WHAT IS AN ONLINE COURSE PLATFORM?
Online course platforms offer the ability to have digital classes. They are a form of learning management system (LMS), that provides you with similar features as in-class courses such as lessons, grades, quizzes, assignments, etc. except that they are all virtual.
They are an abundance of LMS out there that allow you to create and design beautiful courses with built-in marketing features, sales funnels, and other options.
People make money from them by charging a fee to their students.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE BEST ONLINE COURSE PLATFORM
Determining the best platform is about figuring out your needs and whether these platforms provide you with the freedom, features, and flexibility of meeting those needs.
The best platforms are jam-packed with features, but still easy to use. They have e-commerce and email marketing integration and capabilities.
If you have wanted to combine these courses with a money-making blog or podcast you need to ensure that the platform has integration capabilities for these mediums. Thankfully the online course platforms I have listed below provide all these features and more.
Here is the list of the 11 Best Online Course Platforms for students and teachers alike. For beginners and professionals.
Thinkific is an all-inclusive online course platform whose goal is to power your education empire. It allows you to quickly and efficiently create beautiful online courses for your brand.
The reason why this platform ranks so high is not only due to the ease of access to the platform, but also the other great features that come with it. They have amazing 24/7 customer service, email marketing integration, and tools, as well as a membership site to integrate your courses.
They are the best site to create your courses and sell them to your own audience as well as broader audiences online.
If you are wary of spending money, no need to worry because they give a one-month free trial for their pro plan. This pro plan allows you to quickly and easily put out an unlimited number of courses with very little hassle.
You also get access to all those amazing features I listed above. However, in addition to those features, they also have other bundles, landing pages, marketing tools, certificates for your students, etc.
Now for the fun part. You are allowed to customize your course with interesting features. If you are used to dragging and dropping editors, well Thinkific.com has that too.
They also offer some visually appealing templates which you can modify to your taste.
Since you are also essentially running a business, they provide some really beneficial tools. These tools allow you to bolster your email marketing, which is critical for churning out an engaged audience. You can also integrate more than a thousand apps into the platform with Zapier.
This is a really great platform for beginners, advanced course makers, entrepreneurs, etc. It has features for everyone.
This is probably one of the best online course platforms for any skill level. There is an abundance of options that allow you to integrate 3rd party software. It is super easy to use and getting started is also very accessible. Adding new courses is simple, so is recording the lessons and launching your courses.
There are a few drawbacks to this platform such as setup and planning out your courses. This can be overwhelming to do all at once if you are on the free limited plan.
Speaking of prices, the platform is fairly affordable. They offer a free trial. And there is a “free” version (transaction costs included.) The regular pricing starts at 0.01 cents. Then the prices rise up from $29 a month all the way up to $399 a month.
The most popular, best-selling plan is $79 a month. The reason why it is so popular is that it is jam-packed with those features that make teachable great, while also erasing all those pesky transaction fees.
You do not have to choose these plans, however; the other ones are still easily available. It is simply up to you and your business and personal needs.
This is definitely part of the premium online course world. The reason being is that it has some really powerful sales engines, 3rd party software integration, and data that help you to get the most revenue out of your courses.
The people that are suited for these platforms are driven individuals and entrepreneurs who not only want to teach a course to their audience but also provide them with an unparalleled experience.
This is due to the highly interactive and engaging nature of the platform.
Some of their other features include:
- unlimited courses
- landing pages and sales pages
- custom domains
- social network integration
- 24/7 customer service
- Digital downloads
- Course builder
- Custom native mobile apps
- White-label content
There are a bunch of other features that really add to your experience. The features will also depend on the pricing plan that you choose.
They offer a 30-day free trial, that you do not need to put in your credit card to use.
The interface can be a little difficult and hard on the eyes if you are a beginner. However, the options also allow more features for your students.
Getting started is a simple click away.
Kajabi is definitely for the power user. It is not for the faint of heart or the casual user. The best thing about the platform is that it was obviously created to sell your course and convert your visitors into paying customers.
Almost everything is integrated into the platform so that you do not need to use 3rd party software if you do not want to. You do, however, have the option of integrating that software if you need to. But, the thing with Kajabi is that you probably won’t need to.
The feature that really makes Kajabi stand out from its competitors is its marketing option and email integration. They have rolled out a Kajabi email which creates visually appealing emails that are meant to look good, get people to click on them, and convert customers.
