Teaching is a great way to make money online. Online courses can leverage your skills and boost your income, augment product and service offerings, and increase the credibility and authority of your brand.
Furthermore, businesses can use online courses to streamline training of new hires. Or strengthen an existing talent pool by growing employee skills and expertise. All of these opportunities make it easy to see why so many people and companies are looking for the best online course platforms.
And today there are several online course platforms to choose from, and in this guide, we’re going to look at the 6 best. First, I talk about each online course platform in detail, and then I’ll give my recommendations towards the end.
Let’s dive right in!
The 6 Best Online Course Platforms
Thinkific is my favorite online course platform. It’s a fast and simple tool that you can use to market, manage, create and sell online courses. And it’s powerful and versatile enough for entrepreneurs and universities alike. Language and currency options allow you to reach students around the world and help them achieve success. Moreover, Thinkific has built-in marketing tools to help your course gain visibility and stand out from the crowd.
In my opinion, Thinkific is the best online course platform for beginners. Mostly because of their low prices and ease of use. And since they also have the best upload feature, Thinkific is also the best option for those who wish to reuse their existing course materials.
Prices: Ranging from FREE to $279 a month depending on the features and plan. All plans have a 20% discount when purchased annually instead of monthly.
- Drag-and-drop course builder. With Thinkific you can easily upload and host video content, documents, images, audio files, quizzes, and other file types for your virtual classroom. And you can arrange them in any way you like with the straightforward drag-and-drop builder. Moreover, you can customize course membership, prerequisites, drip course content on a schedule, have multiple instructors, and more.
- Build a customized website. The platform offers a range of themes customized for education that are both fast and easy to use. You can also use HTML or CSS to fully customize your site. Thinkific sites can also be deep-linked to your existing website for a seamless brand experience.
- Marketing and business tools. Price your courses any way you want, and offer students a variety of payment options in over 100 currencies. You can use coupons, discounts, or payment plans to help promote your courses and attract students. And you can take advantage of advanced data tracking and analytics, and even use an affiliate program to boost sales. Furthermore, you can connect Thinkific with your email provider and with over 1,000 external apps to use the business and marketing tools you like best.
- Tools for student success. With Thinkific, students have clear progress indicators, language controls, and unlimited courses replays. You can customize completion certificates, automated emails, and easily track student progress.
- Security. Thinkific uses secure cloud storage and daily backups with built-in security.
- Very affordable prices make sure Thinkific is great for beginners.
- Easy to learn and use for both instructors and teachers.
- No coding required. Just drag and drop.
- Very easy to upload your existing course material.
- Instructors can access their account balances immediately.
- Great customer support
- No support for real-time webinars or conferencing.
Teachable is a simple and streamlined tool, making it easy to launch your courses and get to work without spending too much time learning a complex online course platform. It’s also reliable and low maintenance, with all the features you and your students need. And, the Teachable affiliate program can help market the courses for you. Saving time and improving enrollment in your classes.
Prices: Ranging from $39 a month to $499 a month depending on the features and plan. And all plans are available at a discount when purchased annually instead of monthly.
- Create engaging courses. Courses can include videos, images, text, audio, and pdf files. You can easily import course content directly from Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. And native features let you quickly create quizzes.
- Build a beautiful website. Using the Teachable drag-and-drop site builder you can easily build a website for your course. Or you can choose to integrate Teachable into your existing website, using your domain or subdomain, or with a free Teachable domain name. Your website will be responsive and accessible on any device. And you can use the Power Editor to modify your site code for advanced customization.
- Marketing tools. With Teachable you can quickly build customized course pages to promote your courses. Moreover, you can easily send targeted emails to your students with advanced segmentation. And, use Zapier to integrate Teachable with hundreds of support tools. Additionally, for offer coupons and promotions you can use your own affiliate program, or offer advanced pricing options to boost sales.
- Support your students. You can modify the language in any part of your site, to reach a global student audience. And Teachable accepts payment in over 130 currencies. Moreover, discussion forums, student feedback surveys, and custom completion certificates help students stay engaged every step of the way.
- Security. Teachable offers seamless hosting, SSL certificates, and 24/7 monitoring so your data is always protected.
- Analytics. With Teachable’s tools, you can track which of your campaigns drove the greatest enrollment, track lecture completion rate by student type, use conversion pixels, and more, for great insight into your marketing and analytics data.
- Easy, intuitive functionality.
- Variety of support and training tools to help you make the most of Teachable.
- Built-in affiliate marketing network.
- No free trial available. More expensive than other online course platforms like Thinkific.
- You need to be enrolled in the professional plan to have instant payouts.
Next on our online course platforms list is our Gumroad review. Gumroad is an incredibly versatile online course platform for selling physical and digital products. You can offer subscriptions or membership levels, ongoing access to a library of course materials or time-limited availability, e-books, quizzes, templates, and more. Packaged almost any way you like. While some online course builders are designed to be simple to use, and therefore limit your options, with Gumroad you can build your online courses and your product offerings almost any way you like.
Prices: Ranging from a free plan to a premium plan with transaction fees for every sale 3.5% + $0.30.
