When it comes to creating an online course (one of the top ways I make money on Wit & Wire), knowing which online course platform to choose from is one of the most important pieces. There are many different options out there, and some have very key differences from others.
In this post, I’m sharing my top seven favorite platforms, providing an honest review sharing what I like and don’t like about them, and how you can choose which one is best for you.
Before we get started, I’m going to share one of my top tips when it comes to selecting an online course platform. Take a couple of minutes to make a list, and jot down some responses to these questions:
- What do you want your course experience to feel like for your students?
- What features are important to you?
(If you’re just getting started with online course creation, I’ve got a FREE online course toolkit that tells you exactly the equipment and tools you’ll need to create a course on any budget.)
Now, let’s discuss some key terminology in the online course platform space that you need to know.
Table of Contents
What is a course marketplace?
A course marketplace is a platform such as Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera.
Students go to these websites to find courses, pay for them, and then have access directly from that course marketplace.
As a creator, you would, in a sense, be contributing a course to these platforms..
One main pro for putting your course on a course marketplace is exposure. These websites can get your content in front of many people.
The catch? Content creators don’t usually earn a lot of money, at all.
As an example, I have a very successful course on Skillshare with around 6,000 students enrolled. However, there is a large cap on the amount of income I can earn. In fact, I only earn about $100-$200 a month, and some of that money comes from referrals to Skillshare.
Another example comes from Udemy. With this particular online course marketplace, you can earn a little bit of money for each course, however, they control your pricing. This means that they can discount your course at any time.
Overall, course marketplaces are good for exposure, but ultimately, you are building up their platform.
Additionally, you don’t have access to the students that enroll in your course. This is a huge downside in my opinion because you aren’t able to get any of their information for further engagement and marketing purposes.
What is a course creation platform?
On the other hand, an online course creation platform allows you to create a course that you have full control over. Think of websites such as Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, and Podia.
With online course creation platforms, you create the course, and when a student registers, they are paying you directly.
What’s the difference between the two?
The way I like to describe the differences between online course creation platforms and course marketplaces is this:
You wouldn’t go to a course creation platform like Teachable or Thinkific to search for potential courses to take. For example, a student may find out about a course through my YouTube channel. From there, they head over to the Wit & Wire website, enroll in the course, and access the content that I just happened to build on Teachable.
However, if you aren’t sure what kind, of course, you want to take, you can head to a course marketplace platform like Skillshare or Udemy, and browse through all of the different options until you find one that is a good fit for you.
Overall, online course platforms act as a white label for your own content, branding, and products. Course marketplaces act as a host for your content, and you do not have control over many aspects, including pricing and students. And, you don’t earn much in my experience.
I personally recommend utilizing online course creation platforms because they are much more profitable for business owners. So, for the sake of this post, I’ll be sharing my top seven content creation platforms and how to select the best one for you.
The top 7 online course platforms I recommend
I’m a big fan of Teachable and have been a user for a long time. In fact, I worked for them for four years! But I wouldn’t have worked there if I didn’t believe in the product (and I was using the product before I was employed).
Here are just a few of the reasons that I recommend Teachable as an online course platform:
- It’s super customizable
- You can create any type of experience for your students inside each individual lesson (this feature is not available on all online course platforms)
- Has a “cloud” upload feature, meaning you can link your Dropbox or Google Drive account to upload items like videos or photos, instead of having to download and then upload. This saves time and is also something that not a lot of the other online course platforms offer
- Offers a flexible curriculum builder (this is where I spend most of my time as a creator)
- Provides a good user experience for registered students
- Clean, easy to read format
- Has a customizable checkout where you can add benefits, testimonials, or other items
- Offers a single-page checkout, which helps convert potential students into paid students
- Has lots of abilities to integrate with other platforms you’re probably already using for your business
- They calculate EU taxes
- Offer the option to pay affiliates if you’re interested in utilizing this marketing feature
Here are a few ways Teachable could improve:
- The sales pages you create for potential students to learn more about your course. I actually build my sales pages on my WordPress site (Wit and Wire) and link directly to the checkout page for my course in Teachable.
Pricing: When it comes to comparing the price of Teachable to some of the other course content platforms on this list, it’s pretty comparable.
They even offer a free plan to help get you started. You can find more information about the free plan and other pricing options here.
One thing to note is that with the ‘Free’ and ‘Basic Plan’, Teachable does charge a small transaction fee. Once you start earning $1000 a month or more, you may want to consider upgrading to the ‘Pro’ plan, which waives those fees.
Overall, my number one recommendation is Teachable, for all of the reasons mentioned above. However, I do think it’s worth looking into other options to not only see what else is out there, but in case you don’t feel Teachable is a good fit for you.
I think you’ll find that Teachable and Thinkific are very similar course creation platforms, so I’m not going to go into a lot of details like I did with Teachable. However, there are a few points about Thinkific that I think are noteworthy.
Here are some ways Thinkific shines:
- They offer a way to collect assignments
- There are enhanced features such as quizzes and rating options
Here are some ways I think Thinkific could improve:
- The checkout process. They require a two-step checkout, where a potential student has to create an account first, and then are directed to the checkout page
Pricing: Thinkific does have a free plan (there is a cap of three courses on this plan), which should allow you to get a good feel for the platform.
Overall, I find Thinkific and Teachable to be very similar online course creation platforms. While I still personally recommend Teachable, if having the ability to collect assignments and provided quizzing and ratings are important to you, then Thinkable might be a better fit.
Podia is a self-described “all in one” digital marketing storefront.
