The 15 Best Online Course Platforms (and How to Choose the Right One)

Best Online Course Platforms

Online courses are a rapidly expanding industry and will continue to grow as more and more students turn to online learning.

In addition, the technology has made it really easy for you to host & sell online courses and so, the barrier to teaching online has come down significantly. 

Dozens of online course platforms exist, and each one can offer you something different. In fact, you now have so many options that figuring out the right online course creation software can become pretty confusing and frustrating.

In this guide, I will share some of the best online course platforms in the market as well as discuss how you can choose the right one for your business.

More...

Let's jump right in!

If you don't have time to read this guide, you can take this short quiz that will help you find the right online course software quickly.

Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Have you ever wondered what online course platform you should use? Do you feel confused about all the options out there? Just answer a handful of questions and we'll tell you which one is right for you.

Types of Online Course Platforms

There are a few different online learning platforms that fit into a few categories.

Each of these platforms works best for various needs and based on your requirements, you should be able to decide which type is right for you.

Hosted Online Course Platforms

These platforms are more geared towards smaller businesses and solo entrepreneurs.

Their USP is that they allow you to create and sell online courses under your own brand but they take away the hassles of creating & running a website.

They take care of the techy stuff like hosting, maintenance, security, and updates and allow you to focus on your core business.

A hosted online course platform will be ideal for you if:

  • you don't have any coding skills (or prior tech knowledge),
  • you have no prior experience of selling digital products,
  • you want to focus on creating content and selling it rather than managing website and handling tech issues.

Hosted course platforms allow you to get started pretty quickly and they will work very well for a majority of course creators.

>> Click here to go directly to the hosted course platforms list.

Self-Hosted WordPress Platform

WordPress can be used to create all types of websites including course websites. Compared to hosted online course software, creating & selling courses on WordPress requires you to be very tech-savvy.

WordPress Logo

You'll need to go through a not-so-easy installation and setup process, involving at the very least, a hosting provider, a theme, a few plugins, and video hosting. Plus, you will need to take care of site maintenance, performance, and security on an ongoing basis. 

However, WordPress will offer you more flexibility in terms of what you can and can't do. So, if you need some additional features, you can find a plugin to enable them or you can even get one built to add custom features.

You should use WordPress as your online course creation software only if you have prior experience of working with WordPress or you have a team of WordPress experts to support you.

>> Click here to go directly to the WordPress LMS plugins list.

Online Course Marketplaces

Online course marketplaces allow you to list your courses on their platform. They provide you with the infrastructure to host & sell your courses and they also actively help you with sales & marketing.

However, you will usually have to give a percentage of your sales to the platform which can vary from as little as 25% to as high as 75%.

More importantly, you have little control over the platform's policies, customer information, your branding, course pricing etc.

Marketplaces are a good option to sell your courses if you're just getting started and want to just test waters or if you're looking to build an additional sales channel for your courses. 

However, selling solely through marketplaces is a great risk and I don't recommend doing that.

Full-Fledged Learning Management Systems

Full-Fledged Learning Management Systems are better suited for established businesses that want a thorough online educational network to train their customers or employees or partners.

Full-fledged learning management systems are more sophisticated than all the online course solutions listed here and most solo entrepreneurs or smaller businesses won't require one.

How to Select the Right Online Course Platform

The biggest reason why course creators struggle to find the right course software is that they aren't sure about what they should look for in an online course platform.

If you don't have an understanding of what a course platform should offer, you're very likely to make a wrong choice.

So, let's discuss some of the most important things that you should consider while choosing the right online course platform for your business.

#1: Choose a solution that has integrated LMS, membership and e-commerce capabilities

The three essential capabilities required to sell online courses include:

  • LMS capability to create, organize and deliver your content,
  • Membership capability to help you create members’ area and restrict access to your content,
  • E-Commerce capability to help you sell your courses and accept payments.

Traditionally course creators used multiple solutions for each of these which would make the entire setup overly complex and difficult to manage and maintain.

