21 of the Best Online Course Platforms (and Counting)
Online courses are a rapidly expanding industry and will continue to grow as more and more students turn to online learning. This is terrific news for anyone who wants to share their knowledge with others and make a profit.
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 course platforms exist, and each one can offer you something different. The best online course platform for your needs will depend on things like the content of your course, tech knowledge, your target audience, budget and ultimate goals.
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 article, I draw on my experience of working with hundreds of course creators to share some of the best online course platform options that you have as a course creator.
(I plan to keep this post updated as much as possible as new online course solutions are launched and new features are added to the existing ones.)
You can also download my free guide that will help you select the right online course platform for your business.
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 find the best online learning platform to share your e-course with your audience.
1. Hosted Online Course Platforms - These platforms are more geared towards smaller businesses and solo entrepreneurs. Their USP is that they allow you to create & sell online courses under your own brand but they take away the hassles of creating & running a website.
A hosted online course platform will be right for you if:
Hosted course platforms allow you to get started pretty quickly and they will work very well for more than 90% of the course creators.
2. Self-Hosted WordPress Platform - WordPress can be used to create all types of websites including course websites.
Compared to hosted course solutions, creating & selling courses on WordPress requires you to be more tech-savvy.You will need to take care of site maintenance and security on an ongoing basis. However, WordPress will offer you more flexibility in terms of what you can and can't do.
WordPress is the right course creation software for you if you have prior experience of working with WordPress or you have a team of WordPress experts to support you.
3. Online Course Marketplaces - Online course marketplaces allow you to list your courses on their platform. They provide you the infrastructure to host & sell your courses, they also actively help you with the 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 platform's policies, customer information, your branding etc.
Marketplaces are a good option to sell your courses if you're just getting started and want to test your idea or if you're looking to build an additional sales channel for your courses.
4. 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.
Hosted Online Course Platforms
First, we’ll take a look at a few of the top hosted learning platforms out there. These are going to be the best options for most people.
Teachable is a robust course platform that allows you to create your course website, host & protect your content, hide it behind a paywall, deliver the content to the students and further engage with them, and you can do all this even if you have no coding skills.
Most importantly, it ensures you can focus your attention on creating the best content and selling it while Teachable takes care of the heavy-lifting technical support behind the scenes.
Teachable is the most popular hosted online course platform. It currently has over 20,000 instructors which translate to about 5 million students and over $100 million earned by the teachers.
Teachable is very reasonably priced and is great for just about any educator. You can either create a free account on Teachable or you can get a free trial of one of their paid plans (starting at $39/mo).
Thinkific is another popular online learning platform that allows you to create & sell online courses from their own website. Thinkific is very similar to Teachable as far as features and pricing are concerned.
Once you sign up for Thinkific, you can quickly setup your course website and start marketing and selling your courses. Thinkific also offers very good customer support that will help you all along your journey.
You can use their platform for free while paying 10% of all transactions to them. Or, you can upgrade to different monthly memberships that could remove the commission altogether.
Kajabi is an all-in-one solution that allows you to do more than just selling online courses. They allow you to create full-fledged sales funnels, create a blog and run membership sites in addition to selling online courses.
Kajabi is the right course platform for you if you're more focused on marketing than on learning experience and student engagement as Kajabi at this point doesn't have basic LMS features like quizzes and certificates.
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. Kajabi is much pricier compared to both Teachable and Thinkific and is a good option for you only if you're making enough money already.
One of Ruzuku’s central promises is allowing users to create content as well as engage with their students. It is another platform that doesn’t require the user to have a lot of technical know-how, which can be good if you’re just getting started.
This platform will help you through the complete process of creating your course and putting it online. They have a free 14-day trial that gives you unlimited access. After that, you can choose from the three monthly plans (starting at $99/mo).
#5: Zippy Courses
This platform started out as a WordPress plugin but as it grew big enough transitioned into a hosted course platform. That said, the creator of this platform began by making his own e-courses and knows exactly what to provide online educators and entrepreneurs.
You can create and market your content all in one place, which are the two main components of successful e-courses. There is no free trial, but you can choose from two plans starting at $99/mo.
Coach (now Podia) is a new entrant in the hosted online course platform (they're still pretty small) that allows you to create & sell online courses under your own brand. With Coach, you can actually sell more than just your course, including memberships, PDF’s, e-books, and templates.
Coach will also transfer your existing content to their site for free, so if you want to move one of your courses on another platform, that is a nice feature. You can choose between three plans, paid monthly or annually, and they offer a 30-day free trial for you to evaluate this online course creation software.
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.
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.
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 and the Infinity Bundle costs $699/year. You can also try one of these bundles for $1.
