20+ Best Online Course Platforms (Free Guide For 2020)

Online Courses, Software Reviews

by Navid Moazzez

Last Updated:
May 23, 2020

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!

Disclosure: If you click on one of the links to the best online course platforms, software, tools resources mentioned in the article and purchase via my link, it’s likely I’ll receive some sort of affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. With that being said, I ONLY promote stuff that I personally use, trust and stake my reputation on, and happily share with friends and family. View my full affiliate disclaimer here.

Alright, let’s dive right into the best online course software platforms and tools out there.

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What Are Online Course Platforms?

Online course platforms are ‘learning management systems’ (LMS) that give users access to digital classes (usually in the form of video) that are structured into modules and courses.

For the course creator, these platforms offer a wide variety of tools and features that help them through the various steps in the course creation process.

Most of these tools are built and structured as ‘all-in-one’ solutions that allow creators to manage their courses without having to rely on other software and apps. 

The market for these tools has developed a lot in recent years, and some of the best platforms out there are really impressive in terms of their potential and tasks they can perform with a click of a button.

With e-learning being so popular these days, software companies are always racing to create newer and more feature-rich apps, and competition has gotten so fierce, it’s become increasingly harder to pick the best of the lot.

So, how can you choose the best online course platforms?

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 (you can get an exclusive 30-day free trial here).

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!

  1. Teachable
  2. Thinkific
  3. LearnDash
  4. Kartra
  5. Kajabi
  6. Podia
  7. LearnWorlds
  8. Ruzuku
  9. ClickFunnels
  10. Teachery
  11. Academy Of Mine
  12. WP Courseware
  13. LifterLMS
  14. Sensei
  15. WizIQ
  16. CourseCraft
  17. AccessAlly
  18. Coursecats
  19. MemberVault
  20. Zippy Courses

1. Teachable

Best Online Course Platform - Teachable

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.)

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • ‘Heavier’ customization is possible, but will require a developer
  • Student feedback is limited to comments under lectures
  • More ‘advanced’ integrations could be useful

Plans And Pricing

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:

Best Online Course Platforms - Teachable Pricing

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).

Special Offer For My Readers

Teachable has offered an exclusive deal to readers of my blog. You can get started with a free 30-day trial period, then decide if you want to continue using the online course software.

You’ll also get a premium course creation bundle as a bonus just for signing up as an extra bonus.

2. Thinkific

Best Online Course Platforms - Thinkific

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

Pros

  • 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)

Cons

  • Checkout process could be improved
  • No support for PayPal on recurring payments
  • No EU VAT tax handling

Plans And Pricing

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:

Best Online Course Platforms - Thinkific Pricing

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.

3. LearnDash

Best Online Course Platforms - LearnDash

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

Pros

  • Easily integrates with WordPress
  • Works with any WordPress theme
  • Flexible and offers many customization options
  • Great email drip campaign feature
  • Great pricing

Cons

  • 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:

Best Online Course Platforms LearnDash Pricing

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.

4. Kartra

Best Online Course Platforms - Kartra

Kartra is an all-encompassing suite of products made for online businesses that includes a website builder, a funnel creator, a help desk service, an e-commerce software, and so much more.

Among its many tools, Kartra also provides an e-learning platform called “Memberships”, which offers many features you’d find in hosted online course software, such as drip-content, multiple membership tiers, templates and a drag-and-drop editor.

However, you can’t use Kartra Memberships without purchasing a plan that also includes their other products.

That being said, if you view online courses as a fundamental part of your business, an account with Kartra will give you a whole set of tools you’ll definitely need, all in one place.

Who Is Kartra For?

Kartra is a great solution if you need a set of tools to manage your online business, all under the same roof.

Their online learning platform is part of their suite of products and can’t be purchased separately, so it really only is recommended if you are already a Kartra user.

Key Features of Kartra

  • Drag-and-drop interface with multiple templates
  • Multiple membership tiers
  • Multi-membership portals
  • Automated content drip
  • In-depth member management
  • Student analytics and data

Pros

  • Great templates and UI on the front end
  • Lot of flexibility when adding content to lessons
  • “Helpdesks” tool is a great feature

Cons

  • Not the simplest tool to use overall
  • No bulk uploading
  • Limits video bandwidth usage

Plans And Pricing

Kartra offers four different plans with either monthly or annual billing (25% discount).

Kartra’s “Memberships” tool is available in all their tiers, but you can only create 2 membership sites on the Starter plan (which may be enough for most people).

You can create up to 20 products / courses on the Starter plan as well.

Pay also attention to the max bandwidth you are allowed in each plan, which might limit the amount of video content you upload.

Here’s a full breakdown of Kartra’s pricing structure:

Best Online Course Platform - Kartra Pricing

Starter Plan: $99/month or $79/month (billed annually). Max 50GB bandwidth and 2 membership sites.

Silver Plan: $199/month or $149/month (billed annually). Max 125GB bandwidth and unlimited membership sites.

Gold Plan: $299/month or $229/month (billed annually). Max 250GB bandwidth and unlimited membership sites.

Platinum Plan: $499/month or $379/month (billed annually). Max 400GB bandwidth and unlimited membership sites. 

Special Offer For My Readers

Kartra has offered an exclusive deal to readers of my blog. You can get started with a 14-day free trial period, then decide if you want to continue using the software!

5. Kajabi

Best Online Course Platforms - Kajabi

Kajabi is another hosted online course platform that is an all-in-one solution, much like Teachable and Thinkific

Unlike them, though, Kajabi puts a lot of focus on marketing and automation tools, which makes them stand out quite a bit from the competition.

Their integrated email marketing platform and sales pipeline builder can really take promoting your course to the next level: your entire course ‘funnel’ can be created and managed inside Kajabi, something another tool might need a lot of integrations to perform.

All of Kajabi’s features, however, do come at a price. But considering all the capabilities it has and its overall flexibility, you’ll probably find the cost to be well worth it.

Who Is Kajabi For?

Though essentially similar to Teachable and Thinkific, Kajabi is best suited to more advanced users who need a bit more flexibility, customization options and have slightly larger budgets. 

Key Features of Kajabi Online Course Platform

  • Fully customizable course pages
  • Fully customizable sales pages and landing pages
  • Includes a website builder
  • Powerful automation features and sales pipeline builder
  • Integrates an email marketing platform
  • In-depth student management (tagging, progress, etc.)
  • Integrates with PayPal and Stripe
  • In-depth analytics
  • Offers a mobile app

Pros

  • Integrates many features all in one
  • Great customization options for courses
  • Automation features are great
  • Great marketing capabilities
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Student-engagement features could be improved
  • A little more ‘technical’ compared to similar solutions
  • Doesn’t handle sales taxes
  • Price is higher than the competition

Plans And Pricing

Kajabi offers a 14-day free trial. There are 3 plans to choose from, which can be paid-for on a monthly or annual basis (20% discount). 

Plans differ quite a bit from one another, mainly when it comes to the number of products you can create, the maximum number of sales pipelines you are allowed and the total amount of contacts and members you can have.