So, the best online course platforms should have inbuilt LMS, e-commerce and membership capabilities. 

#2: The platform should allow you to have complete control over your business & your brand

The right online course platform must give you control over:

  • Branding - (Can you promote and market your brand freely? Can you use your logo? Do they offer a white labeling option? etc.)
  • Customer Information - (Does it give you complete ownership of user information? Can you export user emails and other information? etc.)
  • Pricing & Policies - (Does it give you complete freedom to price your courses? Can you decide your policies related to refunds, communication, forum commenting etc.?)

If you’re serious about selling courses online, you need to have complete control over these aspects of your business and this is the precise reason I don't recommend selling courses solely through marketplaces.

#3: Select a tool that lets you deliver a great learning experience to the students

The end objective of your online course is to facilitate students’ learning and your course solution is the medium through which you deliver that learning experience.

For me, it’s one of the most important aspects of any online course platform and here are a few things your LMS should let you do:

  • Include multiple content types in your courses - video, audio, text, slides, documents etc.
  • Ability to create quizzes, drip out course content and send certificates
  • check
    Allow students to engage with fellow students and instructors
  • check
    Great user experience (from purchasing course to watching content)
  • check
    Track your students’ video views and course progress

Again, these are some of the essential features that your LMS should have and you may require to have additional features in your platform depending on your specific requirements.

#4: Choose a platform that matches your tech/skill level but at the same time is flexible enough

You should select a course solution that’s beginner friendly and easy to use. For example, it should allow you to build your course website and start selling courses on it quickly even if you have no coding skills or little technical knowledge.

This is super important because an overly complex solution is the biggest roadblock in turning your ideas into actual courses and selling them online.

However, having a platform that’s just easy to use is not enough. You need a solution that’s also flexible and gives you enough creative and functional freedom.

For example, you might want to completely customize how your website looks or you might want to add a few functionalities that are not inbuilt into the platform and your platform should allow you to do that.

#5: Select a course platform that plays well with other popular solutions

This is one of the most important but overlooked criteria for selecting an online course platform. The question that you need to ask is: does the platform integrate and play well with other popular solutions?

You would want your course platform to integrate with email service providers (e.g. ConvertKit), list building solutions (e.g. SumoMe), analytics solutions (e.g. Google Analytics) and so on.

This is super important because at some point you will use these solutions and so you want them to integrate with your course platform.

A good way to validate whether a platform plays well with others or not is by checking if it has a robust Zapier integration.

Zapier is a marketing automation tool that allows you to integrate 100s of apps with each other and so if your platform integrates with Zapier, it will integrate with most other online solutions.

#6: Choose an online course platform that offers flexible pricing and fits your budget

For some of you, the budget might not be an issue. But for others, it is an important criterion while selecting an online course platform.

If you’re just getting started, it won’t make any sense to pay, say $300/month or make a significant investment upfront.

I personally like pay more as you grow type of pricing where an online course platform offers multiple pricing options. In the beginning, you can subscribe to one of the lower priced plans and then upgrade as you start generating some revenue.

Here are some of the things that you should check:

  • Does it offer multiple pricing plans/tiers?
  • Does it allow you to pay monthly vs annually?
  • Does it offer a free plan?
Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Have you ever wondered what online course platform you should use? Do you feel confused about all the options out there? Just answer a handful of questions and we'll tell you which one is right for you.

#7: The platform should offer customer support and training to help you succeed

You should select an online course platform that offers excellent customer support.

However, keep in mind that customer support isn’t just about answering your questions. Rather it’s about supporting you at every stage of your journey as a course creator.

Here are some popular customer support options that the best online course platforms should offer:

  • Dedicated customer service professionals to answer your questions and solve issues related to the platform.
  • Engaged instructor community where you can hang out with fellow course creators, share challenges, seek advice and celebrate each other’s successes
  • Step-by-step tutorials to help you get started on the platform
  • check
    Free resources, workshops, and training to help you build a successful online course business

These are some of the most important things that you should consider while evaluating an online course platform. Obviously, there can be other things to consider as well depending on your requirements.

