4 Best Online Course Platforms in 2021 (Reviewed and Compared)

| | October 15, 2021

Online course platforms or Learning management systems (LMS) are online services used to create, analyze and distribute digital content.

If you have a personal brand or a business, you might want to expand your reach and increase annual revenue by creating online courses.

These platforms have become extremely popular, with many individuals, coaches, businesses creating online course for their audience. These courses are mostly knowledge these people or businesses have acquired and want to share with others.

According to researchandmarkets.com, the online education market will reach $350 billion by 2025. Due to the 2020 pandemic, so many people and schools were forced to move their lessons online, and impart education/coaching in online mode. 

As learning and educational technology evolve, people look for more ways to consume knowledge and new skills faster. Online course platforms enable us to reach a wider audience in almost every part of the world with less effort.

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How to Select the Best Online Course Platform?

There are many course platforms available today, and before you choose one, make sure they have these basic features:

  1. Learning Experience: The first goal and principle of every online learning platform, is the learning experience. This is key to maintaining engagement among your audience. Before choosing a platform, you should make sure it is easy to use and navigate by almost anybody.
  2. Course Update: An online course platform should be able to let update your course at any time. The best thing about an online course is that you create it once and you upload it, and it is there forever, anyone can access it anytime. But most courses need regular updating so it does not go out of date.
  3. Analytics: A good online platform should provide you with good and clear analytics. This Analytics can be on how your course is performing or the number of people enrolled for the course. Analytics can range from simple analytics to an advanced one the can tell you the region your audience is or the time they mostly use your course.
  4. Marketing: This is important. An online course platform should provide you with tools that help you market your online course. This can be helping you create a simple sales page. Marketing can be from a simple sales page to an email marketing tool that helps acquire customers.
  5. Storage and Video Bandwidth: A good course platform should have unlimited video bandwidth and storage. It does not make sense if you can't upload more videos for your audience. Using an online course platform with limited storage is a bad idea. When the storage gets exhausted, moving your audience to another platform becomes difficult.
  6. Payment: Make sure the payment process is simple for your audience. It means the payment gateway used by the course platform should not be complicated for your audience.

These are the six features that every good online course platform should at least have, the rest are just extra features that you might need or not need.

4 Top Online Course Platforms of 2021

Thinkific Online Course Platform

overview

Thinkific is a powerful LMS (learning management system) platform. It is an all-in-one platform that provides tools for individuals and businesses to create online courses. Most of the tools include course-building tools, marketing tools, website building tools, and many more.

The platform is designed as an easy-to-use service and trusted by millions of users and businesses. The goal of Thinkific is to help share knowledge, scale business and bring the most simple online course builder.

Thinkific offers a lot of flexibility with so many features to help you create the kind of experience you want your users to have by offering features like - hosting your videos, surveys, quizzes, and much more.

On top of that it also supports integration with popular marketing services like Zoom, Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Intercom, Typeform and others.

features

Course Builder. The Thinkific course builder is where you can create your course curriculum, upload your course materials, set course prices, adjust settings, and much more. Its flexible advanced customization tool allows you to create a feeling and user experience that is the same as your brand. Your course website will blend perfectly with your brand..

Multiple Course Templates. Thinkific provides multiple course templates you can use when creating your course. These templates include blank course templates, mini-course templates, flagship course templates, pre-sell course templates, membership library, and webinar replay.

Assessments, Quizzes & Certificates. Nothing makes online courses more interesting and exciting like awarding students with awards and certificates. With Thinkific, there are tools to create activities and rewards to keep your audiences engaged, and to help you get useful data from them. Some of these tools are quizzes, surveys, assignments, exams, and certificates.

Instructor-Led Training. Enables the design of classes that are led by an instructor. ILT allows learners and instructors to interact and discuss the training material individually or in a group setting.

Learning Paths. The learning path is very important because it creates specific order in which a class must be taken to achieve the best understanding. With Thinkific, you can create a sequence of classes that must be taken in a specific order.

Communication & Notifications. Thinkific has functions that allow you to message and send notifications to your users.

Assignment Scheduling. Enables users to plan assignments and dispense them automatically.

