12 Best Online Course Platforms for 2021

Teaching a course online is a great way to put your skills to use if you have expertise in any subject area. Whether you are a teacher, a freelancer, a tutor, or a student, you can use what you know to share your experiences and knowledge with others. Having an area of expertise is critical, but how you offer your course is equally as important. You will need to use a platform that is user friendly and offers a range of tools, from videos to quizzes to surveys and more.

What Are Online Course Platforms?

Online course platforms are all-in-one platforms that allow you to create, market, and sell your online course to the public. They operate on learning management software (LMS) that is designed specifically for digital classes. When you choose a platform, you will have web hosting, a domain name, website design and more because these platforms already have the layout set up for you. You can choose the one that will provide the best user experience for your students.

People often use the terms online course platform and learning management software interchangeably, but it is important to understand the difference. LMSs are used by schools or companies to teach their students or employers. Online course platforms are designed for individuals to create, market, and sell their own courses online.

Most online course platforms fit into one of two categories: course marketplaces or course creation software. A course marketplace allows you to list your course as part of a catalog. You can customize your course landing page, but there will be a standard format where you input your course content.

On the other hand, course creation software allows you to customize your course. You can customize your landing pages, use different content formats, and access the tools you need to market your course. You will normally pay a monthly fee along with a transaction fee.

You need to decide which type of platform will work best for you based on your goals. People who are looking to earn a little bit of money on the side will have different goals from people who are looking to make a full-time job out of teaching online courses.

You will be able to choose from course platforms with simple features for simple courses or ones with robust features for those who want to have more engagement with students and provide more types of content. Continue reading to learn about the 12 best online course platforms available today.

What Are the Best Online Course Platforms?

Teachable

Overview

When you sign up with Teachable, you are choosing a platform already used by over 22,000 teachers. This e-learning platform offers you different ways to create your own personal design for your course. You can build an online course that presents the content and materials exactly how you want to present them. It comes with templates to make choosing your layout simple, and you can receive files through Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.

This platform offers you a lot of choices, including how you price your courses. You can offer individual courses or sell several courses in a bundle. When you start your prelaunch, you can create coupon codes to generate revenue right off the bat. Another feature that this platform offers is the ability to add affiliates. They will get a commission on your course sales, but you will be able to use them for marketing.

Teachable also offers an email tool so that you can filter and message students when they register for your course, redeem your coupons, or complete your course. In addition, this platform gives you access to student feedback. This is a great platform for creating an online course, and you do not need experience to start using it.

Works Best for…

Teachable is great for people who are new to online course creation and people who want options such as access to affiliate marketing, built-in marketing strategies, preset templates, and a lot of choices for course presentation.

Pros:

  • Easy to use and easy to set up
  • Offers learning tools, including graded quizzes, course completion certificates, course compliance, and content dripping
  • Has an IOS app
  • Comes with excellent sales and marketing features
  • Has a well-optimized checkout service and one-click upsells
  • Handles the EU Digital Goods Vat tax

Cons:

  • Limited ability to build your site
  • Doesn’t support advanced quiz features, including question banks
  • No community forum
  • Doesn’t support PayPal for recurring payments or non-USD pricing
  • Only integrates directly with a handful of third-party marketing tools

Pricing

Teachable offers three different plans. They all include the following features:

  • Unlimited courses
  • Unlimited videos
  • Unlimited hosting
  • Integrated payment processing
  • Student management
  • Lecture comments
  • Basic quizzes
  • No fees on free courses
  • VAT for EU

The plans are as follows:

  • Basic Plan ($29 / month): This plan has 5% transaction fees.
  • Pro Plan ($99 / month): There are no transaction fees included with this plan, and you get five admin users instead of two. You get an unbranded website and graded quizzes with this plan.
  • Business Plan ($249 / month): This is the most comprehensive plan, and it allows you to have up to 20 admin-level users. You get priority product support and bulk student enrollments. It also has custom user roles and advanced theme customization.

