Branimir Valentin January 18, 2024
The Ultimate Guide to the Top 20 Online Course Creation Platforms
Every online course creator needs a dedicated internet corner to create and sell online courses. Away from the hustle and bustle of social media, that corner nurtures the creator. An online course platform is that corner to a course creator!
An online course platform should correspond well to the specific needs of a course creator. That means it needs to be equipped with the right features. Most importantly, a platform should be community-friendly if the creator wants to share the corner with the community.
It’s quite a challenge to find the best online course platform today. There are so many options out there offering different features. Plus, there’s a lack of clarity about what kind of platform one needs, like LMS, a course marketing place, or a learning community platform.
As you are here, I’m sure you are looking for your corner for online courses. You are all sorted. I’ve made a list of the 20 best online course platforms the web offers.
Come, let’s look for your course corner!
⭐ – My Top Picks
Online Course Marketplaces
WordPress LMS Plugins
First, let’s quickly understand an online course platform and its types for clarity.
An online course platform is a digital platform that enables creators to create, sell, and deliver online courses.
Online course platforms offer a wide range of features that allow creators to sell a complete learning experience. The types of online course platforms differ in features, structure, and goals.
Some of the online course platform features are:
Understanding the five types of course platforms will be your first step in choosing the best online course platform for yourself. These platforms are different based on their structure and their purpose.
The five types of online course platforms are:
All-in-One course platforms are one-stop cloud-based solutions to create and sell online courses. They provide all the necessary tools for creators to run their course businesses.
Four types of tools for the core of an all-in-one course platform. They are for:
Please note that the combination of core features varies. Some all-in-one platforms come without any email and marketing tools. On the other hand, some platforms don’t offer community features.
Additional features of an all-in-one platform include SCORM support, automation, mobile app, resource storage, certifications, gamification, website builder, and AI features.
All-in-one course platforms are well-suited for solo creators as they tend to manage all business affairs themselves. Additionally, beginners and small to mid-sized course businesses can opt for all-in-one course platforms. Organizations with seasonal training needs can also use an all-in-one platform.
Top all-in-one course platforms include GroupApp, Disco, Podia, Kajabi, and Mighty Networks.
Standalone course platforms are online course creation software. A standalone course platform lets you create online courses and build course websites without coding knowledge.
Standalone course platforms mainly focus on
Things like community-building and marketing are usually secondary. For some operations, you need third-party integrations to get the job done.
Standalone course platforms are flexible regarding resource management, branding, website customization, and support. Plus, you own all the user data.
The standalone course platforms are well-suited for edu-preneurs with an established audience.
Top standalone course platforms include LearnWorlds, Thinkific, Xperiencefy, and Teachable.
Learning management systems (LMSs) are specialized solutions for creating and selling online courses on a large scale.
It enables users to create, manage, deliver, sell, and report on courses and training programs. Essentially, it’s an extensive online course software.
An LMS is hosted on-site on the company server or third-party cloud services. Solutions such as LMS are often tailored to suit the company’s needs.
There are two interfaces of an LMS: admin and user interface. The admin interface is the back office. That is where all the action happens. There’s always an LMS manager or a dedicated team working. The user interface is for the learner to access courses and training material.
The primary uses of an LMS are
LMSs are well-suited for academic entities, universities, virtual academies, and large-scale enterprises.
Top LMSs include Talent LMS, iSpring, and Moodle.
Good to know: LMS costs and pricing are complex. An in-depth understanding will help to make an informed decision. Check out the Ultimate LMS Pricing Guide 2024.
Think of it as a Walmart where you can buy online courses!
Online course marketplaces are e-commerce sites for your online courses. Creators upload courses on the site where learners browse thousands of courses and purchase.
These marketplaces are also often referred to as online learning platforms. Learners can shop for courses related to different niches and fields.
Creators register with these marketplaces and upload their course content. The marketplace provides them with all the necessary features. If the course sells, the marketplace keeps a set % of the revenue generated.
Some platforms partially promote your courses. You can also run promotions. The competition on such platforms is so high. You are competing with creators in your niche from across the globe.
Top online course marketplaces include Udemy, Linkedin Learning, Skillshare, and Coursera.