Gamification. With the Thinkific Gamification feature, you can now motivate users by giving them tracking points, achievement awards, and badges.

Varied User Types. You use their verification feature to limit the access of certain functionalities to certain users.

Certifications. You can create certificates to give to your audience after they complete a module or an entire course.

Industry Compliance. It includes best standards that comply with data protection regulations.

E-Commerce. Thinkific can also be operated as an eCommerce store. This means you can sell your course as a digital product and receive your payment electronically.

Subscriptions. You can also use the subscription feature. This feature allows for to sell and manage subscriptions for your courses. With this tool, you can request a monthly by monthly fee from your audience to access your course, and this can be managed easily with Thinkific.

White Labeling. Branding is key. With this feature, you can customize the look and the feel to fit your brand. This includes homepage branding, personalized URL, and more.

Multilingual. Thinkific provides multiple language options like - Danish, Dutch, English,  German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Mandarin (Traditional), Spanish and more.

thinkific pricing

Thinkific offers three paid plans - Basic Plan ($39/month), Pro Plan ($79/month) and Premier Plan ($399/month).

It also has a free plan that offers Thinkific's core feature set for free. Users can try Thinkific's free plan before upgrading to the paid plans. The free plan includes:

  • Limited Courses. Only limited number of courses can be created under the free plan. However, it gives you ample opportunity to see whether Thinkific is the right online course platform for you or not.
  • Unlimited students. There is no limit on the number of students that can enroll in your courses.
  • Email support. If you face any issues, email support is available to resolve all your queries.
  • Quizzes & surveys
  • Content hosting
  • Instant access to your funds

I would recommend you to upgrade to the paid plans only after availing the free trial. Join the free trial with the link given below. No credit is required to sign up for the free plan.

Thinkific Pricing

All the paid plans offered by Thinkific include all the core features of the free plan. I have already discussed main features of Thinkific above, so I am not going into the details again. Let's see all the paid plans and its main features at a glance:

Basic Plan: At $39 per month, you get access to create unlimited courses. So, there is no restriction on how many courses you can create on this platform. This is one of the main USP of Thinkific. Live chat support, use of coupons for course promotion, email, drip content, affiliate reporting, custom domain and email integration are some of its features that you get with the Basic Plan.

Pro Plan: This is the most popular plan from Thinkific. It would cost you $79 per month and contain everything included in the Basic Plan. Some of the advanced features contain in this plan are - supports 2 site admin accounts, ability to make your courses private or hidden, offer membership plan, award certificates on course completion, ability to add Zoom meetings and webinars, and others.

One of the Best Feature of Pro Plan is the flexible pricing options for your courses. Check out the details below:

  • Create subscription-based courses. It allows you to charge your users/students every month a fee to access your courses. Thus, giving you a recurring income every month.
  • Create one-time payment courses. Charge only a one-time fee to grant access to your online courses.
  • Create free courses. You can create free courses and offer them as a lead magnet to your target audience. Once they sign up for the free course, you can always pitch them your paid courses later.

Premiere Plan: It will cost you $399 per month and include all the features of Pro Plan along with some advanced features. This plan is suitable for established customers who are already in the online education area and need advanced features to scale their growth.

thinkific free trial

Thinkific does not offer a free trial. However, you can join the free plan which is absolutely free to see if it is the right online course platform for you or not.

Please note that you are not required to enter your credit card details to sign up for the free plan. Join the Thinkific free plan here.

Each plan of Thinkific comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Try it risk-free with the link given below.

Kajabi Online Course Platform

overview

Kajabi is an all-in-one Content Marketing platform designed for digital entrepreneurs and businesses. Kajabi creates tools that can help you in creating and selling premium digital contents online. Premium digital products that you can create inside Kajabi platforms are:

  • Online Courses
  • Membership Websites
  • Coaching Programs
  • Podcasts and more

Once your product is ready, Kajabi offers multiple options for monetization that include direct sales, free trials, subscriptions, upsells, and affiliates.

You can also use Kajabi to build websites, landing pages, and newsletters. Some functions available are tools to allow you to process payments, analyze customer data and automate your marketing campaigns from customer targeting to customer acquisition easily, with no hassle. They allow you to create your own experience for your audience.

