Online course platforms are an essential tool in your ‘arsenal’ if you are serious about growing an audience online, sharing your knowledge and ultimately profiting from your business.
It’s no secret that the e-learning industry is booming right now: a recent statistic showed that the eLearning Industry grew 900% since the turn of the century!
The number of people turning to online courses for education is growing by the day, and companies, businesses and universities are using this medium more and more to reach their students.
But what does this mean for entrepreneurs, bloggers, solopreneurs?
That you, as a creator, are living in this golden age of opportunity.
And the good thing is, you now have plenty of tools at your disposal to make creating, managing and marketing an online course incredibly easy.
Gone are the days when you had to hire a developer (and spend thousands of dollars) to have a platform that functioned as an online hub to host your course videos.
Online course platforms take care of that now, and then some.
In this guide, I will help you navigate the various options you have at your disposal these days.
In fact I reviewed the 20 best online course platforms and at the end I even provided my proven 7-step process to create and sell online courses.
As you’ll see, the ultimate choice won’t be easy, but there are tools out there I highly recommend (such as Teachable), and others I clearly would steer clear of for some reason or the other.
I hope you are excited as I am for what the future holds for online courses and online businesses in general.
There’s never been a better time to be a course creator!
Alright, let’s dive right into the best online course software platforms and tools out there.
What Are The Best Online Course Platforms?
A tough question to answer, mainly due to the sheer number of tools available these days.
Over the years, I have tried many platforms and found pros and cons of each.
Some were great out of the box, but allowed for little customization.
Other were very flexible but needed quite a bit of work to be turned into exactly what I was looking for.
These days, I use a combination of an LMS plugin (like LearnDash), combined with other tools to enhance its features.
However, I have been very happy (and still recommend) a platform such as Teachable.
This guide will definitely help you make a decision. I have reviewed and summarized the main features and pros and cons of the most commonly-used online course platforms.
Plus, at the end of the article, you’ll find answers to further questions you might have when deciding what the best online platform might be.
Ultimately, it comes down to choosing something that works for you and your business specifically.
Keep that in mind: look for the features and capabilities that you need the most, and don’t be influenced by other perks you might end up not using.
With that being said, let’s dive deeper into my top picks!
Online Course Platform Comparison Guide
Here are my picks for the 20 best online course platforms and eLearning platforms to use for online courses.
After the quick navigation, you’ll find an in-depth review of each tool. Enjoy!
- Academy Of Mine
When it comes to online course platforms, Teachable is my #1 recommendation.
It’s a hosted course platform that’s extremely easy to use right off the bat, and does not require you to have prior ‘expert’ knowledge to get started right away.
You’ll need to create your ‘school’ and do a little customization when you first join, but once you’ve got content for your course ready, it’s as easy as ‘drag and drop’.
What’s even better is that Teachable can do everything you need in your online course business, all in one place.
It hosts your videos, it can take payments, it can let you communicate and engage with your students. It’s the true definition of an ‘all-in-one’ tool.
However, and this is another great thing, Teachable does allow for various integrations. If you prefer to use another payment processor (ThriveCart, for example), you can do so with very little ‘work’ needed.
Overall, I definitely recommend Teachable for both those who are just starting out, and for more advanced users alike.
Who is Teachable For?
If you are looking for an easy-to-use platform that works great right out of the box, then look no further than Teachable.
It’s an all-in-one solution that’s perfect for both beginners and more experienced marketers, provided you don’t need a lot of ‘control’ and a ton of customization.
Key Features of Teachable Online Course Platform
- Various customization options (sales page, course page, member’s area).
- Quizzes, surveys and other engagement-enhancing features
- Course completion certificates
- Drip course content
- Integrated email marketing (for contacting students)
- Student-list segmentation
- Coupons and promotions
- Can host and manage and affiliate program
- Customizable sales pages
- Accepts payments through Stripe Connect or PayPal
- In-depth analytics
- Various integrations (with email providers like ConvertKit etc.)
- Easy to use right off the bat
- All-in-one solution that combines various functionalities
- Great UI and experience
- Good pricing plans
- Very comprehensive knowledge-base and tutorial
- ‘Heavier’ customization is possible, but will require a developer
- Student feedback is limited to comments under lectures
- More ‘advanced’ integrations could be useful
Teachable has three pricing tiers, which are billed monthly or annually (20% discount).
All plans include unlimited video and unlimited courses. The main difference between the tiers is in the number of features you get.
Also, with the Basic plan, Teachable will take 5% in transaction fees, something you won’t need to worry about in the other plans.
Let’s look at Teachable’s pricing structure in more detail:
Basic Plan: $29/month or $39/month (paid annually). 5% transaction fees.
Professional Plan: $119/month or $99/month (paid annually). No transaction fees, advanced customization options, unbranded website.
Business Plan: $249/month or $299/month (paid annually).
Together with Teachable, Thinkific is the other ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to hosted online course platforms.
The two tools are very similar and if Teachable was my #1 recommendation, Thinkific definitely comes as a close second.
Thinkific’s user-experience from the course-creator’s point of view is very similar to Teachable’s, though the learning curve is possibly a little steeper.
Another difference between the two platforms is that Thinkific does offer a little more customization options (it actually has pre-built themes you can use), and is overall slightly better when it comes to student-engagement features.
Where it comes a little short is in little details that could make a lot of difference for some.
For example, unlike Teachable, it doesn’t handle EU VAT tax, its checkout process is a little ‘basic’ and the overall marketing capabilities are quite bare bones.
Who Is Thinkific For?
Thinkific is a great online course platform for all kinds of businesses who need to manage their whole online course funnels in one place.