Learning management system (LMS) plugins enable you to create, deliver, and sell learning experiences directly from your website. If you already have a WordPress website, all you need is an LMS plugin.
An LMS plugin turns your site into a robust course hosting or an online learning platform. You can find both free and paid LMS plugins.
Please note that the functions of LMS plugins vary a lot. Some plugins offer basic course hosting facilities, while others offer extensive features like gamification and certifications.
Plugins can be tricky. A single plugin won’t get you everything. You need to add more plugins to extend the features. That means extra cost, more maintenance, and a higher chance of system crash. There are also many hidden costs associated with plugins.
Top LMS plugins include LearnDash, Lifter, and WP Courseware.
Now, you have an in-depth understanding of the five types of online course platforms. It’s the best time to round off the 20 best online course platforms. I hope you find the perfect online course platform.
Let’s round off the six all-in-one course platforms. All platforms come with core features for course creation, marketing, email automation, content management, and community creation.
I’ve highlighted standout features, pricing, suitability, pros, and cons for each platform.
GroupApp is an all-in-one learning community platform.
GroupApp strikes the perfect balance between learning and community. For each facet, it offers solid features. Unlike other platforms, where the community feature may seem like an afterthought, GroupApp maintains a balanced approach to learning and community.
At GroupApp, it’s the creator who makes the call. The creator can keep courses and the community close. Still, the creator can monetize both separately. That’s a plus point. Plus, when online courses and community are in one place, it saves the creator and members time, energy, and cost.
GroupApp has an intuitive drag-and-drop course builder that lets you assemble multi-media into full courses. This course builder works best for self-paced and cohort-based courses. You can release course content on set dates to specific groups.
You get your content management dashboard that lets you manage and control the users’ learning experience. You can also drip-feed course content.
Smart community management is core to GrouApp. GroupApp lets you create a custom onboarding experience with onboarding questions and custom invite pages. Just by clicking on a member’s profile in your community, you can view an extensive record and all of the member’s key info in one place.
Community members can direct message each other and find fellows through the community directory. Plus, you can segment members into groups linked to specific courses. That lets you offer a tailored learning experience.
You can also set access levels of courses and communities according to membership tiers. GroupApp also enables you to display upgrade prompts to members who don’t have access. GroupApp facilitates discussions with a dedicated feature called “#Channels”. The creator can moderate conversations and can also gate channels.
Every community comes with its feed. Members can share posts (video, audio, text, or pdf), and community members can like, react, and comment.
Advance GroupApp features include a custom domain, email white-labeling, SSO, third-party integrations, and API.
You can schedule events (both online and in–person), set access levels, adjust visibility, set capacity limits, customize the lock screen, and automate reminders. You can automate reminder emails that already include ICS files. That way, members can add the event to their calendars in seconds.
Each plan comes with a 14-day trial period and 0% transaction fees. You can save 10% on all plans with annual billing.
For more pricing info, check out GroupApp Pricing.
GroupApp is well-suited for solo creators, online coaches, and startups looking for a focused platform to build learning communities.
Disco.co is a top-notch learning community platform.
Disco.co allows you to develop online courses and cultivate learning communities. The platform lets you create and monetize core products known as “experiences”. These products include self-paced courses, cohort-based courses, events, and spaces (community memberships).
Despite being a great platform, Disco.co lacks features like native live streaming, live chat, mobile apps, and marketing tools.
There’s no free plan but a 14-day free trial period.
Disco.co is ideal for solo creators, especially the ones looking to migrate their established Facebook group.
For in-depth info, check out Disco.co Learning Community Platform Review (Features, Pricing, and Alternatives)
Kajabi is a digital hub to monetize and market digital learning products.
Kajabi lets you monetize digital learning products like courses, podcasts, community memberships, and coaching. Plus, it doubles as a marketing and e-commerce platform.
You can also create a course landing page, website, and high-converting sale funnel. However, Kajabi is the most expensive platform with a learning curve and can overwhelm users.
Although it’s more costly than Thinkific, it’s worth the price tag. It offers top-of-the-line tools for managing the business and marketing aspects. However, Kajabi’s community features are quite limited.
