This is easily the question which I get asked the most by people looking to create their first course: ‘Which course platform is the best?’
Or to put it another way: ‘Which course platform should I be using in order to create my online course?’
This is a really tricky question to answer because the answer to the question of which course platform is the best is this: ‘What are your needs?’
Because, at the end of the day, there’s no one online course platform, which works for everybody.
And among the established names, new online course platforms are also popping up.
Thrivecart has just come out with their Thrivecart Learn. And they won’t be the last platform to jump into the online course platform game either.
The short answer
If you’ve landed on this article for the short answer, I’ll give it to you now:
There is no one online course platform that is the best. In 2022, there are so many options out there, that it’s a case of choosing the best one to meet your needs.
Because different platforms have got different features and fulfil different needs.
It’s not a case of picking the platform because that is what everybody uses, or it is the cheapest one, or it’s got a free plan.
It’s about assessing which features that platform has, which features you need for your course and marrying that together.
And yes, things like budget do come into it.
But ultimately, there’s no correct answer to which core course platform is the best.
My top recommended online course platforms
Create your first online school and sell courses.
Sell courses, downloads and memberships.
Create and sell online courses and coaching.
Deciding on the features you need from an online course platform
To start with, when deciding on an online course platform to use, you need to start with the following questions:
- What features do I need from an online course platform?
- What do you need in your course?
- What do you want in your course?
Because considering these 3 questions is really going to help dictate which course platform you are going to go with.
Let’s break down some features that you might want from an online course platform.
When considering features for your online course, you really need to consider how you want to deliver your lessons.
You need to start off by considering how you are comfortable delivering your lessons. There’s no point in forcing yourself to deliver your lessons in a way that you don’t enjoy or aren’t comfortable doing.
Because it’ll be obvious to your students that you’re not enjoying yourself. And this will rub off negatively on your students’ learning experience.
For example, some people just don’t like filming themselves and talking to the camera. And that’s fine.
Some people hate writing and are much happier with a delivery style where they can talk.
So, before you start thinking about the features of an online course platform, consider how you want to deliver your lessons. Because how you want to deliver your online course is going to dictate the features that you need from an online course platform.
Think about it; if you’re not interested in delivering video lessons, then you don’t really need to look for a platform that has got loads of video editing capabilities.
Instead, you might need to look at an online course platform where you can create and deliver absolutely fantastic text lessons and include different pictures, screenshots, or embeds.
Are you planning on using video for your online lessons?
Do you want to host video lessons on your course platform?
Remember, not all online course platforms will host your videos as well as play them. They might play your video lessons for your students, but you might need to host the videos somewhere else.
For example, if you look at Thrivecart Learn, you can have video lessons on the platform, but you’ll need to host the videos somewhere else. This could be on YouTube, or on a video hosting platform.
But it’s something you need to consider, particularly if there’s an additional cost involved.
If you want your videos to be hosted and played on one platform, a platform like Teachable, Thinkific, LearnWorlds, or Podia, might be a better solution for you.
And if you want a platform where you can edit your videos in the online platform, I’d highly recommend checking out LearnWorlds.
Do you want to have text-only lessons in your online course?
Or do you want to have a lesson that is mainly text but with some video or pictures inserted within the text?
LearnWorlds and Teachable have some great features when it comes to text-only lessons. An example of a text-only lesson that I created on Teachable is The Online Course Toolkit. Click below to have a look.
The FREE Online Course Creation Toolkit
This Toolkit has my top recommended resources for creating your own online course. It covers course platforms, slides and presentations, graphics and images, and business tools to help you create an amazing online course.
This is a comprehensive Toolkit that is suitable for anyone creating their first course, through to seasoned course creators who might want to see what tools other course creators use.
If you’re looking at Podia, one of the downsides in my opinion of this platform is that there aren’t as many features and customisable options when it comes to text-only lessons.
Many online courses offer downloads and in particular, downloadable PDFs.
Downloads and PDFs are great resources for your students to keep and use at their leisure either as they’re going through your course, or once they’ve completed it.
Therefore, if having downloads or PDFs is an important feature for you, you will need to make sure that this is a feature included in the online course platform you’re looking at investing in.
SCORM, if you haven’t heard of that before stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model.
