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10 Best Online Course Platforms (2021)

One of the best ways to make money online is by using your knowledge to create a course on one of many online course platforms and sell it to your audience. It seems simple on the surface, because all of the information is already in your mind, ready to share with students. But you need to find the best online course platforms to get that content out there.

Types of Online Course Platforms

Knowing that you want to host an online course isn’t enough because there are different types of online learning platforms. Within each broad category, there are further features you want to look for to suit your needs.

Dedicated Online Course Platforms

Dedicated online course platforms are the most popular option for creating online courses and online schools. You’re able to retain the rights to all of your content, and you have some flexibility in customization of how your course’s home looks.

If you already have your content compiled, all you need is a host from a platform like LearnWorlds, Teachable, or Thinkific.

All-in-One Online Course Platforms

All-in-One course platforms are a step above the dedicated course platforms. Just as the name says, these platforms give you everything you need in one web space. If you don’t already have a website, you’ll want an all-in-one host who can give you a site along with your courses.

To build on your existing courses, an all-in-one platform also gives you options to lead webinars, send marketing emails, and more. Examples include Kartra and Podia.

E-Learning Plugins

E-learning plugins are perfect if you already have a website and want to keep your course on your domain. This means your audience will be able to find your course without having to navigate to an external site.

These plugins are the easiest to use if you already have some technical knowledge and have created or updated your website. There’s a little more work on the front end if you choose these plugins optimized for WordPress, like Learndash and Sensei, but you benefit from keeping traffic on your site.

Online Course Platforms – Marketplaces

Online course marketplaces are existing hosts that allow you to upload your course to their catalog. The platforms often give you all the tools you need to create your content so it’s streamlined for their site. This is beneficial because you have a built-in audience of potential students who can find your course as they browse the host’s offerings.

These hosts take a larger portion of your earnings, but since you’ll have exposure to a broader audience, you have a good chance at making up the difference. Examples of these marketplaces include Skillshare and Udemy.

Enterprise LMS Platforms

The first four types of online course platforms help individual entrepreneurs who want to sell their courses to a broad audience. If you’re a business owner who wants to share knowledge with your employees, the previous options might offer a lot of features you don’t need.

Larger companies who want to create internal courses to share with their staff will want to use enterprise LMS platforms. Businesses can upload training documents for employees to cut down on the human resource and in-person training aspects of new hires. WizIQ is a great option for this service.

What You Should Look For in an Online Course Platform

The five types of online course platforms can suit a variety of needs, so it’s important to know not only the broad definitions of the types but also the specific features you need.

Ease of Use

Ease of use is twofold when it comes to creating online courses. First, you want to pick a platform that is easy for you to use as the creator. You need to be able to upload your coursework and videos without trouble. You should be able to easily update the information when it’s necessary.

Your course platform should also be easy for students to use. They should be able to access the information without technical difficulties. This will allow them to forget they’re in an online course and simply get lost in your materials.

Appearance

Appearance is crucial for online courses. You want a host that provides a professional-looking platform. You should be able to customize the layout and colors to a certain extent because the course is an extension of your brand.

Ease of use also factors into appearance. You want your course’s homepage to be easy to navigate with a clearly labeled menu, site map, links, and more.

Tech Support

Even if you select the online course platform that is the easiest to use, you’ll most likely still need tech support for one thing or another. You’ll want to check out the options of tech support that are available for each platform.

Having several ways to contact tech support can help your course be accessible for more users. You’ll be able to use a chatbot, email, or phone number to contact the host for help. Make sure they’re available plenty of hours across weekdays and weekends as well. You don’t want a problem to strike on Friday evening and leave you stranded without help until Monday morning.

Cost

Cost is a huge consideration when you’re launching online courses. You want to make sure that you won’t be paying more for the platform than you’ll make selling your course. Most hosts offer free trials so you can test the platform before paying for it. Taking advantage of these trials is a great way to ensure you’re getting what you need.

Once you invest in a course, you want to be sure that the monthly payments are manageable and stay constant over time. Read the user agreement to see if you’re expected to pay more as your enrollment increases. Sometimes a deal sounds good on the surface, but small fees can add up.

Special Features

Special features offered by the best online learning platforms include third-party integrations. This means you can link your email newsletter, payment options, and other apps right to your course homepage.

Marketing automation is a major special feature that can elevate your course. You can customize these options to auto reply to emails and comments so your platform is active and engaging.

Best Online Course Platforms

We’ve listed the ten best online course platforms below. In consideration of the five broad types of platforms, we’ve outlined multiple options so you can find the one that best suits your topic.

Learnworlds

LearnWorlds is a dedicated course platform that gives you the chance to upload video instructions while providing perks to your students. These perks include note-taking apps, engaging ebooks, and methods of self-assessment.

After you upload video content, LearnWorlds will create a table of contents and provide transcriptions so your material will be accessible to everyone. The platform can also pull information from the video and convert it into quizzes.

The platform uses a drag and drop builder so you don’t need any HTML knowledge to create an attractive, easy-to-use course home. They have templates available so you can pick a foundation and add your content to it.

LearnWorlds is set up where you can sell single courses to your audience or sign them up for recurring memberships. If you’re new to course creation, LearnWorlds offers a plan for $24 a month. Before you commit, take advantage of their 30-day free trial.

Teachable

Teachable is another dedicated course platform that provides you scripts, templates, and assistance so you can quickly get your course ready to sell. This platform has a great reputation, with over 100,000 content creators selling more than $1 billion in courses.

Speaking of making money—Teachable handles all of that for you. They offer assistance with taxes, payouts, subscriptions, and more. This frees you up to create unique content that will make your courses stand out.