This WordPress plugin is one of the top choices for many businesses that operate on a WordPress site. LearnDash has plenty of features to give you total control over your courses. You can design the course to your standards and engage with students, create forums, and give out awards and certificates.
LearnDash also makes it easy to monetize your offerings and manage all the behind the scenes work. This plugin is also popular with universities and training organizations, so it has the trust of many established entities.
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.
#3: WP Courseware
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. You can use existing content on your WordPress site to make your course, so you keep the continuity of your brand.
Unlike LearnDash and LifterLMS, WP Courseware doesn't have integrated e-commerce capabilities. So, you will need to use separate plugins to charge for your courses.
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 $99 and topping out at $175.
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.
#5: CoursePress Pro
If you have a WPMU DEV membership, then you might want to consider using CoursePress because it is free for the members. This plugin is heavy on the features which are an essential thing for educators that want to have complete control over their e-course. CoursePress also features what they call Upfront themes that have everything done for you.
You just enter your course information, and you are ready to teach. This plugin also encourages student interaction and engages the class with the instructor through embedded video and audio files, downloadable project files, and group discussions. CoursePress is a complete LMS built by online educators for online educators.
LearnPress is a nice option for instructors that have never used a learning management system before. The initial setup is simple, and you can create curriculum that includes lessons and quizzes along with simple management and an easy to use interface.
The reason many new teachers start with this plugin is because it is free to use, and they have guided tutorials to get you going. If your e-course and business begin to grow, you can purchase add-ons to help market and teach your course. You can also buy themes that cater to specific educators like teachers or coaches. These themes cost between $59 and $64 each.
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 support in sales & marketing. Here are a few of the top options out there:
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.
You can use Udemy for free and simply create an online course with the knowledge you want to share. After that, you can market you 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.
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.
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, this marketplace 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.
Lynda is a little different than other online teaching platforms because it isn’t open to anyone that wants to sell an online course. Lynda accepts proposals for potential content and classes, but they might not take each one.
If you have an innovative idea for an e-course, you can send in your proposal and then the content managers will go over everything. If your idea is accepted, then the content managers will work with you to create your course and offer their full support. Lynda is a LinkedIn company, so they have a lot of resources and can market your course to a large population.
StackSkills is the platform for courses sold on Skillwise, StackSocial, Citizen Goods, and other partner sites. They have 230+ instructors who teach 500+ courses to 350k students on their platform.
The courses cover a wide range of topics including programming, digital marketing, web & app development, cyber security, video production etc.
To sell courses on the platform, you need to email [email protected] and tell them about your expertise.
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 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.
Coggno is another wonderful marktplace for those who offer trainings and courses targeted at businesses and companies. If you haven’t made any courses and want to get started, Coggno can guide you through everything in a simple easy to understand tutorial.
Once your course is ready, they can put it on their marketplace to sell, or you can take it elsewhere to sell, which is a nice option. You can also upload any content you have already made to sell on their market.
Private businesses and companies can also get a secure and private LMS for their employees to use for training or testing purposes. If you use Coggno that way, you only pay for the content you use. Otherwise, plans start at $24.95 per month in addition to 10% of any sales.
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.
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.
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 from your course.
TalentLMS's pricing starts at $39 per month and there are multiple plans you can choose from.
Litmos is another cloud-based learning management system that is a great option for large companies looking for a trusted provider. This platform is optimal for employee training, customer training, compliance training, and partner training.
You can engage with your trainees through apps available for both Android and iOS, and all information and data has enterprise-grade security. You can use the free trial to see how everything operates and see if it will work for your company. After the free trial, you can choose from a variety of plans and pricing based on the number of users you have.
#3: Digital Chalk
DigitalChalk is 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.
These are some of the other solutions that don't fit into any of the categories listed above but can turn out to be an useful option for your online course business depending on your requirements.
#1: Course Merchant
Course Merchant is a more of an e-commerce application/shopping cart, which seamlessly integrates with popular learning management systems like Moodle, Totara, Brightspace etc.
So, if you're already using any of these LMSs, Course Merchant can be a great option for you to add powerful sales capabilities to your existing LMS without switching to a full-fledged LMS like TalentLMS.
Course Merchant supports multiple payment gateways and allows you to sell course bundles, create discount coupons, handle tax at checkout and most importantly gives your students instant access to the course(s) upon successful purchase.
As you can see, there are countless options available in the world of online courses and the right solution for your business depends on your specific requirements, your audience and your budget.
And I know that selecting the right course platform for you and your business can be overwhelming. So, you can download my free guide and that will help you find the best solution quickly without spending hours.
And please leave a comment below if you have any questions about any online course solution.