Best Online Course Platforms
- What Is an Online Course Platform?
- What Are the Different Types of Online Course Platforms?
- Key Features to Look For in an Online Course Platform
- The Best Online Course Platforms
- Four Key Tips for Creating a Successful Course
- Final Thoughts
In recent years, there has been massive growth in online course platforms. People are looking for ways to learn new skills or improve on existing talents without needing to take outside classes.
By using online course platforms, individuals are able to learn everything from photography to marketing, with more courses becoming available all the time.
Simply put, an online course platform is an internet-based space that offers users the opportunity to build online courses, interactive assignments, quizzes and webinars. These are then paid for and used by individuals wanting to learn whatever the course teaches.
There are a variety of platforms to choose from, aiming to cater to all the different types of courses people want to create and take.
When trying to decide which one to use, it is worth considering what your aims are with your course, who your target audience will be and which platform can best fulfill your requirements.
Standalone platforms are primarily targeted towards solo entrepreneurs and small business owners who want to be able to create their own branded courses.
These platforms will often offer a similar range of features when compared to those offered by others. However, the look and feel of a standalone platform can be quite unique.
Many will also offer free trials, which can be a great way of trying out a platform before committing to a payment plan.
An all-in-one platform is essentially the swiss army knife of online course platforms.
Not only will such platforms provide you with the tools you need for creating your online course, but you will also be able to access features such as web content and customer relationship management tools.
While most online course platforms can be used by all types and sizes of businesses, larger businesses may find that they need something a little more.
This could be because they are wanting to increase their capacity for sales, need to be able to award course credits, already have an established catalog that they wish to extend without limits or because they need the option to create separate login portals for different clients.
Extended enterprise options are also useful when it comes to giving course creators more in-depth analysis functions.
In recent years, various online marketplace options have popped up that will not only allow you to build your course but also help you to market and sell it.
Bundling the marketing into the course creation platform means you only have to use one place for both aspects, making it quicker to learn.
With more options becoming available all the time, there is something for everyone.
Wordpress is a popular tool for building websites, blogs and other online spaces.
The vast array of plugins also means that it is well-suited to creating online courses, as someone will likely have created a plugin that does what you need or you can code your own.
This is particularly useful if you are planning on selling your course material via your own website. You will need a certain level of technical skill, though, before embarking on this route.
Moodle is a system often used in academic contexts to provide distance-learning or bonus content outside of lectures.
It offers different plugins and platforms depending on your needs and can be used by individuals as well as institutions.
Their plugins can be particularly useful if your course contains languages formatted very differently from English (for example, Chinese or Arabic).
If your content is best delivered via a screen, then it is worth considering one of the many video platforms.
While most platforms will allow you to create and upload video content as part of your course, not all of them will be able to provide a fully mobile- or app-friendly delivery of those videos.
Video platforms often have functions such as streaming directly to a TV or being available on multiple systems.
Courses that function best on these sorts of platforms include fitness courses and musical tuition.
With each platform offering a slightly different approach and variety of features, it is important to find one that suits you and your needs. There are a few things to consider when trying to decide which platform to use:
Not every course will need to be hosted via a learning management system (LMS), but they can be useful for more academic content.
Platforms with an LMS will generally be more detailed than alternative systems and may offer extra features such as more detailed analytics.
Consider what features you would like to have, such as interactive quizzes, videos, downloadable files or a forum for learners to chat with each other.
Does your chosen platform have the ability to provide these features?
Also, consider whether the platform offers features that you wouldn’t use. While it is good to have options, it can be a waste if you choose a platform that you won’t use to its full potential, especially if you are paying.
Make sure that your chosen platform offers affordable fees and payment options that work for you.
Some platforms will charge an outright fee, whereas others may charge a percentage of each course you sell.
Consider what you will be able to afford in the long term. Perhaps shy away from building a course through a free trial if you know you would not be able to afford the full price – it would just be a waste of energy.
If you are wanting to integrate your course across your email or social media marketing, make sure that this is something your online course platform can do.
Steps to accessing your content, such as clicking through to a different website and having to sign up for an account, act as barriers that many visitors will not bother to go through.
The fewer clicks potential customers have to make to access your course, the more likely they will see it, and views are what get you sales.
Genuinely read the terms and conditions before committing to an online course platform.
Some of them may have limitations on the types or content of courses that can be sold or where in the world you or your customers can be.
Others may restrict whether you are able to customize or add new features to existing courses.
How easy is the platform to use?
This is not only important for you as the course builder, but also a valuable thing to consider for your potential clients.
If you have never built a course before, then you will want a platform that is easy to use and doesn’t require advanced knowledge of coding or website building. Ideally, it would have adjustable templates with basic functions good to go.
If you are more experienced, you may prefer the freedom of being able to program your own course despite it taking more effort.
When considering your customer experience, think about how intuitive it is for them to navigate the course and whether they will be able to find what they are looking for. A well-written tutorial can be a useful boon for more complicated platforms with more features.
Customer support is vital when it comes to any business. This is no different when thinking about creating your online course.