Regardless of your plan level, you’re able to have unlimited students enrolled in your class. To start with a basic account, you’ll pay $29 a month. When you scale up your courses, you’ll get a major discount on your monthly fees by signing up for an annual plan. You can try Teachable free for 14 days.

online course platforms - Thinkific
image credit: Thinkific

Thinkific

Another favorite dedicated course platform is Thinkific. With this platform, you can host video lessons, allow downloads, access discussion boards, and connect Google Docs. You don’t need any tech skills to use their drag and drop builder, but if you have HTML knowledge, you have the opportunity to code your homepage.

This platform supports over 30 different languages, so your content can be accessible to students worldwide. The management dashboard connects to Google and Facebook so you can easily promote ads and track analytics.

Thinkific offers a 14-day free trial for creators. In that time, you’re able to create one course and see how the platform operates. The basic plan is $39 a month, which is higher than LearnWorlds and Teachable but for a good reason. Thinkific only makes money through your hosting fee; they don’t take a cut of any of your profits.

kartra online course platform
image credit: Kartra

Kartra

Kartra is an all-in-one online course platform that allows you to sell products in a marketplace alongside your courses. Interactive calendars and forms help you keep your courses organized. Students can also use these features to take control of their learning experience.

It offers different marketing options so you can track customers and offer them deals that will make them recurring customers. There’s also a membership option on this platform so you can sell to customers right on your course homepage.

A major perk of using Kartra is their affiliate program. You can monetize your courses and host an affiliate program to not only promote your content but also inspire customers to get involved and help you sell your information.

Signing up for an annual starter plan will cost you $79 a month. You’ll get plenty of pages and video space to upload multiple courses. You can also sell up to 20 products on this plan. If you’re not sure, try a 14-day trial for $1 and see all that Kartra has to offer.

Podia online learning platform
image credit: Podia

Podia

Podia bills itself as your all-in-one digital shop because you can sell courses, webinars, and digital downloads from one homepage. It’s a step above the other platforms because of its live chat option, meaning you can interact one-on-one with your students without leaving the course page.

Another perk to Podia is their tech support is available seven days a week, even for their basic plan. Most platforms only offer this level of support at higher-tiered plans. The basic plan is $39 a month, but you can test Podia with a 14-day free trial.

Learndash home page
image credit: Learndash

Learndash

If you already have a site hosted with WordPress, you’ll want to try the e-learning plugin Learndash. Universities and large corporations use this plugin, and it ranks in the top 20 training software by Capterra.

Learndash elevates online learning by sending students email reminders about coursework and quizzes. It also connects to other apps like Slack, ConvertKit, and various payment platforms. Instead of asking your audience to visit a new site and create a new account, you’re able to integrate everything into this plugin on your existing domain.

A basic plan for Learndash is $159 a year. There are no free trials, but you have a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can test the plugin and ensure it will work for your content./

Sensei home page
image credit: Sensei

Sensei

Sensei is another e-learning plugin that allows you to host courses, quizzes, and videos on your existing WordPress site. Since it links up with your website, your chosen theme will carry over to your course and quizzes.

Set up course prerequisites and renew student memberships on your site. Sensei also gives you information about traffic, student retention, grades, certificates, and more.

You can add the plugin to your site for free, but all the content you create with this version will be free to your students. To sell courses, you’ll upgrade to a plan that costs $129 a year.

Skillshare

Skillshare is an online course marketplace that will host your content for you and allow you to passively earn income. You make money when users stream your courses by getting a portion of their Skillshare membership fees.

While the income is lower than if you host your courses with any of the previous examples, you’ll have less work to do in the long run. You get access to the marketplace’s built-in audience, so you don’t have to market on your own. Once you create the content, you’ll get paid monthly from Skillshare.

Skillshare memberships are $8.25 a month and allow you to not only upload your course content and earn revenue but also explore the other courses available on the platform. You can start with a free trial for 14 days.

Udemy home page
image credit: Udemy

Udemy

Udemy is a popular online course marketplace that is free to use. When you sell your courses, a portion of your income pays Udemy before you earn any money. It’s a great platform to use to get started because you don’t have to pay any fees upfront.

With Udemy, you get access to a built-in audience of over 35 million students! There are courses available on any topic you can imagine, so you have the freedom to explore all of your knowledge and share it with others.

You can structure your courses however you want with help from the site’s creator dashboard. After you get used to Udemy’s layout, you can charge money for your courses and start earning money.

WizIQ home page
image credit: WizIQ

WizIQ

WizIQ is an LMS platform geared towards internal learning, like for schools, business partners, employees, and more. You can customize your online learning platform to coordinate with your brand.

While educators might benefit most from this platform, casual users can still create courses to sell on WizIQ. Features like real-time collaboration and interactive whiteboards elevate your content from a self-paced course to an engaging educational program.

WizIQ’s site hosts all of the courses, so you don’t need a custom domain. Plans start at $25 a month and scale up according to your needs: professional, university, tutoring business, or pay-per-use. You can test the platform with a free 14-day trial.

If you’re looking for the best online learning platforms for your business, you need to find a host that offers everything you need. To offer courses alone, use a dedicated course platform. If you need a website and marketing features along with your course offerings, you’ll want an all-in-one.

To build on the existing traffic that is already visiting your website, use an e-learning plugin so you can keep your audience on your homepage even as they purchase your course. To reach students if you don’t have an audience, you can upload courses to an online marketplace.

Even bigger businesses can benefit from the best online course platforms. Enterprise LMS marketplaces allow companies to upload training documents, continuing education information, and certifications to a central platform for employees to access.

Once you figure out your platform type, you can find the best option with the features that will make your course shine. Your students will be able to get all of the information you provide and come back for more.

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