Kajabi offers a 14-day trial period with 0% transaction fees on all plans.
Click here for detailed Kajabi Pricing.
Kajabi works best for well-established digital entrepreneurs who are more focused on the monetization of digital products than community building.
Podia is a simple all-in-one platform that is focused on selling and marketing digital learning products.
Podia comes with built-in tools for creating online courses and memberships. Next, it offers tools for email marketing and website building to complement the learning products.
Despite being a generous platform in terms of features, Podia is affordable and offers a genuine FREE plan.
Podia has its downsides like you cannot host live courses and events.
For detailed pricing info, check out Podia Pricing.
Podia is well-suited for anyone wishing to earn a passive income. It is also ideal for creators looking for an affordable platform to easily migrate their existing content to an all-in-one platform with solid marketing features.
Mighty Networks is a cloud-based community membership platform.
Trusted by 900,000+ creators, Might Networks stands strong when it comes to running a paid community membership. Creators can also create and sell online courses. Plus, you can host live events for your community members.
The platform is primarily best for community memberships. You get access to student engagement tools like polls, icebreaker questions, and reactions to keep the community active.
However, it lags in course creation as features are limited, and you don’t get solid marketing features. Still, it offers a ConvertKit integration for your email lists.
There’s no free plan, but you get a 14-day free trial.
Learn more about the Mighty Networks Pricing.
Mighty Networks can be the right choice for beginners and solo creators who want to monetize their community memberships. It also works for live coaches.
Kartra is an all-in-one marketing platform for digital learning products.
This platform bundles all the primary marketing automation tools for online courses, community memberships, and other digital learning products.
You get features like email automation, form builder, helpdesks, built-in live webinar tool, and Katra marketplace. Despite being a specialized marketing tool, Kartra lacks an inbound marketing tool. Overall, Kartra is an expensive and complex platform.
You get a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.
For a detailed dive, check out Kartra Pricing.
Kartra works best for entrepreneurs selling digital products like an online course, event, or membership.
To know about Kartra inside out, check out The Ultimate Kartra Review (Features, Pricing, & Alternatives)
Here are the best standalone course platforms.
LearnWorlds is a solid online course platform for virtual academies, creators, and businesses.
With LearnWorlds, you can create, market, and sell your online courses. The platform offers an intuitive course creation system and lets you craft interactive courses. Other LearnWorlds features include SCORM support, assignment builder, website creator, and pop-up builder.
LearnWorlds’ marketing features include coupons and bundles for upselling and cross-selling, integrations, and built-in analytics. Still, the platform does not offer a sales funnel feature and comes without TinCan support.
LearnWorlds is a course-centric platform with little to no focus on community building.
You get 20% off with annual billing
It is a good choice for small businesses and corporations with training needs.
Thinkfic is a reliable course creation platform.
With 70,000+ course creators, Thinkific is the industry-leading standalone course platform. It can also be referred to as a powerful cloud-based learning management system that allows you to create, market, and sell online courses.
With its drag-and-drop course builder, you can create an unlimited course. Additionally, it provides tools to construct your course website and online communities. Its e-commerce model enables you to monetize your digital products. Furthermore, it offers a variety of marketing and analytics features to enrich your experience.
The best thing about Thinkfic is its genuine free plan. However, Thinkfic lacks a native live-streaming tool and places less emphasis on community-building.
Good-to-know: 10 Best Thinkific Alternatives for 2024
Each plan comes with a 0% transaction fee, and you get 25% off with annual billing.
Click here for detailed Thinkific Pricing.
Thinkific works best for virtual academies, solo course creators, Edtech startups, and edu-preneurs.
Teachable is a simple course creation platform.
With 100,000+ creators, Teachable is one of the oldest and most reliable course platforms in the industry. This platform lets you create, manage, market, and sell online courses, coaching, and digital downloads.
You get an intuitive course builder that you can use to create courses and coaching programs. Next, you can customize your product for better promotion and launch it.
On top of that, you use a no-code website builder to create a branded course or coaching site with a custom domain. Plus, you have access to built-in marketing, tax automation, and AI features.
Teachable comes with its drawbacks, like no SCORM support, no community building features, and limited customization.
