Great for Beginner Instructors
Best Overall Platform
Best All-In-One Platform
In 2021, you have the pick of online course platforms to choose from. The days of having to be tech-savvy to create a membership site or course are gone, but with so many course platform options, selecting the best online course platform for your business can be tricky.
You may need a course platform with the best online marketing tools, while other course creators may opt for the course platform that lets them build both a course website and a front-end website for their business.
Then there is the online course creation software that just focuses on course creation and course delivery and let you connect to your favorite marketing software.
In this guide, I’ll share the best online course platforms of 2021, if an online course marketplace is worth it, plus the pros and cons of each teaching platform.
What Are the Best Online Course Platforms?
The online course platforms below work very well for course creators. They give you the tools to create your course and sell them on your website.
Best of all, they’re hosted course solutions, which means you don’t have to worry about technical aspects of a course website like web hosting, video hosting, security, maintenance, and updates.
Here are our top picks for the best online course platforms of 2021.
Thinkific is a popular online course platform in the market. In our experience, this is because Thinkific is one of the best platforms for beginners as it offers a FREE plan when other platforms don’t.
Unlike other e-learning platforms on this list, Thinkific doesn’t include a sales funnel builder or email marketing software, but it does offer a quality course hosting experience and the student engagement features like quizzes and course compliance.
The Thinkific platform’s strengths are primarily its engagement tools. Beyond Thinkific’s inbuilt course player and course delivery, you’re able to add quizzes, text areas, PDF downloads, surveys, issue completion certificates, and more to your course curriculum.
Furthermore, you can drip your course material from the moment a student enrolls and set up lesson prerequisites before students progress through your course.
Another Thinkific benefit is its website design tools, which allow you to create a front-facing website for your business.
To make it easy, Thinkific provides multiple site themes and its website builder. The sites you can create are professional-looking, modern, and you don’t have to know how to write code to build one yourself.
Although Thinkific isn’t known for having its online funnel tools, they offer checkout pages, 1-click upsells, coupons, and course bundling. However, their sales funnel capabilities are a bit lackluster when compared to modern-day equivalents, as I discussed in our Thinkific review.
As you may have imagined, Thinkific’s free plan has some limitations, and eventually, you’ll have to switch to one of the standard Thinkific pricing plans.
Their two most popular plans are the Basic plan, starting at $49 per month, and the Pro plan, which is $99 per month. All the plans have zero transaction fees making it a top pick for creating and selling your courses.
- Zero transaction fee on all plans.
- You can get started for free—one of the course platforms that offer a FREE plan.
- Great if you want to offer free courses as part of your online course business.
- Powerful course builder and page builder.
- Offers a teaching community area for your students to engage with you and other students.
- Excellent student engagement features like content dripping and course compliance.
- No live chat support.
- No mobile app.
- No native certificates.
- Doesn’t handle EU VAT tax at checkout.
- Can not support PayPal recurring payments for subscription products.
In summary, Thinkific is made for the course creator who wants an online course platform that’s easy to use, offers the ability to design a front-end website for their business, and has standard marketing features to sell online courses.
Teachable is one of the best online course creation software on the market and a long-time rival of Thinkific. Although it’s somewhat similar to Thinkific’s features and capabilities, each platform attracts course creators based on what they need in their online business.
Where Thinkific attempts to be an all-in-one course creation software, Teachable focuses on being an online course platform that delivers an excellent course experience and selling online courses.
For instance, Teachable has limited web design themes for their front-end website and course site look—it’s not their forte.
But, their course sales and marketing tools (i.e., checkout pages, bump offers, 1-click upsell landing pages, coupons) are powerful, and you get a lot more flexibility with their drag and drop editor.
Typically, course creators who use Teachable are business owners who’ve established their online presence on other web properties like a WordPress website.
Teachable’s course builder lets you add multiple content types to lessons and makes for an excellent course experience.
With Teachable, you can include video content, text content, downloadable files, embedded files, and different media in lessons, making the student experience as good as possible.
Teachable lets you drip course content, create course compliance, create quizzes, and create native certificates for students when it comes to student engagement.
A notable feature is that Teachable allows you to create content locked modules/courses that can only be unlocked when a student purchases them within your online course. Think of it as upselling within your course. It’s yet another strategy Teachable provides to sell your courses effectively.
