If your website is thriving with ads and affiliate marketing, creating an online course is something to consider.
Learning management systems are not something only universities can take advantage of.
Course creators can use a platform like Thinkific, Udemy or LearnDash to create an online course themselves.
You’ll have to hustle a bit if you want to grow your audience.
But it’s not just about working hard.
You also need the right toolkit.
That’s why we take a look at the best online course platforms available.
16 Best Online Course Platforms To Sell Your Course
- Academy Of Mine
- Tutor LMS
- WP CourseWare
What is an Online Course Platform?
An online course platform will help you create, customize, host, secure, and launch an informational product.
All in a friendly user interface.
But it can get complicated, fast.
You have all types of course platforms, from self-hosted options to WordPress plugins and marketplaces.
The market is overcrowded. But that’s good.
There are enough options to cover every need and pocket size.
However, you shouldn’t make a hasty decision.
We don’t recommend paying anywhere in between $200-$800 for a course platform just to see if it’s right for you.
Online course creation can improve your business, but you can’t do it all of a sudden.
First, you need prospective students to market your course to. Extra points if you can get their input on your courses during development.
Second, you need some expertise.
It’s nice to talk in front of a camera, but you need to provide value. Otherwise, the bad reviews will drive you into the ground.
Of course, you can’t always be sure it’ll work. Different students like different courses.
Maybe your audience isn’t ready for online courses.
Maybe you’re not so savvy in online course creation.
So you can validate your idea by choosing an online course platform, creating a landing page and seeing if people sign up.
And it all starts with online course platforms.
There isn’t a “one size fits all” option available, but we researched the best online course creation platforms.
Here’s what we found out.
Types of Online Learning Platforms
The good thing is, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.
If you need a lot of control over your course’s layout, you can choose something focused on online course creation.
If you’re not that picky with your curriculum, you can go for an all-in-one solution.
Basically, you’ll always have options suited to your needs.
On top, an online course platform is generally geared towards helping you create the best online course you can.
And it’s not just about the online courses themselves.
If you’re using Webflow to design your site and you don’t have a lot of plugins at your disposal, you can choose a hosted learning platform.
They take care of everything from website security to marketing for your online learning products.
But it’s a bit more pricy than other options.
If you’re an old school webmaster based on WordPress, you can choose an LMS plugin to go along with your already existing platform. It’s cheaper, but it’s harder to master.
A general rule of thumb is to follow the path of least resistance.
There are many ways to create and market your course.
And here are the broad categories for what each type of platform offers.
Hosted Course Platforms
Hosted course platforms are easy to use, and they generally offer an all-in-one package.
You don’t need to worry about hosting, they do it for you.
You can get started really fast.
And in most cases, you also get a lot of tools for marketing and selling your course.
But there are downsides.
They’re more expensive to use than a WordPress LMS plugin.
Ease of use means some sacrificed customization.
And you can’t always tweak the online course structure to your liking.
The good thing is that you’re empowered.
You can create something from the ground up in no time because you get a lot of pre-made resources.
This lets you focus more on how you sell your courses.
On top, you generally have features to design sales pages.
So it’s easier to validate your idea by creating the basic offer and seeing if people are eager to join.
WordPress LMS Plugins
WordPress plugins are a whole different ballgame.
You’ll need to spend more time learning how to use the tool.
After that, it’ll usually take more time to create and sell online courses.
But those hurdles have their benefits. You can create an online course platform that’s better suited for your students because you get more control.
Now to state de obvious: If you want to create and sell online courses with a WordPress plugin, you better already be based on WordPress.
If that’s you, you get more control with an LMS plugin.
You can create a tailored experience for your students.
On the other hand, you’ll need to cover hosting. Courses can take up a lot of server space.
And that’s beside your regular site content, like promotional videos or high-resolution images.
You also need to be a bit more tech-savvy to implement everything you want.
But it’s a good choice if you know your way around WordPress.
Online Courses Marketplace
Places like Udemy or Skillshare spend a lot of money to entice both students and course creators.
But is it worth it?
