Thinkific is a premium online course platform for course creators. It’s a Learning Management System (LMS) platform that allows online entrepreneurs and course creators alike to easily offer hosting for web pages, video courses, student enrollment automation, payments, and more.
What Is Thinkific?
Thinkific is one of the most popular online course platforms in 2020 that allows you to create, market, and sell courses and/or membership sites.
Whether you want your courses to contain video content, text content, or downloadable files, Thinkific offers this and more to its course providers.
In the Thinkific backend, you’ll manage your course curriculum with learning content editing tools that are all drag and drop.
As you can see from the image below, you can easily structure your course area; however, you see fit.
How Much Does Thinkific Cost?
Thinkific offers four pricing plans that include a Free plan, Basic ($49/mo), Pro ($79/mo), and Premier ($399/mo).
The Free plan is excellent for new course educators. While the Pro plan is more fit for seasoned online course education players.
The Pro+Growth Plan (which I'm currently on) can get pricey really fast. For every student you have (after 100 – Thinkific gives you the first 100 free), you have to pay $0.10.
As someone who has 300+ students, I have to pay $30 extra per month to have some advanced features. This only adds up as your course grows (which should be your goal). Keep reading to see if these advanced features are worth it for you.
For more details on each of the monthly and yearly pricing plans, check out this Thinkific pricing page.
An Honest Thinkific Review
- One of the few course platforms that offer a FREE plan.
- Their customer service experience is superb and offers phone and email support.
- The Course Builder allows you to customize your courses, so they match your brand.
- Custom Domain branding, including subdomains, is part of all plans expect the free plan.
- Create sales pages with their built-in drag and drop builder.
- Unlimited students and courses (unlimited courses not offered in free plan).
- It lets you offer different payment methods at your checkout process: one-time and monthly payment plans.
- You can also use Thinkific to sell monthly subscription courses with ease.
- Thinkific does not have its own email marketing platform and only offers 3rd party native integrations to Mailchimp, Keap (Infusionsoft), ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Aweber, and ActiveCampaign.
- No sales funnel builder platform, however, they do offer a native integration to SamCart, but other tools require a Zapier integration.
- No “Thinkific marketplace” that can help sell your online courses.
Review of Thinkific Features
In terms of online course creation, Thinkific should be the standard. The process of creating your online course is superior to many other alternatives I’ve tried, and this section will demonstrate why.
Online Course Creation
Before we go into the types of lessons, it’s worth noting that (almost) every “type” of lesson can include other formats inside each lesson.
For example, if you choose a “text” lesson, you can still add a video or PDF file to said text lesson.
However, there are some limitations as you'll see in a few seconds.
The Thinkific video library is something every online course platform should have.
When I compared Teachable vs Thinkific, this is something that stood out when comparing their online course creation features.
For example, in Teachable, you have to upload the video every time you want to upload it to a lesson (not that you would want to upload the same video to 2 different lessons).
With Thinkific, you upload it once, and it’s available whenever you need it.
That said, there are some limitations in terms of the Thinkific video lesson.
Wistia hosts all the videos that you upload on Thinkific, which is a nice touch.
With a video lesson, you choose a video from your video library (which you previously uploaded) which will be featured at the top of your lesson.
You can upload your own captions if you want, and users can speed up the video if they wish.
You can also add text underneath the video (which has the same text lesson features, which you'll see in a second).
Lastly, you can add downloadable content as well.
One limitation of the video lesson is that you cannot add multiple video lessons that are at the top of the lesson.
For example, if you wanted to add multiple videos to a “video” lesson, you would have to use the video library option in the text section and add them there.
However, one video would be big and “featured,” while the other would be smaller.
In my opinion, you’re better off creating a text lesson and adding multiple videos to a lesson that way, as it would be a better online course experience for your students.
The text lesson is the most versatile of the lesson types in Thinkific.
You have the following formatting options in a text lesson:
- Paragraph Format (headings, text, and code)
- Font Size
- Font Family
- Font and Highlight Color
- Bullet Point List
- Numbered List
- Custom HTML
You can also add the following types of content to a text lesson:
- Picture (GIFs too)
- Videos (via the video library, or URL such as YouTube, or Embeds from an external hosting service)
- Audio Files (Mp3 and WAV files only)
- Files (such as a PDF or Excel file)
Something to note is that you cannot add an interactive PDF inside of a text lesson.
Check out this lesson from a Teachable Account:
Thinkific offers interactive PDFs in their PDF lessons, but when inserted into a text lesson, the student would have to open it in another tab or download it to their device:
If you’re deciding between Thinkific and Teachable, this is something that you CAN do in Teachable.
