If you’re here, the odds are, you’re looking to create an online course sometime soon, and you’re not 100% sold yet on any particular one. There are great learning management solutions and very cool communities of creators out there, but there’s no solution that’s for everybody, and that’s okay. In this guide on best Online Course Platforms, I plan to share with you:
- Pros and Cons
- Features and benefits that are available in the LMS space
- and, of course, a list of the best Online Course Platforms so you can comparison shop
I’ve always wanted to create online courses, so I did quite a bit of searching around. I’ve signed up for a trial of most learning management options, and paid for the premium version on a few.
I’ve networked with people using each platform, and I learned the benefits that make some stick to one platform over another. In this article, I plan to share the benefits, so you can walk away confident about the LMS solution you choose.
Pros and Cons to many of these Best Online Course Platforms
I’m not sure if you’ve gotten the chance to thoroughly test any of these out or not, so let’s first talk about the pros and cons you might find.
Some major pros are:
- They have lots of great endorsements
- There are courses teaching you how to be a successful course creator
- They have reliable software
- They have a monopoly of satisfied customers
- Some have recurring commission affiliate programs
- Recurring cost
- Caps on # of products you can sell
- Some can use alot of server resources and even crash your site if you’re not careful
- Other Features and Benefits that are Out There
Features and Benefits Available
If you’re looking for the Best Online Course Platforms, you might want to see what types of features and benefits are available in the marketplace, so let me give you a rundown of some features you can find in learning management solutions:
- Great user experience for teacher and students
- Easy course set up
- The ability to sell memberships
- The ability to sell digital products (like eBooks, downloads, audio files, etc.)
- 3rd party Email integration
- Built-in email integration
- Live chat
- Webinar integration
- Live training for users
- Recurring commission affiliate programs
- Good customer support
- Continuous innovation
- High level of customer satisfaction
- Longevity in the industry
- The “LMS on the rise” or underdog in the industry
The Best Online Course Platforms that are built for Online Courses
This is a list of Best Online Course Platforms that are built solely for hosting online courses. They may have other features and benefits (which I’ll point out), but they were built primarily for creating and selling online courses.
1. Podia - #1 Recommendation
After searching for a solution for my business, I decided to go with Podia because the features and benefits they offered were superior to the others in the market. They offer the ability to sell online courses, memberships, digital products (like eBooks, downloads, audio, etc.)
Best Used For: Creators who may want to sell online courses, memberships, and other digital products
What Podia Does Well
- They have built in live chat so you can communicate with your customers
- They have edit functions where you can change fonts, colors, and layout to fit your brand
- Their customer support is very responsive
- They’re affordable
- They don’t charge transaction fees
- They have affiliate marketing built into their shaker plan
- They have built in email marketing and 3rd party integrations
- You can sell memberships or courses
- They have a high customer satisfaction rating
- They have live training to help answer your questions about anything related to creating or selling your online course
- They’re constantly making updates and improvements based on user feedback
- Free video hosting
- I’d like to see open rates for messages sent out to members (since this isn’t a part of their email integration)
- They’re the “rising start” or “new kid on the block”, so many creators overlook them because they want something that’s been around longer
- Add trial payment options, so creators can attract new customers for a trial price
I’ve been using them now for 3 months and haven’t had problems with uptime, responsiveness, or reliability.
Ease of Use
It’s extremely easy to create courses using Podia. It’s probably the best user experience for students and creators.
They have two plans: the mover ($39) and the shaker ($79), but no free plans like Teachable or Thinkific, however, they also don’t have fees that take a portion of sales either.
They have live chat support and a help center. The support is very responsive and the help center is helpful also.
Price: From $39
How Podia is Different
- With other online course software, you can create online courses, but with Podia, you can create online courses, memberships, AND other digital products.
- With Podia, you have streamlined the checkout process, so you’ll have high conversion rates
- With Podia, you can embed the checkout on any website page or landing page builder
- Podia is fairly new
- With Teachable, you have less font and branding options
- With Podia, there’s monthly live training and courses to help you become successful in your business
If you’re looking for a learning management solution that’s been around for awhile, has similar features and benefits with Teachable, and offers a different user experience, you may want to take a look at Thinkific.
Best Used For: Businesses who want a LMS option that's proven to outlast the test of time
What Thinkific Does Well
- They’ve been around since 2012 (which is a long time for an online business
- Easy to use
- Offers a free version (with processing fees)
- Between Thinkific and their affiliates, there’s lots of training to help you become successful
- Of all of the Teachable alternatives, Thinkific is probably the most similar
- Integrated landing page builder
- Free trial and payment options
- You can sell memberships and accept recurring payments
- Completion gamification and certificates
- 30% recurring affiliate program
- Free video hosting
- You’d need other software to sell digital products other than online courses
- No built-in webinar options
- No live chat
- You’d need a 3rd party email provider
- Fees take a portion of sales
One of the most common things to hear about Thinkific is “it’s reliable”
Ease of Use
Thinkific is very easy to use for creators and students.
The pricing is very comparable to others in the market, and they offer a free option (with higher transaction fees).
Email and phone support available
Price: From $0 (FREE)
Teachable vs. Thinkific
How Thinkific is Different
- With Teachable, you have to pay for the $79/mo plan to avoid transaction fees
- With Thinkific, you can sell memberships
- The pricing structure is quite different
- Thinkific doesn’t offer live chat and Teachable does
- Paid Teachable plans come with TeachableU: courses on creating and selling profitable online courses and monthly interviews
Teachable is one of the most popular learning management solutions. They have live training support, ongoing TeachableU courses to help you become a successful creator, and a great user experience for you and your students.