Key Features of Thinkific Online Course Platform
- Supports multiple content formats
- Fully customizable themes (drag-and-drop)
- Course can be deeply linked to your own website
- Full access to HTML and CSS
- Quizzes, surveys and discussions
- Private and ‘hidden’ courses
- Multiple instructors
- Drip content scheduling
- Membership site creation
- Advanced stats and reporting
- Integrates with many email service providers
- Over 1000 integrations with third-party apps
- Offers a free plan
- Great themes and page-builder
- Allows for advanced customization
- Powerful student segmentation (especially when integrating an ESP)
- Great pricing (no transaction fees)
- Checkout process could be improved
- No support for PayPal on recurring payments
- No EU VAT tax handling
Thinkific has four pricing plans, each billed monthly or annually (20% discount).
Unlike Teachable, Thinkific offers a 100% free plan, which does have some limitations (maximum 3 courses allowed and very few features).
Here’s a full breakdown of Thinkific’s pricing structure:
Free Plan: maximum 3 courses, very limited features.
Basic Plan: $49/month or $39/month (paid annually). Unlimited courses and students, email integrations, drip content, affiliate reporting
Pro Plan: $99/month or $79/month (paid annually). 5 course admins, private and hidden courses, advanced customization features, membership site builder.
Premier Plan: $499/month or $399/month (paid annually). All of the features in the Pro plan, plus 50 course admins/authors and onboarding package.
LearnDash is a little different from both Thinkific and Teachable, in that it’s essentially a Wordpress Plugin.
But don’t be mistaken: LearnDash is an extremely powerful tool that can match or sometimes even surpass the capabilities offered by some of its more ‘famous’ competitors.
As a matter of fact, as my business has grown over time, I have switched from Teachable to LearnDash for added flexibility.
I use LearnDash in combination with BuddyBoss and Memberium, plus I integrate the whole ‘package’ with ActiveCampaign to manage my email.
Mine is definitely a more ‘advanced’ solution, but if you use LearnDash on its own, you’ll be surprised at how many tasks it can take care of.
It’s basically all there: a powerful course builder, quizzes, membership sites, payment processing, and the list goes on.
It’s no surprise then that LearnDash is trusted by big names in the online business world such as ProBlogger and DigitalMarketer, but also by top level institutions such as the University of Florida.
Who Is LearnDash For?
If you are looking for something a little more customizable and flexible than solutions like Teachable or Thinkific, LearnDash is definitely recommended.
Key Features of LearnDash Online Course Platform
- Custom-Branded learning portal
- Advanced quizzing
- Content drip-feeding
- Dynamic forums
- Shopping cart
- Supports one-time purchases and memberships
- Automatic email notifications to increase engagement
- Fully mobile responsive
- Easily integrates with WordPress
- Works with any WordPress theme
- Flexible and offers many customization options
- Great email drip campaign feature
- Great pricing
- Learning curve is steeper
- A little more complex to setup
- Might require a third-party shopping cart (like ThriveCart)
Plans And Pricing
LearnDash has three pricing plans. The only available option is to pay annually (there is a discount running at the time of writing this).
The main difference between plans is the number of websites on which you are allowed to use the plugin. All plans offer unlimited courses and unlimited users.
Let’s have a closer look at LearnDash’s pricing structure:
Basic Package: $159/year. 1 site licence
Plus Package: $189/year. Up to 10 site licences
Pro Package: $329/year. Up to 25 site licences
The features are essentially the same across plans.
With the Plus and Pro packages, though, you will also get “ProPanel”, an add-on that consolidates reporting, enables quick assignment & essay management, and generally improves your experience in the backend.
LearnDash offers a $40 discount on their annual plans to get started and a full 30 money-back guarantee.
LearnDash is a WordPress LMS plugin to create an online course and reward your learners through certificates, points, and badges. This is also the platform I use personally to host all my courses.
Podia (previously Coach) has been gaining a lot of attention lately and has become the preferred solution for many online marketers and businesses.
It’s a hosted online course platform that also lets you manage membership sites and digital downloads, such as ebooks.
Its main focus is on ease-of-use and simplicity, but great design also plays a big part in the platform’s overall success.
Plus, it’s got no shortage of interesting features, such as unlimited video hosting, a very interesting pricing structure and a pretty solid email marketing tool built-in.
Overall, Podia’s ‘ready to go’ platform comes with some limitations when it comes to flexibility and customization options, but if you don’t need any fancy mods, this might be a good solution.
Who Is Podia For?
Podia is great for those who are just starting out and need something that can be setup fairly quickly and with little-to-no hassle.
If you also plan on creating a membership site and/or selling info products, this could be a great option.
Key Features of Podia Online Course Platform
- Unlimited hosting
- Storefront builder
- Customizable branding
- Drip content
- Payment-plan options for students
- Pre-sell and pre-launch feature for courses
- Email marketing tool
- Funnel builder
- Various integrations
- Easy to set up and use
- Clean, modern design of both the backend and UI
- “Buy” buttons can be embedded on other websites
- Free migration service
- Great customer service
- Limited flexibility and customization
- No engagement-enhancing features (quizzes, grading, etc.)
- No transaction fees, but you will have them through payment processors.
Plans And Pricing
Podia offers a 14-day free trial. Once that is over, you can choose between two plans, with either monthly or annual billing.
The ‘Mover’ plan is quite feature-rich, but you won’t be able to create membership sites, have embeddable checkouts, nor run an affiliate program for your courses.
Mover Plan: $39/month (doesn’t include membership sites, blogs, embeddable checkouts, affiliates management)
Shaker Plan: $79/month (includes all features).