That’s a tough question to answer.
Let’s cover the downsides. Course marketplaces will help you sell your online courses, but they take a hefty sum out of your revenue.
Transaction fees can run up to 75% for sales that you weren’t involved in.
We won’t say if it’s fair or not.
They do take care of everything, from marketing to customer support.
However, this is not to say you’ll be able to create online courses and let Udemy take care of the rest.
You still need to create some traction yourself.
But the transaction fees aren’t the worst part.
The worst part is that you generally won’t have access to your students’ email addresses.
So you can say goodbye to upsells, building an audience or growing your website.
If you’re slightly capable of selling online, maybe places like Udemy aren’t the best for you.
On top, if you look past the course creation industry, it’s generally a bad idea to have all of your eggs in one basket.
If your courses marketplace makes a mistake, that will affect you.
If they change a feature, you don’t get the choice of not implementing it.
So you sacrifice a lot of control when you go for such a platform.
But if you’re not interested in growing your own platform, it can work.
If people bought your online courses through a coupon, the platform will usually take less than 5% of your money.
So you could try online course marketplaces if you’re not eager about email marketing or hustling to reach more students.
Maybe you’re a teacher that wants the extra income.
But you don’t really want to create a fully-fleshed course website.
Or even worst, marketing content, promotional videos or landing pages for your courses.
Every learning management platform has drawbacks and advantages. More importantly, you need to choose an online course creator that works for your business.
Let’s take a look at the 16 best online courses and how they can help you sell your course.
Best Hosted Online Course Platforms
Hosted platforms are great if you’re looking for an all-inclusive offer.
The market seems to be dominated by tools like Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi.
And that’s not without reason. They’re great tools.
But there’s more to it than that, so let’s see the best hosted course platforms.
Teachable is one of the easiest course creators to use.
It’s got a friendly interface, great tutorials and it’s easy to set up an evergreen funnel with it.
Course creation is also flexible. From quizzes to video lessons, you can adapt your online teaching platform to your audience’s needs.
It’s also got a mobile app for students to learn while on the go, which can help bring customer engagement up.
It handles EU tax, so you can try it even if you’re not based in the US.
It’s also affordable.
Teachable has a free plan, but it’s light. If you truly want to create something, you can expect to spend anything between $29/month and $399/month.
Unfortunately, the site builder is thin.
You won’t be able to create much else than a pretty landing page, and even that is a bit counterintuitive to develop.
Besides, it doesn’t have a lot of integrations.
All in all, it’s a decent choice, but don’t count on Teachable if you need an all-in-one solution with funnel blueprints and the ability to upsell a membership site.
If you want to find out more, read our Teachable review.
Thinkific is similar to Teachable. But there are notable differences.
For starters, Thinkific has more customization options.
The page builder has more pre-made resources, and you have more leeway when designing a lead magnet.
You also have more control over teaching methods. You can use advanced quiz elements, collect assignments and manage your students’ performance.
You can also create a community area for your students, and you can analyze customers in bulk.
But do consider the downsides. For starters, Thinkific doesn’t handle EU VAT.
So you can still use it from the EU, but you’ll have to jump through some hoops.
It doesn’t have a mobile app to entice students on the go.
And there’s no live chat support, so you’ll depend on a ticketing system.
Most importantly, that extra control doesn’t come for free.
Thinkific is hard to get started with it.
And you’ll need to spend some time learning how to use the learning management system.
If you’re based in the US and you’re an experienced webmaster, Thinkific is great.
If you’re not in the mood for studying international tax and you’re just getting started in the online business world, try something else.
For more info, read our Thinkific review.
Kajabi has a powerful site builder, advanced marketing, sales and data analysis tools, and decent customization for your courses.
It’s great if you need everything in one place.
It also features pre-made resources for things like email marketing or landing pages.
And the pipelines system.
I get geeky about all things online marketing, so this may be unfair praise.
But the pipeline system is great.
It offers templates for online marketing funnels, which you can tweak and analyze to your liking.
Moreover, Kajabi doesn’t just host your course.