In Teachable, you could have a video, then some text, then an interactive PDF file, and then some more text, ALL within the same lesson.
This is something you cannot do in Thinkific, unfortunately, and it is something to think about when comparing learning management systems.
With that said, one thing that is extra special about Thinkific’s text editor is the formatting options that float with you as you scroll down.
If you have a ton of text-based content, you DON’T have to scroll up to format your text (like you have to in Teachable).
This is a valuable feature to have, yet not many people mention it in other Thinkific reviews.
Most of my course content is text-based, and in Teachable, I have to scroll up every time to insert an image and then scroll back down to click it and scroll back up to format it. It’s annoying.
Thankfully, Thinkific has a floating formatting bar.
Now let’s talk about PDF lessons.
As mentioned above, in a text lesson, you cannot insert a true interactive PDF with Thinkific.
This is what a PDF lesson is for.
The only downside to this is that you CANNOT add anything else to this lesson.
It’s only the PDF, and that is it. You cannot add text under the PDF or a video with directions (for example) or anything.
This is something you can do in an online course platform like Teachable. Not a deal-breaker, but something to note.
With audio lessons, you have the following formats available:
You can also add everything you could in a regular text lesson (features listed earlier).
Download lessons are the exact same as the audio lesson, but just for other formats.
If you want a student to download a .DOCx file or a PDF file and not necessarily open and interact with it inside of Thinkific, then you’d want to use the download lesson.
A presentation is a very new and powerful feature that Thinkific offers.
For example, I sell a PDF book/course on my website.
I uploaded it to Thinkific as a Presentation lesson and here’s what it looks like:
You can add audio to each presentation slide .
This is a powerful tool if you don’t have something like a screen-recorder tool.
It’s simple and easy to go through as a student.
It can also be very valuable if you ONLY have a PDF product to sell and want to walk them through it even more.
Think of it as an Upsell product.
For example, you could sell your PowerPoint slides or PDF as-is, or an upsell idea could be an explanation (audio) of each slide!
Again, this type of lesson can be compelling; however, I don’t see many using it to their advantage.
Multimedia lessons are not a lesson type where you can add multiple elements and videos within a single lesson – unfortunately.
It’s where you can “use externally hosted content.”
This means things like:
- Webinar tools
- Surveys (e.g., Typeform)
- Google Docs/Sheets
- Presentations (e.g., Prezi)
- YouTube Videos
For example, I inserted my Google Sheets spreadsheet that I give to students in one of my multimedia lessons:
Depending on the rules you set, they can interact with the spreadsheet (or not).
I haven’t used it with the other features (i.e., webinar), but essentially, this is where you can host it on Thinkific, rather than sending them away entirely to another tab.
Also note, that this is a way to use YouTube videos in your Thinkific lessons instead of Wistia if you’d rather not upload video files to Thinkific.
Let’s talk about one of the better features: quizzes inside of Thinkific.
Quizzes are a great way to see if your students are ACTUALLY learning the content you’ve given to them.
I think it’s a great way to interact.
Here’s how it looks like when logged into Thinkific.
This is what it looks like when you get the correct answer:
This is what it looks like when you get the incorrect answer:
As you can see, depending on whether the student got the right or wrong answer, you get to write an explanation. This can help with the learning curve of your course and a great tool for course creators.
This is a missing feature in Teachable.
I find this to be very helpful as I had a course I was taking myself, and when the instructor had this Thinkific Quiz, it made the content really stick.
You also have the option to have:
- One correct answer or
- More than one correct answer
Also, it’s worth noting that you have all the same formatting features as you do in a regular text lesson.
Lastly, for quizzes, you can:
- Have a “randomized question bank” (only on the Pro plan)
- Import questions from a spreadsheet
- Require a passing grade that you set in advance
In Thinkific, you can create your own surveys for your students.
You can have one at the end of each chapter if you want to see if they liked the content and leave you feedback and/or questions about it.
For example, here’s a sample survey I created:
You have 5 options for surveys:
- One answer
- One or more answers
- Free Text
There are a ton of possibilities with this, and I’d use it at the end of my course to get feedback.
Assignments, a Pro plan feature, are a great and easy to use course creation feature.
You can assign your students specific tasks and give them feedback on how they did.
Here’s what it looks like from a students perspective:
Once the student has submitted their assignment, you have 4 options (found in the Assignment section in your Thinkific dashboard):
- Download File (their submission)
- Send a Message to the Student
- Approve Their Submission
- Reject Their Submission
Depending on the type of Thinkific course you plan on selling, you may or may not ever use this feature, but if you do plan on using it, it is super helpful, especially for checking on students progress with your material.