Thinkific

Overview

Thinkific is also a popular hosted online course platform. You can offer courses under your own brand, and it offers core features for creating and selling your courses online. You can add different types of content, including videos, quizzes, text, ODF, surveys, and more, and you can deliver your content through the built-in course player. You can also issue certificates, drip your course content, create a community forum, and create learning paths that have prerequisites and lesson locking.

Thinkific offers many themes and a powerful site builder that lets you create your website and sales pages without writing any code. They offer essential selling tools, including payment processing, bundling, one-click upsells, coupons, and more.

Works Best for…

This platform is ideal for anyone who wants to sell online courses. They offer everything you need, including excellent features, email marketing tools, a user-friendly platform, a membership site, integration for your lessons, and 24/7 customer support.

Pros:

  • Powerful page builder and multiple site themes
  • Ability to create a standalone community area for learners
  • Ability to sell bulk courses
  • Beginner friendly pricing and no transaction fees
  • Excellent course compliance features
  • Support for more advanced quiz elements and assignments

Cons:

  • No mobile app
  • No PayPal for recurring payments
  • Doesn’t handle EU VAT
  • No live chat support
  • Two-step checkout process isn’t optimal for conversions

Pricing:

Thinkific offers the following plans:

  • Free Plan: You can try it for free
  • Basic Plan ($49 / month): Start with basic features and tools to launch your first course
  • Pro Plan ($99 / month): Receive a complete set of tools to create an amazing student experience
  • Premier Plan ($499 / month): Build an education empire with all features for Growth. No limitations.

Kajabi

Overview

This is an all-in-one online course platform, and you can build an amazing website for your online course with all kinds of engaging content. You can also use this platform to market and sell your course and to engage your students. In addition, it offers an app for IOS and Android users, community, assessments that include quizzes and assignments, automations, learning paths, and more.

This platform offers more than the others in terms of site themes. You can choose from ten different pre-built themes, and it has a page builder, and you can maintain a blog on the site. The sales and marketing features allow you to create landing pages to get new leads, launch webinars, and make sales. It also has built-in email marketing integration, and they never charge you a transaction fee.

Works Best for…

Kajabi works best for anyone who wants to run an entire business from a single platform. The base plan is more expensive than others, so it is not as geared toward people who are trying to keep to a low budget.

Pros:

  • All-in-one platform
  • Ten themes with many customization options
  • App for both IOS and Android
  • Powerful engagement tools such as learning paths, assessments, and community
  • Can run a blog on the platform
  • Built-in sales pipeline builder
  • Email marketing automation tools
  • Excellent 24/7 customer support

Cons:

  • No certificates on platform
  • Doesn’t support advanced quiz elements such as question banks and randomization
  • Doesn’t handle EU VAT
  • Expensive

Pricing:

Kajabi has the following plans:

  • Basic ($149 / month):  Great for beginners who are just starting out
  • Growth ($199 / month): Great for those who are growing their teaching business
  • Pro ($399 / month): Great for those wanting to build their own online education program

Learnworlds

Overview

Learnworlds is an excellent online course builder and has everything you need to create and sell your course. This platform has a focus on delivering an interactive learning experience through the interactive video player, e-book reader, advanced quiz and exam capabilities, social community builder, copyright protection, and more. It also offers excellent ecommerce options and handles payment processing, coupons, bundling, and subscriptions. They can also create a custom mobile app for your course, which is a great feature.

Works Best for…

This platform is best for course creators who are looking for an interactive course experience and student engagement.

