Jelena Rakic - Nov 6, 2020
12 Best Online Course Platforms to Use to Boost Your Revenue
Are you a business owner looking for an efficient way to engage your community while increasing your revenue? What better way to do that than to offer your community members online courses? To do so, you will need reliable online course platforms.
Online courses have become a rather popular way of learning. So, if you want to keep up with the competition and avoid being phased out, you need to give your community members what they want and expect.
In other words, you need to become their reliable source of knowledge. Become a specialist in a given niche and share your vast knowledge through online courses.
That sounds excellent, but where to host these intensive courses of yours? We are here to point you to 12 best online course platforms, tell you about the pros and cons of using each of them, and explain what makes a good online course platform.
You will also learn about some of the differences between some of the best online course platforms available on the market. We’ll provide you with more details about this, and explain how to sell online courses from your own website to make money.
But first, let’s see how to teach online classes and earn money.
How to Teach Online Classes and Earn Money?
If you’re just getting started, it might be a good idea to begin by learning how to create an online course and get ideas for it. This means that you first need to select your field of specialty.
Once you find a niche you’re highly passionate about, it’s time to explore it until you become an expert in the field. Start gathering detailed, on-point information about your chosen topics to clear all the doubts your community members might have.
Creating an online course becomes much easier with the right online course platform. One that allows you to share your content with your existing community and on your existing website. Sounds convenient, right?
But how is that going to earn you any money? To make it possible for you to turn your online community into a profitable business, the right platform will also allow you to sell online courses and charge membership subscriptions. As simple as that.
Let’s find out what other features you should look for when you begin your quest for the right online course platform.
Top Features to Look for in a Reliable Online Course Platform
Considering the fast growth of online teaching, it should come as no surprise that the number of online course platforms has increased, too. Thus, making your final choice and choosing one over the other can become quite a challenge.
To be able to weed out the poor options and find the platform that meets all your needs and expectations, you should be familiar with some of the crucial features a reliable online course platform should have. These include the following:
- Ease of setting up and running — Whether you’re a newbie or you have experience in online course building, you should look for an easy-to-use platform, one that won’t give you a headache every time you access it. In fact, you need a platform that will be easy to navigate right from the start, when you set it up, as well as later on as you continue to run your website and add new content.
- User experience — Using an online course platform should be a pleasant experience for business owners and users alike. That’s why it is also crucial that you think about your community members and how pleasant it will be for them to use the platform. You don’t want your users to get frustrated before they even get to the course, right?
- Community tool — Instead of making your community move to another platform to access your courses, why not keep everything in one place? You can do so if you choose an online course platform that also allows you to gather your community members.
- Third-party integrations — Another thing you should look for is the possibility to integrate the platform with some of your favorite tools if need be. There might be some tools that you already use and would like to keep using, but even if that’s not the case, it’s always convenient to have this option.
- Marketing tools — When you create online courses, you might need to put in some extra effort to make sure as many people as possible hear about it. Especially if you don’t have an existing community. That’s when having built-in marketing tools comes in handy.
- Access to support — No matter how easy to navigate a platform is, it’s always good to have access to support. That way, even if you come across some technical or any other issues, there’s no need to panic — you’ve got someone to turn to for help.
Best Online Course Platforms to Consider
Now that we’ve seen what features make a good online course platform, it’s time to move on to the actual suggestions. Here are the best platforms you can use for this purpose, starting with the ultimate choice out there — GroupApp.
Even though these are the most suitable platforms for almost everyone looking to build and sell online courses, they, too, come with certain drawbacks. That’s why we will list both advantages and disadvantages to each option, so it’s up to you to judge which fits your needs perfectly.
GroupApp is a top-notch all-in-one platform that allows you to do much more than build online courses. It helps you engage your community members, own your audience, create and sell online courses within the same platform.
If you’re new to this and your budget doesn’t allow you to pay exorbitant prices for online course platforms, don’t worry — GroupApp offers a Free plan. If you want to upgrade to the Pro version as the most popular plan, you will need to pay only $49 a month. The Premium plan, designed for brands and large organizations, costs $140 a month.
- You will enjoy using its free and simple-to-use online course builder
- The platform allows for third-party integration with a variety of tools, including Mailchimp, Zapier, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, HubSpot, and many others
- You can set up membership subscription plans seamlessly and get recurring revenue without having to depend on donations
- GroupApp is an all-in-one platform that allows you to have everything you need under one roof
- GroupApp is easy to set up and maintain
- You have access to support for all potential technical issues
- There is a transaction fee of 5% when you choose the Free plan
- There is no donation or tip option that could come in handy in case someone wanted to leave a one-time donation
- GroupApp requires Stripe for payments, so you need to have a Stripe merchant account
Podia is one of the most popular platforms that allows you to create and sell online courses, as well as memberships and digital downloads. Another useful feature is that it allows website creation, too.
