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Written by: Siobhan Brier  | August 5, 2021

You’ve amassed a certain level of expertise, and it’s time to take your business to the next level.

Creating and selling online courses can be extremely lucrative and, more importantly, they can be a chance for you to share valuable knowledge with others.

For a fee, online course platforms allow users to design and create custom websites and courses to sell for a profit. Different platforms offer different perks, but in general, a basic membership provides all the tools you need to successfully start making money off your own personal expertise.

So, how can you tell which platform to choose from? 

Some courses may be better suited to certain platforms than others. 

Below, we’ll unpack some of our favorite online learning management systems or online course platforms, discuss other options, and give you some tips to set you up for success.

Sit back, relax, maybe pour yourself a glass of wine. We’ve done the hard part for you.

Top Online Course Platforms

Choosing the best online course platform for your specific goals and needs can make or break your project. 

Not all platforms are created equal. A good online course platform should feature interactive options, support multiple forms of media, maintain easy-to-use learning management systems, and fit the style of your coursework.

Our list of the best online course platforms includes:

While each of these platforms offers unique benefits, our top three offer maximum professionalism and ease of use for a reasonable price. Let’s first take a look below at our top choices.

1. Best Online Course Platform Overall: Thinkific

Price: $39 USD Basic Membership

Why We Love It: Thinkific offers many of the same premium and professional features that more expensive options do for a fraction of the price. 

While the site does offer higher and pricier levels of membership, a basic package gives you all the tools you need to create a smart, functional, and one-of-a-kind online course experience. 

Should you choose to pursue a Pro or Premier membership, you’ll gain access to even more options, like live tech support, the ability to create assignments, etc., to keep things interesting. 

Those who are interested in trying out Thinkific can do so for 30 days free of charge; that’s a great way to make sure Thinkific is a good fit for you before you invest.

Check out our full review of Thinkific here. 

2. Best Professional Online Course Platform: Kajabi

Price: $119 per month

Why We Love It: Although it’s not the most affordable option on our list, Kajabi very well may be the best option for anyone looking to create a seamless and truly polished course that can stand the test of time.

A basic membership covers important features like a website, marketing emails, contacts, and more, but premium memberships provide access to these features to a bigger team. That means Kajabi might be a good fit for those looking to collaborate or work with others, though a pricier subscription may be necessary.

Potential Cons: No custom domain is included with basic membership fees. Higher second-tier or third-tier memberships are required to remove Kajabi branding; this upgrade may be worth the cost difference if you value the opportunity to allow multiple user admins and site workers, but otherwise, it may be a drawback if you do not need those features but want to remove the branding.

Check out our full review of Kajabi here. 

3. Best Online Course Platform With Interaction: Learnworlds

Price: $79 per month

Why We Love It: Not only does Learnworlds provide users with an impressive list of interactive features for learners–think downloadable files, ebooks, interactive activities, etc.–it also boasts an impressive level of customization and attention to detail.

Learnworlds also features multiple tiers for membership. Their most popular plan goes for $79/ mo, but a more affordable albeit limited option is available for just $24/ mo. 

Basic membership also covers a decent amount of site admins, unlimited courses and landing pages, and more. Learnworlds is a great choice if you’re looking to use a platform that gives you a lot of options for a reasonable price. 

Potential Cons: Learnworlds’s top plan is a bit pricey side compared to the site’s other memberships. Still, the lower-tier membership prices mean that it’s possible to try out Learnworlds before making a significant financial commitment.

Check out our full review of Learnworlds here. 

What Are Online Course Platforms?

Online course platforms are generally web-based, education-focused spaces for educators to share material and, in some cases, make a profit off their services.

These platforms allow users to create lessons, assignments, give webinars, create websites, and more. They are designed specifically to allow third-party users to take control of their own business. 

Some platforms boast access to large communities of other educators and students, all of whom can provide assistance, share insight, or offer professional development opportunities. 

Depending on the focus of the site, it may feature additional social media–like characteristics like messaging, adding friends, and more.

You can think of online course platforms almost like a modern, digitized school for adults, a classroom you can keep in your pocket. As the demand for accessible online-based educational material and entertainment has skyrocketed, so too has an interest in these platforms.

What Are More of the Best Online Course Platforms?

Aside from our top picks, there are many online course platforms and online learning platforms you can use to your advantage. The one that is best for you really comes down to your course material, your personal taste, and your goals.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some of our other favorites to get a better idea of what else is out there!

