Best Online Course Platforms [2019]

Best Online Course Platforms

Education is the best investment you will ever make. Yes, I know – you’ve heard it a million times, and let’s not forget that some of the richest guys around didn’t study much.

But, stay with me a moment. I mean, isn’t the idea of studying for 3-4 hours a week, or earning thousands from such courses appealing? Enter online course platforms!

It might sound like the biggest cliché ever, but an investment in your education is the single-most important investment you’ll ever make. And in as much as some billionaires got wealthy without a college degree, these guys are always learning.

Their businesses require that they understand everything that happens around them and in their businesses. They study markets to know when and where to put money into specific stocks or when to buy out. And even though your college degree might turn out to be the wrong fit for you if you take the wrong career path, you always learn something.

learning is a continuous process

The interesting bit, however, is that learning is a continuous process, and you will have to learn many new things throughout life. Today, more and more people are looking for the best quality and convenient online courses. This means that the demand for your knowledge and skills is quite high, and you could live off being an online course instructor.

As one of the individuals most grateful for online courses – I’m continuously refining my skills, learning new things, relearning, unlearning, and expanding my knowledge. Thanks to these courses, my career is flourishing, and I can venture into other lines of business with ease. To be honest, education is the best form of self-development, and most people are now learning this.

For instructors and teachers, this means that you have the biggest opportunities to not only make an impact but also to earn a living off these platforms.

But how do you choose the best platform for online courses? And if you are an educator, which is the best platform for you to offer online courses from? Well, when it comes to education and training, online learning platforms have increased and are now the norm.

These platforms promise great packages that are either offered by an in-house team, or by third-party service providers. There’s also the fact that these Learning Management Systems are increasing in quality, the value of courses offered, and their reach. Simply put, both trainers and employers or individuals looking for training opportunities are increasing, making the search for the best online courses’ platforms harder.

For these reasons, I endeavored to help you find the best sites offering great platforms for online courses. From the research, here are some of the best online course platforms.

The Best Online Course Platforms

learning onlline

In the search for the best platforms offering online courses, it’s an undisputed fact that you need a platform that’s easy to use for both the trainers and the trainee. Therefore, you will find that most of these platforms boast inbuilt features for communication (messaging), as well as data analytics for rating, as well as engagements.

Some of these platforms are also now incorporating AI to provide learning that’s customized to meet the needs of an individual.These and several other features ensure that a site offers the best.
Below is a review of some of the sites you might have under consideration:

1. Udemy

Udemy takes our top spot for the best online course platform. If you are planning to launch your first online course on any subject, Udemy is the best place to get started.

This online learning platform boasts a massive marketplace for massive open online courses or MOOCs which have made learning easily accessible. The platform has also made online teaching a breeze.

Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise to note that Udemy has more than 24 million students who are enrolled in their courses. The instructor base is also large, with more than 35,000 instructors from all over the world.

If you wish to be an instructor on Udemy creating paid courses on the platform, you need to apply to be a premium instructor first. After the approval of your application, you will follow the series of steps set up for you to create the first online course.

Udemy keeps its courses to a maximum of 30 minutes for video and a maximum of 5 lectures, which means that when you are creating/ planning your course content, each course should fit in the 30-minute window and lectures shouldn’t exceed the set limit of 5. You could also incorporate quizzes, coding exercises, assignments, as well as discussion prompts.

Besides the systematic setup of courses, Udemy is also an excellent site for you to launch your online courses because it offers great support when it comes to the creation and marketing of courses.

So, if you are uncertain about the content of your first course, you could submit only a sample first for review. The review will provide comprehensive feedback on the audio and video, and you will also get recommendations for what equipment to use.

Udemy also offers easy-to-follow tutorials to guide you when planning the course, as well as the related topics you could cover, and also how to film your first video. Udemy’s Teach Hub offers several tips and tricks on how to navigate the system.

You could also learn more about Udemy and how to offer marketable courses by joining the Facebook Group for Udemy instructors, StudioU. On this group, you get to engage with the other instructors and also bounce ideas off each other.

Now, most people starting off as instructors on Udemy struggle to make sales the first few courses. To motivate instructors and to boost sales, Udemy has customized marketing programs that promise to provide great support.

screenshot of udemy

Thanks to this program, your courses could be featured in Udemy’s email blasts to its subscribers. The other marketing support programs offered by Udemy include the affiliate marketing program and the state-wide discounts. These programs are optional though, and Udemy takes a share of the sales from the course sales.

