Best Online Course Platforms

5+ Best Online Course Platforms [How to Choose in 2021]

Selling online courses have become one of the most profitable online business models.

If you want to create and sell online courses that are high quality money-making assets, you have to figure out the software stack that makes the most sense for your business.

Choosing the right software out of all the best online course platforms out there can be time-consuming and involve a lot of trial and error.

Internet gurus make it seem like selling courses and making millions of dollars is somehow this easy, overnight thing that everyone achieves on the first try. (Sarcasm obviously ;))

In this post I am going to layout for you exactly:

  • The different types of online course platforms that exist.
  • What the best online course platforms are, narrowed down.
  • Give the pros and cons for each platform.
  • Help you make the best decision based on your needs.
  • And what I believe to be the best overall online course platform.

Let’s get into it…

What Are Online Course Platforms?

Online course platforms helps you create, market and sell, and manage your online course content. It is basically your virtual classroom for your online students. It is where your students get access to learning materials, videos, audio files, documents, and more.

These platforms also do a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes for your course business, because they have built-in learning management systems (LMS). Some platforms managing your video hosting, student logins, billing, payouts, and more.

Course creation software and online learning platforms have come a long way since the early days of e-learning and they keep making it easier to start and grow online course based businesses.

Different Types of Online Course Platforms

You have two major types of online course platforms:

  • The All-In-One Platform
  • The Stand-alone Platform

Let’s start by first breaking down the two different types.

What is an All-In-One Solution Course Platform?

The first type of platform is the all-in-one solution. These are the ones that are perfect for people just getting started with online courses.

And when I mean “all-in-one” I truly mean it.

These types of platforms cover every little detail for you. From course hosting, lesson URL’s, student logins, billing, affiliate management, payouts, video hosting, forgotten passwords, and everything your students could possibly need.

A lot of these solutions also have all the marketing tools you need to actually sell your course, built right into the tool.

Platforms like Kajabi, Kartra, and Clickfunnels include features such as:

  • Email Marketing
  • Up-sells, down-sells, and cross-sells
  • Landing Page Builder
  • Affiliate Management
  • Checkout carts and merchant processing

And all of these features are in addition to the standard online course features mentioned above.

Bottom Line: The all-in-one solutions are perfect for beginners without an existing website and want to build out an entire marketing engine behind their online course(s).

What is a Stand-alone Course Platform?

These platforms sometimes have overlapping features with the all-in-one platforms such as the video hosting, student management, and even billing.

The biggest difference is that stand-alone platforms focus on the student side of things and NOT the marketing side of things.

Thinkific and Teachable are examples of platforms that offer a great student experience but you have to take care of most of the marketing software stack on your own.

You typically aren’t going to have email marketing or funnel building solutions built into the product.

Bottom Line: Stand-alone platforms are great for people who are experts in their domains. For example, content creators like YouTubers, influencers, or bloggers whose primary business is NOT selling courses via funnels, email, and paid advertising.

What Are The Best Online Course Platforms?

#1 Thinkific.

Thinkific Hero

Overview

Thinkific is the top player in the online course platform space. They have an incredible easy to use product perfect for beginners who are just getting started with their online courses. They are also geared to support veterans in the space who are looking for a better all in one solution for their course business.

Pricing

Thinkific Pricing

Thinkific does a great job of having multiple price tiers for every sort of business imaginable.

From soaking wet beginners all the way to enterprise level customers, they have you covered.

Right now Thinkific is offering their PRO plan at a 20% annual discount for only $79 per month. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their plans which makes it totally risk-free for you.

Top Features

Course Hosting Features:

  • Private and hidden courses
  • Prerequisite lessons
  • Multiple instructors
  • Drip schedule content
  • Cohorts
  • Evergreen and expiring content
  • Membership sites
  • Video Hosting

Course Marketing Features

  • Drag and Drop Builder
  • Ability to use your own domain
  • Full access to the HTML and CSS

Course Billing and Payment Features

  • Accept payments without transaction fees
  • Instant Payouts
  • Accepts all major credit cards

Course Security Features

  • 99.9% uptime & 24/7 monitoring
  • Secure cloud hosting & daily backups
  • Instant access to updates
  • Built in security and SSL

Check out the entire list of features Thinkific has to offer.