Besides course selling, Teachable separates itself from other platforms by having a Coaching product feature.
Coaching makes it easy to offer one-on-one coaching to your clients or even group student coaching. This feature compliments some creators’ business value ladder really well.
Once upon a time, Teachable also had a free plan, but they discontinued it (I think it’s because they wanted to separate themselves from Thinkific).
That said, the Teachable pricing plans are affordable, but not transaction fees can not be avoided on all their plans. Their Basic plan starts at $39 per month, with a 5% transaction fee, and their Pro plan costs $119 per month, with 0% transaction fees.
- Easy to use.
- Handles EU VAT tax.
- Offers some of the best student e-learning features like quizzes, content locking, dripping, and native certificates of completion.
- Powerful sales and marketing features that help sell your online courses effectively.
- Offers a coaching feature that lets you create and manage coaching services.
- Has an iOS app.
- Limited website customization.
- No native inbuilt community feature.
- Can not support PayPal recurring payments for subscription products.
- Limited 3rd-party marketing integrations.
Teachable is a great online course platform and is suited for an online course creator who mainly needs a platform to professionally host and deliver their course(s) with excellent course sales tools.
Read more about Teachable:
Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that is typically considered a premium online course platform in regards to cost (and with good reason).
This online course platform allows you to create the following a beautiful front-end website for your company brand and course and/or membership sites. It also offers an excellent student experience, delivers courses securely, and some of the best tools to sell your online courses.
One of the many things Kajabi excels in is its professional course delivery customization options. It’s one of the few online course platforms in the market that let you choose the theme style of how your course content is presented.
Like Thinkific and Teachable, Kajabi also offers student engagement features like quizzes and assignments (Kajabi calls them Assessments), content dripping, and locking to craft the students’ learning path.
Kajabi outshines its competitors by offering a mobile app for both Android users and iOS users, a native community forum builder, and advance When/Then automation trigger rules.
Outside of the course creation realm, Kajabi lets you design your company’s website with its 10+ pre-designed website themes. When you choose from one of the themes, you’ll be able to customize each of your pages with Kajabi’s easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor.
Where Kajabi hits it out of the park is with its sales and marketing features. It’s one of the only online course platforms that offer a full-fledged funnel builder and email marketing software.
Kajabi’s funnel builder, called the Sales Pipeline Builder, can build out different funnels and the funnel step landing pages associated with the funnel type.
The different funnel types you can build with Kajabi’s funnel tool are lead generation funnels, launch, webinars, and traditional sales funnels.
The beauty of Kajabi’s native funnel builder is all the pages get built out for you, including email automation workflows, which just require customizing to your campaign and business.
So, how much does Kajabi cost? Kajabi’s Basic plan starts at $149 per month, and their middle-tier Growth plan costs $199 per month. Neither plan charges transaction fees.
- All-in-one platform to avoid “gluing” and learning how to use multiple tools together.
- Elegant course website themes selection (their themes are simple yet make for a beautiful course website).
- Beautiful designed course player.
- You can create a front-end website for your business with blogging capabilities.
- Offers both a built-in funnel builder (has drag and drop feature) and email marketing tool.
- 24/7 customer support.
- Has both an Android and iOS mobile app.
- Can support PayPal recurring payments for subscription products.
- The pricing is steeper than most.
- Doesn’t handle EU VAT.
- No native certificates.
When it comes to choosing from the best online course platforms in the market, Kajabi has the most to offer.
It works best for creators who want to run their entire business on one platform (all the tools in one spot) or for those who love the look and feel of their course player (there are a lot of users in this boat).
Read more about Kajabi:
LearnWorlds is another powerful up-and-coming online learning platform focusing on having the best interactive learning experience.
They’re the “interactive” platform because they offer features such as their Interactive Video Player, Interactive e-Book Reader, Exams, Questionnaire Quiz, and other engagement elements.
LearnWorlds pushes the envelope by helping creators guard against piracy by watermarking videos and PDFs by default once uploaded to their platform. And, they also give you the ability to disable download web elements from your course area.
Creating your courses on LearnWorlds is straightforward. You get to choose from pre-designed course catalogs. You can also customize your course theme’s branding and colors with LearnWorld’s theme editor that requires zero coding knowledge.