Best Online Course Platform - Kajabi Pricing

Basic Plan: $149/month or $119/month (billed annually). Limits: 3 products, 3 pipelines, 10,000 contacts and 1,000 active members

Growth Plan: $199/month or $159/month (billed annually). Limits: 15 products, 15 pipelines, 25,000 contacts and 10,000 active users

Pro Plan: $399/month or $319/month (billed annually). Limits. 100 products, 100 pipelines, 100,000 contacts and 20,000 active members.

6. Podia

Best Online Course Platforms - Podia

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

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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. 

Best Online Course Platform - Podia Pricing

Mover Plan: $39/month (doesn’t include membership sites, blogs, embeddable checkouts, affiliates management)

Shaker Plan: $79/month (includes all features).

7. LearnWorlds

Best Online Course Platform - LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is a hosted online course platform that just like Podia has been getting a lot of attention lately.

It stands out in many ways, mainly due to the very advanced student-engagement devices it employs, all of which put a big emphasis on interactivity.

Course videos are fully interactive (you can even show a synchronized transcript as the video plays); you can hand students interactive ebooks and the overall ‘community’ aspect of the platform is very strong. 

However, customization options and flexibility are a little lacking in LearnWorlds, and its overall marketing capabilities are a little thin compared to some of its competitors. 

Who Is LearnWorlds For?

LearnWorlds can be a good choice if you are looking for an online course builder that does its job and doesn’t offer many other ‘bells and whistles’.

If you plan on engaging with your student community a lot and value interactivity, this is definitely an option you should consider.

Key Features of LearnWorlds Online Course Software

  • Synchronized video transcripts
  • Various ‘interactions’ can be added to videos
  • Different ‘pathways’ for users to consume content
  • Content drip-feed
  • Quizzes and assignments, question banks
  • Branded digital certificates
  • Integrated social network
  • Full white-label
  • Affiliate management
  • Various integrations

Pros

  • Great course player (with many options)
  • Great engagement-enhancing and grading/testing features
  • Powerful online community builder
  • Great affiliate-management feature
  • Good pricing

Cons

  • Very little flexibility overall
  • Basic reporting
  • No pre-made themes
  • Checkout process needs improvement

Plans And Pricing

LearnWorlds offers a 30-day free trial. Plans are billed monthly or annually (up to 20% discount). 

There are three main pricing tiers. The entry-level “Starter” plan has a $5 fee per course sale, which all other plans don’t have. 

The main difference between plans lies in the number of admins/instructors that are supported and in various features you can have access to (summarized below). 

Best Online Course Platform - LearnWorlds Pricing

Starter Plan: $29/month or $24/month (paid annually). $5 fee per course sale. 1 admin allowed and unlimited paid courses.

Pro Trainer Plan: $99/month or $79/month (paid annually). No fees. 5 admins/instructors allowed. Unlimited paid courses and affiliate management platform. 

Learning Center Plan: $299/month or $249/month (paid annually). No fees. 20 admins/instructors. Unlimited paid courses. Full white-label option and advanced affiliate management

LearnWorlds also offers “Custom Services” such as the development of a custom mobile app for your course. All these services come at an extra price.

You can get access to a special 30-day free trial of LearnWorlds below to see if it’s for you.

8. Ruzuku

Best Online Course Platforms - Ruzuku

Ruzuku’s bold claim that’s prominently displayed on their website is that they “make it ridiculously easy to teach online”.

In general terms, that’s actually pretty accurate: the fact they offer a free trial, plus the setup “wizard” that guides you through creating your first school all make it really easy to get up and running in a very short time.

Ruzuku, as a hosted online course platform offers most of the features you’d normally expect from this kind of software, but the tool’s focus on simplicity definitely hinders your options when it comes to flexibility and customization

Who Is Ruzuku For?

Ruzuku is a great option if you are looking for something very simple to use and easy to set up.

However, there are better alternatives if you need more done when it comes to personalization. 

Key Features of Ruzuku Online Course Platform

  • Simple course management
  • Flexible subscription structure
  • Flexible course pricing structure
  • Various learning tools for students
  • Affiliate management
  • Course and student analytics
  • Engagement-enhancing features (webinars, teleconferences).
  • Supports both PayPal and Stripe

Pros

  • It is easy to use and understand
  • Courses can be priced in a number of different ways
  • Students can set up and customize their ‘profiles’
  • No direct transaction fees on course sales
  • Webinar feature can accommodate up to 1,500 participants
  • No limitations on number of students and courses you can create

Cons

  • Interface looks quite outdated
  • Limited customization options
  • No marketing automation features
  • Entry-level pricing plan is a little expensive

Plans And Pricing

Ruzuku offers a 14-day free trial.

There are three pricing plans, each billed either monthly or annually.

Each plan offers unlimited courses and supports unlimited students. 

There are some limitations in the basic plan (discussed below), but the higher-priced plans are very similar in terms of features they offer.

Best Online Course Platforms - Ruzuku Pricing

Bootstrapper Plan: $99/month or $74.75/month (billed annually). Unlimited courses and unlimited students. No unlimited webinars, no polls and quizzes. You cannot use subscriptions and payment-plans for your courses.

Up-and-Comer Plan: $149/month or $83.08/month (billed annually). Limited to a single instructor, but all other features are unlocked.

University Plan: $199/month or $125/month (billed annually). Multiple instructors, proprietary domain and a dedicated account manager.

Ruzuku offers a 14-day free trial and 30-day money back guarantee so you can get started completely risk free.

9. ClickFunnels

Best Online Course Software Membership Platform - ClickFunnels

ClickFunnels is an extremely popular tool among marketers. With it, you can easily create functioning funnels with a click of a button. 

It allows you to customise your pages, send and collect emails, and so much more. 

When it comes to creating online courses with it, your best option is to use their membership sites feature, which will let you host videos and other types of content and basically function as an online course.

However, the same we said for Kartra also applies to ClickFunnels. The platform is not build specifically for e-learning, and there are some limitations you normally wouldn’t have if you chose another hosted online course platform such as Teachable or Thinkific.

That being said, ClickFunnels does incredibly well when it comes to marketing and sales funnel creation, so promoting and selling your course with it is going to be much easier. 

Read my full review of ClickFunnels here.

Who Is ClickFunnels For?

As an online course platform, ClickFunnels does have some pretty serious limitations in terms of features and options at your disposal.

I would only recommend it if you already are a ClickFunnels user or want to have everything ‘under the same roof’.

I would use ClickFunnels for building my sales funnels and landing pages, and then combine it with a a much better online course platform like Teachable.

Key Features of ClickFunnels

  • Pre-built page templates
  • Built-in email marketing platform
  • Supports affiliate program
  • Advanced marketing and automation features
  • Webinar platform 

Pros

  • Simple and user-friendly page builder
  • Great marketing features
  • Offers pre-built complete sales funnels to market your course

Cons

  • No user-progress tracking
  • UI on the front end needs improvement (not responsive at times)
  • No quizzes, community, etc.
  • Does not host videos natively 
  • No completion certificates

Plans And Pricing

ClickFunnels offers a 14-day free trial. When that is over, you have two different plans to choose from, each billed on a monthly basis.

The main difference lies in the number of funnels and pages you can create with each plan – something to consider when building your membership site/course.  

Best Online Course Platforms - ClickFunnels Pricing

You can get started with a 14-day free trial of ClickFunnels below.