And what a SCORM essentially is, is a package that has got loads of different standards, specifications, elements, and instructions within it.
These elements tell the course platform to perform and play out a lesson in a certain way.
So for example, you can a lot of games for education technology are built using SCORM.
Another example includes ‘drag and drop’ games.
If you’re thinking of using SCORM files in your online course, you’ve got to consider to yourself if the platform that you’re thinking of using will support this feature. Because not every online course platform enables you to upload a SCORM file and use it as a teaching tool.
Recommendation: If you want to use SCORM files in your online course, I’d highly recommend looking at using LearnWorlds. The Pro Trainer Plan allows you to have 20 SCORMs in your online school. If you need more, the Learning Centre Plan allows you to have unlimited SCORMs in your online school.
I love including quizzes in online courses. They are a great activity that breaks up your students learning and can help with their focus. Quizzes break up your content. They also give your students an interactive activity that differs from watching a video or reading. Instead, quizzes help your students to apply their knowledge in a fun way.
Quizzes can also help you see if your students are understanding what you’re teaching them and can act as a form of assessment.
Quizzes are offered on nearly all online course platforms available.
However, some have more features than others. For example, some platforms provide question banks.
Question banks allow you to use the same questions across multiple courses, reducing your time spent on creating the course if one question works on more than one course.
Look at online courses you like
If you’re not sure exactly what types of features you might want from an online course platform, or you don’t know how you want to present your lessons, don’t panic.
What I would suggest is sitting down and making a list of all of the features that you can think of that you would like to say in the online course platform that you are going to be using and consider why do you want to use those few features?
Why do you want to use those few features?
For example, are you wanting to use that feature just because you think that’s what you should be doing? Or because that’s how you think your lesson will be best delivered?
Have a look at different courses that you like. These courses don’t even need to be teaching anything around your subject topic. It could just be an online course that you really enjoyed.
Have a look at the features that they used when teaching that course. Was the course delivered using video lessons? Text lessons?
Take some time to write out what you liked about these courses.
This information will help you with your features list and help you to decide what types of features you want to be looking for in the online course platform that you’re going to be eventually using.
Find out where the courses you like were made
If you can, try and take note of where the online course that you like was created. This will help you decide which platform might work for your online course based on the features you want to use.
To find where an online course is made, I would, first of all, recommend looking at the URL. Sometimes, online course creators don’t change the URL to not include the domain name with the course platform’s name in it.
If the course creator has changed the domain name so the platform isn’t obvious. Don’t panic. Reach out to the course creator and ask! The worst that’ll happen is you’re met with silence. But, in my experience, bloggers and course creators are more than happy to ask questions is you reach out to them and ask.
Ok, let’s now address the elephant in the room.
It’s all very well looking at features and platforms, but for most people, their decision as to which online course platform to go with will heavily be influenced by price and budget.
However, whilst budget is important, you don’t want to go with the cheapest platform or price just because it’s cheap.
It might be cheap, but if it doesn’t deliver what you want or need, the platform is useless to you.
A lot of people will gravitate towards an online course platform with a free plan because, well, it’s free.
But, are free plans always worth it?
Let’s dive into this.
If a free plan doesn’t offer you what you need, it’s completely useless.
And you might be thinking, I don’t want to be spending $29 (or another price) a month and that’s fine. I’m in no way saying that you need to exceed your budget or break your bank.
And this is a big but…
If you have signed up to an online course platform, which is free, but they take $5 of every course sale that you make, you only need to sell six courses, and you’ve given that course platform $30.
Let’s say the same online course platform has an introductory plan of $29 per month.
Using the above example, you have paid the platform more in transaction fees than if you’d paid for the cheapest plan, and you haven’t got the additional features that this plan has to offer.
So, in my opinion, it is always considering is the free plan actually free? Or am I giving the platform in the long run more in transaction fees than I would be giving them if I just signed up for the next tier?
What if I don’t sell any courses? I’ve wasted my money!
This is a genuine concern of a lot of potential online course creators.
But then my answer to you is this; unless you’re giving your course away for free, then you need to be thinking why are you creating a course in the first place if you’re not planning on selling it?
And you need to be thinking about your trigger for creating an online course in the first place.