It’s got built-in functionalities for selling any informational product, from courses to membership sites.
Whatever it lacks, it makes up with a few integrations available.
So that’s what all-in-one looks like.
But that doesn’t mean you should throw your money at it.
Mainly because your hand will get sore. Kajabi is more expensive when compared to market competitors.
The cheapest you’ll get Kajabi is $119/month, provided you pay for a whole year of the basic plan.
Plus, it’s not the best at creating a customized learning experience.
Yeah, Kajabi does a lot, but total control over your course is not one of those things.
Lastly, all the fancy marketing and sales features might not work for you.
If you already have a lot of funnels set-up and you’re just unhappy with your host, the pipelines aren’t that helpful.
If you have all your strategy set-up, their marketing features aren’t revolutionary.
Lastly, if you’re an experienced web developer (or if you’re employing one) their powerful site builder isn’t something to wonder at.
So do consider your situation before purchasing Kajabi.
And read our Kajabi review to find out more.
4. Academy of Mine
Academy of Mine is heavily focused on student engagement.
The course creator is drag and drop, which makes it easy to hit the ground running with the platform regardless of your skill level.
Plus, It has built-in support for gamification, offering certificates and incentivizing teacher-student interaction with an intuitive learner management dashboard.
This can really help your site because you can loyalize customers and turn them into brand ambassadors.
If you’re a teacher and want to move your learning platform online, try this tool.
Not to mention, you can better incentivize learning when you have so many tools to engage your learners.
But it’s not all roses.
It’s hard to recommend this online course platform since it serves a niched part of the course creator market: the people that are focused on engaging their students.
And their product is developed to support that.
But their pricing isn’t.
The cheapest you’ll get this tool is $4,999/year. That’s the price for their basic plan.
So you can give it a try if you want.
But do remember that it addresses a niched part of the market, and you’ll need to spend serious bucks for it.
Podia is a well-rounded course platform.
They offer free migration from most online course platforms, which might not sound like a lot.
But if you’ve been managing multiple courses for the past few years, you’ve got a lot of content and a lot of students, support in the migration process helps a lot.
It’s got a beautiful, seamless design.
And it’s very easy to use.
When you pit it against other hosted platforms, there are some course creation benefits. Its member’s area is easier to customize.
And you’ve got accessible sales widgets to place anywhere on the web.
Podia looks good and you can make use of that to offer a better customer experience to your students.
But can you create a valuable product with it?
If you’re not picky about your course structure and you’re looking for a beautiful platform to host and manage your courses, Podia might work just fine.
It’s also great if you have your marketing already taken care of externally.
But it’s not on par with products like Thinkific or Teachable.
The course builder is not complex, the site builder is thin, you can’t price your courses any way you want and you can’t create a community in-house.
Podia has a free trial.
After that, you can expect to pay anything in between $39-$79 per month, which isn’t bad. You also get 0 transaction fees on all of your sales.
But you don’t have access to advanced features like you would with other learning management tools.
So if you’re looking for the all-inclusive offer, Podia might not be it.
If you’ve got a knack for great UX, you can take a closer look at it.
LearnWorlds is focused on student engagement.
They’ve got a lot of tools for interacting with your audience, like built-in social networks.
They also offer complex course creation features, like randomized question banks.
But LearnWorlds was pretty thin in terms of integrations but the list is continuing to grow.
Plus, it also has a rough design here and there.
That said, it’s on this list for a few good reasons.
First, this interactive system has huge potential.
Second, early adopters can get a lot of mileage out of the tool.
If you’re one for great student interaction, LearnWorlds could be what you need.
Third, the pricing is decent. You can expect to pay between $24 and $249 per month.
Ruzuku is heavily marketed for its ease of use.
We have to give it that. Ruzuku is accessible.
It’s got a very intuitive user interface, it’s beautiful and you get robust features.
You can also use the tool to market your courses through webinars.
Yeah, it’s great if you want to experiment with that.
But it’s not a lot if you’re already using WebinarJam.
Moreover, it’s great that you can hit the ground running with Ruzuku.