For exams, you need a Brillium account.
Brillium is a third-party training development platform that you need to buy to use this feature (only available on the Pro+Growth Plan).
Essentially, you can give your students an exam, and Brillium is the certification and exam creator.
This is a new feature for Thinkific, and it is still in beta mode. It’s free for everyone up until December 31st, 2020. Then, it's only available for the Pro plan users.
For most online courses, the “learning” stops after the student has gone through the material.
However, with course platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable, they are now integrating live lessons within their respective course platforms.
For example, Teachable has its new coaching feature built-in, and Thinkific is trying to implement its own equivalent feature.
For now, all you can do it integrate with Zoom and host meetings that your students can join. You need a free Zoom account to schedule a Zoom meeting for your students.
There are many more configuring options that you can do and learn about on the Thinkific support page.
Thinkific uses Accredible to offer digital certifications.
If you don’t want to use Accredible, you can still offer completion certificates to your students with their own templates.
To get started, you would head over to the “Support Your Students” tab and click on certificates and create a new one.
There, you will have the option to pick a template and change a few things, such as:
- Date issued
- Expiration date
- And more depending on the template chosen.
This neat feature is for those who complete 100% of your course. Completion certificates are only available on the Pro plan and above.
To drip content in Thinkfic, you need to be on the Basic plan or higher.
The Drip Content feature lets you manage your content delivery based on:
- The Student Enrollment Date
- The Student Course Start Date
- On a Specific Date
Enrollment date and the course start date are two different things.
The enrollment date means when the student enrolls in the course, whereas the course start date is when the student actually accesses the course for the first time.
For example, if you choose the student course start date, and I buy your course on Monday but don’t take your course until Thursday, then the drip schedule won’t start until Thursday.
This is one of those features you will see across many online course platforms and one that helps your students.
Not only does it help them stay engaged, but it keeps them wanting more, especially if your online course is good.
You can also keep some content, “drip-free.” For example, you could set only a certain chapter to drip content, whereas all other chapters are instantly available.
Free previews (free trials) are available on all plans.
If you want to get leads for your online course, then free previews can be a great option.
When a potential student wants a free-preview of your course, they have to create an account with Thinkific first which is a nice micro-commitment.
If you have the Basic plan, you can integrate with an email marketing tool (like ConvertKit) and add free preview leads to your email list. This can be set up within minutes.
If you want to give your audience a taste of your online course to better sell courses, then the free preview will do wonders for you.
If they want to get your full course experience, then they can buy it within your course dashboard. Your paid content is restricted otherwise.
To have prerequisite lessons, you have to be on the Pro plan.
As you can see, I have two Prerequisite lessons in my course. One for the “Start Here” video and the second one about joining my private Facebook Group.
I need my students to watch these two videos so they can get the crucial information they need to succeed with my course.
You can use them in other ways, such as having to watch Lesson 1 before going onto Lesson 2 and so on.
While this may seem similar to Drip content, this feature is more focused on the student’s pace, which can be good or bad depending on the content.
Required Video Completion
To require your students to complete a certain percentage of your video, you must be on the Pro plan or above.
If your online courses mainly use video, then this feature is essential.
If you want to make sure your students watch the entire video, you can set up the required completion percentage to be 100.
I set mine to 50% just so they can at least watch through most of it before continuing because my course is 50% video and 50% text-based.
Depending on the type of course content that you create and sell, this may or may not be necessary for you.
Thinkific Online Course Templates
It’s worth mentioning when you create a course in Thinkific, you get a ton of templates to choose from:
- Flagship Course
- Digital Download
- Membership Resource Library
- Webinar Replay
Whenever you choose a template, it creates the chapters and lessons for you in advance; however, I always end up deleting them because I already have a course outline in mind.
After creating your first few online courses, you'll have this down as well.
If you are a beginner, this is an easy to use course builder and great for easy course creation.
Course Marketing and Selling
While Thinkific has some of the best course creation features on the market, competing course platforms like Teachable and others are beating them in the marketing and selling features department.
For instance, Thinkific recently introduced “Flows” and upsell features, but the execution of these features is subpar compared to other tools.
If you’re someone who uses other online sales funnel tools and services specifically designed for marketing and selling products, you’ll notice this isn't Thinkific's strength.
Let's cover how effectively Thinkific lets it's users sell and market their courses.
First, let’s talk about the “Customizable” Site Builder.
It's clunky and not very customizable.
Again, this is coming from someone who has other tools to create sales pages, landing pages, etc., so if you don’t have this experience, then this tool may be what you need.