During our Gumroad review, we also found a service called Gumroad Discover. Gumroad Discover identifies potential customers for you based on their previous Gumroad behaviors. In short, if Gumroad recommends your product to a customer who never purchased from you before, and the customer signs up for your courses, Gumroad will take an additional 10% of the transaction as a fee.
- Easily customized attractive landing pages. You can modify existing Gumroad themes or use CSS to make your own style. Choose from dynamic images, audio, or video covers. Moreover, you can launch your online course software as a single product, or schedule content over time. And using membership or subscription payment options, you can design the course structure that works best for you and your students.
- Email Marketing. You can import an existing email list, embed the Gumroad follow form with a few lines of code, and offer discounts and a multitude of flexible pricing options. Including “pay what you want.” Gumroad also has lots of integrations with third-party tools. Links shared on social media are optimized for each online course platform, to look their best and get results. Finally, you can automate your emails and upsells with included tools, and even pre-sell your course or offer tiered bundles.
- Analytics. Gumroad’s dashboard presents you with powerful data to understand your audience and improve your marketing plan.
- Security. With Gumroad DRM, you can protect your products from unwanted downloading or sharing.
- Affiliate network. The Gumroad affiliate network will do some of the marketing for you.
- Student success. Gumroad has a lot of options for students. They can pay with PayPal or any major credit card, download files to Dropbox or a Kindle, or create their own Gumroad library and store all their preferred content in one place. Provided that your customized permissions allow it. Unlike many other online course platforms, Gumroad also supports live chat webinars and one-on-one conferencing with screen-sharing. Making your instruction more personal and effective.
- Easy payouts. Your account balance is sent via PayPal or direct deposit every week.
- Video conferencing is a big asset in online education.
- One-on-one time with students, including screen-sharing, makes education more personal and effective.
- Incredibly diverse ways to structure your course materials, offerings, plans, and pricing.
- Affiliate network and Gumroad Discover help you reach new audiences.
- Low monthly fee.
- Because it’s not a specialized online course platforms, Gumroad may have too many options and features that you don’t need.
With Kajabi, you don’t have to separate your website or blog from your online courses or your e-commerce. Instead, a single suite manages all aspects of your online presence, making it easier for your traffic to convert. And, for you to manage every aspect of your brand from a single dashboard. Moreover, the ability to have live webinars, or schedule pre-recorded content to play when you want, is a great feature for enhancing education. And building more engagement with your course material.
Prices: Ranging from $97 a month to $297 a month depending on the features and plan. Furthermore, Kajabi offers a free trial. And these plans are all available for a 20% discount when billed annually instead of monthly.
- Customizable website. Beyond just pages, Kajabi lets you build a comprehensive online presence. The course creator lets you drag and drop with endless customization, creating a site that’s attractive and media-ready. And embed any media you choose, with built-in SEO optimization and scalable traffic management. Built-in blogging, navigation, and legal disclaimers get you get started quickly. Video hosting, mobile responsive, and easy uploads are all included.
- Marketing tools. You can schedule content, build a member list, or bulk import members. Your member dashboard acts as a CRM, letting you see their activity and product history. Even letting you make notes regarding contacts with a member, or tag members or groups of members for accurate segmentation. Moreover, you can make announcements on your site and have them be automatically emailed to your customers. Finally, Kajabi features marketing pipeline blueprints to construct automated marketing campaigns.
- Student success. Active in-course discussions include automated emails when comments receive replies, increasing engagement. But you can also moderate these comments and reply from a centralized location. Include quizzes, homework documents, or require skills assessments between modules.
- Analytics. Monitor your customer’s lifecycle and measure the effectiveness of your marketing. And track your emails.
- Events and webinars. You can have live webinars, or run pre-recorded content on a schedule inside Kajabi.
- Affiliate program. You can boost your marketing efforts with the built-in Kajabi affiliate network.
- Comprehensive online presence unites your brand and courses into a single suite of services.
- Convenient learning management system include scheduling, discussions, webinars, and more.
- Pipelines make it easy to plan and execute marketing.
- Affiliate program simplifies marketing and sales.
- Much more expensive than other online course platforms.
- You can’t remove Kajabi branding at the Basic plan.
Udemy is one of the most well known online course platforms. It’s an online course marketplace, with services aimed more at students than instructors. Instead of freely designing and customizing your course any way you like, your courses and course materials need to follow the Udemy format and get Udemy approval before being launched. Becoming a Udemy instructor means sacrificing some control and independence with your courses and materials in return for the wide visibility and powerful marketing tools already in place from the brand.
With Udemy, you can host as many courses as you like on the online course platform. Instead, Udemy shares revenue with instructors in a tiered system:
- Instructor Promotion. If a student registers for your course using your specific coupon code, then you earn 97% of the sale. With 3% withheld as a transaction fee.
- Udemy Organic. If a student registers for your course using no coupon code, as a result of simply browsing or searching courses on Udemy, you earn 50% of that sale. Splitting revenue equally with Udemy.
- Paid User Acquisition Channel. If a student registers for your course as a result of a referral from a Udemy affiliate or as a result of Udemy paid advertising, you earn 25% of that sale. The rest going to Udemy and/or the affiliate in question.