Moving on from their course creation features, LearnWorlds helps you launch online courses with their robust marketing features, LearnWorlds has a modern and powerful landing page builder that lets you create sales pages and course site pages.
Their e-Commerce features include checkout page payment processing for single product sales, pricing plans, subscriptions, and include coupon discounts.
LearnWorlds pricing starts at $29 per month, which sounds great! Until you realize they take $5 per sale as a transaction fee. I guess that their Starter plan is truly that – a plan made for beginners who don’t expect to get many sales just yet but need a place to host their courses.
To avoid their transaction fee, you’ll need to be on their $99 per month plan called the Pro Trainer plan.
- Great pricing for beginners on a budget.
- Has an online community builder.
- Has SCORM compliant options.
- Interactive course elements such as videos and PDFs.
- Professional looking course catalog designs.
- The only course platform that guards against course piracy.
- Mobile app functionality costs extra.
- No bulk uploading feature for course material.
- Doesn’t handle EU VAT.
Podia is has gotten some notoriety over the last few years, and with good reason. It lets you create an online course and host digital products such as e-books and membership sites. And Podia gives you the necessary tools to sell online courses and standalone products.
Course creation and delivery with Podia is standard to others on this list. You can have multiple media elements within each lesson, including video, text, PDF & other downloadables, audio, and more.
Podia currently falls short when it comes to course features like certificates, content locking, and quizzes. That said, it does at least offer content dripping.
For website creation, Podia lets you build sales pages with their easy to use page builder, but you’re not able to create standalone landing pages, let alone a branded company website.
Podia gains some points when it comes to its sales and marketing capabilities. It doesn’t come with a full-fledged funnel builder, but it does provide the essentials like checkout payment processing, product bundling, coupon creation, and different ways to price your products.
Podia’s pricing plans are only two, and they’re well priced and come with no transaction fees.
The Mover plan costs $39 per month, and it lets you create and sell online courses, plus digital product downloads, but not memberships. To sell memberships, you’ll need the Podia Shaker plan, which costs $79 per month.
- Simple and easy to use.
- Modern course members area and course storefront site design for your course content and products.
- Handles EU VAT.
- Offers free complimentary migration service from your current online course platform.
- Great features for membership selling.
- Limited frontend and backend web design flexibility.
- No mobile app.
- No community forum builder.
- No engagement course features like quizzes, course learning compliance, or certifications.
Podia is the go-to online course platform for internet marketers. Similar to Teachable, it’s more suited for a business owner who needs a platform to sell online courses, digital downloads, and memberships and who will establish their online branding presence elsewhere.
Read more about Podia:
Teachery is one of the newest additions to this list, and it’s worth including. It’s perfect for beginner course creators who want to create an online course and sell courses with zero transaction fees.
The platform has a fantastic tutorial that helps new instructors get started with ease. Instead of focusing on design and secondary functionalities, Teachery is focused on helping you get started quickly and start selling.
With that said, Teachery isn’t for course creators who want multiple design options, or funnel capabilities. It’s not an all-in-one platform.
Where it shines is its simplicity. They offer two templates for you to create an online course, have an easy to use course builder, you can build landing pages and sales pages, and you have standard e-commerce capabilities.
Teachery’s pricing plans come in at a flat cost of $49 per month. Or you can save with their yearly plan of $470 per year. The best part is you don’t get any feature limitations on either a monthly or annual plan.
Ruzuku is an online course platform that’s been around for a while and deserves more praise than it gets.
Having seen it in action, Ruzuku takes a simplistic and step-by-step approach to create successful online courses. You can quickly start building your online course outline, edit modules and lessons, re-arrange, start a lesson discussion, and add a quiz before a new lesson or module.
Their eCommerce features allow you to sell online courses easily with their Stripe and PayPal integrations. However, if you need third-party marketing tool integrations, you may have to use Zapier as they currently say they only have a MailChimp integration on their website.
The Ruzuku platform lets you host unlimited students, unlimited online courses, unlimited data storage, and many more course features that will enhance your students’ experience.
Ruzuku’s pricing starts at $99 per month for their Bootstrapper plan and goes up from there. I recommend looking at their features page to get a full demo of how they approach online courses. You can get started free for 14 days.