10. Teachery

Best Online Course Platform - Teachery

Teachery is a hosted online course platform that is often compared to the likes of Teachable and Thinkific.

It’s super easy to use, and has some interesting features such as unlimited courses and unlimited students at no extra charge. 

On top of that, the platform allows you to manage an affiliate program, build custom landing pages (which you can use without a website of your own), all at a very affordable price. 

There are some downsides, though. Unlike the more popular online course builders, Teachery won’t host your videos, it is a little thin when it comes to engagement-enhancing features (quizzes, etc.), and it doesn’t allow you to fully use your own branding on the courses you create.

That being said, over 18 million students use the platform, and close to 70,000 creators prefer it to its more established competitors. 

Who Is Teachery For?

Teachery is one of those platforms that will work for all kinds of businesses.

It’s a solid alternative to online course platforms like Teachable and Thinkific if you’re looking for ease-of-use and a good set of features. But it still lacks some functionalities creators might find essential. 

Key Features of Teachery Online Course Platform

  • Unlimited courses and students
  • Real-time page editor
  • Sales/landing-page creator
  • Email integration with MailChimp and ConvertKit
  • Supports various payment options for courses
  • Course analytics
  • Supports tracking codes
  • Drip content scheduling
  • Affiliate program management

Pros

  • Great and easy-to-use UI
  • No limits as for courses, pages and students
  • Flexible payment options for courses
  • Great analytics
  • Beginner-friendly pricing

Cons

  • Only two course templates to choose from
  • Few ‘native’ integrations
  • Does not include video-hosting
  • No quizzes, polls, etc.

Plans And Pricing

Teachery offers a 14-day free trial.

There are two plans to choose from, a monthly and an annual plan.

There is no difference between plans: both come with the full set of features and zero transaction fees. 

Best Online Course Platforms - Teachery Pricing

Monthly Plan: $49/month (full set of features)

Annual Plan: $470/year (full set of features)

11. Academy Of Mine

Best Online Course Platforms - Academy of Mine

Academy of Mine is a hosted online course platform that offers an all-in-one solution, much like many of its competitors.

But there are some key differences that set Academy of Mine apart.

Overall, it is a more flexible platform with lots of customisation options.

It is entirely built on WordPress, which means it lets you create a completely personalized website to showcase your course.

Plus, it has a ton of high-end systems that boost learning and student engagement such as certificates, gamification, discussion forums, a ”GradeBook“ and much more.

All of the above, however, comes with two downsides.

First of all, getting the platform to fit your specific needs might require some help from a developer, and the learning curve when using Academy of Mine might be steep.

Lastly, the software comes with a fairly high entry-level pricing, which could be a problem with someone just starting out or with a low budget. 

Who Is Academy Of Mine For?

Academy of Mine is more suited to higher-end clients and organizations.

Their aren’t cheap, and although it has a ton of customization options, it might be a little overkill for beginners

Key Features of Academy Of Mine eLearning Platform

  • Fully white label
  • Custom domain
  • Free custom development
  • Online, self-paced courses and in-person classes
  • In-depth student reporting
  • Content drip and locking
  • E-commerce integrations
  • Group onboarding
  • Dedicated account manager (based on plan)

Pros

  • Allows for very advanced customization
  • Powerful LMS features
  • Fully-managed solutions available
  • Offers help with launching and marketing your course

Cons

  • Pricey even at entry-level point
  • Steeper learning curve
  • Lower pricing plan has significant limitations

Plans And Pricing

Academy of Mine offers a 30-day free trial.

There are two pricing plans, with either monthly or yearly billing. Both plans offer unlimited courses and unlimited users.

The main difference between the two plans is in the features you get (discussed below).

Best Online Course Platform - Academy of Mine Pricing

Essentials Plan: $499/month or $4,999 yearly (2 months free). Unlimited courses and users, 2TB storage, no webinars, basic reporting and analytics, limited 3rd party integrations, no custom servers and hosting.

Professional Plan: $899/month or $9,500 yearly (12% discount). This plan essentially removes the limitations found in the Essentials plan. It offers 5TB storage space, but does not include custom servers and hosting.

Academy of Mine also offers a custom “Enterprise” plan (price upon request), which includes all features and also offers custom servers and hosting. 

The company also provides “Optional Service Packages” such as Website Design, Course Creation and Platform Migration. All of these services have an extra cost.

12. Wp Courseware

Best Online Course Platforms - WP Courseware

WP Courseware is a WordPress LMS plugin, much like LearnDash.

Its interface is intuitive and great for beginners, and their drag-and-drop editor makes structuring and crafting your course pages a real breeze.

Plus, it has some really good quizzing and grading functionalities, just like the more established online course platforms out there.

Until recent years, WP Courseware used to be a little ‘thin’ when it came to marketing capability, but it is constantly improving and adding new functionalities to fill the gap (they’ve recently implemented PayPal and Stripe integrations).

Overall, the plugin is not as feature-rich as competitors such as LearnDash, but it’s definitely a good starting point for beginners. 

Who Is WP Courseware For?

WP Courseware is great if you need a plug-and-play solution that works natively on your website without having to purchase/manage extra software. 

However, if you need more customization options and stronger features in general, I’d recommend another solution such as LearnDash.

Key Features of WP Courseware Online Course Platform

  • Drag-and-drop course editor
  • Customizable UI
  • Various payment options supported
  • Automated notifications and emails
  • Content dripping
  • No transaction fees
  • Extensive knowledge base

Pros

  • Simple user interface
  • Easily integrates to WordPress sites
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Feature-set is overall quite limited
  • Interface is sometimes clunky
  • Adding content might get buggy

Plans And Pricing

WP Courseware comes with a 30-day money back guarantee so you can try it completely risk free.

There are three plans, each billed yearly. 

Plans differ mainly based on the number of sites upon which you can use the plugin. 

Best Online Course Platforms - WP Courseware Pricing

Teacher Plan: $129 (annually). 2-site license.

Professor Plan: $149 (annually). 10-site license

Guru Plan: $199 (annually). 25-site license

13. LifterLMS

Best Online Course Platform - LifterLMS

LifterLMS is a WordPress LMS plugin with a very comprehensive set of features that make it a worthy competitor of ‘mainstream’ solutions such as LearnDash.


The main drawback is this: LifterLMS is in itself a ‘simple’ core plugin that functions as the learning management system.

The basic software has very few capabilities, and in order to make the plugin really shine, you’ll need to integrate it with a long list of add-ons.

These ‘extras’ all come at a price, though LiferLMS does offer its product in various ‘bundles’ (core plugin + some add-ons).

That being said, if you go for a pretty solid plan, you’ll get a really long list of useful features, some of which you won’t even find in more ‘established’ platforms such as LearnDash.

Who Is LifterLMS For?

LifterLMS is a great all-in-one solution if you plan on hosting your courses directly on your own website.

It can be pretty budget-friendly if you don’t need a lot of features, but if you really want it to work at its full potential, you’ll need to pay quite a bit of money.