Podia

Price: $39 per month

Pros: 

  • Add coupons and sell memberships to consumers
  • Sell your content ahead of time to get a better feel for demand
  • Email marketing tools available
  • Affordable plans at every level

Cons:

  • Extra team members are not included with the first two tiers of membership plans and instead must be paid for individually ($20/month each)
  • No custom domain
  • Minimal extras included in lower levels of membership

Teachable

Price: $29 per month

Pros:

  • Unlimited courses and students with each membership plan
  • Easy to use and customize
  • Drip course content: 
    • Gives instructors the ability to slowly release videos or other new content and keep learners engaged long-term
  • Course creator training is included with membership, which gives instructors the ability to receive even more specific tips for creating a successful course

Cons:

  • Transaction fees are present with a basic membership
    • Users must upgrade to a $99/month membership in order to avoid them
  • Creating an unbranded course or website is not possible with a basic plan 
  • Although this service is one of the cheapest, it does sacrifice some features in order to meet that price range

LearnDash

Price: $169 per month

Pros:

  • Free social media integration with membership
  • Unlimited courses and users
  • Quizzing tools are offered to help you keep track of students’ progress
  • Demo site template included with all memberships

Cons:

  • LearnDash is a WordPress plugin rather than a site of its own, meaning it’s not possible to create a webpage in the exact same way you might with a traditional online course platform (where all of your content is contained within that site)
  • Even the cheapest membership is over $100, so this option may not be the best for those on a budget or newbies

Skillshare

Price: $139 per month

Pros:

  • Great for teaching creative skills and hobbies
  • Membership plans based on team collaboration make it easier to involve more people in your course creation and management
  • Unlimited access to other courses with membership

Cons:

  • Specific audience
    • Skillshare tends to attract a lot of attention for creative skills and hobbies, so it may be a more difficult platform to sell some types of courses on

Mighty Networks

Price: $23 per month

Pros:

  • Designed to help educators create and function within a community of like-minded, dedicated individuals
  • Access to polls, questions, and more
  • Zoom integration: use Zoom to teach classes and meet with students
  • Free trial available for membership plans
    • Take some time to figure out whether the platform works for you before you buy

Cons:

  • Online courses are not available with a basic membership. While you’ll receive a website of your own you can use, you won’t be able to access other online courses from other creators unless you upgrade

How to Make Money With Online Course Platforms

Aside from choosing a platform that’s appropriate for your needs and audience, there are other important things to keep in mind when trying to create a profitable online course.

Be sure to keep the following suggestions in mind as you navigate the creation of an online course; planning ahead and thoughtfully can help save you a lot of time, stress, and money.

Develop Intriguing Content

The internet is a competitive place and an expansive one; it’s possible to find the answer to just about any question under the sun with a few keystrokes, after all.

That’s why it’s crucial to put significant effort into your content itself. Create the type of content you would want to use yourself, and don’t cut corners. Customers are unlikely to remain interested over a long period of time if your content is confusing or flat.

Since you have the opportunity to turn a profit from your course material, it’s imperative that you go above and beyond. Your material should be more in-depth and fine-tuned than what’s easily available on the internet for free in order to remain competitive.

Finally, another good tip is to focus on creating content that there is a noticeable demand for. Whether it be coding, animation, cyber-security, or another related topic, choosing something that students will be interested enough in to deliberately seek out significantly increases your odds of making decent money.

Invest in a Good Set-Up

The phrase “you have to spend money to make money” is cliche, but in this case, it’s largely true. Investing in high-quality equipment for filming, editing, or otherwise creating your content will help set you apart from others and ensure that you retain as many students as possible.

There’s no need to go too crazy, at least not right off the bat. Try to focus on good lighting, good recording equipment, and quality supplies, then expand from there.

Having a good setup might mean taking a look at your technology itself. Older computers or phones may not have the same functionality as newer models, which can make it hard to offer all of the same services as other educators.

Market Yourself

Once you’ve done all the hard work of creating a presence for yourself online, you’ll want to make sure that people see the fruits of your effort! 

Marketing yourself and your course material is an important part of setting yourself up for long-term success. 

Making professional connections whenever possible is another great way to ensure that you make a name for yourself.

Maintain a Professional Website

If the online course platform you’re using allows you to create a personal website for your material, be sure to keep it looking its best. You can also review our article on how to promote your website here.

Ensure that the site is aesthetically pleasing, informational, and easy to understand and navigate.

Taking the time to set up or frequently update a website will be worth the effort. Keeping your material professional makes it all the more user-friendly for potential students.

Be sure to include contact information on your page, too. It should be easy to contact you with questions and specific requests or offers. The more means of contact you’re able to offer to those who invest in your course, the better.

