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?

Are you struggling to choose the right online course platform for your business? 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 teaching platforms that fit into a few categories.

Each of these platform types 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 provide you the infrastructure and the tools to ​create and sell online courses under your own brand.

The biggest upside of using hosted solutions is that you can build your course website without requiring to use 20 different plugins or, without worrying about the techy stuff like hosting, maintenance, security and updates.

The hosted platforms are supposed to be easy to use and they allow you to get started pretty quickly.

As a result, you can focus on creating content and selling it rather than building and managing your website or, handling tech issues.

Hosted Online Course Platforms - Easy to Use

A good hosted course solution should offer all the essential features that an average course creator would need and so, they work very well for a majority of the creators.

In order to create a course and sell it through WordPress, you’ll need what is called an LMS plugin. These plugins allow you to organize your content and deliver it to your students in a user-friendly way.

WordPress Logo

The biggest upside of using WordPress for building a course website is that it offers you unlimited flexibility in terms of features and functionality for your courses.

However, creating & selling courses on WordPress requires you to be more tech-savvy. 

Unlike hosted course platforms, you'll need to go through a not-so-easy installation and setup process that involves at the very least, a hosting provider, a theme, several plugins, and video hosting.

Plus, you will need to take care of site maintenance, performance, and security on an ongoing basis, which can be overwhelming for many course creators.

While WordPress is ideal for running your blog, I recommend that you use it as your online course 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 not just the infrastructure to host & sell your courses but they also actively help you with sales & marketing.

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% and this is where they differ from the hosted platforms and the WordPress LMS plugins.

As far as I am concerned, revenue share is less of an issue for me. The bigger issue is that you don’t get access to your students’ email addresses and so, you don’t get to build your audience.

Plus, you have little control over the platform’s policies, your branding, course pricing etc. which makes marketplaces a bad option for selling courses in the long term.

So, marketplaces are a good option to sell your courses if you're just getting started and want to test waters, or maybe 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

These are more sophisticated than the other categories of online course solutions we discussed previously and most solopreneurs or smaller businesses won't require one.

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

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. Kajabi

Kajabi is an all-in-one online course platform that allows you to build a beautiful course website, host all types of content including videos, market and sell your courses, deliver your content professionally and further engage your students.

As far as course delivery and student engagement is concerned, Kajabi does an excellent great job! It's course area has the most attractive design among all the platforms that I have used and it gives a premium look and feel to your courses.

Apart from all the essential course creation features, it offers some powerful features like assessments (quizzes and assignments), automations, learning paths, site announcements etc. which will help you to create a great learning experience for your students.

What is Kajabi

When it comes to site building, Kajabi has the most to offer of all hosted online course platforms. It has a library of 10+ pre-built site themes which you can choose from and you can further build and customize your site with it's easy-to-use yet powerful page builder. You can also create and run a fully-fledged blog on the Kajabi platform itself.

Finally, Kajabi really takes it to the next level with it's sales & marketing features. Kajabi has what it calls the sales pipeline builder that allows you to easily create entire workflows including landing pages for getting new leads, launching your product, doing webinars or making sales.

It also has inbuilt capabilities for email marketing automation which allows you to follow up with your leads or send them automated sales emails.

Kajabi's pricing starts from $149/mo and their most popular plan costs $199/mo. Whether you choose the lowest pricing tier or the highest one, Kajabi doesn't charge you any transaction fees.

Kajabi Pricing

Kajabi is certainly not the cheapest online course solution out there and it's starting price is pretty steep. So, it might not work for you if you just want to test waters or if you're on a tight budget.

That being said, Kajabi is the most feature-rich online course platform out there and for everything that it has to offer, it is really worth the price. 

Pros of Kajabi

  • Easy to use and setup.
  • Allows you to create an entire website as well as run a blog.
  • The course area/player is very well designed and gives a premium feel.
  • Offers engagement tools like automations, site announcements, assessments, learning paths etc.
  • Powerful sales & marketing features including ability to create sales funnels, automate email marketing etc.
  • check
    Offers 24/7 Live Chat Support.

Cons of Kajabi

  • The starting price is pretty steep.
  • ban
    Doesn't allow you to create certificates natively.
  • Doesn't handle EU VAT.

2. Teachable

Teachable is another popular hosted online course platform in the market that lets you create, market and sell online courses under your own brand.

Unlike Kajabi, Teachable is focused on offering only the core features for creating and selling an online course. So, it doesn't include a sales funnel builder or an email automation platform.

When it comes to course delivery, Teachable allows you to add multiple content types including videos and quizzes to your course, create certificates natively and it also has a very well designed course player which together result in a great learning experience for the students.

Teachable Online Course Platform

It also offers powerful sales & marketing features like coupons, highly optimized 1-step checkout process, 1-click upsells, EU VAT handling, as well as affiliate marketing features.

However, Teachable's site building capabilities are limited. While it does have an easy-to-use drag-and-drop page builder, it doesn't have any site themes which makes customizing the look and feel of your course website difficult.

That being said, Teachable is super easy to use and setup and you can build an online school and start selling courses through the platform even if you have zero or little technical skills.

As far as pricing is concerned, Teachable is very reasonably priced. You can start with their free plan if you're getting started or you can upgrade to their Basic Plan ($39/mo + 5% transaction fees) or, to the Professional Plan ($99/mo + 0% transaction fees) in order to get more features.