Key Features of LifterLMS Online Course Platform

  • Drag-and-drop course builder
  • Drip content
  • Assignments and quizzes
  • Student dashboard 
  • Multiple payment options supported
  • Supports affiliate program
  • Behavior-based personalized emails
  • Various integrations (including e-commerce platforms)

Pros

  • Great course-builder interface
  • Great WP integration (also with page builders)
  • Ecommerce platforms integration
  • Great list of features (though many are add-ons) 

Cons

  • Many features are not included and need to be ‘added-on’
  • Marketing capabilities are not the best
  • Design is a little outdated in some places

Plans And Pricing

As a ‘core’ plugin, LifterLM is free (1-site licence). With it, you can only add courses, provide some (basic) quizzes and create a simple website for your content.

Add-ons (which are pretty much essential) can be purchased individually (starting at $99), or as bundles. Here are the ‘recommended’ ones:

Best Online Course Platforms - LifterLMS Pricing

Universe Bundle: $299 (per year). It includes:

  • Core LifterLMS plugin on up to five websites.
  • Priority customer support.
  • 2 Tech support accounts.
  • A design addon.
  • An ecommerce addon.
  • A marketing and/or CRM addon.
  • A form addon

Infinity Bundle: $999 (per year). It includes:

  • Core LifterLMS plugin on unlimited websites.
  • Priority customer support and Live Office Hours addon.
  • 3 Tech support accounts.
  • All design addons.
  • All ecommerce addons.
  • All marketing and/or CRM addons.
  • All form addons.
  • All coaching addons.
  • All social media addons.
  • All quiz and assignment addons.

14. Sensei

Best Online Course Platform - Sensei LMS

Sensei is a WordPress LMS plugin developed from the makers of WooCommerce.

It is pretty straightforward to use when it comes to actually creating your online course hub, but also as far as marketing is concerned. 

Sensei offers a wide variety of pre-made themes you can use, but it can also work with virtually any theme you are already employing on your WordPress website. 

The set of features is quite good, too, and the seamless integration with WooCommerce make it a great alternative for e-commerce store owners.

However, Sensei users have been reporting quite a few bugs in the system, mainly regarding its integration with WordPress, which is not the best.

Lastly, the fact you will basically need to add the WooCommerce extension to make Sensei work at full speed, might mean the price of the whole package will increase quite a bit.

Who Is Sensei For?

Sensei is great if you are already using WooCommerce.

If you aren’t using it, the learning curve you’ll have to go through when integrating the two together might be steep, so this LMS might not be best for beginners.

Key Features of Sensei

  • WordPress integration
  • WooCommerce integration
  • In-depth quizzing feature
  • Can create certificates (with templates)

Pros

  • Great integration with WooCommerce
  • Great quizzing feature

Cons

  • Does not integrate well with some WordPress themes
  • Woocommerce is basically a (paid) requirement
  • Platform is not updated very often

Plans And Pricing

Sensei’s ‘core’ plugin is free to download. However, you pretty much need to purchase (paid and free) add-ons if you want it to perform at its best. 

There are three plans you can choose from, each varying based on the number of sites you can use the plugin on:

Basic Plan – $149/year (single site)

Professional Plan – $199/year (up to 5 sites)

Business Plan – $299/year (up to 25 sites).

15. WizIQ

Best Online Course Platform - WizIQ LMS

WizIQ is a hosted online course platform that’s specifically aimed at higher education institutions, test preparation and tutoring.

Its course builder does the job and offers useful perks such as multiple teacher accounts, HD video streaming and live classes.

Testing and grading are a core part of WizIQ, and are – as you’d expect – pretty advanced. But so are reporting and analytics.

Overall, WizIQ is a solid solution, but it’s heavily geared towards the education business, so it does have some limitations when it comes to marketing and sales capabilities.

Who Is WizIQ For? 

WizIQ’s features make it a really good LMS platform for education institutions and tutors. 

Key Features of WizIQ eLearning Software

  • Virtual classroom for live learning
  • Online-course creation for self-paced learning
  • Online exam and test builder
  • In-depth analytics
  • iOS and Android app

Pros

  • Great live-learning functionalities
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Live lessons can be glitchy
  • Platform does not support many languages

Plans And Pricing

You can purchase WizIQ’s ‘Live Classroom’ feature separately from its LMS.

For the sake of this post, we’ll only look at the pricing for the latter.

Best Online Course Platform - WizIQ Pricing

You can choose between two plans. The entry-level Elite plan is pretty feature-rich, but it won’t allow for a custom domain and will have a 25GB storage limit.

The Infinite plan offers a custom domain, white-labeled web app and 50 GB of storage.

Pricing starts at $25/month (billed annually).

16. CourseCraft

Best Online Course Platforms - CourseCraft

CourseCraft is a hosted online course platform that aims at being suitable for both beginners and more advanced users. 

While the newbie course-creators out there will definitely feel at home with its intuitive and crisply-designed interface, marketers who are looking for a tool that can take care of – say – things like automations, might feel a little disappointed.

CourseCraft does have a good array of features: pretty much all you need if you’re just starting out, but it can’t compete with the likes of Teachable or Thinkific.

One thing about it is unique, though: their excellent and very affordable pricing (the highest tier is only $59/month).

Who Is CourseCraft For?

CourseCraft is one of those online course platforms that’s specifically aimed at beginners and those who don’t need (or want) to bother with more advanced customisation. 

It offers a good set of features, but it is seriously lacking in the marketing department, so if that is something you need, you might be better off with solutions like Teachable or Thinkific. 

Key Features of CourseCraft Online Course Platform

  • Simple and flexible editor
  • Great design all round
  • Custom branding
  • Lesson scheduling
  • Embed codes to use on websites
  • Forms/Quizzes
  • “Add-ons” (upsells) can be implemented at checkout
  • Collaboration features
  • Stripe and PayPal integration
  • Stats and analytics

Pros

  • Great all-in-one solution
  • Super easy to use
  • Great UI on both front and backend
  • Has a free plan (with limitations) and other plans are fairly cheap

Cons

  • Transaction fees are a little high in the two lower plans
  • No marketing automation features
  • Not very flexible overall
  • Not many integrations

Plans And Pricing

CourseCraft offers three pricing plans. Billing can be monthly or yearly (-20%). 

The main difference between plans lies in features you get, the transaction fees CourseCraft will take, and the number of participants you are allowed.

Best Online Course Platforms - CourseCraft Pricing

Free Plan: 9% transaction fees. Up to 100 participants per course. Up to 2GB uploads per course. Unlimited courses. 

Club Plan: $29/month or $23/month (billed annually). 5% transaction fees. Unlimited participants, uploads and courses. Custom branding.

Society Plan – $59/month or $47/month (billed annually). No transaction fees. Custom domains and affiliates management system.

17. AccessAlly

Best Online Course Platforms - AccessAlly

AccessAlly is an LMS WordPress Plugin that is a powerhouse when it comes to features and flexibility, all of which comes at a fairly affordable price. 

AccessAlly lets you create ‘regular’ courses, but also full-blown membership sites, and the fact that it seamlessly integrates with your theme makes customization really easy, even when using WoordPress page builders such as Thrive Architect, Elementor or Divi.

Another great plus is AccessAlly’s solid marketing automation feature, with great segmentation options and a very solid integration capability with email marketing software.

Overall, AccessAlly is a serious contender for first place when it comes to LMS WordPress plugins.

It probably doesn’t quite reach the level of flexibility LearnDash gives you, but it’s a tough call indeed.  

Who Is AccessAlly For?