It is a very modern and visually appealing platform that offers attractive, slick, and appealing templates for your landing pages and sales pages.
The thing that stands out as well is that they also give you the option to get custom or premium themes for your course. An option that many other platforms on this list will not have. The best thing about it is that you do not need to code to make it work.
Another stand out about this platform is that they have a dedicated community who love and are really enthusiastic about the platform. This is great for meeting up with other collaborators and like-minded individuals.
I would say that the biggest drawback of the platform is that it can be a steep learning curve when you are trying to make changes.
All these jam-pack features do not come free, however. There are on the more expensive side with their first plan starting at $119 a month. If you purchase a yearly plan, they give you a 20% discount. This plan comes with unlimited landing pages, one website, three products, etc. Their plans go up to $399 a month.
However, you do have a free 28-day trial to get a feel of it.
This may not be the best option for beginners and is better for those with an established platform and business.
Learndash not to be confused with learnwords is another well-known online course platform. It stands out feature is that it integrates well with WordPress through plugins. This accessibility is the reason it is used by some major entrepreneurs and major universities.
This platform is for anyone that wants to publish an online course. When you install the plugin on your WordPress website you will be able to easily create courses, lessons, lesson plans, and quizzes for your audience.
Due to the versatility of WordPress, you can also add third-party add-ons, as well as other plugins to create a multifaceted online course platform.
The features that come with this platform are so long and extensive that I simply do not have the time nor the space to include them all here.
But some of the main ones are having unlimited courses, easy integration with PayPal to simply the monetization of your platform. You can also use other popular eCommerce tools available on WordPress such as WooCommerce etc.
Their Gradebook feature really makes the platform feel like a real school. Because it gives students overall grades, as well as grades based on the breakdown of individual assignments. No wonder it is so popular amongst major universities
All these options can be overwhelming for beginners, however. But, they smooth away the aches with a 30-day money-back guarantee for annual plans.
Prices start at $13.25 a month
This is the best option for instructors that are planning on having live virtual classes. The platform makes it easy for instructors to host really engaging and interactive online classes. I would recommend this platform to teachers, tutors, test prep companies, nonprofits, etc.
It is fairly easy to use and grants the user accessibility by allowing them to use it on different devices at different locations.
The monthly fee starts at $20 a month. There is no free version of the platform available. However, they do have a 14-day free trial.
BEST ONLINE LEARNING PLATFORMS:
The platforms talked about in this particular list are catered more towards those that are just starting out with selling online courses and want to dip their toes in the water or students that are looking to learn online on a budget.
As compared to the list above they are considered to be MOOC which stands for massive open online courses. The main differentiation is that you do not host the files yourself, and your courses are placed in a marketplace for students to purchase.
The main benefit is that you have a built-in audience if you do not already have one. They also help you promote your courses. The downside is the competition is really high and the returns are not as high when compared to the list above.
Nevertheless, these are great platforms when you are just getting started.
Skillshare is marketed for you creative people out there. Their bread and butter are people that teach other people how to launch their own blogs, cook certain food, paint, create graphic designs, etc.
However, there are not just limited to creative subjects, they also have courses that delve into more technical subjects such as data analysis, SEO training, marketing analyst, etc.
A bunch of their courses also include worksheets and readings that come with them, thus allowing for more engagement.
There is also a built-in community of like-minded learners where you can interact with your fellow classmates and students and provide each other feedback on your work.
I have personally used the platform and I think it is a really cool place to learn something, fun, cool, and unexpected. It deviates from the more traditional, academic learning platforms. However, you can still learn a lot from it.
The classes are usually between 20 minutes to an hour. There are often several sequences in a course.
For those hoping to use the platform to create a course, it is free. They will pay you $10 for membership referrals and also a monthly royalty based on how much time people spent watching your content.
For those hoping to use the platform to learn there is a free limited ad-supported option. If you want a full range and access to the course it will cost $19 to $99 a year.
The annual plan has some great perks. You will get a discount from Shutterstock, Adobe Creative, Squarespace, etc.
Sign up now and get two free months
Coursera is one of the most well online course marketplaces. It was started in 2012 by two Stanford University computer science professors. They offer a variety of courses and specializations from top-ranked universities like Stanford, Berkeley, and a ton of others.