Plus, as a Kajabi customer, you are also covered by its automated sales and marketing tool that can help you to create conversion-focused landing page funnel and sales page combined with its powerful email marketing tools.

Let's learn more about all the important features of Kajabi below.

features

Website builder. You can use Kajabi drag and drop builder to build an amazing website for your online business. You can use it for showcasing your products, publish content and more. It offers ready-made themes that can be easily customized and can be used to create almost any kind of website. It also gives you the feature to add your custom domain.

Landing Page Builder. Kajabi gives you flexible landing page builder tool to create responsive pages of any kind that looks equally perfect on all types of devices - desktop, mobile or tablet. It also has ready-made templates for almost all kind of pages - sales page, lead generation page, policy page and others, without requiring you to know any coding skills.

Email Marketing. Kajabi completely replaces third party email marketing tools like ConvertKit, Aweber or Moosend. You can use its visual builder to create marketing messages that can include engaging content like images, video and count-down timer. The powerful email marketing tool by Podia let you:

  • Use the email broadcasting feature to send messages to all your audience at once
  • Automate your emails by building powerful follow-up sequences
  • Customize your emails to give your users a more personal brand feeling
  • Tag your subscribers based on their behavior

Automate your task like from emailing to a product purchase. Skip the manual work of sending emails so you can focus on creating, and let automation send the right message to the right people at the right time for you.

Marketing pipeline blueprints. Instantly build full marketing pipelines using proven sequences to nurture audience relationships and increase sales, all on autopilot.

Integrated checkout. You can accept payments from anywhere in the world using Stripe or PayPal and give your customer instant access to your content. You can also customize your payment plans - recurring payment, one-time payment and one-click upsells. Thus, Kajabi conveniently replaces third party sites like Samcart and WooCommerce.

  1. Single price point. You use this feature to sell your course using a one-time fee and giving lifetime access to your students.
  2. Free trials. You can use this feature for prospective students, give them your content by offering free trials, then roll them over into paying customers.
  3. Subscriptions. You can use this model if you want a subscription-based payment model. This can build customer loyalty and create repeat business with weekly, monthly, or annual subscriptions.
  4. 1-click upsells. Seamless 1-click upsells allow your students and customers to buy more from you, and you an opportunity to earn more.

Coupons. You can use the coupon feature to run more impactful promotions by offering one-time coupons thereby increasing your sales.

Abandoned cart recovery. Automated emails are triggered to send to give your lead another chance to buy from you.

One-click marketing sequences. Generate marketing sequence templates using built-in pipeline blueprints.

Autoscaling. Kajabi auto-scaling feature allows you to grow your audience as much as possible.

Safe and secure. Kajabi security features make your website safe and secure.

Unlimited hosting. With unlimited storage space, you can upload as many files as you want. You have unlimited video bandwidth offering from Kajabi.

KAJABI pricing

Kajabi offers its users three different paid plans - Basic Plan ($119/month), Growth Plan ($159/month) and Pro Plan ($319/month).

It does not have a free plan for its users, however, it does offer a 14-day free trial on all the paid plans as mentioned above.

Let's see what are the features included in the paid plans.

Kajabi Pricing

Basic Plan: This plan would cost you $119 per month. Under this plan, you can create unlimited landing pages, one website, unlimited marketing emails, supports up to 10000 contacts and 1000 active members. Kajabi doesn't charge any transaction fee when you sell your products like online course, webinar, podcast and others. Access to Kajabi University, Webinar & Events, ready-made templates, quizzes, automation and chat support are some of its notable features. You can create 3 products under this plan with 1 admin user.

Growth Plan: This is the most popular plan offered by Kajabi. It would cost you $159 every month. It include all the features of the Basic Plan with increased limits. For example, you can add up to 25000 contacts, 10000 active members, create 15 products with 10 admin users. Apart from this, it supports advance automation and gives you the ability to launch your own affiliate program. You can also remove Kajabi branding from your products, landing pages, or marketing campaigns.