AccessAlly is suitable for all types of businesses, large and small.

If you are looking for a solid, reliable plugin that also includes membership-site capabilities, doesn’t need countless integrations, looks professional and is very flexible, AccessAlly might be what you need. 

Key Features of AccessAlly

  • Full LMS features (drag-and-drop editor, quizzes, certificates, video & audio bookmarks, etc.)
  • Drag-and-drop order form editor
  • Integrates with Stripe and Paypal
  • Bulk course enrolment
  • Membership-site creation features
  • Multi-tier affiliate system
  • Email marketing software integrations

Pros

  • Very feature rich 
  • No direct transaction fees
  • Good marketing automation features
  • Great tagging and segmentation options
  • Accessible pricing

Cons

  • Order form can be improved
  • Course builder not so intuitive
  • No community/forum solution

Plans And Pricing

AccessAlly has three pricing plans. Billing is either monthly or yearly.

There is quite some difference between tiers (and the pricing structure is a little complicated), so we’ll discuss them in-depth below.

Best Online Course Platforms - AccessAlly Pricing

Essentials Plan: $99/month or $82/month (billed annually). 1 site licence, unlimited courses and members, e-commerce features. Does not include LMS and course creation features

Pro Plan: $129/month or $108/month (billed annually). Includes all LMS and e-learning features.

Done For You Plan: $2500 (annual billing only). Includes all the features in the lower plans, plus you can hire an expert to help with site migration and setup, site creation, design, etc.

18. Coursecats

Best Online Course Platform - CourseCats

CourseCats is somewhat of a ‘hybrid’ between a plugin and a full-fledged WordPress theme. 

When installed, it is able to essentially re-configure your site’s backend so you can create your courses right inside your WordPress Dashboard.

When it comes to ease-of-use, CourseCats is a definite winner, but also as far as the UI for the end user is concerned.

The course pages it creates look great and professional, and everything functions smoothly and with very little glitches.

But what makes CourseCats rise above the competition is its ‘Concierge Service’.

If you are technically challenged, their support team will actually come in and get everything set up for you, free of charge. 

Who Is Course Cats For?

If you absolutely hate having to dip your toes into the technicalities of creating an online course, but you want a professional-looking product, CourseCats might be for you.

Its simplicity and ease-of-use, plus their valuable Concierge Service for non-techies make it a must for those who just want to get up and running fast.

However, CourseCats is a little lacking when it comes to marketing features, so if you need a little help in that department, you are better off looking elsewhere.

Key Features of Course Cats

  • Professional design
  • Concierge Service to help you set your site up
  • Landing page creator
  • Video-series page creator
  • Membership site builder (requires third-party integrations)

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Simple and easy to use ‘plug-and-play’ solution
  • “Concierge Service” is a great bonus
  • Great technical support
  • Unlimited, regular updates

Cons

  • A little ‘thin’ in the marketing department
  • Flexible, but not in all departments

Plans And Pricing

Coursecats offers a 30-day free trial.

There is essentially only one plan, which you can pay for on a monthly basis ($59/month) or annually ($497/year – will save you $211).

Best Online Course Platforms - CourseCats Pricing

The plan includes all features, and also offers a “Concierge Service” that will set the site up for you.

19. MemberVault

Best Online Course Platforms - MemberVault

MemberVault is a hosted online course platform that aims at combining lots of different features in one place in order to offer a one-stop-shop for all your online business needs.

It’s fast and easy to set up, especially for those just starting out, but it’s main focus is on creating a strong bond between the creators and their students.

Through gamification, deep customer insights and tracking, MemberVault does an excellent job at providing you with the data you need to better engage and ultimately promote to your audience.

Its pricing plans are very feature-rich, though the lack of a native email marketing platform stands out, especially for a tool that aims to be an ‘all-in-one solution’ (but you can of course integrate with your own email service provider).

Who Is MemberVault For?

MemberVault manages to keep (almost) everything in one place and is great for those who want to simplify their course-creation workflow without having to rely on countless other software.

Their ‘forever free’ plan is a great starting point (though with some limitations), and the higher pricing tiers are still very affordable and include the full set of features. 

Key Features of MemberVault

  • Customizable branding
  • Product templates
  • Employs Gamification to enhance student engagement
  • Automated lead tracking and tagging
  • Affiliate tracking
  • Coupons, quizzes and questions
  • “Preview Mode” to test products 

Pros

  • Very affordable (also has a ‘forever free’ plan)
  • Can be used as an all-in-one solution
  • Supports ‘gamification’ 
  • In-depth student tracking (tagging, segmentation)
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • UI and UX could use with an update
  • Learning curve is a little steep when digging into all the features
  • No email marketing feature
  • Limited deep integrations

Plans And Pricing

MemberVault does not offer a free trial. There are three plans to choose from, billing is only on a monthly basis. 

Interestingly, all plans have full features included, even the entry-level “forever free” tier. 

Differences between plans lie mainly in the number of students you are allowed. 

Best Online Course Platform - MemberVault Pricing

Forever Free Plan – Full set of features: Only 100 students allowed.

Base Plan: $39/month. Full set of features. 1,000 students allowed, weekly office hour support.

Pro Plan: $69/month. Full set of features. 25,000 students allowed, weekly office hour support.

20. Zippy Courses

Best Online Course Platform - Zippy Courses

Zippy Courses started as an LMS WordPress plugin, founded by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. It has now evolved into a fully hosted online course platform. 

Overall, it is a quite powerful platform, which delivers the usual benefits you’d normally find in more popular online course software such as Teachable.

It’s easy to use and creates a great UI for the students, with little to no customization actually needed. 

Zippy Courses performs particularly well in terms of its pricing and payment options/tiers, but also with its unique testing tools that make validating your products and content extremely easy. 

However, the platform does have its drawbacks, its lack of an in-built email marketing provider the most apparent. 

Who Is Zippy Courses For?

Zippy Courses is one of those solutions that put simplicity and ease-of-use as its main focus. 

It does allow for some mild customization options and is quite flexible, but the overall ‘room to manoeuvre’ is quite limited. 

Not having a solid email marketing platform included in the software is a definite drawback, and so are the very few automation capabilities.

But if you want to get started creating courses right away without worrying too much about the tech side of things, Zippy Courses can be the right choice for you.

Key Features of Zippy Courses Online Course Platform

  • Drag-and-drop course builder
  • Different ‘access-tiers’
  • “Launch Windows” to launch or make your course evergreen
  • Content drip
  • Automatic Follow-up emails
  • Customization to fit your brand
  • Integrates with most email service providers and shopping carts 

Pros

  • Easy-to-use online course builder
  • UI looks very professional
  • Extremely easy to create multiple prices, payment options, and content tiers.
  • Great tool to test prices and content structures

Cons

  • Navigation inside the software is a little clunky
  • Doesn’t host videos for you
  • Email marketing functionalities are a little limited.

Plans And Pricing

Zippy Courses offers a 7-day trial for $1.

With the free trial you can enjoy no transaction fees and unlimited paid courses.

However, you will have a 10,000 emails/month limit and a 100GB file storage cap.

Best Online Course Software - Zippy Courses Pricing

Once the trial is over, you can choose between two plans. Each is either billed monthly or annually (at a discount).

