the online course creation software in this post can be really helpful to those looking to start an online school, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to look for when trying to find the right fit. The list below can help you understand what functionality you should pay the most attention to when choosing the right online course platform for you.

  • Established Reputation: Choose established online course platforms that have a good reputation and tons of positive reviews from real users. 
  • Ease of Use: Consider your own skill level, as well as that of your students. Choose course creation platforms that you and your learners will find easy to use. 
  • Appearance: You want a provider with tons of unique and professional-looking themes and templates, as well as full customization features. 
  • 3rd-Party Integrations: Choose a platform with many 3rd-party integrations to other software and services, including student information systems, payment gateways, Mailchimp, Google Analytics, and other platforms to improve your student experience.
  • Marketing Automation: Some platforms come with marketing tools, such as email autoresponders, to help you automate different aspects of your course marketing like hosting webinars to sell courses, email marketing, and more.
  • Technical Support: This is vitally important for you and your students. Choose a platform that has a responsive and knowledgeable technical support team. 
  • Cost: Is the online course platform affordable, or does it require significant investment upfront or every month? 
  • Special Features: What other special features does the course creation website/software offer that differentiates it from others? Things like working with Zapier or having discussion forums come to mind.
  • Ready-made Market: This is something to consider if you don’t have an audience of your own to market your course to and it will help you make the right choice between course creation software and a course marketplace. 

Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to online course creation software and building the best online course, knowing what to look for will help remove the confusion and frustration from making the right choice. 


How to Create and Sell Online Courses

Creating an engaging course doesn’t have to be hard. All you need is to have a step-by-step plan that you can follow to succeed. 

Whether you’re a mission-driven edupreneur or a small education and training business that wants to make an impact by selling courses online, it is now possible because of all of the online course creation platforms avalable.

That said, let’s examine exactly how you can create and sell your courses successfully.

Step #1: Choose Your Course Topic

Think of three topics that you could teach. Choose something that:

  • You’re passionate about;
  • You’re knowledgeable about; 
  • You have lots of experience with.

Once you’ve come up with the three possible topics, your next step is to understand the competition and demand for those topics to create an online course that people want. 

This is important because you don’t want to choose a topic you’re passionate about that no one will be willing to spend money to learn. You also probably don’t want to choose something that’s obscenely competitive and you’ll never get students for.

Step #2: Check For Market Demand

(Source)

The demand for any online course can be seen in a number of different ways but one of my favorite methods to find the most popular online courses is to go to Udemy.com and search for the topic that you’d like to teach.

From there, Udemy will give you results and you can see just how many people have opted into each course. While I don’t love building courses on Udemy because they sell for a fraction of the price of what you can charge (usually $10), they can make you a successful online course creator because it’s a great way to figure out demand for your own online school.

As an example, if you were creating courses about Microsoft Excel, your first step would be to search “Microsoft excel” in the top bar on Udemy.

The first thing you’ll notice is all of the autocomplete suggestions, For instance, see how it says “Microsoft excel data analysis”?

This might give you a great idea to make a course that uses excel specifically for data analysis.

But let’s not stop there, let’s go a bit deeper.

I selected “Microsoft excel” from the dashboard and now it brings me to this screen.

Next, you’d filter the results based on “Most Reviewed”

Finally, you’d look at the results in the given category. As you can see in the results below, there are two generic courses but one specifically on Data Analysis and Excel Pivot Tables.

Using this method, you’ll not only be able to see the top results for the online courses in your niche, but you’ll also be able to see the lessons within which may help you add or remove sections you think will be relevant for your students. As a course builder, having these insights will put you ahead of most of your competition when selling courses.

You’d be shocked at just how many course creators chose a course platform, build their course, and then realize there is no demand.

Step #3: Come up With Learning Objectives 

Once you’ve decided on a topic with great profit potential, it’s time to come up with learning objectives for your online course. As a course builder, you must determine who you’re going to be teaching and what you want to help them achieve. 

Ask yourself one question;

Where do you want your learners to be by the time they get to the end of your course? 