Pros:

  • Supports interactive learning tools such as quizzes, certificates, course compliance and so on
  • Course play has a clean modern design
  • Can create a blog on the platform
  • Powerful online community builder
  • Interactive elements within videos
  • Features to copyright your material
  • Beginner pricing available

Cons:

  • No native mobile app, although they will build one for you
  • Basic course reporting tools
  • Cannot offer credit card and PayPal options together
  • Doesn’t handle EU Vat
  • Checkout process is not optimized for conversions
  • No bulk uploading
  • No site themes

Pricing:

Learnworlds offers the following plans:

  • Starter Plan ($29 / month): Low price for beginners
  • Pro Trainer ($99 / month): Best for people who only offer a few courses
  • Learning Center ($299 / month): Most popular plan for people who offer a range of courses
  • High Volume and Corporate: Price upon request for custom options

Podia

Overview

Podia used to be called Coach, and it is a new platform for hosted online courses. You can use it to create and sell online courses, memberships, and e-books. They offer features for your courses such as videos, audio, text, PDFs, and more, and it is all delivered through their well-designed course player.

In addition to bundling your courses, this platform allows you to build membership sites where you can create individual posts. It does not support features such as graded quizzes, certificates, and so on. You can build sales pages, but you cannot build a full website on this platform.

Podia offers payment processing, coupons, affiliate marketing, and email marketing, but it doesn’t let you create landing pages or sales funnels.

Works Best for…

This platform works best for people who want to offer webinars or host a membership site and people who want to run an affiliate program to boost their sales.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Clean design
  • Can create individual posts for members
  • Can embed Podia checkout on any website
  • Handles EU Vat
  • Live chat widget
  • Free migration to Podia
  • Good, friendly customer support

Cons:

  • Doesn’t support cloud import
  • Doesn’t have features such as graded quizzes, certificates, course compliance
  • No standalone community area
  • No mobile app
  • Cannot build a full website
  • Course pricing options are not flexible

Pricing:

Podia offers the following plans:

  • Mover Plan ($39 / month): create and sell courses and digital downloads, but no memberships
  • Shaker Plan ($79 / month): Includes memberships

LearnDash

Overview

LearnDash is an impressive online course platform, and it integrates with WordPress. There are some well-known big websites using this learning platform, including Yoast, Infusionsoft, and the University of Michigan. They offer focus mode, which blocks all distractions for students.

Their course builder works well with their email drip campaigns, so you can build your online course and use an email drip schedule to send out your content. They offer gradebook technology that gives the students an overall grade that is based on quiz and homework scores. Students can also earn rewards such as badges and points for certain course activities.

Works Best for…

This platform works best for teachers who are looking for a grading system that has features similar to those found in colleges and universities.

Pros:

  • Gradebook with features similar to those used by colleges and universities
  • Content works well with email drip campaigns
  • WordPress plugin
  • Focus mode to block distractions for students
  • Built-in shopping cart functionality processes payments with Stripe, PayPal, or 2Checkout
  • Reasonably priced

Cons:

  • Complicated setup and installation
  • You handle security, site maintenance, and performance

Pricing:

LearnDash offers the following plans:

  • One license: $159 / year
  • 10 site licenses: $189 / year

Academy of Mine

Overview

Academy of Mine is a highly personalized learning platform that offers incredible customization. This platform lets you personalize the entire course, and you can build your website, create your online courses, and start to sell them. It has a powerful LMS with included support for certificates, gamification, discussion forums, gradebook, and more. The features are designed to help you boost student engagement.

Works Best for…

This program is ideal for people who want to create a truly personalized and custom learning experience for their students.

Pros:

  • Highly personalized platform
  • High-end learning platform
  • Can build a fully-fledged website
  • Powerful LMS features, such as certificates, gamification, discussion forums, and gradebook
  • Enterprise offerings for businesses

Cons:

  • Overkill for typical users

Pricing:

  • Basic Plan: $199 a month
  • Sell subscriptions and share revenue: $299 / month

Ruzuku

Overview

Ruzuku is a very easy platform to build your course on. You can create an online course with PDFs and text in just minutes. They make it easy to make outlines for your course, edit your content, and launch your course. It integrates with MailChimp and Infusionsoft. It also integrates with payment processors such as PayPal and Stripe.