Standard Plan: $99/month or $948/year. Unlimited paid courses, one admin user, 10,000 emails/month maximum and 100GB file storage.

Professional Plan: $199/month or $1,098/year. Unlimited paid courses, 10 admin users, advanced theme customization, 50,000 emails/month maximum and 2TB file storage.

Different Types of Online Course Platforms

Not all online course platforms are created equal.

As a matter of fact, there are quite a few types of tools out there that function as “Learning Management Systems” (LMS).

However, the most widespread and most commonly used fall into two main categories: hosted online course platforms and LMS plugins (usually for WordPress).

Let’s have a closer look at each option and see what their pros and cons are:

Hosted Online Course Platforms

Hosted online course platforms (like Teachable and Thinkific) are essentially websites that host all of your content on their own servers.

They are entirely web-based, so you don’t need to install any software on your computer.

For the most part, they are ‘all-in-one’ solutions that help you with many of the steps required to build, run and sell your online course.

These tools basically have a pre-made ‘infrastructure’ for their users: all you need to do is provide your content and the platform will pretty much take care of the rest.

Hosted online course platforms are very popular these days due to their ease-of-use, but they also do have some drawbacks.

Here are the main pros and cons of these solutions: 

Pros

  • “All-in-one” solutions that cater for most of your needs without having to purchase separate software for different tasks
  • Generally easy to use 
  • Marketing and automations are usually built-in, so you can either use pre-made templates or create your own funnels right inside the software.
  • Analytics and reporting are generally quite in-depth, and provide valuable insights into your students’ behavior and actions. 

Cons

  • The structure of these platforms means they are very ‘templated’. Even though you can customize many aspects of your course/school, your flexibility options are ultimately limited.
  • Once you upload your content to these platforms, your course ‘lives’ on these companies’ servers. You don’t fully control it. If their site should crash for some reason or another, your course will (temporarily) be down.

Self-Hosted Online Course Platforms: WordPress LMS Plugins

LMS Plugins (like LearnDash) are ‘add-ons’ you connect to your website, provided it runs on WordPress.

These plugins give you all the features you need to create, manage and market your online course, just like hosted platforms.

But the main difference here, is that your course will ‘live’ on your own website; it will be a part of it, and you will have full control over the whole process.

WordPress LMS plugins are usually a good choice for those who need more flexibility and require their courses to be highly customized.

Here are some benefits and drawbacks of this solution:

Pros 

  • You have much more flexibility
  • You are in total control of your content: your course ‘lives’ on your website
  • Through the power of integrations, you can create a really complex and versatile system.

Cons

  • Plugins require at least a basic knowledge of how WordPress works.
  • Sometimes, these plugins are not enough: you might need to integrate them with other solutions (payment processors, etc.)
  • ‘Heavy’ plugins can significantly slow down your website. 

Online Course Marketplaces

With online course marketplaces, all your really need is your content.

These platforms will do all the work when it comes to the tech side of things, so once your videos (or text) are ready, you’ll be able to upload them to the platform and be pretty much done.

What’s great about these marketplaces is that they are already popular among learners: this means that they already have an audience to which your course can be marketed. 

Sites like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda) and Skillshare have subscribers in the millions, so visibility for your work won’t really be an issue.

As usual, though, there are some caveats if you choose this route.

Let’s see some of the pros and cons of online course marketplaces:  

Pros 

  • Very low barrier to entry: all you need is your content, the marketplace takes care of the rest.
  • Being a ‘creator’ on these marketplaces is usually free (or very cheap)

Cons

  • Your course will be competing with hundreds of others. If the marketplace doesn’t do a good job at marketing your course, discoverability might be an issue
  • You have very little control over the price of your courses (marketplaces often discount them)
  • It’s difficult to ‘stand out’ in terms of branding. There are zero customization options, so all the platform’s courses look and feel the same. 

What Should You Look For In a Great Online Course Platform?

You’ve certainly noticed by looking at the list above that there is no shortage of choice when it comes to finding a great online course platform.

Choosing the right one can really be a tough call, especially since your preference will largely be dictated by various factors, such as price, specific features, integrations, and much more.

That being said, here is a short checklist I’ve put together to help you navigate the various options. 

1. Budget

This goes without saying, but the first thing you should think about when choosing an online course platform is your budget.

If you have a pretty substantial one, you’ll obviously have more options to choose from, but sometimes spending a lot on a particular platform is not really necessary. More expensive doesn’t always equate to a better product.

If, on the other hand, your budget is limited, you’ll have less room to manoeuvre.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get up and running with a good platform.

Plenty of these platforms offer free trials, and even ‘free forever’ plans (more on that below). 

One final caveat: watch out for ‘hidden’ costs and examine the software pricing carefully. 

Sometimes, companies will take transaction fees, or their pricing plans won’t be super-clear. 

Do your research well and choose accordingly. 

2. Maintain control

It’s a given fact that hosted online course platforms will give you less control compared to LMS WordPress plugins.

But that doesn’t mean they are not a good option.

What you should always look out for is a way for you to maintain ownership and control over your content. 

Can you ‘pull-out’ of a plan if you need to? Can you cancel your subscription anytime?

Be sure to read all the terms of service documents carefully before you invest!

3. Ease of use

If you’re not very ‘tech-savvy’, this is going to be a very important factor in ultimately making your decision.

In the extensive list above, I have pointed out whether a platform is easy to use or not, but always double check and do your research if you are worried about actually being able to use the software.

Where available, use free trials to get a feel for the app before you buy, or look out for good customer support and ‘hand-holding’.

4. Features

The features an online course platform offers should be high on your list of priorities when making your choice.

But don’t just go with the company that has the longest and most ‘impressive’ lineup.

Always keep in mind what you need for your specific situation and your business. 

In many cases, going with the platform with the most ‘bells and whistles’ will probably be overkill for you, especially if you’re just starting out. 

5. Integrations

This point is possibly more of a concern for those who are a little further along the journey and have more established online lifestyle businesses.

But it’s still an incredibly important factor: if an app does not ‘work’ as you want it to, it’s going to be dead weight that slows down your processes and will cause a lot of headaches.

Do you already use a good email service provider?

And if so, does the online course platform you chose  integrate with it seamlessly?

Does the LMS plugin you want to go with include a payment gateway?

If not, does it allow and support integration with the most common processors such as PayPal, Stripe, etc.?

What Are The Benefits Of Using Online Course Software Tools?

Online course platforms are the best way to create, manage and ultimately market your course(s).

If these platforms didn’t exist, you’d probably need to hire a developer and spend thousands of dollars to get your learning environment to look exactly how you want it to.

Practicality, then, is the most apparent benefit of using online course software.

But there are quite a few more. Let’s have a look at some of the main ones:

1. Low barrier to entry

Online course platforms have made creating courses and sharing them with the world something that virtually anyone can do. 

If you can use a computer, you can probably use one of these platforms.

Some are easier to use than others, but the key here is that you don’t need expert technical skills to get up and running in a relatively short time.

That’s why e-learning and the online course business in general is booming right now, and is set to grow even further in the years to come.

2. Cost effective

Most online course platforms have very affordable prices. Some even offer free trials or ‘forever free’ plans.

But the real benefit of these apps when it comes to cost is the fact that many of them are ‘all-in-one’ solutions that combine the power of different softwares, all under one roof. 