For this, every college I’m a part of prefers to designe courses using Bloom’s taxonomy. This helps students with their cognitive learning process and allows them to actually remember what you teach them.

(Source)

Start with the end in mind and focus on solving problems and creating content that addresses those problems. Not only will this be helpful for your sales pages, but it’ll help you focus your attention where it’s needed.

Don’t try to share all the information you know with your students – all you need to teach them is what they need to know in order to achieve the result promised by your course. 

So, for instance, if you were teaching students how to use photoshop to edit lighting, your learning objective might be: “By the end of my course, learners will be able to use Photoshop to edit the lighting in photographs”. 

This would mean you would specifically address the common problem of editing lighting in photographs.

While you could make a more in-depth “photoshop course for beginners”, the key is to have one or numerous focus points and address those specifically.

Step #4: Outline Your Course 

Your next step to create engaging courses is to create an outline that will be the foundation for your online course. This process involves deciding how you’re going to visualize and structure your course content. 

I usually create an outline in excel similar to what you see below.

(Source)

Make sure to address learning objectives clearly in each section of your outline. Here is an example of an outline template for creating your course.

Step #5: Decide on Learning Material

Now that you have your sections all planned out, it’s time to decide on how you will teach each lesson. 

  • Are you creating a PDF, Video, or text course? Or a mix of all of these?
  • Do you need to include a quiz? 
  • Will students require exercises, activities, or study guides?  
  • How can you reinforce the lessons? 
  • What types of materials will be best for the students to practice what you’re teaching? 

Answering these questions will help you map out the kinds of materials and media formats you’ll need for your course so you can start gathering the necessary equipment.

Take the time to think about this for each section of your course. This way it’s less overwhelming

Step #6: Filming/Recording/Writing the Course

Now that you’ve gathered everything you need, you can get started filming, recording, or writing the lectures. As a course builder, you need to ensure that you’re using the best equipment to produce high-quality content. 

You may also need screencasting software such as Camtasia Studio or Jing. If you need to capture audio, make sure you have the best quality microphone to create the content you need. 

Remember that this is a course, so people like to learn by DOING, not by being told what to do. So, it’s best to include tutorials/screenshots showing how processes can be done and not just talking about doing them.

To avoid overwhelm, it’s best to focus on one lesson at a time and make it a goal to complete one lesson per day.

Trust me, I’ve created at least 50+ courses and if you look at the course as a whole this is a very easy point to get overwhelmed. Focus on ONE thing at a time and you’ll be able to work through it.

Step #7: Editing the Course

Once you’ve written, recorded, or filmed your course, it’s time to edit it to ensure that you deliver only high-quality content packed full of value. 

Make sure your course flows perfectly and focus on things like visual hierarchy, alignment, spacing, and other content formatting best practices. 

If you’re not adept at video editing, you may want to enlist the help of a freelance professional who will get the job done well.  I personally always outsource the editing of my course videos, otherwise, it’s a huge drag on time and can be quite painful.

The thing about video editing is that it’s a universal language. By this I mean you can easily find someone in another country who will happily work for a fraction of the cost of a US-based editor. For me, I always use Upwork.com and find someone based in the Philippines as English is taught to them at a very young age.

If you’re including written text, get a copy editor to proofread your text before publishing your course to avoid embarrassing grammar and spelling mistakes. The last thing you want is to look like an amateur instructor because of poorly edited course content.

Step #8: Set up the Course on an Online Course Platform

Now that your course is done, you can set it up on whatever you decide is the right online course platform for you. There are things to consider at this stage, such as the pricing, transaction fees, student success tools, and naming of your course. 

Needless to say, I don’t want to cover that here as it’s been covered throughout this entire article.

Once you’ve settled on the right choice among all of these online course platforms, you can proceed to upload your content onto the course platform.  

Step #9: Launch Your Course

Now comes the fun part – launching your online course! The first thing you must decide is whether you’re going to launch your course as a product launch or an evergreen course. 