The 0% transaction fee on the Pro and Pro+ plans is only applicable with a Teachable gateway.
For more pricing info, check out Teachable Pricing.
It works best for personal development coaches, school teachers, and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts).
Xperienefy is a one-of-a-kind course platform powered by Gamification.
Xperiencefy is a unique platform with gamification in focus and lets you create unlimited courses. It presents online courses as experiences rather than just learning content. The platform uses science-backed psychological techniques to foster learner engagement and boost course completion and retention rates.
That makes Xperienefy truly stand out as an innovative course platform. On top of that, Xperiecefy is equipped with advanced features such as segmentation tags, custom domain, theme customization, and API.
Although the innovative approach of this platform is commendable, Xperiencefy lags in the areas of community building with limited tools. It is more focused on individual experiences. Plus, it does not offer a live chat feature or native live streaming tools.
With each plan, you get unlimited courses and students with a 0% transaction fee.
To compare pricing plans, check out Xperiencefy Pricing.
This platform is for any creator who wants to take a different approach and boost customer life value (CLV). Ideal for primary education.
Next up, we have the supermarkets for online courses.
Udemy is the biggest course marketplace on the web, serving a global audience.
With 65+ million learners and 75+ thousand instructors, Udemy is the leading course marketplace. Udemy gives you access to its global learner base. The learners can browse courses in different categories on the platform.
Course creators and teachers can join the platform for free with no set-up cost. You have to pass a series of verification steps to become a premium Udemy instructor who can sell paid courses.
Once approved, you are all set to create and launch your online course. You can choose your niche or area of expertise and record your video lectures. It lets you add elements such as quizzes, assignments, learning resources, and discussion prompts. When done, you can simply upload your course.
If the course sells, Udemy will keep a set % of your revenue. If the course sells through the instructor’s coupon code, the instructor gets to keep 97% of the profit. In the case of organic sales, Udemy keeps 50% of the profit.
Although it is easy to launch courses on Udemy, the competition is significantly higher. Plus, Udemy keeps a good chunk of the profits, and you cannot collect customer data. Udemy also limits personal branding.
There’s no course hosting fee.
Udemy is well-suited for instructors who want to build an audience.
Skillshare is a top-notch course marketplace for creatives based on a membership model.
Skillshare is the go-to platform if you want to monetize your creative expertise. Most teachers at Skillshare are real working creative experts with personal brands. ‘
Top teachers at Skillshare make over $100,000 each year. Students use Skillshare through monthly membership subscriptions. That leads to recurring revenue for the platform.
If you are a creative professional, you can apply to become a teacher at Skillshare. To make money as a teacher on Skillshare, you must become part of the premium catalog.
Here’s how you can teach at Skillshare:
Skillshare sets aside 30% of the monthly premium revenue for teacher payments. If the premium students watch 10% of the classes, they receive 10% of the royalty pool.
Overall, Skillshare is a good option, but the competition is very high for new creative professionals. Plus, it lacks advanced community tools.
There’s no course hosting fee.
Skillshare is a good option for creative professionals who want to earn through a membership model.
Coursera is the best marketplace for academic and professional advancement courses.
Coursera is not a usual course marketplace. It’s a specialized platform for professionals who want to upskill and advance their careers with certifications. Plus, it also caters to the customers who want to pursue complete academic degrees.
In addition to the course creators, 275+ universities and big organizations like Google partner up with Coursera to offer certifications. The platform caters to over 113 million students globally.
Coursera takes a different road when it comes to how it operates for course creators. You cannot just easily apply and become a teacher at Coursera. That is because Coursera is invite-only for course creators.
If you are lucky enough to be among the invite-only pool, you get a set share of the profit. You also get immense recognition, and your courses get featured at the top institutions and companies.
Coursera is not the best course creation platform out there. It’s a well-gated platform for course creators, which is not good. It’s not an option for beginners or creators who are not yet experts in their fields.
There’s no course hosting fee.
Coursera is geared towards credentialed and well-established professionals who want to build authority and work leading institutions.
LinkedIn Learning is a premium online course marketplace.