When it comes to pricing, you can choose between two plans if you want to use Podia. These are the Mover and Shaker pricing plans.
Mover is more affordable — it costs $39 a month. That, naturally, means that it covers fewer options than the more expensive option — Shaker, which costs $79 a month. Some of the major features that you can only have if you choose Shaker include affiliate marketing, Zoom integration, and memberships.
- No limit on courses or the number of users who can buy your courses
- No transaction fees (you only pay the payment processor fee)
- In addition to videos, Podia supports audio files, PDFs, links, images, etc.
- It allows you to run your own affiliate program if you want
- You can try the platform for free under their 14-day free trial
- You can only try it for free during the free trial, then there’s no free plan
- Podia is not that easy to navigate
- Online course builder lacks in flexibility
- The platform doesn’t support graded quizzes or certificates
- You can’t have a standalone community area within the platform
Kajabi is another commonly used online course platform because it covers a variety of needs a business owner might have. You can use it to build a website, host all kinds of courses, and eventually sell them.
Similarly to Podia, Kajabi, too, offers a 14-day free trial in case you just want to try it out and see how it works for you. When it comes to the actual pricing, Kajabi is one of the most expensive platforms. There are three plans: Basic ($119/month), Growth ($159/month), and Pro ($319/month).
- All-in-one platform, so there’s no need to include other platforms
- You have customer support at your disposal 24/7
- You can choose from a variety of customization options for the video player
- It allows access to reporting and analytics
- It covers 500+ third-party integrations
- There is no free plan to at least try the platform out before you pay the steep price
- There is no course accreditation
- Kajabi doesn’t support question banks and other advanced quiz features
- The platform doesn’t provide a corporate sales option
- Limited customization when it comes to assessment
When it comes to Udemy, you should be rather careful, as this type of platform is not always a good way to go. This is the largest online course marketplace at the moment, so just imagine how many other content creators are struggling to find their way to their target audience (which can easily be the same as yours).
You can make use of a variety of instructions on how to create your course in the first place and then market it. It can also be a good place to list all your courses if you already have quite a few.
However, keep in mind that Udemy takes 50% of all sales that you make through their marketplace. The deal is much better if you sell a course to your own audience — you get 97% of the sale.
- You don’t have to pay a sign-up fee to use Udemy
- Your students get certificates of completion when they finish a course
- Udemy provides marketing tools to help content creators promote their courses
- It allows you to create multiple courses and bundle them
- The platform is easy to use
- You don’t own your audience
- You have to “fight” over your target audience with other content creators
- There is no phone or chat support
- Even though you have access to reporting and analytics, they are limited
- Udemy’s revenue share model doesn’t bode well for you as a content creator
Teachable is primarily focused on the core tools for creating and selling online courses, so you shouldn’t count on email automation or similar features. Nonetheless, this is a simple-to-use platform that still comes with various benefits, such as control over your branding.
This is also an affordable platform, with its Basic plan starting at $29 a month if billed annually (otherwise, it’s $39 a month). What can be an issue here is that you also pay a 5% transaction fee.
But when you move on to either of the two more advanced plans, there’s no transaction fee. These include Pro plan ($99/month billed annually) and Business plan ($249/month billed annually).
- You can enjoy the clean and simple design
- Teachable allows 100+ third-party app integrations
- You have access to live chat or email support
- Similarly to Udemy, the platform allows you to bundle your courses, as well as cross-sell them
- Teachable offers a 14-day no-credit free trial
- There is no course accreditation
- It has a highly limited site building capability
- There is a small number of third-party marketing tools available for integration
- Teachable doesn’t support PayPal for recurring payments or if a student pays in a currency other than USD
- There is no corporate sales option
Thinkific is somewhat similar to Teachable, in a way that it is built to meet the core online course building and selling requirements. In addition to this, Thinkific also offers a powerful website builder and a wide range of themes.
At what cost does all that come? This is a great thing about Thinkific — it offers a free plan! If you want to get it free of charge, you will have access only to the most basic online course creation tools. For more features, you will need to upgrade to either of the remaining three options: Basic plan ($39/month), Pro plan ($79/month), or Premier plan ($399/month).
- You have the option to create multiple online courses
- Your students get certificates of completion when they finish a course
- Thikific provides you with marketing tools to help you promote your courses
- In addition to videos, the platform allows you to create quizzes, surveys, as well as downloadable tutorials and so much more
- You have access to phone support
- Phone support is available only for plans above Basic
- Third-party app integrations are limited
- There is no mobile app
- Students can’t use PayPal for recurring payments or any currency other than USD
- There is a two-step checkout process
When it comes to Ruzuku, you should know that this is an extremely easy-to-use platform that allows you to teach online and inspire your students without having to go through much trouble. It allows both audio and video hosting.