But at the same time, you should keep in mind that it will be difficult to find an online course platform that meets all these criteria and so you should be able to prioritize them.

Hosted Online Course Platforms

First, let's take a look at a few of the top hosted options out there. These are going to be the best online course platforms for most people. 

1. Teachable

Teachable is the most popular online course platform in the market that lets you build your course website, host your videos and other content, market and sell your courses, deliver them professionally and further engage your students.

Visit Teachable Website

Teachable offers powerful sales & marketing features including coupons, highly optimized 1-step checkout process, 1-click upsells, EU VAT handling, and powerful affiliate marketing features.

However, the best part about Teachable is that it's super easy to use and setup. Their team takes care of all the technical stuff so that you can focus on creating content and selling it.

Teachable is very reasonably priced and is great for just about any course creator. You can start with their free plan or you can upgrade to their Basic Plan ($39/mo + 5% transaction fees) or, to the Professional Plan ($99/mo + 0% transaction fees).

Teachable currently has over 20,000 instructors which translate to about 7 million students and over $100 million earned by the teachers and is used by the likes of Pat Flynn and Melyssa Griffin.

Pros of Teachable

  • Super easy to use and setup,
  • Professional course delivery,
  • Powerful sales & marketing features including highly optimized checkout process,
  • check
    Handles EU Digital Goods VAT Tax,
  • check
    Flexible and beginner friendly pricing.

Cons of Teachable

  • Limited site themes capability,
  • Doesn't support advanced quiz features like question banks etc.,
  • Limited native support for gamification.

2. Thinkific

Thinkific is another popular online learning platform that allows you to create & sell online courses from your own website. It is very similar to Teachable as far as features and pricing are concerned.

Visit Thinkific Website

Once you sign up for Thinkific, you can quickly setup your online courses and start marketing and selling them.

It has a powerful site builder that lets you build a good-looking website and customize course sales pages easily. It also offers very good customer support that will help you all along your journey. 

However, Thinkific's checkout process isn't as well optimized. It's actually a 2-step process where students first need to create an account before they can make a payment which is not ideal from a conversion point of view.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can use their platform for free while paying 10% of all transactions to them. Or, you can upgrade to their Essentials plan ($49/mo) or their Professional Plan ($99/mo) to get more features and reduce the transaction fees.

Pros of Thinkific

  • Powerful site themes and page builder,
  • Supports more advanced quiz elements,
  • Reasonable and flexible pricing,
  • check
    Great customer support.

Cons of Thinkific

  • Limited sales & marketing capability,
  • Course player/area doesn't look professional,
  • Doesn't handle EU VAT

3. Kajabi

Kajabi is an all-in-one solution that allows you to do more than just hosting & selling your online courses. They allow you to create sales funnels, automate email marketing and create a blog in addition to selling online courses.

Kajabi Main

While the best part about Kajabi is that it allows you to have everything under one roof, that's also one of its limitations. You can think of Kajabi as a jack of all trades but master of none type of a tool.

For example, Kajabi lacks some pretty essential features when it comes to email marketing automation and so, you might be better off using a specialized tool like ConvertKit for email marketing rather than Kajabi.

As far as pricing is concerned, Kajabi is probably the most expensive course platform out there and is certainly much pricier compared to both Teachable and Thinkific.

Kajabi's pricing starts at $129 per month but to use all the features offered by them, you will need to be on their $389/mo or $899/mo plan. So, Kajabi is a good option for you only if you're making enough money already.

Pros of Kajabi

  • Most feature-rich online course software with professional design for both the frontend and the backend,
  • Easy to use and setup,
  • Powerful sales & marketing features,
  • check
    Excellent customer support.

Cons of Kajabi

  • Jack of all trades but master of none. Does an average job at building funnels, email marketing etc.
  • ban
    Super expensive with no free plan,
  • Doesn't handle EU VAT

4. Podia

Podia (previously Coach) is a new entrant in the hosted online course platform market that lets you create & sell online courses under your own brand. 