Pro Plan: It would cost $319 per month and include all the features of the Growth Plan alongwith enhanced limits - 100000 contacts, 20000 active members, 15 products, 25 admin users, 3 websites and more.

Check out all the latest prices and complete features of Kajabi below.

FREE TRIAL

Kajabi offers 14-day free trial to anyone who wants to try its premium features before upgrading to the paid plans. You can sign up for the free trial for any of the paid plans - Basic, Growth or Pro.

Each plan of Kajabi comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Try it risk-free with the link given below. Plus, Kajabi also gives you the ability to upgrade or downgrade your plan at any time.

Podia Online Course Platform

overview

Podia is an online course platform. It focuses on creating tools that help creators create and sell courses. Some of the tools you will find in Podia include course building tools, a website builder, an email marketing tool, live chat, and much more.

Spencer Fry founded Podia in 2014 and serves as its CEO to date. The goal of podia is to empower creators to share their knowledge and get paid for it. Since creators are the people using these tools created by Podia, they put a lot of effort into building tools creators will need inside the all-in-one platform. According to Podia "without creators, we cannot exist".

Podia is an all-in-one platform in real sense as it offers all the important marketing tools inside a single platform:

  • Online Courses
  • Digital Products Downloads
  • Memberships
  • Email Marketing
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Live Chat and more

Let's check out all the important features of Podia below.

features

Unlimited Everything. With Podia, they are no limit on the content. You can have as many courses, students, emails, or earnings. You can share your knowledge in the form of videos, links, PDFs, quizzes and more.

Multiple Course Options. You can offer your courses to your students in different forms. Standalone courses - Students can purchase and learn in their own pace. Drip coursesYou can use this feature to schedule the delivery of your course to your student section by section. Cohort-based courses - You can even start your online course on a future start date so that all the students can start your course at the same time. You can even pre-launch and pre-sell your courses. Plus, you can even bundle one course with other products and offer it to your students as a package.

Engagement. Podia allows you to make your content more engaging by offering extra resources to your students - external links, PDFs and videos. Adding quizzes to your content can be more fun and engaging. To make your student engaged, Podia offers a quiz tool that you can use to create quizzes for your student.

Manage Courses. Inside Podia, you can beautifully organize your courses into categories, set start date for your courses, open and close enrollment, set price for your courses in the Pricing tab and set payment options. If you have other related courses, you can even upsell it to your existing customers by offering discounts and other offers.

Video Hosting. When you use Podia, you get unlimited bandwidth to host all your videos files, no need for a third-party hosting platform.

Digital Downloads. On Podia platform, you can sell eBooks, PDFs, templates, Photoshop files, LUTS, cheat sheets, checklists, video files, audio MP3 files, text, or any content you want. You can upload eBooks in PDF or ePub format. Check out this guide if you want to learn how to create an eBook and what are the best eBook creator software.

Lead magnet. Podia also allows you to offer your eBook as a free lead magnet to build your email list.

Webinar Hosting. Apart from offering online courses and digital downloads to your users, Podia makes it super easy to charge your users to grant access to your paid webinars. You can easily integrate your YouTube Live account or Zoom account to Podia to host your webinars. Not only that, it also has the option to sell your webinar replays that earns you passive income.

Members and Membership levels. Membership is offered under the Shakers and the Earthquaker plans. You can have as many members as you want and also have as many membership plans and levels. It's a perfect way to build and grow your community around your digital products. You can offer free trialsbill your users monthly or yearly and even create unlimited membership plans. Offering memberships to your customers to access your premium content gives you wonderful opportunity to earn recurring income every month.

Email Marketing. You can build your email list by creating sign up forms right inside the Podia platform and display it anywhere inside your Podia site. The sign up form can also be embedded inside your own custom website.  You can send or schedule your email broadcast to your entire audience at once or to customers of specific products or both. You can also create drip automated email campaigns and move your subscribers down to your sales funnel to other paid products.

Real-time Analytics. Podia has email analytics to better understand your emails. Following are the metrics that can help you to easily track your email campaign performance - open rate, click rate, bounce rate, sales, unsubscribe rate and others.

Interact with your customers. Podia has an always-on on-page live chat for your customers to get in touch with at any time.