Works Best for…

This platform works best for those who want a super easy course creation platform. It also has great features to offer.

Pros:

  • Super fast course creation
  • Simple platform
  • Great community
  • Integrates with MailChimp and Infusionsoft
  • Payment processing by PayPal and Stripe
  • No transaction fees
  • Global content delivery network
  • Webinars, quizzes, and polls

Cons:

  • Not a lot of choice for design
  • No direct contact with student

Pricing:

  • Bootstrapper Plan: $74.75 / month: single instructor, unlimited courses and students
  • Up and Comer: $83.08 / month: Single instructor, unlimited courses, students, webinars, and quizzes
  • University Plan: $125 / month: Your own domain, multiple instructors, multiple site managers

WizIQ

Overview

This platform allows teachers to create virtual classrooms for live classes. There are over 400,000 instructors who use this platform to teach students in 200 countries. They offer tools that work well for live training, including discussion boards, video streaming, mobile options, assessments, and analytics.

Works Best for…

Teachers who want to teach live lessons to students all over the world.

Pros:

  • Create live lessons
  • Reach anyone in the world
  • Easy to use
  • Great customer service
  • Can schedule classes in advance

Cons:

  • Virtual classrooms are an added fee
  • Extra storage costs more
  • Not great if student has poor Internet connection

Pricing:

WizIQ has the following price plans:

  • $27 / month
  • Custom plans available
  • Pay-per-use available

Udemy

Overview

Udemy has around 35,000 instructors and over 24 million students enrolled in its courses. If you want to create a course, you have to apply to become a premium instructor. Once you are approved, you can follow the steps to create your course. They require 30 minutes of video and five lectures per course. You can add quizzes, assignments, exercises, and discussion prompts.

They offer a lot of support for both creating and marketing your course. You can actually submit a sample of a lesson for review and receive valuable feedback. They also have a Facebook group where you can interact with other instructors.

Works Best for…

Udemy works best for teachers who are starting out and want feedback as they learn how to create courses that are successful.

Pros:

  • Excellent student base of 24 million students
  • Great community support
  • Opportunity to receive feedback for improving courses
  • No monthly fees
  • Instructor training

Cons:

  • You don’t have ownership of content once you upload it
  • You do not get list of student accounts

Pricing:

Udemy charges a small fee when students buy your course. You do not have to pay any monthly fees to use this platform.

SkillShare

Overview

SkillShare is a great platform when you are just starting out teaching online. You can create courses that have videos and a class project, and they are taught in short ten to twenty-five minute segments. However, you need to get 25 students or more to enroll in your course before you get paid. Once you get 25 enrolled, you will get paid and you can also use their Partner Program to be compensated for premium members who have joined through your referral link. This is an easy platform to use.

Works Best for…

This platform works best for teachers who are looking to gain experience.

Pros:

  • Good for teachers just starting out
  • Free signup available
  • Very inexpensive
  • Affiliate program to earn money
  • High quality video editing software available
  • Can make extra income

Cons:

  • Your topic might not make a lot of money
  • You only get paid a few dollars when someone views your videos
  • Money you make is based on number of students enrolled during the month

Pricing

SkillShare offers the following plans:

  • Basic Plan: Free
  • Premium Plan: $19/month or $99/annual

Tutor LMS

Overview

Tutor LMS is a new WordPress LMS plugin that has all the features necessary to deliver online courses. It is also very easy to use. You can use its integration with shopping carts. It has a built in drag-and-drop course builder, quizzes and quiz creator, special integration for videos in courses, course certifications. One unique feature is that you create an online course marketplace where you include courses from other instructors.

Works Best for…

This platform works best for people who are familiar with WordPress and want to create an online course.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Has a free version
  • Quiz creator
  • Drag and drop course builder
  • Analyze course performance

Cons:

  • Needs more styling options
  • You build the course

Pricing:

This platform offers the following plans:

  • Free Trial
  • $149 / year
  • $399 / lifetime

How Do I Create an Online Class?