Best Used For: Someone who wants to create and sell online courses, and doesnt need features for selling memberships or other digital products
What Teachable Does Well
- Great endorsements from people like Pat Flynn
- Great training to help course creators (TeachableU)
- Very established reputation
- Streamlined checkout for students who have bought from Teachable creators
- Customizable sales pages and landing pages
- Affiliate management
- Built in Live chat
- 30% lifetime recurring commission affiliate program
- You’d need other software for webinars
- You’d need other software for memberships
- You’d need other software for email marketing
- You’d need other software to sell digital products
Teachable has a high uptime, . It’s reliable software, which is why small and large companies use it.
Ease of Use
The user interface is very clean. It’s easy to use as a student or creator.
The pricing is mid-range in comparison to the marketplace. They offer a free plan with transaction fees.
Only email support. Live chat is only available to pro plans and up.
Price: From $0 (FREE)
4. Kajabi [Business-in-a-Box Premium Alternative]
If you’re looking for a complete “business in a box”, you may want to check out Kajabi. They have webinar integration, landing page integration, and video hosting. Plus, you can sell online courses, memberships, and digital products.
Best Used For: Someone who is looking for a complete "business in a box" and doesn't mind paying premium pricing for it.
What Kajabi Does Well
- They’ve integrated live and recorded webinars into the software
- They’re used by many celebrities (like Grant Cardone and Brandan Burchard)
- It’s very customizable, so stores can look very unique
- Lots of integrations
- You can sell memberships, digital products, and online courses
- Built-in funnels, email automation, landing pages, and events
- 24/7 email, live chat and phone support
- Higher price option in comparison to others in the market
- There’s a cap of how many products you can sell in each plan
Large companies love using Kajabi because it’s been known as a reliable solution.
Ease of Use
The software is very robust, but simple to use.
$119-$319/mo makes them one of the most expensive online course options.
24/7 email, live chat, and phone support
Price: From $119/mo
How Kajabi is Different
- Lots of proven landing page and funnel templates included
- a Higher price option
- Events are integrated
- One-click upsells are included
- A large conversion focus
- There are caps on the # of products you can sell in each plan
5. ClickFunnels [Full Conversion Suite]
Clickfunnels is a software company that many people use in place of a website. The software helps to escort potential customers thru the buyer’s journey. With Clickfunnels, you can create all types of landing pages, upsells, downsells, sell digital products, and make memberships sites.
Best Used For: Someone looking for high converting sales pages and wants to sell digital products of various types.
What Clickfunnels Does Well
- Lots of tested landing page templates
- You can sell all types of digital products and membership sites
- Lots of training available to help you grow your business
- Doesn’t have gamification options other LMS options will have
- Doesn’t offer quizzes
- No built in live chat
Clickfnnels has an army of raving advocates because of the reliability of the software.
Ease of Use
Most things are drag and drop which makes Clickfunnels easy to use.
Higher priced option. No free plan.
Support is for higher priced pay plans
Price: From $97/mo
How ClickFunnels is Different
- Russell Brunson, the Clickfunnels founde advises many leading online entrepreneurs
- Training is included
- They have a great affiliate program with 40% recurring lifetime commissions and lots of incentives like “the two comma club” and the “dream car challenge”
Check out my full Clickfunnels review here.
6. LifterLMS [Wordpress Teachable Alternative]
If you’re looking for a self-hosted WordPress Learning management option, LifterLMS could be a great option for you.
Best Used For: Those who want to self-host their online courses on their WordPress website
What LifterLMS Does Well
- They integrate with pagebuilders (like Elementor), so you can have many customization options
- Lots of gamification
- Integrations with payment processors, Woocommerce, and other plugins to add functionality
- You can sell digital products and memberships
- They have private coaching areas
- Text messaging integrations
- Typically results in higher hosting costs
- Can break your entire site if compatibility issues come up
- Requires alot of hosting resources
- You do all updates manually
Plugin compatibility issues can break the site
Ease of Use
May be familiar for WordPress users, but less user-friendly than other LMS options
Once you add in hosting, video hosting, and annual subscription costs, LifterLMS is fairly close in price to other alternatives
You have to buy something to get support
Price: From $1
How LifterLMS is different
- LifterLMS is a WordPress plugin
- It uses your hosting server resources
- LifterLMS requires manual updating inside of WordPress
- LifterLMS can have plugin incompatibility issues
- LifterLMS does not have built-in video hosting.
Check out my full LifterLMS review here.
7. Thrive Apprentice [Most Budget-Friendly Option]
If you’re looking for a one-time payment LMS option that’s fairly inexpensive, but still gives a good user experience, you may want to check out Thrive Apprentice.
Best Used For: Someone who's looking for a budget friendly option for making online courses
What Thrive Apprentice Does Well
- Very nice user interface
- Compatible with Thrive’s other conversion focused tools
- Easy to configure
- Can have plugin compatibility issues
- You’d need a separate membership plugin to lock the content
- No gamification or certifications
- You’d need separate video hosting
- You’rd need separate email marketing
It’s fairly reliable, however, there are WordPress glitches and incompatibility issues that could cause downtime from time to time.
Ease of Use
Thrive Apprentice is fairly easy to use, however, when comparing the other options, it’s not on the top of the list.
Thrive Apprentice is inexpensive, however, you’d still need video hosting and a membership plugin to make it function like a learning management soltion.
Thrive offers a support forum. No live chat, email, or phone support. Sometimes, it may take up to one full day to get support.
Price: From $67 One-time
What Makes Thrive Apprentice Different
- It’s a WordPress plugin
- It doesn’t “lock content” without a membership plugin
- It’s a one-time payment rather than a recurring payment
What the Market Has to Say
Clearly, Udemy is the most popular online course platform with Clickfunnels following in second. The results could be a little skewed though because many Clickfunnels users don’t use it as a learning management solution. Either way, this is what’s popular…