On top of all these, Udemy also provides marketplace insights into the courses they are already offering. These insights will help you in choosing the best courses or topics to focus on. The insights from the marketplace also let you see how your courses stack up against the other courses offered on Udemy.

You could also tell more about the marketable courses by looking at the total number of existing courses, the top-earning courses, best channels for promotions, as well as the monthly revenue earned by different courses.
How much is it?

Well, selling premium courses on Udemy is free. However, Udemy will charge a 3% revenue share from course sales that are made by instructors’ coupons. And if the course is found through organic searches on Udemy, then the guys at Udemy will have 50% of the revenue.

Udemy takes a 75% revenue share on all course sales that result from their paid-user acquisition channels. If you are an employer looking for sign up your employees for specific courses on Udemy, you have to pay a specific amount depending on the plan you sign up for. You get to choose between the Team and the Enterprise plans.

Pros

  • Thousands of courses
  • Robust behavior monitoring tools
  • Large marketplace
  • Marketing tools and guides

Cons

  • The business plans are not the cheapest

2. Skillshare

skillshare screenshot

If you are a creative looking for the best online space to teach those creative skills to the rest of the world, head on to Skillshare.

Skillshare is offering online courses for anything and everything creative from marketing, photography, and painting, to doodling, cooking, and hand painting, among other skills.

On Skillshare, students sign up under the membership plan, which gives them unlimited access to more than 22,000 premium courses.

On the other hand, creators on Skillshare get to sign up for free, publish courses, and get paid. But there’s a catch – to get paid you must sign up for the Skillshare premium catalog.

But whether you are on the free or the premium plan, Skillshare offers three main moving parts – a project, video lessons, and community discussions. The classes run for between 20 and 60 minutes, for video, and these should be broken down into 2-5 lessons.

For the practical lessons, Skillshare puts emphasis on the creation of content that calls for hands-on practice. So, if you are signing up for a social media management/ marketing class, you will be required to promote your Instagram account or write a pitch if you are in a writing class. In the community section of Skillshare’s learning portal, students are required to post and share their work.

Skillshare is also different from other online course platforms because it doesn’t base results on students’ final outcomes but on their actual progress. To determine actual progress, students have to share their progress to the community, receive feedback, and then make the appropriate changes.

Creating premium classes on Skillshare is free, but Skillshare will pay its instructors $10 for premium memberships’ referrals, as well as royalties for minutes watched in any of their premium classes, every month.

Pros

  • Classes encourage both reading and actively doing
  • There are no niche-specific courses/ skills offered
  • Great learning site for creatives
  • Free trial
  • There are premium perks for you

Cons

  • It doesn’t have any accredited courses
  • You cannot rate the courses or even see if they are top-rated or not
  • Course access is unclear

3. Docebo

Image  for docebo dashboard

Docebo is one of the best collaborative learning management systems (LMSs) that allow ease of organizing, tracking, as well as the distribution of the online courses, specifically for formal learning. This collaborative learning environment is curated for clients, employees, as well as customers.

How does Docebo enhance a collaborative learning environment? Well, instead of the traditional one-way communication/ broadcasting system of teaching, Docebo is all about collaboration thanks to its system which allows employees to the ask questions and the get answers on relevant subjects from experts on the said subject.

Docebo also allows its learners to share their knowledge easily. The shared knowledge is then validated through a peer review before it’s dispensed across the rest of the class.

Docebo boasts very organized systems thanks to its unique design. Administrators on the platform get to manage the competency gaps and skills effectively. And if you need formal or informal training or just need to upskill specific areas, there’s the Docebo Perform tool which allows you to assign both formal and informal training sessions.

This platform also has a customization option that will allow you to create a learning environment with the look/ feel of your brand. Docebo also sports an easy-to-use UI which is slick and packed with a variety of powerful third-party integrations. These integrations promise a smooth learning experience, as well as the effortless organization of the training schemes.

The pricing of this learning platform depends on the package you select. So, contact the guys at Docebo for a quote.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Customizable
  • Great for use by teams
  • Collaborative learning system

Cons

  • Not as many features and courses as Udemy
  • It’s expensive
  • Online Course Creation Software/ Tools

4. Teachable

Image result for teachable screenshot

Teachable is the best online course creation tools on the market today. If you are an online course creator looking to grow and professionally nurture your online audience, you might want to try Teachable.

This platform offers several options which allow you to customize the look/ feel of your online course before launching it. You can also build a website that resonates with your brand’s needs. On top of the website, Teachable also allows you to create sales pages, which will help you market your courses upon their launch.