Custom Website. Need a custom website for your brand, Podia has got you covered. Podia allows you to create a beautifully designed, SEO-optimized and mobile responsive website to fit perfectly on any screen size phone, tablet or laptop without touching any line of code. You can create almost any type of web page inside your account - home page, sales page, newsletter sign up page and other custom pages. It has built-in WYSIWYG editor like Thrive Architect that allows you to design your pages in real-time.

Affiliate Marketing. Podia also supports affiliate marketing where you can allow people to promote your products as an affiliate. You can set and manage your affiliate commission right inside Podia dashboard.

Coupons. You can create coupons with features like expiration date, usage caps, and product limitations.

Instant payouts. Get paid faster with instant payouts; there’s no holding or waiting period, so you get your money as quickly as possible.

Integrations. You can use several scheduling platforms with Podia like Calendly, Acuity, YouCanBookMe and SavvyCal.

Public posting. You can create a community and make any post visible to anyone who visits your membership site.

Comments & likes. Comment and like feature is available, you use this in engaging more with your audience.

Connect to Facebook, Slack, or Palapa. Link to your Facebook Group, Slack Channel, or Palapa community so only paying members can join.

Embedding. You can easily embed links on your Podia website. Links like YouTube videos link, tweets, lead pages, SoundCloud, and other platforms that provide embedded links.

podia pricing

Podia offers the following paid plans - Mover ($39/month), Shaker ($79/month) and Earthquaker ($179/month).

It does not offer any free plan, however, you can join the free trial to see whether Podia is the best online course platform for your business needs.

Podia Pricing

Let's now discuss the paid plans in detail.

Mover Plan: At $39 every month, it offers Unlimited Everything which means - unlimited courses, students, messages, sales and files. On your product sale - online courses, digital downloads and webinars, Podia doesn't charge any transaction fees. 

Shaker Plan: This plan is offered at $79 per month and covers everything under the Mover Plan as discussed above. You can award certificates to your students who successfully completes your course. Plus, it also gives you the ability to allow people to promote your digital products as an affiliate. Under this plan, you can sell membership and coaching which is not present in the Mover Plan. No Podia branding, unlimited email subscribers are some of its other features.

Earthquaker Plan: At $179 per month, it is the costliest plan offered by Podia. This plan includes everything offered by the Shaker Plan. Apart from that, it includes the following features - dedicated account manager, personalized onboarding call, monthly group creator call, 50k monthly email recipients, and include up to 5 additional teammates.

free trial

Podia offers a free 14-day trial where users can try its premium features. No credit card is required to join the free trial offered by the Podia online course platform.

If you're looking for an easy to use all-in-one platform to sell your digital products - online courses, digital downloads, webinars, memberships and coaching, Podia could be your best choice. Join the free trial below to try all the premium features of Podia.

Teachable Online Course Platform

overview

Teachable is another popular online course builder platform. The online software can used for online course creation and coaching. Teachable has many tools for this purpose. It is used by entrepreneurs, creators, companies of different sizes. With this platform, individuals can create videos, lectures, and quizzes for their audience.

It provides a simple payment platform, that makes it very simple to collect payment and removes the stress of creating a payment system yourself.

You can track sales, access data to sold courses, and with their inbuilt survey tool, you can create surveys to collect feedback from your audience.

They are zero to no technical knowledge needed to use this platform.

features

Use our own custom domain. Instead of using the default domain, you can easily link your existing website to Teachable under a custom domain.

Customize your online school experience. With the powerful teachable editor, you can create engaging, multimedia lectures, videos, and coaching sessions.

Use tools you want to use. Teachable supports many third-party services like MailChimp, Convertkit, Zapier, Vizia, and much more.

Know your numbers. Teachable provides you with an advanced dashboard. Track sales and student insights with this dashboard. This student insight includes lecture completion rates, quiz and test scores, video statistics, and video engagement.

Selling. Teachable provides a good and flexible page editor. You this page editor to create an amazing sales page for your courses.

Make it a team effort. Teachable has a feature that allows you to bring other members to join you. With this feature, you can bring on the authors, team members, and contributors and customize their permissions and roles

Unlimited Everything. Teachable offers unlimited video bandwidth, unlimited courses, and coaching services, and unlimited students on all paid plans.