But ease of use is not enough for a USP when you’ve got alternatives like Teachable.
So should you try Ruzuku?
Well, it’s not too far from industry leaders.
But the webinars and teleconferences only support a limited amount of students.
So there’s not a lot of room for scaling your business.
On top, you can’t get in touch with a support agent through live chat.
It’s also pretty expensive, starting at $125/month if you pay for a whole year.
So the bottom line is… keep an eye on Ruzuku. This platform offers a lot.
But you’d still be better off with a tool like Teachable and Thinkific, at least for the moment.
You can just use another platform for hosting webinars.
WizIQ is flexible in some areas.
For example, you can better asses a student’s performance with learner reports. You can see how well they’re progressing through a course, and this helps you optimize your courses.
You can also use uploaded resources on more courses, which speeds up the development of your courses.
You can also sign in as a student to check other people’s courses.
But it’s not much compared to a big learning management system.
The pricing can be confusing.
It’s advertised as $25/month, but the pricing page on the WizIQ website is not very clear:
You don’t have access to a lot of adjacent tools that can help you better market your online course.
But it’s still a decent choice if you want your students to make the best out of your courses.
Just don’t expect a lot of control over your course creation and sales process.
Best WordPress LMS Plugins
If you already have a website created with WordPress, it’s easier to choose a WordPress plugin to sell online courses.
You’ll usually get a better deal too.
But not all plugins are created equal.
And there are advantages and disadvantages to all WordPress course plugins.
LearnDash is one of the most powerful and famous course plugins.
Its course builder is complex, so it’s good for creating all types of online courses.
You can also set-up student engagement features, like drip release for your content, and you can customize everything like it’s a regular WP theme.
It’s also inexpensive. It can cost you as little as $159/year.
That’s one of the best deals you’ll get with a course platform.
But it doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone.
LearnDash is pretty hard to use.
When compared to other plugins, it doesn’t have an impossibly steep learning curve.
But it does take some getting used to.
On top, you have no integrations for more complex marketing or sales.
Yeah, you can take care of everything through other WordPress functionalities.
But it still means you’ll need other tools to get the job done.
Lastly, student engagement can be pretty awkward at times too. It’s hard to manage comments and harder still to create a community around your products.
But for the right person, LearnDash is everything you need to start selling online courses.
Read our LearnDash review to see if that’s you.
Sensei offers special themes to integrate courses into your already existing site.
No, you won’t need to renounce the theme you’re using now.
And it’s a pretty straightforward tool – it’s got all the functionalities you need to create and sell online courses.
Moreover, if something’s not available in-house, you can find Sensei extensions to fill the gap.
For example, you can get an extension that enables course content drip.
The thing is, these extensions have separate prices.
And the vanilla version of Sensei could cost you anything in between $149/year and $299/year, depending on how many sites you need to add online courses to.
LifterLMS has you covered on the basic course creation features.
It’s very similar to Sensei.
But it also offers support for better e-commerce, membership sites, and other adjacent fields.
It’s also modular.
If you just need support for course creation, you can buy an extension focused on that.
But for the complete toolset, you’ll need a bundle of extensions.
And these can be anything in between $8.25/month and $83.25/month, so before you buy extensions for LifterLMS, try the 30-day trial.
If that works for you, analyze your course creation process.
Think about what you need to sell better.
And then decide if you should invest in LifterLMS.
Tutor is free to use when you get started, and it’s got a lot of tools available.
With the right plan, you get way more control over your course creation.
And you can better market and sell your course.
Moreover, it’s easier to use than LearnDash or Sensei.
The interface is just more intuitive.
The pricing is not too bad either. You can get it for as little as $149/year, basic features included.
But it doesn’t have support for e-commerce, gamification, or asynchronous learning.
So just like LifterLMS, do your due diligence.
Study the features on offer, think about what you need, and only buy if it fits your courses.
13. WP CourseWare
WPCourseware is not a powerhouse of course creation.
You don’t have as much control over lesson structure and content type.
So it’s not ideal to create the best online course.