While Teachable simplifies how you create online courses, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be used by persons who are tech-savvy. For the tech-savvy individuals, you could use the Power Editor function as it allows you to tinker with the codes.

However, if your coding skills are limited or if you don’t have any coding skills, you could make use of the available editable templates. The other attractive feature of Teachable is that you can upload files from OneDrive, Dropbox, or Google Drive to Teachable; in different formats. When you get down to course creation, you will like Teachable’s native tool for email marketing.

This tool allows you to filter messages to your students, and then you can send them personalized messages once they’ve enrolled for a course. You could also send a confirmation message or a Thank you message after a student completes a course or if they redeem a coupon.

The other feature that makes Teachable an all-rounded online platform for content creation has to be the feedback collection system. Also, you get to collect insights for the launched courses using tools like Surveys and Google Forms.

Teachable also comes with impressive and powerful integrations. One of these integrations is the one that allows you to stay in touch with your students after the completion of the course they were taking. For this communication system, you only need to add your students to your email list.

How much is Teachable?

The other reasons why we recommend Teachable is that it boasts a flexible pricing model. You can price your courses individually and, on a need-to-use basis, or you could bundle them into a package if you plan on creating many courses.

Teachable also allows you to choose a one-time payment option, but you could also settle for a single payment plan. If you are not planning to create courses regularly, there the subscription payment option too.

The prices start from $39/month in the Basic subscription plan. This plan will come with a customized domain name, coupon codes, email/ affiliate marketing option, a 5% transaction fee, as well as drip course content.

While you have to pay to use Teachable, you can increase your chances of making big sales by creating and using coupon codes upon the launch of a course. We all know that coupon codes are the best lead magnets and the best generators of leads and sources.

Therefore, you shouldn’t overlook this. Besides coupon codes, Teachable also allows you to make more sales from your courses using their highly efficient and built-in option for affiliate marketing. For affiliate marketing, just add affiliates in the section shown.

Once the affiliate program is up and running, you will earn a percentage of the course sales from the affiliate sales. The best part is that you don’t need any third-party integrations for the affiliate marketing program to be up and running.

Pros

  • It offers a custom domain
  • Great pages and navigational functions
  • Customized text capabilities
  • Reliable support
  • Great tracking and reporting functions
  • Great management and communication platform
  • Integrations for Zapier, Mailchimp, and ConvertKit

Cons

  • No multi-user plans
  • No credits for education continuity
  • It lacks support functions for the xAPI/TinCan or SCORM needed for the configuration and import capabilities

5. Kajabi

If you are a super-busy content creator looking for an online platform that will enhance your marketing prowess, while also simplifying your online course content creation process, you might want to try Kajabi. Kajabi comes with a unique feature for marketing, or rather a marketing blueprint – Pipelines.

Pipeline is an intuitive tool that connects easily with landing pages, making it easy for you to launch causes (and make sales), run offers, or even connect to your checkout pages with ease, and in few clicks.

Image for kajabi

As a prime marketing tool, Kajabi will simplify the collection of emails from your subscribers. Here, the best email collection strategy involves asking site visitors and users for their email addresses in exchange for freebies like free downloadable ebooks or a cheat sheet.

So, once this user provides their email address, they will be automatically directed to the second page, the sales page, from where they will enter any other details to get the free product while also checking out whatever else you have on your sales page.

If on the second page, this online visitor chooses to buy that product on offer, they will be directed to the third page, which is the checkout page. This process is more like a three-step pipeline, hence the name Pipelines for the marketing blueprint.

As one of the best online marketing systems for people with online courses, you might also like that Kajabi allows the creation of email sequences. If you are new to email sequences in email marketing, think about the online course you subscribed for, and now you always get email notifications for offers and new courses. Well, that is what Kajabi’s email sequence does.

With this function, you can send special offer alerts and thank you notes to your email subscribers whenever they come up. The icing on the cake is that Kajabi already offers templates for these email sequences and your only job involves the addition/ update of the content to meet your varying demands.
Besides the templates, you might also like the IF-THEN conditional scenarios that will guide the creation of sales pages and other kinds of marketing tools/ functions. Basically, Kajabi lies at the center of your course’s online/ email marketing efforts. All it needs is email addresses.