If you have issues with functionality or creating the course you want, then you will want to make sure that there is customer support available at times and in ways that suit you.
Price: $49–$499 per month, with discounts for paying annually
Thinkific is a popular site, often used on places like Fiverr, with automated marketing and email features.
It offers customizable course websites, where you can send your course all in one go or drip-fed over a number of weeks.
You can offer your students certificates after course completion, which they can access through the customizable student dashboard. You can also send images and videos to their dashboards.
There is a free trial to test the platform out.
Price: $39–$299 per month, with discounts for paying annually
Teachable is targeted towards beginner course creators, with an easy setup and no limits on the number of students or the number of courses and coaching services you offer.
You can give your students completion certificates, and higher levels include graded quizzes, measures of course compliance and group course calls. All plan levels allow you to drip feed course content.
Bear in mind the $39/month plan comes with an additional 5% transaction fee.
Price: $29–$299 per month, with discounts for paying annually
The first on the list to offer explicit mobile support, Learnworlds has an app for both iOS and Android. You can also integrate your course with social media platforms.
You can offer courses for free to tempt people in, and people will get certificates upon completion.
It offers 24/7 support and comprehensive analytics.
Price: $39–$179 per month, with a discount for paying yearly
Pre-orders are one of Podia’s features, letting people book into your courses before launch.
You can drip-feed students the course material to help give them time to properly digest it, along with the ability to host webinars when your course requires a more intensive session.
Podio offers a 14–day free trial and no transaction fees. It also has 24/7 support for all tier levels.
Price: $16.50–$30.75 per month, billed at $199–$369 per year
LearnDash is a WordPress plugin, meaning it can integrate with your pre-existing site. It also offers easy email campaigns to bring new students in and keep in touch with current ones.
The comprehensive course builder includes a grade book feature that gives all participants an overall grade based on their scores, with averages for teachers to review. Students also get points, badges and certificates for participation.
It has a 30–day money-back guarantee on all their plans.
Price: no subscription fee
Udemy does not charge a monthly subscription fee; instead, it takes a commission on each course you sell. This is good if you have a course that sells irregularly and you don’t want the monthly bill, but you could lose out on profit with a popular course.
The commission varies depending on how students find your course – using a link from you, Udemy takes a 3% commission, while if someone signs up through their marketplace, they take a 63% commission.
There are marketing features to get your course out there. Further perks can be found through their affiliate program, which is a curated collection of their most popular courses.
It also offers 24/7 customer support, if their extensive amount of helpful articles aren’t quite enough.
Udemy is very popular with learners, as many businesses use it to train their employees, so there is a big marketplace available to you.
Skillshare makes its money by charging learners a membership fee to access most of its content, so it does not need to charge teachers. Instead, you will be paid royalties based on how many people watch your course.
All Skillshare courses are video-based, with the option to offer projects for learners to complete and post on the message board.
Therefore, it is best suited to course creators looking to offer creative content, although there are other subjects available too, such as business and personal development.
Its user base is extensive, meaning you will already have a large audience before you market yourself further.
Unfortunately, there is no live-chat support; help is only available via email.
LinkedIn Learning is unique among online course platforms – you have to apply with a sample film, and it is only if you are accepted that you can create a course.
You will be paid in royalties, including an advance during course creation.
In this way, it is more like working as a freelancer than developing a passive income stream as you may be required to make a certain number of courses or be available to film updates.
LinkedIn Learning is well-suited to professionals who are comfortable in front of a camera, as all the courses are video-based, and who have made courses before. It is not recommended for beginner course creators. Advanced video-editing skills are not required, as LinkedIn has engineers to do that for you.
It is recommended to have a good LinkedIn profile when you apply.
Its main audience is business-focused professionals who have paid for a LinkedIn Premium membership, although it is also available to many libraries and institutions.
You will be able to offer certification of completion to your students
Four Key Tips for Creating a Successful Course
While you can technically make a course about anything you want, if you are hoping to sell it then you will need to make sure that you are covering a topic people want to learn about.
Popular topics include musical skills, fitness, cookery, technological skills and social media.
What is it that you want people to gain from this course and how will you evaluate whether or not they have achieved this?
Make this clear in your course outline and marketing material. People are going to be more willing to pay for a product when they know how it will benefit them.
You could be teaching the most valuable course in the world, but if it isn’t engaging then people aren’t going to buy it.
Make sure that your content is engaging.
The best courses will have a combination of learning and teaching methods such as video content, visuals, community learning areas and an attractive layout.
Targeting the right people is just as valuable as any other aspect of your course-building process.
Consider your ideal client: where do they spend their online time? What are they interested in? How will you market your course towards them?
Making sure that you are targeting your course at the right people maximizes the potential for interest and sign-ups.
When choosing to create an online course, there are a lot of things to consider.
But, no matter what and how you decide to teach, the most important thing is for it to be a subject you are passionate about.
By choosing something that you know well and are enthusiastic about teaching, you will be able to create a better and more developed course.