Ruzuku might be one of the most convenient-to-use online course platforms, but it’s not among the most affordable ones. There are three pricing plans on offer: Bootstrapper ($74/month), Up-and-Comer ($83/month), and University ($125/month). These are the prices when billed annually, which means you get a discount.
- There are no transaction fees to worry about
- There’s a 14-day free trial
- Easy to set up and configure regardless of the type of content (videos, images, quizzes)
- The platform allows webinars and teleconferences
- Ruzuku offers learning features for students to help them learn intuitively
- There is no free plan
- The customization options are rather limited
- The number of students for webinars and teleconferences is limited
- You can reach support only via email
- You don’t have direct contact with your students
LearnWorlds enables you to create and sell online courses from your own website, which makes it a rather popular option. There are several features that make it an excellent platform to use, including its interactive video player, social community builder, interactive e-book reader, etc.
To make things even better, LearWorlds also has affordable pricing plans. The Starter plan costs $29/month, Pro Trainer is $99/month, while Learning Center, their most popular and feature-rich plan amounts to $299 a month.
Users can also save a few bucks by choosing to be billed annually. For the absolute best service, users can contact LearnWorld to find out more about the High Volume and Corporate plan.
- You can include interactive elements in your videos
- The platform includes an online community builder
- You can create an unlimited number of courses
- There is a 30-day trial period
- LearnWorlds covers 2,000+ integrations
- There is a transaction fee of $5 per course sale for Starter plan users
- The course builder lacks in flexibility
- The platform can be too complicated for beginners
- There is no mobile app
- There is not an option for bulk uploading
AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin that allows you to sell online courses and memberships. It can also be used for online course creation. The platform is a good solution for those looking to charge recurring subscriptions.
In terms of pricing, AccessAlly offers three options. AccessAlly Essentials is the most affordable option ($82/month). As the name itself suggests, it only covers basic features, so it’s primarily designed for small businesses.
AccessAlly Pro costs $108/month and is most convenient for online educators and marketers. AccessAlly In-House Training is a solution created for teams and new hires and it costs $2500 a year.
- The platform allows you to integrate an email marketing solution of your choice
- You get to charge recurring subscriptions
- AccessAlly allows for bulk course enrollment
- You can get the best of flexible membership management (allow your users to upgrade or downgrade the previously chosen membership plan)
- The platform covers email marketing CRM software integration
- AccessAlly is among the expensive online course platforms
- There is no free plan to use to try out the platform before you decide to invest in it
- Limited options when it comes to integration with community solutions
- The platform can be complicated to set up and may even require a professional developer
- Limited customization and design options
LearnDash is another WordPress plugin used for online courses. It has a variety of excellent features, such as the creation of quizzes and exams, community forums, badges, certificates, and so much more. If there’s something that it doesn’t cover, you can explore its free or paid add-ons and make it complete.
When it comes to pricing plans, you should know that LearnDash has reasonable prices. The most basic plan costs $199 annually. If you want to upgrade to Plus Package, you need to allocate $299 a year, while their Pro Package costs $369 a year.
- You have access to start-up guides, community forums, and a help desk should you need support
- LearnDash is compatible with a variety of add-ons and themes
- You have the option to award your users when they pass the quiz, which can be beneficial for your relationship with your community members
- Content creators can interact with their users
- You can ask for a refund within 30 days of your purchase if you don’t like the platform
- There is no free trial
- LearnDash can be somewhat complex to use for a beginner, so you should be prepared for a learning curve
- It doesn’t support webinars or live training
- There is no pricing plan that can be paid on a monthly basis
- Poor user interface
Academy of Mine
If you’re looking for an e-learning platform, you might want to consider Academy of Mine. It allows you to create, host, and sell online courses. It has a couple of useful features that can help you engage your students, such as discussion forums, the gradebook reporting tool, certificates, and others.
Should you decide to rely on this platform, be prepared to pay for it quite a lot compared to other options. The pricing starts at $9,997 a year.
- You have access to reliable and responsive 24/7 support
- The platform supports webinars and online conferences
- You can host unlimited courses and have an unlimited number of users
- Academy of Mine also includes a webpage builder
- You can enjoy the Group Onboarding feature, which can be rather useful when onboarding organizations
- Academy of Mine can be rather intricate to use, especially for beginners
- There is no free plan
- The prices are quite steep
Skillshare is usually a good choice if you’re just starting out. It can be used to create online courses that include videos and are taught in up to 25 minutes. Keep in mind, though, that, before you start making any money on SkillShare, you need to gather at least 25 students, when you can get $1 to $2 per enrollment.