Formerly known as Lyda.com, LinkedIn Learning is a learning platform that offers 22,000+ expert-led courses on various topics.
It is an on-demand library of instructional videos that can be accessed with a premium monthly subscription. LinkedIn Learning offers short courses and complete learning paths with certifications.
LinkedIn Learning works on a monthly subscription model. LinkedIn Learning reaches out to experts and content creators who are well-established and have authority in their respective fields.
Still, if you want to become an instructor at LinkedIn Learning, you have to fill out an application form and submit a sample video.
LinkedIn Learning will review your application and contact you in case your application is approved. Please know that LinkedIn Learning is very selective when it comes to instructors. Mostly, they look for SMEs (Subject Matter Experts).
It can be challenging to break the barrier and get into LinkedIn Learning as an instructor. There’s no clear information available on how instructors get paid at LinkedIn Learning. One can assume they earn a set % of the monthly revenue from premium subscriptions.
There’s no course hosting fee.
LinkedIn Learning is perfect for subject matter experts who want to create an audience and LinkedIn digital creators with established audiences who want to boost authority.
In case you need it, here’s an in-depth guide on how to become a digital creator.
These are the top three WordPress LMS plugins.
LearnDash is a popular WordPress LMS plugin.
LearnDash is the choice of the Fortune 500 companies. If you already have a WordPress site, this LMS plugin will do the rest. Using this LMS, you can create, host, and sell online courses and digital products right from your website.
This plugin comes with a user-friendly drag-and-drop course editor. You can also drip-feed course content to students at set dates. For assignment management, LearnDash lets you give reward points, award certificates, and leave comments. Don’t forget that LearnDash can gamify your courses.
Additional LearnDash features include focus mode, video progression, and course cloning. LearnDash also supports SCORM, xAPI, and HTM5 files.
Despite the benefits, LearnDash is a plugin that might incur hidden costs. As your business and learner base grows, you will be required to expand your system with more third-party plugins. That means extra cost and additional maintenance.
It’s the perfect option for course creators, companies, and universities with technical expertise and established websites.
Lifter LMS is the leading LMS plugin.
Lifter LMS has helped create and sell a staggering 12.5 million+ courses. This plugin lets you create, manage, and monetize online courses and memberships right from the comfort of your website.
You get access to all course creation features like course builder, quizzes, prerequisites, quiz timers, drip content, and course downloads. You can also award badges and certificates.
Lifter LMS also emphasizes community building. It lets you monetize community memberships. You can also access features like private group discussions, automatic enrollments, and members-only forums.
Course selling requires e-commerce, and the plugin knows that. It has a multitude of e-commerce features to offer. The best ones are bulk sales, preselling, payment switching, coupons, and customizable enrollments.
Lifter LMS sounds like the perfect deal. But let’s not forget it’s a plugin with a basic functionality. To expand its functions, one has to pay more. The main plugin is free.
Still, Lifter LMS is the most expensive LMS plugin. That makes it not suitable for beginners and startups. It also lacks a live streaming tool. Plus, it might only be compatible with some WordPress themes.
Lifter LMS caters to solo creators who want to host online courses on their WordPress site.
WP Courseware is a robust LMS plugin for WordPress.
WP Courseware is a promising WordPress LMS plugin. This plugin gives all the core features like a drag-and-drop course builder, memberships, certificates, quizzes, drip-feed content, and payment management.
The plugin lacks a built-in video tool. But it integrates with external video-hosting solutions like Vimeo and YouTube. Plus, WP Courseware is not SCORM-compliant.
Another thing to note is that WP Courseware cannot help you sell courses and digital downloads independently. You will require a WooCommerce plugin to monetize your online courses.
With each plan, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more pricing details, click here WP Courseware Pricing.
It’s a flexible solution for training providers, enterprises, and universities.
Finally, we have the 3 best LMSs. Jump right in.
Talent LMS is a top cloud-based LMS with an extensive set of features.
Talent LMS is not a conventional LMS. It’s been in the e-learning game since 2012 and caters to 11 million+ learners. It has evolved well by aligning with upcoming technology like AI and varying e-learning needs. You get all the core features to create, manage, sell, and deliver online courses and training.