But it features all the basics, empowering you to create a simple course.
And that’s Courseware’s advantage.
It’s extremely easy to use. It’s got a drag-and-drop course builder, which lets anyone, regardless of how tech-savvy they are, create an online course.
On top, it’s not expensive.
You can try the free trial to see if CourseWare works for you, and the paid plans only cost between $149/year and $249/year.
So if you’re just getting started with an online business, give this one a chance.
It’s good enough to host some online videos and assignments.
Best Online Course Marketplaces
Your online courses can have a better home than a marketplace.
These places take a hefty commission out of your sales.
And you can’t really build an audience with them.
But then why are places like Udemy and Skillshare so full of instructors?
Well, if you can’t be bothered to learn a thing or two about hosting your content, creating landing pages, or structuring a course from the ground up, a marketplace is great.
Udemy is one of the larget course marketplaces.
They’re spending a lot to advertise their platform.
And for a marketplace, it’s not a bad choice.
Commissions are that bad either. You get 97% of your sales if you bring customers in.
But if Udemy sells your course through their marketplace, you only get half of your course’s price.
It’s fair to some extent – they do their best to onboard a lot of students.
But that also means you’ll be scrambling for student reviews to boost your standing inside Udemy’s ecosystem.
In terms of creating a course, Udemy doesn’t have the most complex course builder.
You won’t have the tools to create a standalone online school.
But it’s definitely the best online courses marketplace.
On top, there’s a community of instructors ready to help you.
If you’re willing to sacrifice control over your business, Udemy is great.
SkillShare is also pretty popular, so there are a lot of potential customers on the platform.
And they do a pretty good job of marketing the ecosystem.
However, it has more limitations than Udemy.
You’re very limited in your teaching methodologies. For example, your lessons must fit a certain time segment.
Even more importantly, you don’t get paid if you have under 25 students enrolled.
Yup, that’s right.
You could be teaching people and still not making any bucks. At least if you didn’t bring in any Skillshare premium members through your courses.
When you do cross the 25 students threshold, you could be earning as little as $1 per learner.
By the looks of it, Udemy has better terms.
But that doesn’t mean you should immediately steer clear of SkillShare.
You don’t get paid right away.
But you also don’t need to invest much.
And some people report Skillshare’s ecosystem is better equipped to send students your way.
As long as you’re comfortable with their creative limitations, it’s as good a choice as Udemy.
Udacity is one of the biggest learning platforms.
But it’s not open season like on Udemy or SkillShare. Udacity is really picky about who they let on the platform.
You can’t get started on Udacity.
Here’s a quote for you:
“Our team of Curriculum Managers will onboard you to Udacity’s framework for creating top-quality content.”
So right off the bat, you know you don’t get a lot of control over your course structure.
They have a special team that guides you through developing courses.
But at the same time, they expect instructors to pitch into marketing efforts.
So Udacity is kind of a hit and miss.
If you’ve got previous experience teaching online, you might get a good deal on Udacity.
Other than that, Udemy or Skillshare will fit your needs better.
How To Pick The Best Course Platform
So you know what type of platform to choose.
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of it.
What features do you need?
What reviews to look for?
What pricing plan is right for you?
Let’s take them step by step.
#1 Your Situation
Always keep your own website and skills in mind.
Try to get a good sense of what you can or cannot implement in terms of:
- Marketing content
- Course content
- Teaching methodologies
- Tech savviness
- Existing assets
If that sounds vague, let me explain.
For example, if you want to create SEO optimized content to market your course, you should choose a WordPress plugin instead of a SquareSpace – Teachable combo.
It’s an ecosystem that better enables that marketing strategy.
Let’s take another example. If you’re bootstrapping and you’re not a digital native, an all-in-one solution like Kajabi could work better for you.
You wouldn’t have the know-how or the funds to create and sell your courses any other way.
After you read through the best course platforms in our roundup, you’ll have a better sense of what’s available to use.
Try to asses your situation then.
#2 Your Teaching Method
This is something a lot of reviews leave out.
Or focus too little on it.