If you were to individually purchase all these apps, your bill would probably be in the thousands per month, but with these hosted platforms or plugins, you get many functionalities in one. 

3. Great experience for students

Some of the best online course platforms are capable of providing a great UI and experience for your students.

Through interactive lessons, quizzes and other engagement-enhancing features, many apps make taking your courses both an educational and enjoyable experience for your audience. 

This is a great thing: your peeps will love you for the quality of your work and for how professionally you’ve delivered it to them, and will keep coming back for more. 

4. Analytics

Good reporting and analytics are a must have these days for online course platforms.

Some softwares provide very in-depth data, others are a little more surface-level.

But regardless of how granular your LMS platform gets when it comes to student/customer behaviour, all the insights you can get are extremely valuable.

When did a student stop progressing through your course?

Did they buy the upsell you offered them?

Did they unsubscribe from your automatic reminder-emails?

These and countless other questions can be answered by carefully analysing your reporting screen: this will allow you to get really invaluable info on how to make your content shine, how to improve your offer and ultimately make your course more attractive for your prospects.

What Are The Best Free Online Course Platforms?

Very few platforms offer ‘forever free’ plans.

And often, these plans come with substantial limitations, usually in terms of how many courses you can create or the maximum number of students you can enrol. 

At the time of writing this guide, the only softwares that offer totally free plans are Thinkific, CourseCraft and MemberVault (see list above for details).

However, most platforms offer free trials (usually 14 or 30 days).

Among the many options, I still recommend Teachable, which has a 30-day free trial exclusive to my audience.

What Are The Best Online Learning Platforms? Best Online Course Marketplaces

We’ve mentioned online course marketplaces above, together with their pros and cons. 

Using these online learning platforms and marketplaces as a creator is overall very different from using online course platforms or LMS plugins.

But let’s take a closer look at the most common ones in a bit more detail:

1. Skillshare

Best Online Learning Platforms - Skillshare

Skillshare is a marketplace that has grown a very large following lately, mainly because of its accessible price and premium-feeling interface.

Its courses cover a wide variety of topics, but the marketplace is very focused on the arts, creativity and design. 

As a creator, it’s a great option. Course creation is a breeze, and so is the ability to create assignments for your students.

The only downside to Skillshare is that you’ll need a minimum of 25 students before you start earning anything from your course.

Then, teachers are paid out based on their share of the minutes watched by Premium students across the platform each month.

Who is Skillshare Best For?

Skillshare is a great option if you are an artist, designer or digital creator.

It has a very clean interface that students love, and if you manage to grow a decent audience on it, earnings can be good. Plus, it’s 100% free for instructors.

Key Features of Skillshare eLearning Platform

  • Great community-building features
  • Student engagement is high thanks to assignments and projects
  • Easy to use

Pros

  • 100% free for course creators
  • Great value for money for students
  • The marketplace is growing in popularity by the day, so it has a lot of potential you can tap into.

Cons

  • Payouts aren’t very high
  • No real control over marketing

Plans And Pricing

Skillshare is totally free for course creators.

2. Udemy

Best Online Learning Platforms - Udemy

Udemy is probably the leading online course marketplace, with over 7 million students and counting.

The platform has courses on an extremely wide variety of topics. Chances are, you’ve probably taken a class on Udemy at some time.

From a creator’s perspective, it’s great in terms of reach and popularity, a little less in terms of earnings and control you have over your content. 

Who is Udemy Best For?

Udemy is great for those who just want to get their courses out there as quickly as possible. 

It’s also a great way of creating a first ‘touch point’ for your customers. You can create a very ‘popular’ course that is maybe free, get people on your email list and later introduce them to your paid products.

Fierce competition is definitely a downside, and so is their very aggressive discounting strategy, so read the small print well before you upload your content to Udemy!

Key Features of Udemy Online Course Marketplace

  • Course catalog
  • Course quality checklist
  • Search and Discovery
  • Retargeting ads
  • Teach hub
  • It’s responsive on all devices and screens
  • Assignment sharing capability

Pros

  • Great for those just starting out
  • Udemy promotes its courses very proactively
  • Good UI for students

Cons

  • Competition is fierce
  • You have little control over how and when your course is promoted
  • Udemy tend to always discount courses
  • Does not support live classes

Plans And Pricing

Udemy is 100% free for course creators. There is no limit to the amount of courses you can create, free or paid.

However, Udemy has a quite complicated structure in terms of how they pay instructors:

  1. If a student purchases a course using an instructor’s coupon or referral link, the instructor will get 97% revenue share.
  2. If a student ‘lands’ on your course organically and purchases it, there will be a 50% revenue share between you and Udemy. 
  3. If a student buys your course through some paid-advertising campaign made by Udemy, you will get a 25% share of the revenue.

3. LinkedIn Learning (Formerly Lynda)

Best Online Learning Platforms - LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning (formerly known as Lynda) is a online course marketplace that’s heavily geared towards courses on business and marketing topics.

It is no surprise then that the old platform (Lynda) was acquired by LinkedIn to provide professionals with the training they might need in their companies or businesses.

The quality of courses on LinkedIn Learning is great, and pricing for students is a flat fee of $29/month, so the marketplace is definitely a great alternative to help you get your course out in the world.

Who is LinkedIn Learning Best For?

LinkedIn Learning is great if you are teaching topics that revolve around business or marketing (or, possibly, languages).

It’s also a great resource when it comes to community aspects due to its connection with LinkedIn itself.

Key Features of LinkedIn Learning

  • Strong, established platform
  • Certifications
  • Analytics and reporting
  • In-built community through LinkedIn

Pros

  • Great course quality
  • Promotional potential is huge through LinkedIn
  • Solid interface

Cons

  • Selection process might not accept all courses

Plans And Pricing

LinkedIn Learning is 100% free for creators. 

As for earning through the marketplace, the structure is a little complex.

There are multiple factors that will determine your pay as a creator: total revenue made by LinkedIn Learning in a given month, site users, course views per user, and a fixed royalty rate for each instructor.

Sometimes, creators are even paid an upfront fee to cover the cost of course creation.

4. Coursera

Coursera is a popular online course marketplace that is used as an education-gateway by some of the world’s leading universities and companies.

As you might expect, the quality of the content is stellar, and courses are usually taught by professors, CEOs or very established experts in their fields. 

It is mentioned here for the sake of completeness, but it is very hard for ‘regular’ online course creators to have access to Coursera, unless they belong to an acclaimed institution or business.

Who is Coursera Best For?

Teaching on Coursera requires you to belong to an established company or university, or be an absolute expert in your field.

Therefore, access to it is definitely not for everyone. 

Key Features of Coursera Online Learning Platform

  • Offers various types of certifications
  • Highly specialized coursesbc-default-list

Pros

  • Great for companies to grow their reach, but also as a learning portal for their employees
  • Low competition because of the strict ‘admission’ policy

Cons

  • Very selective to get approved

Plans And Pricing

Coursera is 100% free for creators

5. Treehouse

Best Online eLearning Platform - Treehouse

Treehouse is a new kid on the block when it comes to online course marketplaces, but the platform is growing at a very steady pace and can now offer over 300 courses and 200+ workshops.