You get an intuitive drag-and-drop course builder with multi-media support, an assessment engine, and a surveys engine. Talent LMS supports all the latest training standards like SCORM, cmi5, and xAPI.
You can sell your online courses with membership subscriptions for recurring revenue. Here’s a vital guide that will help you to develop your membership pricing strategy.
The white-labeling feature is also commendable. You can create a 100% white-label website with your logo and favicon. Plus, you get a custom domain. Talents LMS also lets you create custom badges for gamification. It does not end there. You can create a 100% white-label mobile app for your learners.
Talent LMS takes it to the next level with advanced features like GDPR compliance, API, mass actions, SSO, homepage builder, user types, branching, and e-commerce.
You can gamify your courses with points, levels, badges, and leaderboards.
All these features might make Talent LMS seem like the perfect deal. Let me break it down for you: the features come with a hefty price tag. The best features are only available in top-tier pricing plans. For instance, my favorite feature, “Talent-Library,” is available at an additional cost.
Overall, Talent LMS is very expensive, especially if you want it with active users. Another drawback of Talent LMS is that there are no community-building tools. The platform also lacks email and marketing tools.
Let me simplify Talent LMS pricing for you:
It offers 4 pricing plans, each with unlimited courses for standard users and 4 plans for active users. You can add more active users at an additional cost per active user.
For more info, check out Talent LMS Pricing.
Talent LMS is a good choice for mid to large-scale enterprises for continuous training.
Moodle is a leading open-source learning management system.
Moodle LMS is well-known as an academic LMS. It’s an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. Moodle offers all the core features required for creating engaging educational experiences at all levels.
It’s an open-source LMS. That means it’s available for free. You can customize the LMS. Moodle is accessible to everyone. All you need is technical expertise and a budget to set it up.
You can customize it in any way that aligns well with your needs and goals. If you have the expertise to customize it yourself, you can take guidance from a vast resource center that offers extensive documentation and plugins.
If not, Moodle has got you covered. Moodle will find you a local partner to customize the LMS according to your needs.
With Moodle’s drag-and-drop course builder, you can create and manage online courses, extensive learning paths, and certification programs. You can also offer social learning experiences and events through video-conferencing tools and forums.
The latest Moodle 4.3 LMS has introduced exciting features like streamlined activity cards for better management. It also comes with an LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) external tool management page to add and manage pre-configured tools. In addition, it comes with an improved grading experience, content editor, and navigation.
If you can shoulder the managerial burden, Moodle is good for you. Moodle is also affordable if you have the expertise to customize it.
Moodle is an open-source LMS and is free of cost. However, the customization and setup will not be free.
Moodle is well-suited for all-level virtual academies, universities, and enterprises.
iSpring Learn is an award-winning cloud-based LMS.
iSpring Learn LMS enables us to create, manage, and deliver online courses. It’s a well-reputed LMS trusted by big names like IBM, Microsoft, IKEA, Stanford, and Bank of America. It offers innovative features that can help you level up your online courses.
iSpring works best for both employee upskilling and academic purposes. It is ideal for sales, product, compliance, and mobile training.
You can create long-form articles with interactive features with custom designs that include illustrations, videos, and interactions.
The star feature of this LMS is the iSpring Suite, an integrated course builder. You assemble SCORM-supported and multi-media content into complete online courses. Plus, you can create Learning Tracks complete learning programs comprising micro-courses, exercises, quizzes, and workshops.
You can also structure your organization with user roles and grouping. You can create a branded training portal for your organization to align with your corporate identity. Plus, you can create white-labeled mobile apps for your employees.
For detailed pricing, check out iSpring Learn Pricing.
It’s ideal for businesses with continuous training needs.
That was quite an exploration of the best online course platforms. All of these platforms are the best of their leagues.
Now, the ball is in your court. You have to select a platform that fits your needs well.
Most importantly, pick a platform that facilitates your members or customers. That can make all the difference. Online course platforms focused on community building are often better as they keep a member-centric approach.
Another thing to keep in mind is that no platform is a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to be clear on what you want and your priorities. Then, look for the platforms that correspond well to your priorities.
With that being said, it’s your turn to pick your course corner!