The first thing you’ll do on any course platform is to create your course (Duh!).
So you need to be sure you’ve got all the tools to empower your teaching method.
If you’re one for standardization, make sure you can create complex quizzes with randomized question banks.
If you’re keen on complex lessons, with videos, assignments and text support, make sure you choose a platform that allows for multiple content types in a lesson.
Let me paint a clearer picture.
A tool like Kajabi will help you sell online courses a lot.
But they don’t have a powerhouse for course creation.
On the other hand, a WordPress LMS won’t have a lot of in-house marketing features.
But you’ll get crazy customization features for your lessons.
If you’re not too picky about your course structure, most of the platforms you’ll read about today work.
However, if you want to deliver a complex learning schedule, you might need to try different tools until you find the right one for creating your best online course.
#3 Marketing and Sales
Learning management is important.
But marketing and sales are equally fundamental if you want your online school to succeed.
Your courses can be the best out there.
If you can’t drive sales, all the crazy quirks and complex lessons don’t matter.
If you’re going for a WordPress plugin, don’t expect too much.
They’re cheaper because you can use the regular WordPress toolkit for marketing.
If you’re going for a hosted course platform, don’t let it off the hook if there’s no support for email marketing.
You need a way to sell online courses.
And if a platform can’t support your efforts, dig more.
You should also remember that this choice also has a lot to do with your existing website.
If you’re already comfortable with a different set of tools, like a CRM, Mailchimp and Wix combo, you don’t need many sales features.
Just check if you can integrate with your existing toolset.
On the other hand, if you’re just starting out and need an all-in-one solution, you can make the best out of big platforms like Kajabi.
#4 Flexibility and Skill
Creating videos to upload to your course is fun.
Selling online courses is rewarding.
But you need to remember that an online course is not something you can just create and forget all about.
Even if you build evergreen sales funnels, you’ll still need to update your content every now and then.
So when choosing a course platform, think about how flexible it is.
Consider how easy it can adapt to Google algorithm changes, how easy you can create marketing content with it, and if you’ve got the skills to make the best out of a platform’s features.
For example, if you’re a big fan of email marketing, make sure you can automate a newsletter.
But ask yourself some questions too.
Can you scale an online course website with the platform you’re leaning towards?
How easily can you engage students when your customers jump to a few hundred every month?
To determine if a platform is flexible enough for your needs, roll up those sleeves and start testing.
Study the platform. Read the features list and analyze reviews.
That’s how you’ll know if it’s flexible enough.
With some hustle and a bit of dedication, anyone can create a successful online business.
You’ve got a lot of apps at your disposal. Software that makes it easy to grow an online business.
So a good course platform will let you integrate with these helpful tools.
But do adjust your expectations.
Don’t expect too many personalized integrations from WordPress plugins.
They’re part of your WordPress website, so you can use the regular plugins and integrations.
On the other hand, a hosted learning platform should make up for what they lack in-house with helpful integrations.
#6 All The Other Stuff
If you’ve got a shortlist of the best tools for your business, don’t buy yet.
Features and accessibility matter the most.
But you should also consider adjacent stuff like pricing and customer support.
A lot of course platforms have similar pricing, especially if they’re the same type of platform.
But the devil’s in the details.
Look at the numbers and choose the best plan according to what you need. There’s no use in spending tens of dollars on extra collaborator slots if you’re working solo.
Also, remember to check if you’re covered legally.
A lot of these platforms are made with a US audience in mind.
There are tools that won’t help you if you need EU VAT support for example.
So consider your legal situation and whether or not it fits the platform you’re planning to use.
To Wrap It Up
Online courses are a great way to make money online.
And course creators have a lot of options to create and sell courses.
But choosing that tool is an important process.
When you boil it down, this is what you should consider before committing your course content to a specific platform:
- Do you get the creative liberty you need?
- Can you properly use the tool?
- Does it fit your audience? What about your online presence?
- Can you market and sell your online courses with it?
So that’s what we did.
What tool do you plan on using?
Do you agree with our picks for the best online course platforms of 2021?