With Podia, you can actually sell more than just your course, including memberships, PDF’s, e-books, and templates.

Podia

However, Podia at this point doesn't support some essential features like Quizzes, Certificates etc. and you should consider this while evaluating it.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can choose between two plans (starts from $39/month), paid monthly or annually, and they offer a 30-day free trial for you to evaluate this online course creation software. 

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to Teachable/Thinkific, you should check out Podia. However, do note that they don't offer a free plan.

Check Out Podia

5. LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is another all-in-one online course platform and has all the features you need for creating & selling online courses.

The best part about LearnWorlds is that it offers the most tools and features for interactive learning: Interactive Video Player, Interactive E-book Reader, Advanced Quiz Capabilities, Social Learning etc.

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds' pricing starts at $29/month where you have to pay $5 as transaction fees for every sale and their most popular plan costs $299/month. However, LearnWorlds doesn't offer a free plan as Teachable and Thinkific do.

If your focus is on delivering a great learning experience for your students and building an engaged community around your course, you should check out LearnWorlds.

Check Out LearnWorlds

6. Academy of Mine

Academy of Mine is another all-in-one platform to create, sell and market your online courses. It lets you build a fully-fledged website to host your online courses and start selling them.

Of all the things that Academy of Mine has to offer, I really like its powerful LMS features. It has inbuilt support for Certificates, Gamification, Discussion Forums, GradeBook etc. and these features can be really handy for boosting your student engagement.

Academy of Mine's pricing starts from $99/month and their most popular plan costs $199/month. 

Check Out Academy of Mine

Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Have you ever wondered what online course platform you should use? Do you feel confused about all the options out there? Just answer a handful of questions and we'll tell you which one is right for you.

WordPress LMS Plugins

Next, let's explore some of the popular LMS plugins that you can use to sell your courses on a WordPress website. 

7. LifterLMS

If you plan to sell your online courses using a WordPress website, LifterLMS is a great option because it's one of those WordPress plugins which have integrated LMS, e-commerce and membership capabilities and is probably the easiest WordPress LMS plugin to use.

LifterLMS

You get the core plugin free of charge, so you can install it to your site, you can play around with it and see how you like it and if it works for your needs.

LifterLMS has a lot of premium features which it sells as a bundle. The lower priced bundle is called Universe Bundle and costs $299/year. Most creators will be fine with the features included in the Infinity Bundle.

However, if you need features like advanced quizzes or social learning, you'll either need to buy add-ons for them individually or upgrade to the Infinity Bundle which is super expensive ($999/year).

Check Out LifterLMS

8. LearnDash

This WordPress plugin is one of the top choices for many businesses, universities and training organizations.

LearnDash is easily the most powerful WordPress LMS plugin and it has plenty of features that give you complete control over your course delivery. 

You can design the course to your standards and engage with students, create forums, give out awards and certificates and much more.

LearnDash

However, LearnDash has a steeper learning curve and is more complex to setup and use than LifterLMS. 

LearnDash is very reasonably priced and is less expensive than LifterLMS. You can purchase their Basic plan for $159/year or go Pro for $329/year and you may need to purchase their premium add-ons on top of the plugin.

Check Out LearnDash

9. WP Courseware

Wp Courseware is the easiest to use WordPress LMS plugin. The big draw for WP Courseware is their drag and drop course design which makes it simple to create an online course even if you have never done it before.

It has all the essential features that you need in order to create and sell online courses on WordPress. It even has integrated shopping cart capabilities so that you can accept payments via Stripe/PayPal.

However, WP Courseware isn't as feature-rich as either LifterLMS or LearnDash.

You can try the demo for free to see if you like the plugin and after that, you can buy one of three bundles starting at $149 and topping out at $249.

Visit Website

10. Sensei

Sensei offers a straightforward way to create courses and manage students and marketing through your WordPress site. You can use Sensei themes to create your course as well as seamlessly integrate your current WordPress themes. 

They offer plenty of features with their basic plan, but if you need something not provided, you can search the Sensei extensions to find what you need.