Here are some ways Podia shines:
- It’s very simplistic when it comes to customizations and functionality. If you just want a simple, straightforward option, this might be a good fit for you
Here are some ways Podia could improve:
- It’s not as functional or customizable as some of the other online course platforms on this list
- You aren’t able to have two different types of content within the same lesson (for example, if you have a video, you aren’t able to also have a PDF. The PDF would have to be a separate lesson). This is not only potentially confusing for your students but can make your course appear much longer than it actually is
- Requires a two-step checkout (potential students must create an account and then enter their credit card info)
- The checkout page is a type of “pop-up”, and does not allow for any additional information like testimonials, benefits, or guarantees. In my opinion, it’s not optimized for conversion
Overall, if your primary goal in online course creation is to find a platform that focuses on simplicity, Podia may be a good fit for you.
Kajabi is a popular online course creation platform for creators and business owners because it is an all-in-one solution. What does an all-in-one solution mean?
Kajabi not only offers a course creation platform, but also the ability to build your website, a blog, a podcast, emails, and more.
Here is how Kajabi shines:
- As I mentioned above, Kajabi has an all-in-one feature that none of the other online course creation platforms can offer
- Their sales pages and website builder offer more customization options than Teachable, Thinkific, and Podia
Here is where Kajabi could improve:
- If you’re looking for any advanced type of marketing options, Kajabi can’t do that (for example, advanced email marketing)
- In my opinion, the overall Kajabi interface is not as user friendly as some of the other content creation platforms mentioned in this list
Pricing: The pricing for Kajabi is higher than any of the others mentioned so far. This makes sense if you’re utilizing many of the all-in-one features they offer, but if you’re just using it for course creation, it’s definitely going to come at a higher price point. You can find out more information about Kajabi and see pricing here.
Overall, Kajabi may be a good fit for you if you value simplicity, and like to have all your business marketing tools on one platform.
Out of all of the online course platforms on this list, LearnWorlds is the one I’m least familiar with. However, it’s worth mentioning, because, at the higher pricing tiers, LearnWorlds offers something the others don’t.
Here’s where LearnWorlds shines:
- They offer interactive video functionality
- Students can highlight text in their version of the course
Here’s where Learnworld could improve:
- Compared to some of the other online course platforms on this list, they are more pricey. So if you’re not looking for the features mentioned above, you may want to stick with some of the other options
Overall, if interaction with your students is something that is important to you, LearnWorlds could be a good option for you to explore. You can find more information and pricing options here.
Xperiencify is all about encouraging people to engage with and complete the courses they sign up for. This is something that I haven’t seen in any other online course creation platform out there.
According to Xperiencfy, 97% of students don’t complete the courses they sign up for. This is important because if you are a business owner who plans to create multiple courses, and someone doesn’t finish your course, they’re less likely to buy from you again.
Here’s where Xperiencify shines:
- They have an “Engagement Engine,” and their goal is to help more students actually engage with and complete the courses they take through “Gamification”
Here’s where Xperiencify can improve:
- Unlike some of the other online course platforms on this list, Xperiencify requires you to sign up for a paid plan before you can publish your course
Overall, if you are hoping for a high engagement rate on your courses, or want to give your students a unique and fun course experience, this platform may be a good fit for you. You can find out more information and other cool features on their pricing page.
At the end of 2021, Thrivecart announced that they were launching a new product called “Learn”, which was an online course platform meant to compete with websites like Teachable. Before they launched “Learn”, Thrivecart offered a checkout page that integrated with Teachable.
Here’s where Thrivecart shines:
- It’s easy to create a simple course
- As a checkout option, you are able to offer payment plans and multiple payment options
- It’s a good value for what you get
Here’s where Thrivecart could improve:
- Being that it’s so new to the market, it definitely is still in the “early” stages
- They do not have video hosting, which means you’ll have to pay for another platform to host the videos (Vimeo is one example), and then upload the videos to Thrivecart
I do use and like Thrivecart for my course checkout process because of the features mentioned above. However, when it comes to which platform I like to create my actual courses on, I still prefer Teachable.
Overall, if you’re looking for a simple course creation platform and a checkout process that is also a good value, this could be a possible fit for you.
Honorable mention: WordPress Plugins
Utilizing WordPress plugins can be an option for anyone who doesn’t want to utilize a separate platform for their courses.
Two of the online course plugins I am familiar with are MemberPress and Learndash.
Here are where WordPress course creation plugins can shine:
- You can create your course right within your own WordPress website
Here are where WordPress course creation plugins can improve:
- Some plugins can be more technically challenging to configure than an actual online course platform
Overall, if keeping your course housed within your WordPress website is most important to you, choosing a plugin for your course creation may be a good fit.
A really important piece to remember is that when you go to each of these online course platform websites, you’re going to see lots of really cool features that each one offers. And while these features may seem enticing, if they’re not useful for you or your business, then making buying decisions based on those features is not going to be helpful.
Here are my top picks (and why):
If you haven’t already, make a list of ideas that note how you want your course experience to operate for your students.
Then, go through each of the websites, take advantage of the free trials, and get an idea of which platform is a good fit for you and your business.
One last thing – remember that there is no such thing as a perfect tool, just the right tools for different people.
Ready to jump in and create your own course, but don’t feel like you’re tech-savvy or not sure how to create a curriculum? Download my FREE complete online course toolkit here.
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Melissa Guller is the founder of Wit & Wire, where we help everyday experts become profitable course creators. She previously worked full-time for Ramit Sethi, Teachable, and General Assembly. Today, she shares simplified tech tutorials and modern marketing strategies through our blog, YouTube, and Wit & Wire Weekly newsletter