Their courses can take 4 to 6 weeks to complete. They will include video lectures, readings, quizzes, peer-reviewed feedback on your assignment, as well as community discussion forums.
- Audit: If you want to learn without spending any money, they have this audit option. With this course, you have the option of viewing study material. You are not, however, eligible for certification, nor can you submit assignments and get feedback.
- Certified Courses: This is the first and most basic option. You have to pay money to enroll in the course. You can submit the assignment for a grade and get feedback. When you complete it, you can receive a certificate of completion.
- Specialization: You can select a number of courses for a particular pathway. This bundle of classes comes with their own specialization certificate.
- Degree: This is for those that are actually trying to get a degree from a real university that actually counts for credits. There are plenty of universities on the platform that offers online degree programs.
Prices: The cost of different courses will vary. It can be 29.99 to 99 a month for individualized courses. For the specialized courses, it will cost $39 -79 a month. The degree programs will cost you a lot more. Several thousand dollars depending on the degree program, length, and university.
They also offer financial aid for their courses and specialization.
Udemy along with Coursera is probably one of the two best-known online course platforms. This is for good reason. They have more than 24 million active users and more than 80,000 courses available on its platform.
If you want to create a course with Udemy the steps are fairly simple. You will have to register as a premium instructor, get your account approved, and start creating content.
This is not free for all however, there are some restrictions that are put in place. You cannot just create one course. You have to create at least 5 lecturers and they all need to be at least 30 minutes long.
Due to its established nature, they also have a well-built and integrated marketing and promotional program. They allow you to easily promote within their platform and they also site-wide discounts. You also have the option of joining their affiliate program. This gives great passive income potential.
Now, unto the cost. The site itself is free to use (if you are creating content that is). If you do a sale through instructor coupons there is a 3% fee. If your students come through organic search then the fee is 50%, and it is 75% if they come from paid marketing.
For those of you that simply want to learn, this is a great platform as well. They frequently offer discounts and have a very diverse course category. They also have a very robust and lenient 30 guaranteed refund.
LinkedIn Learning is the perfect platform for business professionals who want to expand their skill sets or reach out to other business professionals.
They have several hundred courses available that range from excel skills, google analytics, public speaking, networking, digital marketing, and anything else that you can probably think of.
The main benefit and the selling point are that they offer certificates and badges after you complete courses. These certificates can then be added to your LinkedIn profile to impress all your peers and recruiters.
The fact that it is backed by the LinkedIn name gives it more credibility than some other platforms may not have.
The Cost LinkedIn Learning is integrated into the cause of LinkedIn premium which is $29.99 a month. You do get a discount of 5 dollars a month if you pay for an annual plan.
You can get one month free, however.
The goal of Treehouse is to diversify the tech industry through education that unlocks the opportunity for people to empower themselves and achieve their dreams.
The goal is to help thousands of students to raise their income. Thus, helping to unlock billions of dollars of generational wealth that will finally help people regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status achieve a piece of the American dream.
Their mission is certainly one to be admired. Their own results show that they have doubled the rates of black. Hispanic, “two or more races, and American Indian” etc.
They have more than 300 coding and technical courses available.
And have also partnered with some pretty great brands like Amazon Alexa, Microsoft, IBM Watson, and Google Developers.
You can get started with a 7-day free trial. If you are satisfied with the course offering and the platform then you can move on to the paid plan. They have three different plans available and they range in price $25 to $199 per month.
The 25-dollar-a-month plan gives you access to the courses, practice sessions, and a community of like-minded scholars.
They also offer a Techdegree program that allows you to create a custom curriculum, and receive real-time support, and personalized feedback. This can help you create a portfolio that sharpens those job-related skills.
edX is a large online course provider that was created by professors at Harvard and MIT. They provide college-level courses that are varied and are diverse from top-ranked universities. There are more than 150 schools that offer courses on the platform, with more than 18 million students taking more than 2,500 online courses.
They are the only leading MOOC that is classified as a nonprofit and open source.
Their courses run the gamut from computer science, data science, humanities, language, etc. They also offer a master’s degree from accredited universities. This will cost several thousand dollars.
How their course completion comes with a certificate that you can upload to LinkedIn and the degree programs of course comes with a certificate.
They do offer financial aid for their courses, so be sure to apply.