8. Academy of Mine
Academy of Mine is another high-end online course platform for creating and selling courses. They market themselves as the platform for professional training and certification with an emphasis on customization.
The Academy of Mine platform offers unique teaching engagement features. A few of them include quiz and exams, certificates of completion, SCORM features, discussion communities, and more.
Apart from its learning platform features, it also lets you build a frontend and backend course website with its site builder and course builder, along with automated e-commerce capabilities.
Academy of Mine works with all industries but highlights the industries it serves best as healthcare education, construction & real estate, safety training, insurance training, legal training, compliance training, and health & fitness.
As I said, this is a high-end platform that may not be used the most by online entrepreneurs, but it is nonetheless a great online course platform for company’s who requires an everchanging curriculum.
You can get a full demo on their website if this sounds like the right platform for your business. Their actual pricing is dependent on the requirements and needs of your business. It can range from $200 per month to $800+ per month.
- Numerous interactive features.
- Self-paced courses feature.
- High quality courses and live classes.
- SCORM compliant.
- Great at creating engaging courses.
- Excellent customer support.
WizIQ is an online course platform known for its virtual classrooms and interactive online classes. Businesses and tutors alike have praise for this platform on our list.
The WizIQ course builder lets you customize your classroom environment, upload your course content, create assessments and tests, and more.
When students register for your course, they can take their learning experience on the go with WizIQ’s custom mobile application features or consume it at home.
Overall, WizIQ provides the latest in live training features, including video streaming, discussion boards, mobile engagement options, and more.
They no longer show pricing on their website and instead opt-in for visitors booking a sales call with their company. That said, WizIQ wouldn’t have made this list if they didn’t have over 400,000 instructors, taught over 4 million students, and are active in over 200 countries.
WizIQ is best for teachers, tutors, and any kind of educator that wants to create engaging multimedia lectures for their students in a virtual class setting.
Some Honorable Mentions
Before we move on to WordPress solutions for online courses, there are a few SaaS products that allow you to create online courses that get some attention, and they are:
While both Karta and ClickFunnels allow you to create online courses, they are not considered a learning management system.
They provide you the infrastructure to host courses and excellent sales and marketing features to sell courses online and memberships, but they lack features that engage students and have no course completion features.
Best WordPress LMS Plugins
Do you already have a WordPress website for your business and want to start creating courses?
Learning Management System plugins may be for you. LMS plugins give you the ability to organize your course content and deliver online courses to students after they’ve purchased your course—think Teachable, but as a tool within your WordPress dashboard.
The advantage to LMS plugins is that you don’t have many limitations when it comes to features and functionality, as everything will be under one roof—your site.
The disadvantage is that you’re responsible for many more intricacies that come with creating, selling, and maintaining online courses.
For instance, to get started, you’ll need web hosting (a given), multiple plugins, a checkout cart, and a video hosting platform for your course video content.
Additionally, things like site speed performance, security, and maintenance are things you’ll have to maintain forever if you’re planning to use an LMS plugin for your online courses.
I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from LMS plugins, but what I described is reality and is too much for some course creators.
With that out of the way, LMS plugins make for great online course experiences that students enjoy, and there are undoubtedly many course creators that prefer them over hosted platform solutions.
LearnDash is the most well known and widely used LMS plugin use by small and big companies. LearnDash is used from Yoast, Digital Marketer, and Tony Robbins to the University of Michigan and Florida.
Like the platforms we covered earlier, LearnDash has some of the best course creation tools available. Once LearnDash is installed on your website, you’ll have access to their course builder, setup quizzes & exams, and set when to award badges & certificates.
As for engagement tools, you’ll be able to drip content to your students with their email tool with automation rules, set students learning path, prerequisites, build a community forum, and more.
If you need extra features, LearnDash has what you call “add-ons” that you can enable. Some are free, and some are paid add-ons.
For eCommerce capabilities, LearnDash offers checkout cart functionality with PayPal, Stripe, and 2Checkout payment gateway options.
LearnDash charges annually on a per site license basis. One license costs $159 per year and goes up from there. You can learn about LearnDash via their website.
LifterLMS is another plugin that gives you a course building environment on your site and handles course content delivery.