Topics are very specialized and basically all revolve around coding and computer programming skills. 

Students love it’s easy-to-navigate interface and the learning-enhancing features such as quizzes, grading, etc. 

Plus, Treehouse has a very active and supportive online community, which is a must-have features many of its competitors still lack. 

Who is Treehouse Best For?

Treehouse is definitely a great option if you are a coder, programmer or developer.

Its ‘environment’ is entirely built around these topics, so you don’t really need to worry about finding new students and promoting your content.

However, having a course on Treehouse is all but easy. Before you can call yourself an instructor, you’ll have to submit an application and hopefully be approved. 

Key Features of Treehouse eLearning Platform

  • Flexible and interactive learning.
  • Large online community
  • Offers certificates

Pros

  • Great ‘hub for specialized topics (coding, programming, etc.)
  • Great opportunity to network with other creators in your space

Cons

  • You’ll need to apply to be an instructor (and might be rejected).
  • Profit potential is limited

Plans And Pricing

Treehouse is free for creators (application needed).

What’s The Best Ways To Create and Sell Online Courses?

I won’t lie to you. Crafting a great online course that will sell is not easy.

But it doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Sure, there are a lot of moving parts that go into it, but if you have a system in place and processes that are proven to work, your job will be so much easier and ultimately, your end product is pretty much guaranteed success.

I have written a very in-depth guide on this topic, which covers a lot of ground.

At the core of it, is my 7-step process I use and recommend when creating and selling online courses.

I’ve summarized them below for you to use as a handy checklist: 

1. Get the foundations right

The first step in your journey will begin with finding a great idea for your course.

Start brainstorming and create a list of possible topics. Don’t over-think this step. Just jot the ideas down: they will come in handy later on.

Next, you’ll need to do a bit of research.

Start with your competitors: are there entire blogs dedicated to your course-idea? Are people already selling courses on that topic? Are there Facebook or LinkedIn groups that cover it?

Once you’ve brainstormed and ‘stalked’ your competitors, your next step is to cross off the ideas that are probably not going to work.

Do this by trying to find the perfect intersection between what you are passionate about (brainstorming phase), any expertise or skill you have and the willingness the audience have to pay (‘stalking’ phase).

Ok, once you’ve come up with your winner idea, it’s time to move to step 2

2. Build an Audience 

Finding a niche and profitable online course idea is not enough: you’ll need to start building an audience who has interest in what you do and who will ultimately buy your course.

In the online business world, ‘building an audience’ has a very simple synonym: building an email list.

So how do you go about doing that? Here are the 3 ways I recommend:

  • Starting a blog (creating content and offering targeted lead magnets)
  • Hosting a virtual summit (which essentially is the best lead magnet and the fastest way I’ve found to build an email list of buyers)
  • Running partner webinars
  • Advertising your lead magnet with paid ads (usually on FB)

You can try one of the above, some or even all of them.

Once you have a decent following (this might take some time), you are ready for the next step.

3. Pre-sell your course

In this phase, we are going to see if your idea has potential.

We are going to get our feet wet and test if there are people in your audience who are ready to buy your course.

Notice that we haven’t created the course yet.

Doing so before actually knowing if your peeps will part with their money for it is going to result in a load of time wasted on something that will probably not sell. 

Here are the steps you need to take to pre-sell your course to your audience:

  • Survey your list and analyze their responses
  • Run a pre-launch webinar and start taking payments!

Once you know for a fact that your idea is good and that there are people willing to pay for your course, it’s time to move into actually creating your product:

4. Create your course

This will be the longest part of the process. It will take some time and effort, but you’ll feel rewarded and empowered once you’re done.

Here’s a brief summary of the steps you need to take in order to create your course:

  • Outline your course
  • Flesh-out your course material
  • Record/write the content

You’re nearly there. You’ve got your course on your hard-drive and ready to be released into the world. Time for step #5

5. Deliver your course

Uploading your videos (or text) to an online course platform is not enough. You’re not done yet.

There are a few things you’ll need to implement in order to create an ‘environment’ that functions as a funnel that will ‘capture’ and ‘convert’ people.

Specifically, you are going to need:

  • A platform for delivering your course (like Teachable)
  • A sales/landing page 
  • An email sequence
  • A shopping cart platform to accept payments (if your course platform doesn’t already include one)
  • Integration between your payment system and your course platform

Once you have all of these moving parts in place, it’s finally time to launch your course! On to step #6

6. Launch your course

This is probably the most exciting part of the whole online course creation process.

Launching, in itself, is a topic for a much more in-depth article. That said, just know that there are various ways in which you can launch your course.

Remember there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ launch: try different strategies and find the one that works best for you and your businesses.

In a nutshell, here are the ones I recommend:

  • A webinar series
  • A mixture between email and a pop-up Facebook group
  • Partner webinars
  • An affiliate launch

By now, you’ve hopefully found good success with your launch.

It might not be earth-shattering the first time round, but remember you can always optimise and refine the details for your future launches.

So, what comes next?

7. Scale

Once you’ve done a few launches and you have an online course that’s proven to convert, your next step will be scaling.

But let me warn you: this is one of the hardest parts, the reason being, it requires a lot of thought and analysis on your part.

I wish there was a single formula I could give that would work wonders to scale any course launch.

There simply isn’t.

But what you can do, is… continue doing what has worked, and work on perfecting what hasn’t.

Analyse your stats and data carefully, listen to customer feedback, learn from your mistakes.

All of this is building a ‘database’ of experience you can use in your next launch.

So, there you have it. The proven steps I use to create and market my courses. 

Again, if you need more in-depth information, don’t forget to check out my epic guide on the subject.

Conclusion: What’s The Most Popular Online Course Platforms Of 2020?

Creating and selling online courses can really revolutionize your business and help you make money online faster.

As you know by now, the e-learning industry is booming and now is the time for you to take a slice of that pie.

Go back and study this guide of the best online course platforms carefully, print it out if you want.

And always make your choices based on your situation and your business.

With so many alternatives out there, don’t get bogged down by too many details.

Pick an online course platform that works for you and start creating.

I hope this ultimate comparison guide has helped you and has made your decision process a little easier. 

But most of all, I hope it has gotten you excited about the endless opportunities that are out there waiting for you.

It doesn’t take a huge budget to get started: I recommend you try a solid platform like Teachable, so that you can get up and running as fast as possible (there is a 30-day free trial just for my audience).

If you’re a bit more advanced and seasoned in your business (or simply prefer WordPress solution), then I highly recommend LearnDash together with Buddyboss and a membership plugin like Memberium (which is what I personally use now, although I’ve used Teachable extensively as well).

Just take the first step, you got this!

Over to You

Which of the online course platforms I mentioned in this in-depth comparison review have you tried and what was your experience with them?

What did you like/dislike about them?

Anything I didn’t mention, that you’d like me to include in the article?

I would love to hear from you: just drop a comment below!

Further Reading on NavidMoazzez.com: To take your online courses even further, be sure to check out my ultimate course creation guide, and reviews of the best webinar software and best shopping cart software.

I’m Navid Moazzez. I’m a full-time lifestyle entrepreneur, super affiliate, and creator of Virtual Summit Mastery, living my best life in Panama City, Panama and around the world. If you have any questions or comments for me, just send an email or leave a comment below!

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