Because if you’re worried that you’re not going to sell anything, or you’re telling yourself straight from the beginning, you’re not going to sell anything, then you’re probably not going to sell the course because you are in the wrong headspace.
So, when seeing a free plan, rather than thinking about the ‘free’ element of it, consider these questions instead:
- Is this free plan the plan that I want?
- Is it giving me all of the features that I want?
- Is it ticking the boxes for me?
- How am I going to sell this course?
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to rush out and to spend $500 per year on a really expensive plan, or whatever.
But what I am advocating is that if you’re going to be selling your course (rather than giving it away for free) then you need to be in the right mindset to do that.
Getting into the right mindset to create and sell
If you’re creating and selling a course with the mindset of I’m not gonna make any money and no one’s gonna buy this course, then you’re already setting yourself up for a downfall.
Because people are not going to buy something if you’ve got no belief in it.
Because if you have no belief in your product then you’re not going to put your effort into creating the course and you’re not going to put your effort into the marketing or the selling of it.
So, before you start second-guessing yourself and signing up for a free plan because you think you’re never going to sell your creation, think again. Think about why you’re creating your course and get into the mindset of having a plan to sell your course from the outset.
It’s always better to set yourself up for success than failure.
Online course platform recommendations
Create your first online school and sell courses.
Sell courses, downloads and memberships.
Create and sell online courses and coaching.
Best online course platform for customisable website and analytics
If you are looking for an online course platform that has got an incredibly customizable website and has got absolutely amazing analytics, I would highly recommend LearnWorlds.
I’ve used LearnWorlds in a professional capacity for clients in the past and think that its features are top-notch.
The analytics are fantastic. And although they can seem a little bit overwhelming to begin with, once you’ve got your head around how to read all of the data that you can get from LearnWorlds, it’s amazing what you can find out about your students’ learning habits and course success rates.
The website customization features that you get with well LearnWorlds are also nothing short of incredible. I would confidently say that they have the best website options of any online course platform I’ve used to date. If you can dream it, you can honestly do it for a LearnWorlds website.
There isn’t a free plan for LearnWorlds, but they do offer a free trial where you can create an account and see if the platform is for you before committing to a paid-for subscription.
Choose LearnWorlds for:
- Customisable website
- Top-notch analytics
- Video hosting and countless video editing options
- Text-only lessons
- Tonnes of integrations
Best all-in-one online course platform
If you are in the market for an all-in-one platform, with the following features:
- Sell downloads
- Sell digital products
- Create and sell online courses
- Manage email marketing
then I would suggest having a look at Podia.
Like LearnWorlds, there isn’t a free plan for Podia, but they do offer a free trial where you can create an account and see if the platform is for you before committing to a paid-for subscription.
Best platform for ease of use
If you’re looking for something which has got a whole tonne of features and is quite easy to use, I would recommend looking at Teachable.
Teachable is where I host my own courses. And I absolutely love it.
I find Teachable to be so user friendly and so easy to use.
For me, it ticks all of the boxes that I need because I have video lessons, and text-only lessons and the website builder is highly customisable.
Teachable has a free plan where you can check out the platform and get a feel for it before considering if a paid-for plan is for you.
Choose Teachable for:
- Customisable website
- Easy to use software
- Text only lessons
- Video lessons with video hosting
- Coaching provision within the platform
There has been a lot covered in this post and if you’re still with me, hopefully, you’re inspired to go and write out a ‘must-have features list’ for what you want to be looking for in an online course platform.
That list, again, needs to cover the features that you need from an online course platform. It shouldn’t be a list of features that you think that you need just because a fellow blogger has those features in their online course.
When writing out your list of must-have features, consider the following:
- Use of videos.
- Use of text-only lessons.
- Video hosting.
- Downloads for students.
- Your budget.
- How free the free plan on a platform really is.
- Website capabilities (unless you are planning on having your landing pages primarily on your own website).
- Analytics. You might think this sounds boring, but understanding your students’ success rates and spending habits can be pivotal to your online course business success.
Essentially, from this post, I want this to be your takeaway: The best course platform is whichever one has the features which fit your needs.
Choosing an online course platform needs to be based on what you need from it.
This might mean that you don’t go for the platform or plan that ‘everyone’ seems to be using, but that’s ok.
You need to consider the features you need and want and let these guide your decision-making process.
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