Its course creation tools are intuitive and offer your standard LMS features like quizzes, exams, content locking & dripping, learning compliance, and a content-based community builder.
Like LearnDash, if you need more out-of-the-box features, you can enable add-ons to unlock them.
In addition to hosting online courses, LifterLMS supports membership site functionality.
When it comes to payment processing, LifterLMS offers its default checkout system with some sales tools.
LifterLMS pricing starts at $99 per year for one site with their Individual Add-Ons plan. This plan is suitable for beginners as it’s meant to give instructors time to get their courses up and running. The upgraded plans unlock more sales and marketing features.
AccessAlly is an online teaching WordPress plugin that gives you the essentials for creating and selling courses, memberships, and digital products.
In addition to the standard instructor creation features, they kick things up a notch by offering homework submissions, leaderboards, gamification, and more.
AccessAlly eCommerce capabilities are impressive. Unlike the two previous LMS plugins above, AccessAlly offers conversion-friendly checkout carts, upsells, cross-sells, abandoned cart email follow-up, and an affiliate program so students can help promote your product.
The starting price point for AccessAlly costs $99 per month and goes up to $129 per month. As you can see, this LMS plugin is the premium of the bunch in this category.
Before we continue to the next platform category, let’s quickly cover the differences between the platforms we’ve covered thus far and marketplaces you’ve probably heard of.
What Are Online Course Platforms?
Online course platforms, or online course creation software, are learning management systems that provide users with a digital classroom and tools to control their members’ e-learning experience.
There are different types of course platforms, but the two main types are hosted online course platforms and online learning platforms (aka. Online course marketplaces), which we’ll cover in a few seconds.
We covered the best hosted online course platforms in our list above—tools like Kajabi, Teachable, Thinkific, Podia, and LearnWorlds.
These platforms are best for users who want to complete control of their business, branding, customer data, and marketing.
Drilling down a sub-category deeper in the category of hosted online course platforms is the rise of all-in-one platforms.
Traditionally, online course platforms provided your standard course creation features and the ability to charge for online courses via their checkout system.
In recent years, however, online course platforms have started to become more than just learning management systems and offer:
- Internet Marketing Tools like built-in email marketing automation, funnel builders, and affiliate marketing management software.
- Website Builder Tools like built-in drag-and-drop frontend site builders, landing page editors, and blogging capabilities.
- Shopping Cart Tools like bump offers, upsell, downsell, and mult-payment option capabilities.
The current king of the all-in-one online course platform is Kajabi. Followed by Thinkific, who has a long way to before catching up to Kajabi, but they’re capable.
Over the next few years, you can expect each of these learning management systems to evolve and become closer to an all-in-one online course platform—those are my two cents.
Anyway, the second type of LMSs is online learning platforms or online course marketplaces.
Think Udemy and Skillshare. They’re less of a significant investment, but they have cons. Let’s cover this category in more detail in the next section.
Best Online Learning Platforms & Course Marketplaces
There are pros and cons to hosting your courses on online learning platform websites.
First, the pros, there is a lot of web traffic to these platforms thanks to word of mouth, influencers who participate in affiliate marketing, sponsor relationships; you get the picture.
The benefit of a marketplace is that you can leverage their platform web traffic (they typically run a lot of paid advertising) and let the online learning platform fulfill the sales and marketing for you.
Depending on the online course marketplace, students will pay for them per course or access many courses via a subscription.
The disadvantage, a big con, in my opinion, is that you’ll earn a lot less per sale because you have to give anywhere from 25% – 75% of the revenue to the course marketplace. Not to mention there’s competition per category in each of the learning platform sites.
If what I just explained isn’t your cup of tea, I recommend using one of the online course platforms we discussed above earlier.
In any event, marketplaces are not a waste, and it allows you to tap into a new audience, but it shouldn’t be a focus (IMHO). With that said, here are the top course marketplaces you should consider selling your courses on.
Udemy.com is one of the largest marketplaces for students and instructors. The chances are that you’ve taken a Udemy course.
Signing up to be an instructor on Udemy is free, and once you get approved, you can get started. Creating online courses on the Udemy platform is easy as they guide you every step of the way.
