Having a lot of options isn’t always a good thing.
It can lead to analysis paralysis—the fear of taking action because you don’t know the right action to take.
Online course creators know this feeling far too well. One quick search of “course platforms” shows a dozen options that are all slightly different from the other.
- Do you want to create a simple course or a gamified course?
- Are you okay with getting paid royalties or do you prefer getting paid per course sold?
- Do you need an entire course platform or just a way to sell your material?
So which platform will help you create the perfect course for your audience?
That’s what we’ll cover in this online course platform guide.
If you’re a course creator ready to hit record, but nervous to make the wrong decision—keep reading. We’ll show you what platforms are available, which creators they’re best suited for, and how much you’ll have to invest.
The essential features every course platform needs to offer
We know it would make your life easier if we just told you the one course platform you should use. You could bypass reading lists of courses and having to create a pros and cons list before hitting the purchase button. You wouldn’t have the voice in the back of your head saying, “Is this really the RIGHT one?” because we’d assured you it was.
Unfortunately, course platforms don’t work that way. Each platform has different features and some even have different revenue models. You have to look through these details to figure out which platform not only fits what you want to build today…but your goals for the future of your course as well.
Every online course platform is built around one central principle: creating a great learning experience for your audience. As the course creator, you want your students to rave about it. It’s an extension of your creativity, and we always want our creative endeavors appreciated.
But, a great learning experience looks different depending on your audience, what your course is about, and how you plan to market it.
Each platform goes about creating that great experience in a slightly different way. For first-time creators, this could be with a simple platform that allows them to upload videos, create a landing page, and brand their course. Established creators may need a course that adds in automated check-ins so they can keep their students accountable for finishing the material.
Regardless of the course platform you choose, you’ll need it to give you the ability to:
- Create your own branding (like fonts, colors, and templates)
- Upload multiple videos (this gives you the option to add more to your course in the future)
- See the statistics behind your course (how many people signed up last week?)
- A course sales page that shows who your course is for, what they’ll learn, and why this is such a great course for them
We’ll cover the six most popular online course platforms that all meet these requirements so you can decide which bells and whistles best suit the course you’re creating and the audience you’re serving.
The best online course platform for first-time creators: Teachable
Teachable is an easy-to-use platform for first-time course creators who are passionate about their craft and less passionate about website design. Course creators can make one-time purchase courses or choose to build a community with memberships. Like most course platforms, they provide easy-to-use landing page templates that help you market your course and have an affiliate feature to help your students become brand ambassadors.
For example, Darlene Abarquez built out an online cake decorating class called Make Fabulous Cakes. Her Teachable courses are bought a la carte and her students can learn how to make buttercream flowers, buttercream succulents, and bean paste flowers that make cakes look like delicious art.
Who should use Teachable?
Teachable is best suited to new course creators who don’t have a lot of marketing experience. You’ll be able to plug in your course material, brand it, and make the necessary marketing pages so your audience knows what they’re getting from your course. Artists, writers, actors, musicians, and any creator who isn’t keen to become an expert marketer, but still wants to make a living from their online course, are a great fit for Teachable.
Teachable charges $29/month for their Basic Plan, $99/month for their Pro Plan, and $249/month for their Business Plan.
The best online course platform for established entrepreneurs: Thinkific
Thinkific draws an audience of established entrepreneurs looking to strategically build out another revenue stream for themselves. For example, you can find successful podcasters using Thinkific to teach their audience how to create a successful podcast (check out how the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast is doing this below). In comparison to Teachable, Thinkific is ready to create a more robust experience for course creators who are serious about turning this into an income source. With Thinkific, you can build multiple courses, design a website (with more custom options than Teachable), market and sell your courses, and support your students by tracking their progress and automating check-ins.
A great example of a creator utilizing Thinkific to grow their empire is John Lee Dumas, creator and host of Entrepreneur on Fire. He’s used Thinkific to make $50,000 in 2-months teaching his listeners how to create their own successful podcasting business.
Who should use Thinkific?
Podcasters, writers, videographers, and other creators looking to make course sales a bigger portion of their income will find a great home on Thinkific. While they continue to run the other side of their business, they can add their course on to create a side hustle (that can turn into doubling or tripling their income!).
Thinkific has a free trial plan, a $39/month Basic Plan, a $79/month Pro Plan, and a $399/month Premiere Plan.