When you decide that you want to create an online course, the first step is to decide what you want the student to take away from the course. Think about your content, and make sure that you clearly understand what a student would want to get out of taking your course. For example, if you are teaching beginning Spanish, you know that the goal of the student is to get an elementary understanding of first-year Spanish. You know that the goal is to learn basic Spanish vocabulary, pronunciation, and some reading and speaking. Now you can create a course.

Once you know what you want your student to achieve in your course, you need to create a learning path that will help the student reach this goal. The course should be structured so that the students can notice the progress as they work through the material. Back to the Spanish example, if you spend the first lesson on pronunciation, the students will know what they have learned.

Now that you understand your goals and the learning path for your students, you need to look at the logistics of putting the course together. Here are the steps you should take to create your online course.

Determine a Budget for Creating Your Course

You should determine a budget for creating your course. You can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the depth of your content, design of your course, research expenses, analytics, and marketing.

If you are starting out, you can choose an online course platform and pay the monthly fee. You will want to make sure that you have the right equipment, and your time is your biggest investment. You may want to increase the cost later as you develop a following, and you can spend added resources on increasing the quality of your videos and audio, as well as analyzing your audience and marketing.

Make Sure You Have the Software and Equipment You Need

When you produce your course, you need to create quality content. The better your content, the more people will enjoy your course. A video shot with good equipment and lighting will look more professional than one where you have a friend hold the video camera. You do not need to invest in professional equipment and create a recording studio, but you will need the following items to start.

  • Microphone: You should get a USB microphone so your audio will be clear and free of outside noise. You can choose microphone accessories such as pop filters, foam balls, shock mounts, and acoustic panels to further improve your audio.
  • Headphones: Headphones will help when you are editing your videos and when you record another person. Choose a pair with noise canceling so that you can hear what you are editing.
  • Screen Recording Software: You will probably want to use screen recording software to share your screen in your lessons. This allows you to show students the steps in a process.
  • USB Webcam: Your course will likely include live webinars or videos, and you can get a good webcam for a reasonable price.
  • Audio and Video Editing Software: You can make your videos come to life with the right editing software.
  • Lighting: Lighting gives your videos a more professional look, which gives you credibility. You can choose from a range of lighting options, from a few lights to a full studio light setup.

Create Valuable Content

Once you have laid out a learning path, you need to create valuable content for your students. Create a syllabus and a lesson plan, and then you can create your video content. You can also include interactive worksheets to quiz students on content and keep them engaged, as well as informative PDFs and quizzes.

When you produce written content, try to break it down into easy-to-read chunks with headings. Keep your paragraphs to four or five lines each. Highlight new words and terms, and you can even link definitions.

In addition, consider giving your students certificates of completion when they successfully finish your course. Make sure that you create excellent content and give students a reason to recommend your course and return when you offer new courses.

Create Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)

Your UVP is a clear statement that shows potential students the benefits of signing up for your course. You need to send a clear message that tells prospective students why your course is better than others, what makes it better, and how it will meet their needs.

This statement should appear on your landing page and in any marketing materials you send out. Create a one-line hook to draw them in, and then explain yourself. If you are teaching beginning Spanish, what makes your course the right course to choose? What do you offer that is unique?

Rather than calling a course “Beginning Spanish,” you could title it “Learning Spanish through Conversations,” or whatever your specific hook line is. Be sure to let people know the value of your course so they will decide to sign up.

Market Your Course

You can create the best course on the planet, but if you don’t market it, you won’t have any students. Social media is an excellent place to start. You should create a Facebook Business page, and link it to Instagram and Twitter accounts. Post a link to your course, and be sure to update your page with engaging content. You can build a following, and you will gain students. Offer giveaways and contests on your social media pages and keep your followers engaged.