As for prices, there are two options. The Starter plan is designed for teams of 5-49, and it costs $99 per user (when billed annually). The other option is the Enterprise plan, intended for teams of 20+, with additional features. To get a price for this one, you need to contact Skillshare representatives.
- Clear design and excellent user interface
- It offers teams plans, which can be quite convenient for companies
- There is a free trial period
- The lack of important analytics and reporting tools
- It is difficult to start making money and ensure a stable income
- There are no marketing tools that can help you promote your courses
- The free trial period lasts only seven days
- There is no course accreditation
How to Differentiate Between Different Types of Online Course Platforms?
As you can see, not all of the previously mentioned online course platforms belong under the same category. There are some fundamental differences between platforms such as Thinkific and Udemy, for instance.
Depending on your particular situation and requirements, you might prefer one or the other. Or you might need a third option. To be able to make the decision, you need to know what categories there are, to begin with. Only then can you narrow your choice down and move on to choosing a particular platform.
These are your options and a brief explanation for each of them.
WordPress LMS Plugins
Those who decide to rely on WordPress to host their online courses need a Learning Management System (LMS) plugin to make it work. You may think of an LMS as an online classroom where you can deliver the content to your audience. This is a good option in terms of flexibility, features, and functionality.
However, setting up and running a WordPress LMS plugin is far from a walk in the park. You will either have to be a tech-savvy person yourself, and ready to invest your time into this, or you’ll need to hire someone to do it for you.
When you maintain it yourself, it can easily become overwhelming. If you leave it to an expert, that will incur some additional costs. LearnDash, AccessAlly, and Teachable are such platforms.
Online Learning Platforms
Online learning platforms can be a good place to get started with online courses, but they are usually not a long-term solution. These are the platforms that host the courses of a variety of other instructors along with your own, such as Udemy and Skillshare. This means that you always have to compete with others in order to draw your target audience’s attention.
Online learning platforms do help you with sales and marketing when you post your courses there, but, as you may expect it, they won’t do that for free. So, you have to allocate a certain amount of your overall sales to give it to the platform.
Another major problem with this potential solution is that you don’t own your audience. In fact, you don’t get to contact your listeners at all, as you don’t get access to their email addresses. You don’t have any control over the platform’s policy or course pricing.
Considering all these disadvantages, it’s safe to say that this type of platform is only a good option if you use it as an additional sales channel, but never your primary and only source of income — it’s too risky.
Online course platforms designed particularly for videos can be useful in terms of video features and functionality, such as customizable video player or video analytics. Vimeo and Kaltura are among the best video platforms that you can use for your online courses.
However, what happens when you want to include some other form of content? The answer is quite clear — you have to search for another solution because these platforms don’t cover anything other than videos.
To avoid such complications, it would be best to stick to a more versatile platform. Even if you’re not planning to include anything but videos, for the time being, you never know when you might change your mind. After all, it is desirable that you do because people enjoy having access to content in different forms.
While each of the previously mentioned options does have some specific advantages, the most convenient solution possible is to have it all under one roof. That’s why you should start thinking about all-in-one platforms, such as GroupApp.
Wouldn’t it be convenient to use one platform to gather your customers, make them your loyal community members, own your community and engage the users, and then create, host, and sell your courses? You can have it all within your own website and not have to worry about any additional plugins, or how to juggle several platforms at the same time to cover all your needs.
How to Sell Online Courses From Your Own Website to Make Money?
If you’ve been worried wondering how to sell online courses from your own website to make money, it’s time to put an end to it.
For a start, you need to think carefully and find a profitable course idea, explore the niche in question, and gather enough material to include in your online course.
The next step is to actually create your content the best you can. Once again, remember: you want your audience to think of you as an authoritative source of information.
Finally, you need a reliable platform that will allow you to build your membership website and own your community so that you have direct access to your target audience when you start promoting your courses.
Once you have that, you can easily grow your network and start selling your courses directly to your loyal community members through memberships.
You’re still having second thoughts about how beneficial online course platforms can be for your business? We didn’t think so. Now that you know what types of platforms there are and what kind of benefits and drawbacks they bring, you are one step closer to choosing the option that suits you best.
The next step is to pick one of these 12 best online course platforms to start growing your customer base, turn your audience into loyal community members, and, ultimately, increase your revenue.
Once you choose the platform, you can get down to online course building. Preferably on a platform such as GroupApp, one that gives you all the flexibility you need, allows you to own your community, as well as to easily set up membership plans and monetize your membership website. With the right online course platform, the entire process can go seamlessly from start to finish.