It’s important to note that Udemy has course requirements. A few to note are that your courses must have five lectures at a minimum, and the course must take at least thirty minutes to complete.
How Much Does Udemy Cost?
Udemy is free to sign up for, but the real costs come in their percentage fees.
Here’s Udemy’s revenue share structure:
- Paid Advertising by Udemy: You get 25%, and Udemy gets 75%.
- Organic Traffic by Udemy Website: It’s 50/50.
- Direct Sales to Your Audience: You get 97%, and Udemy gets 3%.
- You leverage their marketplace for free.
- They handle the SEO and paid advertising traffic for you.
- 24/7 excellent customer support
- A crowded and competitive marketplace.
- Udemy algorithms control your course presence on the platform.
- No control over return policies whatsoever (30-day policy).
Skillshare is a large marketplace in its own right and differentiates itself by focusing on creative education.
Lots of side-hustlers start their online entrepreneurial journeys teaching their creative skills on Skillshare. Courses range from search engine optimization (SEO), graphic design, photography, music production, writing, and animation.
Skillshare courses, aka. classes range from 20 to 60 minutes and are divided into segments. They also have a community discussion, which helps connect Skillshare instructors with their students.
How Much Does Skillshare Cost?
Skillshare is free to join. Thes cost or the way Skillshare takes their portion of revenue share is different than Udemy, though.
Since Skillshare is a subscription model business, people need to pay for a Premium Skillshare Membership to watch paid courses.
In that regard, Skillshare pays its instructors with (1) earned royalties and (2) per Premium Member referral. You earn royalties by the number of minutes watched in your courses every month, and you get $10 per person that signs up to be a Premium member via your referral link.
- Leverage a large user base of creators and entrepreneurs who are hungry to learn new skills.
- Customer support that aids in your course creation process.
- Your course, or courses, must keep people watching monthly to continue earning royalties.
- Students who watch at faster speeds (2x speed) only account for half minutes.
Learning Marketplaces Honorable Mentions
You can host your course in more learning marketplaces, and they’re similar to Udemy and Skillshare.
The following are honorable mentions for this type of platform:
- LinkedIn Learning
Tips on Creating and Selling Online Courses
When’s the last time you took a course:
- Where the audio was clear, crisp, and loud enough to where you didn’t have to turn up your speakers to the max volume just to hear the instructor speak?
- There were captions available because the instructor wasn’t the best at speaking English or your native language, and thankfully, he or she added that option.
- The video was crystal clear and edited simple enough to understand the material and just dive right in?
Related: Profitable Online Course Niches
Well, if you’ve been through as many online courses as we have, there are very few courses online that check all of those boxes.
That’s why we wanted to create this section: to help online course creators like yourself make the best course possible.
Let’s get started
Use the RIGHT Software & Equipment for Your Online Course
Don’t go to BestBuy just yet. You don’t need the most expensive equipment out there.
Depending on whether your course is heavily text-based and just needs some extra “oomph” or a full-fledged video course, the options on what equipment you need will vary drastically.
For the following sections, I’ll give general guidelines on what we use and have used for years for creating online courses.
If you don’t get this right, then no one will want to sit through your video lessons.
Bad audio is just an awful experience to sit through.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best lighting, camera, and video and screen recording software; bad audio can derail the student experience.
I’m not saying you need what professionals use, but if you’re going to spend some money on a piece of equipment, have it be your microphone.
With that being said, there a couple of options that you want to choose from:
- A Lavalier microphone
- A Dynamic or Shotgun microphone (only choose Condenser if you have to)
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great microphone and wildly popular. That being said, it’s a condenser microphone, which means it will pick up EVERYTHING around you.
If you have a loud home, office, noisy pets, kids, etc., it will probably pick it up unless you’re in a very secluded area.
A dynamic microphone does the opposite. While it doesn’t cancel all the noise (other than your voice), it does a MUCH better job at isolating your voice and canceling the background noise.
Still, dynamic microphones usually cost more and require some sort of extra devices and accessories to use.
If you can get away with just using the Blue Yeti or a cheaper option similar to it and don’t have loud surroundings, do it.
If you can, though, get a dynamic or shotgun microphone. I recommend the Rode VideoMic NTG. This can not only connect to your camera but also your computer via USB-C.