They have three subscription options, and the first tier starts at $149/year for a single site. The second gives you up to 5 sites for $199, and the third gives you up to 25 sites for $299.00. Extensions have separate prices.

Visit Website

Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Have you ever wondered what online course platform you should use? Do you feel confused about all the options out there? Just answer a handful of questions and we'll tell you which one is right for you.

Online Course Marketplaces

Selling courses on marketplaces is very different from selling courses on your website. Marketplaces not just give you the infrastructure but also actively provide support in sales & marketing. Here are a few of the top options out there:

11. Udemy

You might have taken a course through Udemy because they offer one of the largest marketplaces to find e-courses. They also give instructors the guidance to create their own courses and market their offerings online.

Udemy

You can use Udemy for free and simply create an online course with the knowledge you want to share. After that, you can market your course on the marketplace or to your own audience.

If you sell directly to your audience, you get 97% of the profits and Udemy takes 3%. However, if you get a sales through Udemy’s marketplace, they get 50% of the sale, and you get the other half.

12. SkillShare

If you’re just starting out teaching online and aren’t sure where to start, SkillShare might be an appropriate choice. You can create courses that feature videos and a class project and taught in short 10-25-minute segments. 

Skillshare

The only downside is you must get 25 students enrolled in your class before you start earning any money. Once you hit 25, you can start to make between $1-2 per enrollee as part of the SkillShare Partner Program. 

You can also get compensated for premium members by using your referral link. Overall, SkillShare is an uncomplicated way to make some money from your passions. With some hard work, your side hustle can start to bring in some extra cash. 

13. OpenSesame

If you're into creating training programs for businesses and companies, OpenSesame could be a great option for you.

All you need to do to get started is to create a profile and upload your courses. After that, OpenSesame will put them on their marketplace for sale. 

The best part is that they offer your courses to any existing learning management system. This is awesome for those that know different companies want their materials but operate on different LMSs. It is free to get started, but OpenSesame will take 50% of all courses sold as payment.

Full-Fledged Learning Management Systems

If you’re already well-established and want to deliver training to your corporate audience or employees or even partners, these online training platforms are going to be more up your alley. 

14. TalentLMS

Everything you need to get started with your e-course is available through TalentLMS. If you want to train your employees, partners, and customers, this LMS can get you started. This platform connects to the Cloud, so you don’t have to worry about installing or backing up anything you create.

TalentLMS

It is fully customizable, so if you already have an established brand, you can keep the theme consistent throughout your course. Their full range of analytics also gives you the power to fine-tune your courses and marketing strategy to make the most of your course.

TalentLMS's pricing starts at $39 per month and there are multiple plans you can choose from.  

15. Digital Chalk

DigitalChalk is another popular online training platform that helps large companies train their employees by offering detailed tracking features. This includes being able to see employee progress, set goals for the company, and measure the impact of your training and change what isn’t working.

DigitalChalk can also help small business owners or solo instructors expand and grow. Everything you need to create and market your course is available on DigitalChalk, and you can even upload previously created content without a problem.

Prices for training employees start at $259 per month and go to $699 per month. For those looking to sell their own courses to the public, you can choose between three plans starting at $10 per month up to $99 per month plus a commission on sales.

If you're still not sure about the right online course platform for you, take this short quiz and I will help you find the best solution.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, there are lots of different options available in the world of online courses and I know that selecting the right course platform for your business can be overwhelming.

So, I recommend that you keep it simple! You should first decide the type of online course platform you will use based on your broad requirements and your tech skills.

You can then evaluate the platforms within that category based on their features, your specific requirements, and your budget.

As discussed previously, hosted online course platforms work best for most course creators and you can explore them first before moving to the options in other categories.

Do you have any questions about any of these platforms? Which platform do you think will work the best for you and why? Please leave a comment below and let us know.

Disclaimer: I am using affiliate links within this post, so if you do want to go purchase any of these solutions, clicking a link will pass me off a little commission (without costing you anything extra)!