In addition, you should have your own website. This gives you credibility. If you are offering academic courses, you can make a blog and create engaging content. You can use SEO optimization to make sure that your articles are ranked high when people run a search. It is important to build an online presence so people know that you offer online courses.

You can also use tools such as email marketing. When people go to your landing page and enter their email addresses, you will capture them. You can create engaging content to send out in marketing updates.

How Can I Promote My Online Course?

Once you create your course and it goes live on your platform, you need to attract students. There are many different ways to promote your course, and marketing your course is as important as creating engaging content. You could have the best course in the world, but if nobody knows that it is out there, it won’t matter.

Some online course platforms will have some level of marketing built in, but you will need to market your course further if you want to be successful. There are a number of great tools that you can use, and with the right amount of effort, you can ensure that people will discover your course.

Promote Your Course on Social Media

Social media is used by billions of people all over the world, and you will want to take advantage of your access to them. You should create a Facebook Business page and link it to Instagram and Twitter. Your page should be about you and your expertise in your course content, and you should make sure that your posts are engaging and keep people coming back for more.

When you post on social media, do not make all of your content about yourself and your course. Be sure to come up with additional content and engaging items such as contests and surveys to keep your followers interested. You can create a private Facebook group for your students. You need to generate interest so your followers will share your posts and draw more people to your page.

Start a Podcast

Podcasts are popular right now, and they provide a great way for you to show people what you know about your subject matter. When you do your podcast, make sure that you don’t give away content that you charge people for in your course. Make sure that you show off what you know and generate interest in your course so people feel compelled to sign up and give it a try.

Run a Webinar Every Week

Another way to market your course is through a weekly webinar. When you do a podcast, you need to have new information each week. Your webinar can be a presentation on the broad topic of your course. You can touch on the main points and make sure that you deliver a clear call to action so that viewers decide to sign up for your online course. You can run ads for your webinar to attract attendees, and make it easy for viewers to sign up for your course while they are watching.

Buy Ads to Promote Your Course

If your budget allows, you can buy ads for your course. Facebook Ads offers you a way to market your content to a target audience. You can choose a budget of $10 to start. Facebook Ads is a simple way to market your course to many people who already have an interest in your content. It is easy to set up your first ad, and you can run more if you find that it works for you.

Write Guest Posts on Blogs

When you write a guest post for a blog, the blog gets linked to your content, and you gain a new audience to market to. Find a blog that has viewers who would be interested in your course, and create an engaging post. You can use this platform to reach people who might be interested in your online course.

Offer a Promotional Discount to Your First Students

You can create a promotional offer to sell your course at a discount to the first students. You have to decide how many you can afford, and then market it to them. You will earn some cash right away, and you can get feedback on your course. You can ask for testimonials.

You can also offer a pre-launch discount. Allow anyone who signs up during the pre-launch to enroll for a reduced price, and make sure that they give you a testimonial. This gives your course credibility right out of the gate, and the income will help offset some of the costs of launching your online course.

Make Use of Email Marketing

You can use a program such as MailChimp to create an email marketing campaign. Make sure that you capture email addresses when people sign up for your course, even if they are only signing up for free content. You can have a link on your social media pages where people can leave their email as well.

When you build your email list, you will have people who expressed interest in your product to market to. Email can be personalized, and it is delivered directly to people’s mailboxes. It is easy to automate your email messages, and it keeps your audience in the loop so they know what is going on with your course. In fact, you can send out mini courses to give your audience a glimpse of what they will get if they do sign up for your course.

Conclusion

Creating an online course has never been easier than it is today. There are a lot of different online course platforms available to choose from, and you can create a course that works best for the content you want to offer. With distance learning becoming increasingly common, the market is primed for your online course.

If you have always wanted to create an online course, now is the time. Review the twelve different platforms and choose the one that works best for your teaching style and audience. Start creating content for your course, and then be sure to market it online via social media and other avenues. If you have launched an online course of your own, please share your experience in the comments below.

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