That being said, Thinkific has pre-built themes for their courses if you rather not customize and just insert your content. You don’t have to pay extra per month to get these themes. They are built and available for use directly inside your Thinkific Account.
The site-builder is built on sections and blocks.
You can have the following sections available:
- Additional Products
- All Categories [smart section]
- All Pricing Options
- Banner (course)
- Bonus Material
- Call to Action
- Countdown Timer
- Icons and Text
- Image and Text
- Image gallery
- Lead Capture
- Pricing Options
- Social Proof: Logos
- Social Proof: Reviews
- Social Proof: Testimonials
- Text and Media
- Text (with CTA)
These are pretty simple to use and self-explanatory, but the customization is VERY limited.
It all depends on the Thinkific Theme you choose and the site theme color option you choose.
Here’s a sample sales page that I created with Thinkific:
I personally don’t use Thinkific to create my sales pages, but it’s there if I ever need it.
That said, let’s move onto other marketing and selling course features.
If you have a course, for example, that sells for $99, but you want to have a 50% 1-Year Anniversary sale for your course, then you can create a coupon specifically for that purpose.
If you don’t want a percentage off, you can do dollars off as well.
You can also give your coupon codes an expiration date. No complaints with Thinkific's coupon feature.
Thinkfic sales widgets for your course can be hit or miss. They have worked for me sometimes, but not all the time.
Here’s what mine looks like:
It’s an auto-generated widget, meaning you can only customize:
- The card background
- The card text
- The button background
- The button text
- And where the button links to (checkout or landing page – no custom link)
Technically, you can go into the code and change the link.
You also have the option to chose whether you want to show the product image, price and button, or just the button.
It’s fine, but other plug-ins and tools have more customization for widgets.
Like most people, when Thinkific announced “Flows,” I was very excited.
Flows allows you to customize your customer's journey after purchasing your course (free or paid).
You have 3, after purchase options:
- Thinkific Thank You Page
- Course Player (meaning right into the course, bypassing the Thank You page)
- Custom URL
If you choose the Thank You Page Option, you can display a custom message which Thinkific lets you set.
You also have the option to “Upsell” additional products, but it’s not great.
Let’s talk about it.
The Upsell feature in Thinkific could use some improvement, as it’s probably one of the least conversion-friendly upsell pages I’ve ever seen.
And unfortunately, you cannot customize it other than changing the heading.
You can’t format the heading to your liking or get rid of the “Thank you” text (or the button at the top).
Only after you scroll down this part, ONLY THEN, you see the UN-customizable upsell call-to-action below all of that:
This is as good as it gets. What's the point of offering an upsell feature if you cannot customize it? I digress.
Let’s talk about the oh-so-great checkout pages…
Like Upsell pages, Thinkific checkout pages can’t be customized either.
In fact, they're not appealing at all, in my opinion.
Sure, you can add other sections to the checkout page, but they have to be below everything else.
There is no way to add bullet-points under your image or a Guarantee symbol near your button.
Heck, you can’t even change the button color without going into the theme settings.
It’s unfortunate for course creators looking for an all-in-one solution for course creation and selling courses.
A+ for course creation features and C- for selling & marketing features, sadly.
Bundles and Memberships
If you have multiple courses that complement each other and want to package and sell them as a bundle, then you can do so, but only if you are on the Pro plan or above.
For example, let’s say I had a Nutrition Course, a Workout Course, and a Mindset Course.
I could sell them each for $29, but for all 3, or I could bundle them for $77 (instead of $87 sold separately) with Thinkific.
However, if you want to sell them as a bundle ONLY, remember to set your individual courses to hidden so people cannot buy the course individually.
For membership subscriptions, you can set up a $99/month option for your bundle or individual courses as well.
You can choose monthly options or, however, far apart you want them to be (in monthly increments).
Thinkific has a wide set of integration options; however, specific integrations are only available on certain plans.
If you want to integrate Thinkific with these email marketing solutions:
- Constant Contact
- Zapier Triggers
Then you can with the Basic plan.
If you want to integrate Thinkific with:
- Active Campaign
- Zapier Actions (Zapier subscription required)
Then you need the Pro+Growth plan or above.
For example, I use ThriveCart for my course checkout pages, and if I want to be able to enroll students based on the actions they take within ThriveCart (upsells, downsells, etc.), I can only do this on the Pro+Growth plan.
As we talked about in the Thinkific pricing section, this can get pretty pricey depending on how many students you have.
As far as other integrations go, you can integrate with:
- Google Analytics
Student Communication and Support
Depending on the option you are on, you have different ways of communicating with your students.
- On the Basic plan, you can email users one at a time.