What I like the most about Teachable's pricing is that it doesn't put any restriction on the number of students or the number of courses you can have on any of their plans.

Teachable Pricing

While Teachable will work for just about any course creator, Teachable's ease of use combined with it's flexible pricing makes it an ideal platform for beginners. 

Pros of Teachable

  • Super easy to use and setup.
  • Professional course player design.
  • Powerful sales & marketing features including highly optimized checkout process, 1-click upsells etc.
  • 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.

3. Thinkific

Thinkific is another robust solution for creating & selling online courses. In fact, it is very similar to Teachable in terms of features and pricing.

When it comes to site building, Thinkific offers a bunch of themes and a powerful site builder that lets you build a good-looking website and create sales pages easily, without requiring to write any code.

Thinkific Course Platform

One area where Thinkific shines is course delivery & student engagement. It lets you add multiple content types including videos, quizzes, text, PDF, surveys etc. to your course, drip your course content, issue certificates as well as create learning paths with prerequisites and lesson locking.

The best part though is that you can create advanced quizzes natively which includes features like questions banks, randomization etc. 

However, Thinkific doesn't perform a good job when it comes to sales & marketing features. Unlike Teachable, the platform doesn't handle EU VAT, the checkout process is not optimized, and the upsell capability is pretty basic as well.

Also, the course area is not well designed from an user experience point of view and it doesn't look that professional.

As far as pricing is concerned, you can use their core features like content hosting for free. Or, you can upgrade to their Basic plan ($49/mo) or their PRO Plan ($99/mo) to get more features.

Thinkific's pricing is pretty reasonable, however, it can increase sharply if you need features like white labeling, bulk emailing, webhooks etc. which are available as part of their Growth Package Add-on that costs $0.1 per active student (first 100 students are free).

Thinkific Pricing

Like Teachable, Thinkific also doesn't include a sales funnel builder or an email marketing platform and is focused on offering core features for creating and selling online courses.

Pros of Thinkific

  • Powerful site themes and page builder.
  • Supports more advanced quiz elements.
  • Beginner friendly pricing with zero transaction fees on all plans.
  • check
    Friendly customer support.

Cons of Thinkific

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

4. LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is another online course platform that offers a lot of features for creating . great learning experience for your students..

It offers a lot of tools and features for interactive learning: Interactive Video Player, Interactive E-book Reader, Advanced Quiz Capabilities, Social Learning etc.

However, LearnWorlds doesn't do a good job when it comes to appearance and design and it's site/page building capabilities are really limited. The course area is also not very well designed from a user experience perspective.

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds' pricing starts at $29/month where you have to pay $5 as transaction fees for every sale or, you can upgrade to their $99/month plan in order to avoid paying a transaction fees. However, do note that LearnWorlds doesn't offer a free plan as Teachable and Thinkific do.

Check Out LearnWorlds

5. Podia

Podia (previously Coach) is a new entrant in the hosted online course platform market. that lets you create & sell online courses and other digital products like memberships, PDFs, e-books, and templates.

Online Course and Membership Site Builder

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 Kajabi/Teachable, you should check out Podia. However, do note that they don't offer a free plan.

Check Out Podia

6. Academy of Mine

Academy of Mine is another (not so popular) option for creating and selling 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 $199/month and you'll need to upgrade to their $299/month plan if you want to sell subscriptions or share revenue with other teachers on your website. 

Check Out Academy of Mine

Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Are you struggling to choose the right online course platform for your business? 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 WordPress, 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 All-in-One WordPress LMS Plugin

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 Powerful LMS Plugin

However, LearnDash has a steeper learning curve and is more complex to setup and use than LifterLMS. Plus, it only has basic in-built shopping cart functionality which would require you to use another plugin like WooCommerce for shopping cart.

LearnDash is very reasonably priced and is less expensive than LifterLMS. You can purchase their Basic plan for $199/year (1 Site License) or go Pro for $369/year (25 Sites License) 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.

WP Courseware Easy to Use LMS Plugin

However, WP Courseware isn't as feature-rich as either LifterLMS or LearnDash and should work for you if you're looking to create a simple course website.

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/year and topping out at $249/year.

Check Out WP Courseware

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?

Are you struggling to choose the right online course platform for your business? 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. iSpring Learn

iSpring Learn is another powerful learning management system that helps large companies train their employees by offering features like learning paths, advanced gamification, user management and detailed tracking and reporting. 

iSpring Learn - Advanced Learning Management System

With iSpring Learn, you'll be able to see employee progress, set goals for the company, and measure the impact of your training and change what isn’t working.

It also has a mobile app that will allow your employees to take learning courses even while traveling or even without an internet connection.

iSpring Learn is one of the best learning management systems for corporates and is used by the likes of PWC and Unilever.

Prices for training employees start at $167 per month (50 Active Users) and go to $677 per month (250 Active Users). If you need more active users, you can request a custom pricing for the LMS.

Online Course Platform Quiz

What Online Course Platform Should I Use?

Are you struggling to choose the right online course platform for your business? 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.

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.
Integrated Online Course Platform

Integrated Online Course Platforms

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 like Udemy.

#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.

Deliver Awesome Learning Experience to Your Students

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.

For example, ClickFunnels allows you to create an online course but it doesn't offer many of these essential features and that's the reason I don't recommend using it for your online courses or membership site.

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.

Plays well with third party tools

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 or a free trial?

#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.

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)!