You can voluntarily opt-out of the Udemy Marketing Boost program and have your course excluded from Udemy advertising and affiliate marketing. If you prefer to rely on your own marketing efforts and keep a larger percentage of your revenue.
- Bulk upload. You can quickly and easily upload all your course videos, pdfs, audio, or other files.
- Student satisfaction. Student satisfaction is key for Udemy. And you have access to ongoing, real-time analytics of how students are engaging, performing, and reviewing your material.
- Marketing tools. With Udemy, you can quickly send announcements or promotional emails to all your students. And you can offer discounts and promotions, or create content subscriptions.
- Analytics. You can track conversions using Google AdWords, and use Udemy’s email analytics to review the progress of your campaigns.
- Affiliate network. Udemy has a large network of affiliates who will help you market and sell online courses.
- Auto captioning of videos. Udemy has tools to streamline and simplify captioning and subtitling of your videos to help you reach a larger global audience.
- First, Udemy has huge brand reach and an excellent reputation in online education, lending credibility to your course.
- Udemy also engages in a broad range of marketing activities designed to attract new students and keep engaging existing ones.
- Finally, student satisfaction is extremely important on Udemy, and you will need to earn positive feedback and high ratings to have continued success on the online course platform.
- The Udemy course format requires video lectures with quizzes between modules, and supplemental documents as needed. Their tools make that kind of course extremely easy to execute. However, if your ideal course is not formatted in that way, you may not be able to teach on the Udemy online course platform.
Last on our online course platforms list we have our Clickfunnels review. ClickFunnels is a marketing tool and not specifically designed to host, create and sell online courses. Although many ClickFunnels advocates use it in that way, there are some limitations to designing courses on the platform. The ClickFunnels course marketplace does offer templates that can be used for course designs, which range from free to about $150. But, then it’s important to design within that template and restrict customization. However, its marketing tools, including affiliate campaigns, upsells, and special offers are excellent and do deliver results.
Prices: Ranging from $97 per month to $297 per month depending on the features and plan. In our ClickFunnels review, we also found they have a 14-day free trial. And like most other online learning platforms, if you pay annually, you get a 16% discount.
- A drag-and-drop web page editor. With the ClickFunnels web page editor, you can select a template, point and click, drag and drop, and help you create beautiful web pages. ClickFunnel pages are also automatically designed to work on any device. You can make these pages without knowing HTML or CSS. But, you can modify the templates if you know how to code.
- A shopping cart with 1-click upsells. You can add sales pages that offer additional, complementary products or services to customers after they buy. Customers don’t have to repeat the checkout process, streamlining your upsells, and adding value to each cart.
- Marketing automation. Actionetics is the ClickFunnels automation tool, and it automates a lot of marketing tasks. With Actionetics, you can quickly segment your lists based on the actions they take in your funnel, so you don’t have to pre-categorize or anticipate customer behavior to capture the right data. Actionetics allows you to categorize in real-time, as needed. It also allows you to instantly retrieve information about your subscribers, identify your customers, and recognize your super-buyers, at a glance. Thereafter, Actionetics automates communicating, allowing you to choose what kinds of messages to send. And deliver them automatically, through multiple channels, from a single database, including broadcasting messages through one or all of these channels.
- Analytics. The online school gives you insights into customer behavior, including opens, clicks, purchases, and more.
- Affiliate network. ClickFunnels has multiple ways to leverage the power of affiliates to help promote your courses.
- Built-in affiliate network.
- Excellent marketing tools.
- Excellent analytics tools.
- Not as easy to design courses as sites designed for the purpose.
- The mobile experience isn’t great for students.
- Videos need to be hosted elsewhere and embedded in course pages.
- No support for quizzes, tests, or completion certificates.
- It offers no discussion area for students to enhance communication and online learning courses.
- No way to track student progress. ClickFunnels doesn’t support progress indicators for either the instructor or the student.
Best Online Course Platforms – Summary
For those seeking to start an online education program, sharing their knowledge and expertise, and earning money at the same time, there are a huge range of options. While all six of these online course platforms have powerful strengths and benefits for course creators, our overall strongest recommendation is for Thinkific.
- First, Thinkific is specifically designed for online courses, giving instructors exactly the features they need. And nothing they don’t.
- They also streamlines and simplifies the course creation, publishing, and marketing process so you can focus on what you do best.
- The courses are attractive, responsive, and provide a solid, easy-to-understand experience for students.
- Thinkific is more affordably priced than many other online course platforms.
- Thinkific offers reasonably priced white labeling, so your brand can be front and center of your courses.
- Finally, Thinkific features instant instructor payouts. While most other online course platforms doesn’t.
PS: In closing, I hope my online course platforms review was helpful when you’re making your choice. I also recommend that you look around our site to learn about other online course software for small business owners. For example our best slideshow maker article. And if you have any further questions about online course platforms, don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail using our contact form.
Anders is from Sweden but worked over 10 years in Silicon Valley as a project manager, programmer and systems engineer. He started Business Technology Reviews in 2014 and is our main tech guru who produces easy-to-read guides and reviews for his many readers.