The best online course platform for creators well-known in their niche: Skillshare
Skillshare varies from Teachable and Thinkific because it has a community. Passionate learners pay a monthly subscription to access all of Skillshare’s courses. This can make a big difference as a creator without a lot of marketing experience. Instead of people buying your course specifically, you’ll get paid based on royalties and referrals based on how many people take your course.
For example, writer Roxane Gay built out a course on creative writing called, Crafting Personal Essays with Impact that walks writers through finding the why of their essay all the way to conducting research for their writing.
Who should use Skillshare?
This community-based approach makes Skillshare a great course platform for creators who have a recognizable name behind their brand. If Skillshare’s audience can look through their courses and see your name, getting excited to buy your course, you’ll be able to sell more courses without having to do more marketing. This isn’t to say that smaller creators shouldn’t use Skillshare—you can definitely utilize this platform without having a huge online presence or audience.
Skillshare doesn’t cost a dime to publish to their platform. Course creators can follow the Skillshare Teacher’s Handbook to get an in-depth look into how to create a course on the platform (and what to expect in terms of revenue).
The platform that can do (pretty much) everything: Kajabi
Think of Kajabi as the platform to use when you’re building out a course and you want all the bells and whistles. Kajabi boasts that they’re able to essentially do it all when it comes to your course, so you won’t have to worry about integrating marketing, payment, or data software. As you’ll see below, Kajabi comes with the highest price tag because of its integrations and features. With Kajabi you can build out courses and avoid having to use a payment tool, data integration, or email platform.
For example, Ryan Kingslien has built out his $ 698-course teaching Sculpting The Face. Notice how his course price tag can help him pay for his Kajabi investment with just one new student per month.
Who should use Kajabi?
Because of its price tag, Kajabi is best suited for creators who can price their course high enough or sell enough per month to afford their monthly Kajabi payment. Before investing in Kajabi, you can create a waitlist using ConvertKit to see what the interest is in your course. If you have high interest and believe you’ll be able to afford it, Kajabi is a great fit for you.
Kajabi plans start at $119/month for the Basic Plan, $159/month for their Growth Plan, and $319/month for their Pro Plan.
The fastest way to start selling your online course: ConvertKit Commerce
ConvertKit Commerce is the best platform for course creators who are ready to hit publish…today. With ConvertKit Commerce, creators can get paid for their work and earn a living online without needing a complicated ecommerce website. All you need to do to start selling your online course with ConvertKit Commerce is add your course details and price, customize your course landing page to match your brand, and you can automatically send your buyers your course (and get paid!).
For example, yoga teacher Natalia uses ConvertKit Commerce to sell her master class teaching online presence to yoga teachers.
“I sell all my programs and trainings using ConvertKit Commerce because it makes my life so much easier and saves me time! I can upload all the information for the training, links, slides, everything the participants will need in one file! The check-out process is fast, easy to understand for the buyer, and the best thing is that I can email the participants fast and any time I want because ConvertKit automatically creates a tag/list for the people that bought my training.”
Who should use ConvertKit Commerce?
Think of ConvertKit Commerce as the best course platform option for creators who are making their first course or want to avoid the learning curve of a course platform. With ConvertKit Commerce, you can sell your course a la carte or as a monthly subscription.
ConvertKit is free for creators with less than 1,000 email subscribers, $29/month for our Creator Plan, and $50/month for our Creator Pro Plan.
The best online course platform for gamifying the learning experience: Xperiencify
Xperiencify is a course platform built on neuroscience. They’ve designed a course experience that helps your students feel excited about your course and keep coming back for your lessons. Using 7 psychological triggers, Xperiencify creates a gamified experience that makes taking your course feel more like a game than a normal learning experience.
This is a platform for course creators who can invest time into building out an in-depth course experience. Unlike the platforms listed above, with Xperiencify you’ll be doing a lot more than just uploading videos and worksheets. You’ll need to figure out how many points each training is worth, write several notes to your students for each module and training, and choose visuals and music that best represent your brand.
Xperiencify is $49/month for their Launch Plan, $149/month for their Growth Plan, and $499/month for their Scale Plan.
Choose the right online course platform for you
Which of these platforms makes the most sense for your course?
It’s the one that doesn’t break the bank, has the key features you need, and is the easiest for you to get started with. We don’t want you to stay in analysis paralysis, it’s time to hit upload on your first training.
Upload your course to the platform and most importantly—start promoting it to your audience. They want to take your course, but they can’t sign up if they don’t know it exists.
Using ConvertKit you can build automated email marketing campaigns that promote your course as soon as someone subscribes and remind your audience about your course in your newsletters.
Grab your free ConvertKit account to promote your new course to your audience.