If you choose to go for an event-based launch, it means course enrollment will be closed after a specific window. Evergreen course sales are always available for learners who want to join.

Step #10: Sell Your Course

Once you’ve launched on a course creation platform, that means that students are going to come flocking to it with cash in hand, right?

Wrong.

The truth is, creating your course is only half of the battle. Now, you have to take the labor of love that you’ve been working on and find a way to sell an online course to those who are looking for them.

If you want to have a successful online course business, this is what separates the very successful creators from the hobbyists.

But, how can you sell online courses to people if no one knows who you are?

Here’s my list of things you must do to sell your course.

Understand the Student Outcome

(Source)

Before you begin trying to sell the course you’ve created, understand what it’s going to deliver to your audience. In other words, how will their life change for the better once they’ve finished the course you’re providing?

Figuring this out is crucial to your course sales because it’s going to mold all of your future messaging and help you speak to the audience about the most important thing in your course; the outcome. Help them understand what new skills they’ll have after taking your course that’ll enable them to achieve the outcome they desire.

Most of the time, online course creators are really just selling tutorials for the sake of online learning. Sure, many of the courses have lecture-type content, but we ultimately sell tutorials of what we do so that other people can replicate our tactics. Make sure to explain this to your students and mention over-the-shoulder training videos.

Focus on Quality

(Source)

Even the best online course platforms can’t help you if you create a bad course. Doing the bare minimum when creating your online course isn’t going to cut it. As a course builder, you need to take time to invest in some equipment in order to create the best possible course possible. Does this mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on a brand new camera? No, but you do need to have quality content in order to keep students engaged and happy.

  • Microphone: Audio is extremely important when it comes to online courses. If people hear a constant echo or the audio is fuzzy, it can distract them from the lesson you’re providing. For this, I recommend you look on Amazon to find the best microphone you can afford in your situation. I personally use the Blue Yeti mic in all of my videos and it does a pretty good job, do I’d start there if it’s in your budget,
  • Webcam: Is a webcam necessary? Honestly, probably not. You can get by with your phone and the video in most of those is just as good as any webcam is. The problem though is that if you use an external phone you then have to sync your audio for the course lessons. For this reason alone, I recommend you get the Logitech C922x. This is the same webcam I have and although it isn’t perfect, it’s got a reasonable price and gets the job done.
  • Screen Recording Program: When you teach online courses, it’s very common to want to show your screen to go over a tutorial or explain a concept. For this, screen recording software can help. Personally, I like to use Camtasia when I do this because it allows for me to be a “talking head”

Deliver Immense Value

If you want to get students that are happy with the online course you’ve created, you need to provide them with as much value as possible. Whenever you’re selling curses, make sure you put your all into each course and create something that’s amazing. Pour every ounce of effort into the course to make it something that you’re proud of now and will be proud of in the future.

As a course creator, if you create something great not only are you going to keep the students who paid for your course happy, but you’ll be talked about highly all over social media and people will look to you when they are in need of expertise.

Have a “Home Base”

Aside from choosing from this list of online course platforms, having your own website/blog or YouTube channel is an absolute necessity in my eyes when selling courses. By having a place where people can connect with you at any time, it’ll allow them to do a “deep dive” into who you are and better understand just how much expertise you actually have.

This is what I’ve been able to do with the One Hour Professor website.

As a bonus, your home base is one of the best ways to get new prospects into your ecosystem. Think of your YouTube channel and/or blog as an introduction to who you are. Utilizing YouTube or Google SEO allows you to make it so that search engines send people your way day after day for years to come.

If you don’t have one yet, here’s how to start a blog, and if you’re looking to start a YouTube channel, here’s how to make money on the platform.

I personally think a blog is your best bet to begin as it’s the easiest way to make money, but either platform will work.

Gain Trust and Credibility

If you want people to listen to you when you are trying to sell online courses, they need to trust you. Make sure that you explain in your content why you’re an expert and why they need to listen to you. Discuss your professional experience, certifications, life experience, and any times that you’ve been featured as an expert for your knowledge.