Brand Yourself and Your Course

Creating content is challenging in and of itself, but what can be even more taxing is finding a way to definitively set yourself apart from the rest.

The sheer amount of courses available online, many of which are taught by talented and qualified instructors, means that coming up with a personal brand is almost necessary to ensure you stick in people’s minds.

Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to brand yourself or your content. Engaging in a certain niche or creating original video series, for instance, can help you develop a loyal following for your content.

Branding is also important for marketing yourself to outsiders, too. You should always be fully in control of your brand. You should get the final say regarding personal policies, logos, content themes, etc., and be certain that the image you’re showing to the world is one that satisfies you.

Remember Money Isn’t The Only Valuable Thing

Reaping the financial benefits of all of your hard work is, of course, a very fulfilling and exciting experience, but so too is getting the opportunity to make a real change in the lives of so many individuals.

When you make the choice to share your knowledge on an online course platform, you give someone else the opportunity to explore a new passion, hobby, or vital professional skill. 

Content creators can actually hold a large amount of power and influence, both of which should be kept in mind and used wisely.

Hyperfocusing on profiting as much as possible can easily make you forget why you’ve likely started this endeavor in the first place. It can also be discouraging to measure your success solely through monetary means, especially if you’re new to using the Internet in this way.

While it is important to set yourself up for financial success, it can be key to keep in mind that taking the time to create thoughtful, quality content is far more important. 

Not only will you have a better experience, you’ll ensure that those who do pay for your courses feel tempted to come back for more.

Pros and Cons of an Online Course Platform

Why choose to seek out an online course platform instead of marketing your content independently–on Youtube, for instance–and ensuring you keep all profits?

For many users, the answer is nuanced. Online course platforms provide services and features that can be impossible to mimic on your own, and the communities they attract are specifically seeking out the material you provide.

Still, it’s worthwhile to consider what challenges might pop up once you begin an online course platform. Below are some major ideas to keep in mind.

Pro: Flexibility

Modern technology practically guarantees that you’ll be able to access your course material just about anywhere you go and on your own schedule, which means it’s easier than ever to plan and incorporate into even the busiest of schedules.

It’s also possible to teach courses about a wide variety of topics or interests, so even if more traditional and popular skills aren’t your specialty, you can find something that others are also interested in learning more about.

Con: Lack of face-to-face interaction

Of course, the main drawback of any online platform is the simple fact that it makes in-person interaction a thing of the past.

There are ways to remedy this, like incorporating a live video feed or video chatting into your course plans, but in general, a lack of adequate communication can make it hard for students to feel engaged.

To combat this, it’s especially important that you take the time to connect with the audience of your course, even if things feel one-sided. This sort of effort can be the difference between a good course and a great course.

Pro: Access to an abundance of resources

When you log onto a computer, you essentially have every book, quote, research study, and list you could possibly need right at your fingertips. 

This abundance of information has made it significantly easier for more people to engage in teaching, pick up new hobbies, and actively share them with others.

Online course platforms are the perfect place to utilize all of the resources the Internet has to offer. You can incorporate fun technology into your presentations, activities, and even assessments to create a truly enriching and unique experience.

It’s also comforting to know that there are other courses and instructors to look to for guidance or inspiration. The Internet can help connect even the most different people, so take advantage of it.

Pro: Complete control over your content

When you make the choice to join an online course platform and market your material, you also make the choice to act as your own boss.

That means you can create whatever you want and at whatever volume you want in order to accomplish your course goals. If you want to get creative, you absolutely can; if you want to keep things professional and efficient, do that.

This personal freedom is something that seems to be harder and harder to come across organically in the modern workplace, so participating in an online course platform is certainly a unique way to bring home some extra cash.

Final Thoughts

Utilizing an online course platform is a great way to share what you know and love with the world and potentially get paid to do so.

The world of online entertainment and education is certainly at an all-time high, so there’s been perhaps no better time than the present to get started. 

If you’re looking to create a course or take one yourself, being familiar with the platforms that can work well for you saves you a lot of time and frustration.

In many cases, getting the most features for your money seems like it ought to be a priority, but don’t forget to consider other things, too. What sort of material will you teach? Should it be interactive? How many students might you work with?

Take some time to sit down and really plan things out. Consider what sorts of media you might want to use, map out a budget, and do whatever else you need to in order to feel prepared.

Selecting the best online course platform for you can be much easier by following these tips. Plus, if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to move on and try something new. There’s a lot out there to choose from, after all!

Our top picks are wonderful starting points and work well for millions of users worldwide, so be sure to seriously consider them as options. Finding a platform shouldn’t be the hardest part of creating a course, and now it doesn’t have to be.

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