For course creation, Kajabi offers templates for complete online courses, as well as mini-courses, memberships, and reliable evergreen training content. Its new community feature was also added recently, and this feature promises to provide your learners with an interactive learning environment, on top of the online courses

Pros

  • It has great marketing tools for your online courses
  • Integrations for the best email marketing tools
  • Well-build to enhance sales
  • It looks and feels great
  • Great video streaming and blogging capabilities
  • It will jumpstart your courses’ creation process
  • It has a function for adding live events.
  • Great support

Cons

  • The editing functions are not straightforward
  • A steep learning curve

6. Thinkific

thinkific homepage screenshot

With at least 20 years’ experience in the online/ e-learning industry, Thinkific is one of the founding online learning sites, and it has a lot to offer to learners and edupreneurs. 

Thinkific has been involved in tracking and research into online course sites in a move designed to help organizations (and even individuals) come up with the best online courses; which is why this platform is regarded as one of the best sites for anyone considering the creation and sale of online courses.

Having been involves in the extensive design, development, and implementation of leading online learning platforms, Thinkific has a huge grasp of the online learning platforms, and it is, therefore, the best place for you to sell your online courses on.

Thinkific boasts several features designed to enhance the site’s ease of use and your ability to sell your courses on the platform. These features include:

Pricing

Often, people complain about the high cost of most online learning platforms, but Thinkific is changing that with its affordable rates. To sell your course on the platform, Thinkific offers affordable plans, including a free plan that allows you to sell three courses to an unlimited number of users.

There’s also a paid cap plan for $499/month in the enterprise plan, as well as the cheaper Pro plan for $99/month. Should you choose to pay for either of these plans annually, you will enjoy a discount and pay $399 and $79/month respectively.

In addition to offering affordable packages, Thinkific offers advanced features to ensure that its users have everything they need to create and sell profitable courses. These features include:

Site builder

Site builders dashboard

Thinkific allows you to publish your courses and have them go live immediately thanks to its advanced site-building capabilities. Thanks to this site builder on the admin panel, you get to set up a simple homepage that’s easy for your students to navigate. 

You also get to create any number of custom pages you’d look at. So, even though THinkific doesn’t allow you total control over some functions like the installation of style sheets (CSS), you’ll still have access to great customization options for your branding elements from font styles and colors to images and media.

The site builder also features three themes in different variations. You might also like the pre-fab sections (for CTAs, pricing options, social proof, countdown timers), and the blank Text & Media section.

These functions enhance the customization of your online course pages, enhancing the satisfaction of your students. The other custom options offered include the custom URL, SLL, white labeling, as well as text changes. 

Thanks to all these features, you can actually use Thinkific as your main e-learning website. So, if you are new to this whole edupreneurship thing, Thinkific has you covered. You get to focus on the other important things on your to-do list besides like actual creation of new high-quality courses. 

The only catch is that Thinkific might not be a good choice for you if you have a WordPress site already set up as it lacks a number of essential plugins, you cannot apply custom CSS, and the themes are in one column.

Course creation on Thinkific

Thanks to the pre-configured templates, content organization is seamless. The templates available include the blank templates, as well as templates for mini-courses, pre-sell, flagship course, digital downloads, webinar replays, and membership resource libraries. All these templates are easily customized and quite easy to use.

Content Development

thinkific course builder

Thinkific makes it very easy for anyone to set up and sell their online course on the platform. Once you select New Course, you get to select your course type, name it, save, the add new chapters as you modify the existing ones, if necessary. You can change the title Chapters to any other name you like. 

The content options include Quiz lessons, video lessons, multimedia lessons (surveys, webinar tools, Google Docs, Appointment booking, Adobe Captivate files, Presentations, Articulate Storyline etc), PDF lessons, survey lessons, text lessons, Audio lessons, exam lessons, presentation lessons, and downloads.

The other impressive features of Thinkific include the ease of creating quizzes and the completion certificates. There also are marketing, advertising, and selling features (coupons, affiliates, sales widgets) and several integrations, automation and ecommerce functions which enhance the ease of use of the site, as well as the conversion rates.

Pros 

  • Reporting and tracking tools
  • Ease of communication (management and support) with your learners
  • Language diversity – more than 30 supported languages
  • Ecommerce tools
  • Great automation tools 
  • Email marketing support tools and functions
  • Top-tier integrations
  • You can use Thinkific as your website
  • You can access completion certificates 
  • Many course creation options
  • Thinkific uses Captivate and Articulate
  • Affordable pricing 
  • Numerous content options

Cons

  • There are no multi-tenancy options
  • There is no option for education continuation
  • No SCORM/ xAPI/TinCan support.

Conclusion

Whether you are a student or an edupreneur looking for the best platforms for online courses – learning or teaching, the reviewed platforms above are among the best. They have most, if not all, the essential features needed to make education/learning effortless.