No need for any other devices, just plug and play and thanks to the fancy device, it knows automatically when it’s plugged into a computer versus a camera. It’s basically the best of both worlds.
Lastly, whichever microphone you choose, don’t forget about the small accessories that can make you sound better, such as:
- Pop filters for those “p-words.”
- Boom arms and shock mounts.
- Acoustic panels.
Screen Recording Software
If you use Windows computers, then you have plenty of options to choose from. We here use Camtasia for Windows since it’s pretty easy to use, and so is their video editing software.
Camtasia works just good enough on Mac (not the best experience but passable) as well; however, there are better options for Mac users.
If you’re a Mac user only, you have a lot of options also, but we believe these two will be your best bet:
- You can use the built-in screen recording software that is on your Mac. Seriously, if you’re on a Mac, press COMMAND-SHIFT-5 (cool, right?). From here, you can record your screen (or just a portion of it) and choose which microphone you want to use and where to store the file. Use it. It’s free.
- If you want more features, you’re going to want to use Screenflow. It’s just the best screen recording option for Mac and can act as your only video editing software as well. That’ll bring us to our next section.
Video & Audio Editing Software
If you’re a Mac user, then you’re in luck because iMovie is not only free and pre-installed onto your Mac, but it also works great for simple video editing.
Not only that, but you can use it on your iPhone or iPad and edit from there as well.
Some of the most successful YouTubers in the world use iMovie to get 100k + views on their videos. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
However, if you need more “bells and whistles,” then you can upgrade to Final Cut Pro, which, unlike the options for Windows, is a one-time payment of $299 and comes with a 90-day free trial also.
If you’re a Windows user, then there’s no easy way to say this, but you’re probably going to have to pay monthly for any software that’s worth its sh**.
The most popular option is Adobe Premier Pro, which charges a monthly fee with no option for a 1-time price. If you’re on a budget, this isn’t great.
Camtasia is another option that we’ve used for a long time that covers screen recording and video editing, but it’s a yearly fee if you want to get new updates and features.
Please, for the love of all things holy, do not use your shi**y laptop camera unless it’s 1080p. If it’s 720p, then make sure you have good lighting, or else it will look horrendous.
This is a great one that you can use for Logitech; however, you can find many options nowadays.
Whatever you do, don’t use the webcam microphone itself because it’s horrible most of the time.
If you get the nicer Logitech ones, it may be passable, but I’d recommend an actual external microphone.
Good lighting can change how you look drastically on camera. Same with bad lighting.
Therefore, I recommend the following options:
- Cyezcor (Budget-friendly and sits on Laptop)
- The Neewer 2 pack (mid-tier and portable option)
- Elgato Key Light (premium option)
Whichever option you choose, make sure the background is well-lit also, if possible. I’d recommend watching this video on a lighting tutorial:
If you include interview-style lessons or videos or just want to get some headphones for the editing process that you’re going to be encountering after you film everything, then you’re going to need some headphones.
Yes, you can use those same headphones for editing as well, but I’d recommend some studio-style headphones such as the Audio Technica ATH-MX50s, which are a good deal.
You can also pay a higher price for my favorite noise-canceling, over-ear headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4.
Decide On 1-2 Traffic Sources to Market Your Course
Setting up your courses is just one step of the overall success equation here. If no one knows your courses exist, your creation efforts will have gone to waste.
Unless you have an existing email list you’ve built up over the years to launch your courses to; you’ll need to focus on one to two traffic sources.
I recommend one to two traffic sources maximum as any more than that can get overwhelming. A few popular traffic channels creators use to get leads to their nurturing funnels and sell online courses are:
- Paid traffic sources: Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube ads.
- Free traffic sources: Google organic traffic, YouTube, Facebook groups, and Instagram.
Split Test Your Important Landing Pages
An aspect of selling courses that many business owners miss is split testing their most important pages – their sales and checkout pages.
A/B split testing is when you split the web traffic to a web page by 50%. One page gets one-half of the visitors, and the other 50% gets the variant page. Typically, only one element is changed and tested on the variant page and analyzed after enough statistical significance.
Internet marketers have been doing this for years and with good reason. Split testing allows you to gauge which web pages convert more visitors into customers. Once a split test winner is determined, you can create a new split test to outdo the original winner.