- On the Pro+Growth plan, you can email students in bulk.
You don’t get any reporting of these emails (regardless of what plan you’re on).
On the Pro+Growth plan, you can import students from another LMS platform in bulk and add or remove students from courses or bundles in one action.
Lastly, you can use the advanced segmentation features such as using filters in the “Support Your Students Section” and organize and bookmark students based on their progress in courses, or completion percentage of the course.
For example, if I wanted to email every student who bought my course, but hasn’t even gone through 30% of it, I can build that filter, bookmark it (for future use), and send an email to them asking why.
Again, this is only on the Pro+Growth plan.
You also have the option to create a Thinkific Community (Pro plan and above), which is basically a Facebook group/forum mock-up.
Its functionality is fine, but it’s not great. You cannot divide the forum into topics or categories. It’s only what was most recently posted.
It’s a neat feature if you want everything to be inside of Thinkific, but I’d stick to Facebook for this or a different platform altogether.
Lastly, you can host non-English languages in Thinkific. This is only available in certain languages (30 at the time of this Thinkific review); however, only text that is formatted within Thinkific according to other reports.
Again, to utilize this feature, you must write and edit your content WITHIN Thinkific. If not, everything else that isn't will remain the in it's original language.
So, if you have a course that you want to host in a non-English language, make sure you created it within Thinkific’s course platform, or it won’t work.
Tracking & Reporting
Under the “Support Your Students” tab in your Thinkific dashboard, you will see a section named “Progress.”
This is where you can see the progress report of your students in your Thinkific courses.
You can also find your discussions, reviews, quiz and survey results, and notifications here.
To see the results of your quizzes and surveys, you have to export them to a .CSV file. You cannot view them directly in your Thinkifc dashboard.
You can also see things like:
- Percentage of Course Completed vs Viewed.
- Student’s Name and Email that they signed up with.
- The date at which the student activated, started, and completed their course.
- Their last sign in date.
Lack of Marketing and Selling Feature Focus
As mentioned earlier, the lack of customization in significant pages such as the checkout page and the upsell/thank-you page is not great.
Thinkific is excellent at creating beautiful courses, yes, but not so for conversion-focused checkout and upsell pages.
Lack of Multi-Tenancy Option
If you’re a big company that wants to use Thinkific for clients and multiple “instances,” unfortunately, you cannot.
For example, if you had one parent company who wanted to utilize their Thinkific account for their clients (white labeling), but each client wanted their own personal “instance” to show to their audience, it’s not possible.
You are (or they are) stuck with the original branding
Lack of Multi-Format Lessons
In our Teachable Review, you will see that one thing lacking in Thinkific is the ability to have multiple formats in lessons.
Let’s say I wanted some text, then a video, then some more text, then some custom HTML, then a video, and then an interactive PDF, all within the same lesson.
You CAN do that in Teachable, but CANNOT in Thinkific :(.
There are some workarounds, but to have a full lesson the way you want it, you simply cannot with Thinkific. It would be nice if they could improve this feature as it would also improve student experience.
Lack of Live Chat Customer Support
Thinkfic’s customer support team is excellent and offers email and phone support, but there is no live chat.
You have to fill out a form and tell the customer support team what “urgency” your situation is. Email isn't great for urgent situations, but they get back to you as quickly as possible, and every time it has been great customer service.
Thinkific Reviews & My Final Verdict
As someone who has used Thinkific to host my online course for my nutrition book, and has over 300 students on my Pro+Growth account, I believe Thinkifc is great as a course platform but lacks native selling and marketing features.
There is no doubt about it, Thinkific is one of the best learning management systems, and with it, you can create great online courses. The Thinkific course builder is simple to use and looks professional.
That said, the Thinkific marketing and selling customization options need improvement. The Upsell feature is there but misses the mark, and the checkout page is customizable, but not in the important sections.
If you use 3rd party internet marketing tools for your checkout and funnel pages (ThriveCart, Clickfunnels, SamCart, etc.), and just want to use Thinkific solely for its course creation purposes, do it!
If you’re looking for Thinkific to do everything for you (create the course, market it, sell it), it can, just not that great.
My Thinkific review bottom line: Try Thinkific for Free and test out some of the features we talked about and more!
Thinkific is not without HEAVY competition in 2020. Thinkific does a great job marketing to small business course creators and large corporations; however, other online course platforms have been giving them a run for their money.
The following platforms are Thinkific’s fiercest competitors:
- Academy of Mine
Out of the above Thinkific alternatives, Teachable is its archrival.
Read our Thinkific vs Teachable article for the full scoop on which is better for selling courses (article coming soon).