Pros and Cons

PROS
  • Variety of templates and themes to choose from
  • Customizable student experience
  • Pretty close to an all-in-one solution
  • Great value for the price
  • Reliably handles the checkout and billing process.
CONS
  • Doesn’t support PayPal for recurring payments.
  • Two-step checkout process which isn’t always ideal.

Bottom Line

Thinkific is my number one recommendation for all types of online course creation. It is the perfect solution if you are just getting started out or if you have a full fledged course business already up and running.

This is coming from someone who has been working in the online course space for over 5 years. I have tried and tested every possible tool on the market and Thinkific is my number 1 recommendation.

#2 Teachable.

Overview

Teachable is one of the original online course platforms that offers tons of value for the price.

They solve some huge pain points course creators face:

  1. Easy to use course builder.
  2. Payment processing and student account management.
  3. An e-commerce store for creators to sell their courses.

From my own experience, these three pain points are massive hurdles for first-time course creators to overcome. A lot of content creators on YouTube don’t even have a proper business entity set up, making it impossible to get a merchant account in order to receive payments. And on top of that, I know very few niche content creators that would know how to build it from scratch with a WordPress LMS plugin or some other custom platform.

Their product is really built around serving content creators and experts in their field.

They offer limited marketing features (that convert anyways) and are not focused on things like order bumps, up-selling, or having a customized student experience.

Pricing

Teachables monthly plans start at only $39 which is an incredibly low price for you to create online courses. The great part about Teachable’s pricing plan is that the Pro option eliminates the transaction fees which make Teachable even better for someone selling courses for the first time.

On top of that, if you want to scale out your course sales you will never need to jump up to a higher plan. In very rare cases would you need the extra features that the Business tier adds.

Comparing Teachable’s pricing versus other course tools like Thinkific or Podia is extremely fair and in my opinion a steal for someone getting started with online courses for the first time.

Top Features

  • Unlimited video
  • Unlimited courses
  • Unlimited hosting
  • Integrated payment processing
  • Student management
  • Ability to track sales and student insights
  • Lecture comments
  • Basic quizzes
  • No fees on free courses
  • VAT (value-added tax) for EU
  • Use your own domain
  • 2048-bit SSL certificate
  • 24/7 monitoring (so no outages)

Pros and Cons

PROS
  • Unlimited Video Hosting
  • Easy to use no matter experience level.
  • Unlimited courses
  • One-click upsells
  • Conversion focused checkout process

CONS
  • Marketing page templates are weak.
  • Lack of customization within the course environment.
  • Lacking integrations with other marketing tools.

Bottom Line

Overall Teachable has a lot to offer for people who consider themselves content creators. If you are a YouTuber, Blogger, or social media influencer Teachable is the perfect online course platform for you.

If you are looking for a way to rapidly get a course live, Teachable is the route to go. Launch your course with a free trial of Teachable.

#3 LearnWorlds.

Overview

LearnWorlds is one of the best online course platforms for creating, selling, and promoting your online courses.

This platform falls under the all-in-one solution category because it offers features such as course hosting, course marketing, analytics, landing page templates, and more.

It is a robust platform that might have a bit of a learning curve, but one I think is well worth it.

Pricing

Starter Plan – Only $29/month which is perfect for someone getting started out.

Pro Trainer – Only $99/month with no transaction fees which is pretty hard to beat.

Learning Center – Only $299/month with the ability to run a massive online school.

LearnWorlds pricing is tough to beat for an all-in-one course creation platform. They have you covered from day one at only $29/month while still enabling your business to grow with their larger plans.

Top Features

Course Features

  • Customizable Course Environment
  • Unlimited video hosting
  • Drip capabilities
  • Quizzes
  • Certificates
  • Exams
  • Assignments
  • And more

Marketing Features

  • Coupons and Promotions
  • Sell memberships, subscriptions and bundles
  • Affiliate management
  • Custom Domain
  • White Label capabilities
  • Integrations with all the major marketing tools
  • Landing page templates
  • Actionable analytics

LearnWorlds has a ton to offer from a feature standpoint. I can’t even begin to get into the level of detail for everything they offer as an online learning platform. Check out the full list of features for yourself.