It’s an ongoing method of improving sales and shouldn’t be neglected. So, how do you do it?
Unfortunately, to run split tests on sales and checkout pages, you need third-party tools as your typical course platform usually doesn’t have A/B testing capabilities.
For sales pages, it depends on where it’s hosted. If it’s hosted on your website, you can use a split testing plugin, Google Analytics (which is a bit more technical of a setup), or use a landing page builder with testing capabilities.
You’ll need a third-party checkout cart like ThriveCart, SamCart, ClickFunnels, or Karta for checkout page split testing.
The cool thing about ClickFunnels is that you can A/B split test any part of your marketing funnel (including your sales pages and checkout carts).
SamCart also pioneered the one-page funnel, which is essentially a sales page with the checkout form embedded on the page. This makes split testing easier as you only have to A/B test this one essential page for conversions.
Live Course Examples in the Field
It can help seeing examples of live courses, the platform they’re hosted on, and their tech stack to help you get a feel for what’s possible.
Here are some of the courses I’ve invested in over the past few years, which make great examples, in no particular order.
A LearnDash Tech Stack
Authority Hacker, an online business education company, offers their flagship course, The Authority Site System, on the LearnDash platform.
Here’s how their LearnDash tech stack works:
- Elementor builds their course sales page on their WordPress website.
- ThriveCart handles their checkout cart and affiliate management.
- Memberium handles their membership plugin.
- And their learning management system is handled by LearnDash (on their subdomain).
As for their marketing, the Authority Hacker team uses multiple traffic channels to drive course sales, including organic web traffic, podcasts, email marketing, and YouTube.
A Teachable Tech Stack
Funnel Consultant Society is a course by Dino Gomez that teaches people how to run and manage Facebook advertising campaigns for local clients and uses Teachable for his course content and delivery.
Here’s how his Teachable tech stack looks:
- ClickFunnels hosts his course sales page.
- ThriveCart handles his checkout system and affiliate marketing management.
- Teachable handles the online teaching experience.
For marketing, Dino leverages YouTube, his network, email marketing, and affiliates.
A Kajabi Example
Greg O’Gallagher, a popular fitness author and influencer, has been selling courses for years.
Over the years, I’ve seen him switch from hosting his courses on PDF e-books, Teachable, a tech stack with Kajabi, and now, it looks like his team has decided to use Kajabi alone to host his new course, the Movie Star Body.
Greg’s recent tech stack, before he let Kajabi become his full-on platform for his new courses, looked like this:
- SamCart for checkout cart.
- Kajabi for his online course creation software and delivery.
At the time of writing this article, Greg’s cut out SamCart and is using Kajabi’s default checkout forms. Why? Who knows, but there must be a reason. It’s always lovely having everything under one roof, would be my guess.
Greg gets people interested in his products through multiple social media traffic sources, YouTube, organic SEO traffic, email marketing, and paid advertising.
We covered a lot of ground in this article. To recap, we covered the best online course platforms in the following categories: hosted solutions, marketplaces, and WordPress plugins.
Before I reveal my top picks, I recommend deciding which type of online course platform best fits your business.
To make it easy, ask yourself questions like…
- Will my front-end company website be on a different platform like WordPress?
- Does your online course platform need to have an email marketing tool, funnel capabilities, a forum community builder, a mobile app, or the ability to design a frontend website for your business?
- What are the must-have online course creation features?
- What’s my budget for my online course platform?
Our Top Picks & Recommendations
Think about it as you read my three top recommended course platforms of 2021:
- Thinkific (Best for Beginners): A great course platform for beginners that gives you all the essentials for creating and selling online courses.
- Teachable (Best for Standalone Course Platform): Another popular platform great for business owners who have an internet presence established and want a platform to create and sell their courses.
- Kajabi (Best Premium Course Platform): The best online course platform for an online business that wants all the website, online course creation, sales, and marketing tools under one roof.
That’s a wrap for this buyer’s guide online course creators! Remember, this decision is just a micro-step in the bigger picture of your online course business. You can’t go wrong with any of the platforms on our list.
Get started with one of these amazing e-learning platforms, teach what you know, and keep making a dent in the universe. Best of luck!