You’ll notice on my own site I point out some of the more prominent places I’ve been featured. Needless to say, this helps people understand that you’re a trusted source.

Launch to an Audience

(Source)

For most, this is the hardest part about launching online courses. You have an idea, you chose the best solution from all of the online course platforms, you create a course, but you launch to a room full of no one and the course falls flat on it’s face.

This is why it’s so important to have a blog or YouTube channel to start.

If you start with another platform to create an audience, when you finally do launch your online courses, you’ll have a lot of people who know, like, and trust you. Take your time at this stage to build some type of an audience prior to launching your online courses.

Or, if you want to fast-track things, you can consider choosing a webinar platform and use social media or paid ads to drive people to an email list and build a relationship that way.

Lastly, you can always launch to an online platform like Udemy or Skillshare if you’d like, which is nice because they have a built-in audience, but the problem there is that you’re going to sell your course for maybe $10/$15 each and that makes it really difficult to justify considering how much time it takes to create a course.

Nurture Your Leads

(Source)

When you have an audience of any sort, realize that each person is a potential lead to purchase your course and treat them as such.

No, this doesn’t mean that you should bombard them with sales offers constantly.

Instead, it means that you should get them on an email list (here’s a list of the best email marketing software if you need it) and nurture the relationship over time and deliver a ton of value. This makes it much easier when you launch your course to an audience of people that are thankful for all of the value you’ve given them.

Let’s take me, for example. As of now, I offer a few free courses on my site.

But why do I offer free courses?

Because it allows people to get a TON of value by simply giving me their email address. It builds trust with my audience and helps them understand what level of detail they can expect from me as a course builder.

While none of these free courses are on a course platform, they allow me to gain trust and credibility from my audience.

The beauty here is that when I’m selling courses, people remember the level of quality I delivered in the free course and are much more willing to pay as they already trust that I’ll deliver something great.

Encourage Referrals

(Source)

Do you know what’s one of the easiest ways to sell your online courses? Ask for people to do it for you.

In other words, create an affiliate program with your preferred online course platform and tell your students about it. You’d be surprised how many of those folks would love to promote your course to others when you offer them a fat commission like 50% or more.

Summary And Top Picks

Now that I’ve given you an in-depth explanation of the best online course platforms to start your own online course business, I hope that you’re able to better understand which one will fit your teaching style.

Before you commit to any single online course platform, make sure you understand their course creation capabilities, how they help you market and sell online courses, how the platform supports instructors, and what student management capabilities there are.

While these factors alone won’t sell courses for you, they’re instrumental in being a successful online course instructor.

Here Are is my List of the Best Online Course Platforms

Thinkific

Thinkific is the best overall platform with a free plan. This is the most affordable solution with high-quality features that scale as your business does. I use this platform myself.

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds offers the best learning experience due to its unique interactive tools like ebooks, assessments, certificates, SCORMs, surveys, and more.

Teachable

Among all of the platforms on this list, Teachable has the most user-friendly dashboard and features for beginners to start building their first online course(s).

Podia

Podia is best for you if you'd like to go beyond courses and create webinars, membership communities, downloads, and more without worrying about technology.

Teachery

Teachery is great for those that want a simplistic platform that has basic functionality to create courses at a low cost with absolutely no transaction fees.

Creating and selling online courses is a great way to leverage your knowledge and skills to create a profitable business.

While there’s no shortage of online education platforms available for instructors, choosing from the best online course platforms is just the beginning. Once you’ve chosen one, it’s time to dive in and begin sharing your knowledge with the world.

  • Thanks for organizing this blog post! Very helpful and useful information for educators or soon to be educators, especially at the strategy formation stage of their online adventures. It’s also helpful for those in need of a quick overview of the core tools/platforms to focus on right now, in order to customize their own toolkit for educator success.

  • This blog is so informative, you helped guide me to a decision on which platform to use for my first online course. I appreciate your help greatly. Thanks Ron!!!!

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}
    >