Pros and Cons

PROS
  • Unlimited Video Hosting
  • Zero Transaction fees (Pro plan)
  • Unlimited Landing Pages
  • Subscription and membership options
  • Affiliate Management
CONS
  • Basic Course Analytics and Reporting

Bottom Line

LearnWorlds is best for someone who wants an all-in-one solution. It is a great starting option at only $29 per month but what I love about LearnWorlds is how easily it can scale up as your online course business grows.

#4 Podia.

Podia Hero

Overview

Podia claims to have “everything you need to sell online courses, webinars, downloads, and memberships without worrying about the tech.”

This is for sure a bold claim but one that I think they can back up.

Podia falls into the category of being an all-in-one platform. Their strength is in creating a top-notch student experience while making it easy to manage for the course creator.

Pricing

Podia Pricing

Podia offers two different pricing options:

  • Mover – Starting at only $39 per month
  • Shaker – Starting at only $79 per month

If you are brand new to online courses, the Mover plan allows you the ability to create your online course business quickly.

The great part apart the Podia pricing plans are simplicity.

Top Features

  • Drip Content
  • Payment Plans
  • Pre-sell courses
  • Quizzes
  • Pre-launch courses
  • Upload any file
  • Upsell
  • Bundle products
  • Bundle products
  • Membership posts
  • Member discussions
  • Use it as a blog
  • Connect your groups
  • Send newsletters
  • Drip Emails
  • Build funnels
  • Capture emails
  • Conversion-optimized checkout
  • Affiliate management
  • Custom URL’s

Podia is jammed full of useful features which gives it a high ranking on my best online course platforms list. If you want to see a full list of features that Podia has to offer check out their features page here.

Pros and Cons

PROS
  • Pricing options
  • Zero transaction fees
  • Student experience
  • Ease of setup
  • Unlimited hosting (and video)
  • Webinars (paid and free)
  • Email marketing
  • Affiliate management
  • Conversion focused checkout process
CONS
  • Sales and landing page builder
  • Course environment design options
  • Student experience lacks features like quizzes and certificates

Bottom Line

Podia is best for someone who needs an all-in-one solution with an “okay” marketing feature set. It’s solid online course software allows you to build a basic online course business, but unlike Thinkific or LearnWorlds, you will run into roadblocks building it out at scale.

#5 Kajabi.

Kajabi Hero

Overview

Kajabi is truly an all-in-one platform that can do pretty much everything you need for your online course business.

This platform has had many changes over the years. They started out in 2010 as a platform mostly for internet marketers and were ahead of the curve for the time.

But since then they have completely overhauled their product making it one of the best online course platforms on the market today.

Pricing

Kajabi Pricing
  • Kajabi Basic – Starting at only $119 per month paid annually.
  • Kajabi Growth – Starting at only $159 per month paid annually.
  • Kajabi Pro – Starting at only $319 per month paid annually.

From my perspective, Kajabi is well worth the money because it is one of the few online course platforms that actually has useful marketing features. If your course business is based around sales funnels, paid traffic, email marketing, and affiliate partners you barely even need a WordPress website if you use Kajabi.

When you compare the prices versus Teachable it feels expensive but you are paying for quality marketing features that can really move the needle for your course business.

Top Features

  • Video hosting
  • Website and funnel builder
  • Email Marketing
  • Webinar tool
  • Advanced analytics
  • Payment gateway integrations
  • Marketing automation
  • Up-sells, down-sells, and cross-sells
  • Mobile app

Kajabi is jammed full of features! In my opinion, it’s the most solid all-in-one platform from a marketing point of view. It rivals true funnel builders like Clickfunnels while also still serving as a course hosting platform.

Pros and Cons

PROS
  • Ability to sell any digital product. Courses, memberships, coaching, or anything else.
  • Conversion focused website and funnel builder.
  • Advanced marketing automation
  • Reporting and Analytics
CONS
  • No built-in merchant account.
  • The price is a bit steep for beginners.
  • Student experience is average.

Bottom Line

Kajabi is in the top tier for online course platforms in my book because they have next-level marketing features. This is where most online course tools fall short and Kajabi has nailed it. If you want an all-in-one online business solution Kajabi is for you.

Wrap Up.

Choosing the best online course platform for your business can be complicated, because there is much that goes into picking out the best learning management system, design features, and pricing. But creating your online course business can be extremely rewarding once you’ve made the right choice.