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Online course platforms

Read about the pros and cons of some top remote learning platforms that can turn your knowledge into hard cash.

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With many options to choose from, it can be a difficult task trying to settle on an online course platform that will work for you. You'll need to think about cost, flexibility and how easily your chosen platform support to the type of learning you're providing.

Whatever your needs, you can use this guide to help you compare your options.

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What is an online course platform?

An online course platform is a type of Learning Management System (LMS) that works a bit like a digital classroom where you host the sharing of your expertise in a certain area. These platforms can provide a host of added features to facilitate your teaching, including multimedia such as webinars and animation. They can also help you market your lessons, helping you turn your knowledge into hard cash.

The type of learning you want to provide can range from a one-off, intensive session to ongoing courses that last weeks or months.

What type of online course platforms are there?

Generally, online course platforms can be split into the following categories:

  1. Online learning marketplaces. Your course is one part of a wider catalogue and you're given an existing base of students. You'll typically deliver your course content with a limited number of amendable features; you can expect the ability to edit your course's landing page as a minimum.
  2. Hosted software. A hosted online course software - or a WordPress plugin, as seen with providers like LearnDash - lets you use a range of customisable options and content formats, without the need to be tech-savvy. Using hosted software essentially gives you more control over how you present your content.
  3. All-in-one platforms. Many providers today, such as Kajabi, offer complete platforms where you run your website and course site together, complete with a wide choice of easy-to-use tools that can help you to grow your audience.

What features do the best online course platforms have?

The features of online course platforms vary quite a lot, and whether or not you can use all of them depends on what pricing tier you choose.

  • Multimedia. Does a platform easily support images, PDFs, video and audio?
  • Real-time interactions. How easy is it to communicate with your students?
  • Features. Can you pre-schedule courses, share interactive content or add quizzes?
  • Payments. How does the platform's fees structure work? How easy is to for you to collect payments?
  • Security. Is the platform secure and how easy is it to back up your course?
  • Marketing. Does a platform make it easy for you to reach and grow your audience?

Try to pick a plan that works best with the type of course creation you have in mind.

We reviewed these websites in August 2020. We endeavour to ensure that the information on this site is current and accurate but you should confirm any information with the product or service provider and read the information it can provide.

Important. Many online course platforms are US-owned, so expect to see lots of prices in USD. Keep this in mind during your comparison and be clear about how much it will cost you with foreign conversion rates in mind as well as the provider's overall costs.

There are a number of different types of online course platforms to consider, including the following:

1. Thinkific

Thinkific has a full software package that lets you create a course from scratch; and deliver, market and sell it. You can manage your users, offer coupons and run an affiliate programme to help you get more sales.

Pros

  • No transaction fees on any plans (a processing fee will apply)
  • Easy to build a fully-fledged course

Cons

  • Quizzes are quite basic

2. Kajabi

Kajabi is another all-in-one platform that gives customers plenty of ways to get paid, including via user memberships and file downloads in addition to your full online course. What's more, its email service has a range of editable features to help you customise your updates.

Pros

  • Email functionality is included in all plans
  • The Pro Plan could be a great fit for complex courses

Cons

  • Plans are quite expensive

3. LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds offers lots of interactivity and social learning tools as well as regular course content. Its user-friendly platform lets you upload and edit your content to help you present it in the way you want.

Pros

  • Free 30-day trial
  • Four quality plans to choose from

Cons

  • There's a $5 charge per sale on its Starter plan

4. Teachable

Teachable has a premium option that includes a range of website theme customisations, quizzes, certificates and support for up to five admins. There's a flexible pricing model that gives you the choice between using the platform for free (with a $1 and 10% charge) for all transactions, or you can pay a monthly fee without having to pay transaction fees.

Pros

  • Great option for new teachers
  • Easy to set up and use, complete with useful sales tools

Cons

  • Few in-platform marketing features

5. Udemy

Udemy offers a simple sign-up process and, once you're a premium instructor, you can start creating video content of at least 30 minutes in length. A great perk with Udemy is there's numerous ways to market your work from within their platform, which may include being placed in their marketing emails.

Pros

  • User-friendly, helping you to create your courses with ease
  • Access to a large user base

Cons

  • Your video series must have at least five lectures

6. LearnDash

LearnDash comes with a WordPress integration, meaning you can plug it directly into your existing WordPress site. This programme includes a number of useful features including a 'Focus Mode' to hide unnecessary sidebars and navigation, ensuring a smoother experience between you and your students.

Pros

  • Competitively priced plans
  • Easy to customise menus

Cons

  • Limited design features

7. TalentLMS

TalentLMS is an online business learning platform with an intuitive design that can help you to deliver training to your clients or colleagues in a hassle-free way. The platform is very easy to navigate and it won't require much training to get you started. Helpful features with TalentLMS include its support for multiple file types and multimedia options.

Pros

  • 24/7 customer support
  • Customise your courses for different clients with ease

Cons

  • No need to install any software

8. Thinkific

Thinkific makes it very easy to create and customise your courses using a drag-and-drop editor. Using the Zapier tool, you can integrate Thinkific with more than 1,500 apps - without the need for a WordPress plugin. What's more, their responsive customer support team is on-hand to help with any problems you may have and there's a bunch of support and learning guides available.

Pros

  • Impressive one-month free trial for their Pro Plan.
  • Lots of customisable features
  • Name up to five user admins.

Cons

  • Less suited to beginners in search of cheap courses

9. Podia

Podia is an easy-to-use platform with a straightforward fees structure: you'll pay a flat charge each month and there's no limit to the number of courses or products you can use. Its webinar functionality is impressive, as you can schedule them in advance, share replays, and more. You can provide some of these for free as a way to grow your customer email base.

Pros

  • Free 14-day trial
  • No direct transaction fees apply
  • Create and sell digital downloads

Cons

  • Limited customisations

10. Ruzuku

Ruzuku comes with an easy to use, customisable platform and you won't have much trouble with the quick sign-up process. The platform itself is simple for students: they can mark activities as they complete them, while you can track their progress with the minimum of fuss. You can choose to pay for Ruzuku on a monthly or yearly basis.

Pros

  • Free 14-day trial
  • Fix different price points for the same course.

Cons

  • Basic plans don't come with teleconference or webinar options

Frequently asked questions

How can I create an online course?

Here are four immediate steps to consider when it comes to online course creation:

  1. Define the goals of your training and be clear about the needs of your audience
  2. Create a structured outline of your course
  3. Build out your training content
  4. Work out how you'll get your content in front of your trainees

Once you've delivered your course, make sure you get feedback - collecting as many engagement metrics as you can in order to improve your course.

Is Zoom good for online learning?

Yes, Zoom has a range of features which can be learnt with a bit of training. Its multi-user interface makes it easy to host meetings and share data. Read more about Zoom in our guide.

Are there any free course platforms I should think about?

There may be some free course platforms, but it's hard to guarantee their quality. You may find you're better off sticking with free versions of a provider listed above, such as Teachable or Thinkific.

If you're set on a free option then make sure you do plenty of research about the provider's credentials and look for genuine user reviews first.

What are some of the most popular online courses/categories?

Some of the most searched for online courses include the following:

  • Photography
  • Management
  • Accounting
  • Business administration
  • Nutrition
  • Interior design

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