Talk to your students live. This feature allows you to host live classes or one-on-one sessions with your students.

Schedule and host. Seamlessly take clients from booking to intake to scheduling and learning with our native integrations with Calendly.

Create success stories. You create quizzes for your students and provide a course completion certificate to help engage your student. You can ensure transformation with course compliance controls that require course completion to move on.

Feedback is fundamental. You can always improve by asking your audience some questions about your courses. Teachable allows you to use third-party forms and survey to gather feedback from your student.

Spin up support. You can easily integrate with Zapier to take support to the next level with Zendesk, Olark, Intercom, and others.

Flex your pricing options. Teachable has a feature for different payment modes. This includes coupons, subscriptions, memberships, one-time payments, bundles, and more.

Get the word out. Teachable has an affiliate marketing tool. You can use this tool to create an affiliate program to help you gain more customers.

Payment. Teachable accepts international payment in 130+ currencies. Under this platform, you can process your payment on daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Teachable also offers various payment methods - one for countries in their eligibility list and the others are for countries not on their list. For eligible countries, the payment method is Stripe Express. The non-eligible countries can use PayPalCheck the list for eligible countries.

Payout. Teachable has a feature that allows you to payout your affiliates and other teachers in your course automatically directly from its platform. You don't need to do that every time by yourself.

No tax troubles. Teachable deduct every tax automatically from your revenue that you're to pay as an earning individual.

teachable pricing

Teachable offers three paid plans - Basic Plan ($29/month)Pro Plan ($99/month) and Business Plan ($249/month).

Teachable also has a free plan where you can create unlimited courses and enroll unlimited students along with many more features. The free plan gives a very good opportunity to get used to the Teachable platform before upgrading to the paid plans. The free plan includes the following features:

  • Unlimited Courses. There is no restriction on the number of courses you create on Teachable online course platform.
  • Unlimited Students. Teachable allows you to enroll any number of students in your courses.
  • Course Templates. Create your online courses from ready-made course design templates. If you don't need to spend a lot of time designing your courses, you can use these templates to get your courses up and running in a very short time.
  • Transaction Fees. Under the Free Plan, you would have to pay $1 + 10% of your sale as transaction fee to Teachable. Considering that you're using the platform for free, paying a small fee may seem reasonable.
  • Unlimited Coaching Servics, Quizzes, Third-party services, Product bundles are some of its other features.

Try Teachable today for free to see if it is the right course creation platform for you. Join the free plan below.

Teachable Pricing

Let's see the all the main features of the paid plans offered by Teachable.

Basic Plan: It would cost you $29 per month and include all the features included in the free plan. For each course sale, you are required to pay 5% transaction fee instead of 10% as charged in the free plan. Plus you get additional features like - members only community, custom domain support, drip course content, integrated email marketing and others.

Pro Plan: At $99 per month, it is the most popular plan offered by Teachable. It include all the features of Basic Plan. One of the main advantage of using the Pro Plan is the 0% transaction fee. So, you get to keep all the income from your course sale. Apart from that, you get advanced features like - 5 admin level users, advance reports, unbranded website, priority product support, graded quizzes, course completion certificates, group coaching calls and others.

Business Plan: This plan offered at $249 per month is mostly suitable for bigger brands looking to scale their business with advanced features. It include all the features of Pro Plan. Additionally, you can add up to 20 admin level users, manual student imports, custom user roles, advanced theme customization and others.

At Teachable, you can host unlimited videos, unlimited products, ulimited hosting, student management and many other features. Join the free plan below to see if Teachable is the right product for your business or not. Get started today.

Wrapping Up

Above we have covered some of the best online course platforms out there. With this detailed guide, you can make a better choice on which online course platform suit you more.

I would recommend you to go with Thinkific if you'are only concerned with hosting and selling online courses. It has very flexible pricing options where you can sell your courses to your students for a one-time fee or a subscription-based fee.

If you need a all-in-one platform to sell your courses, webinars, membership and coaching, then I would recommend you to go with either Podia or Kajabi.

As each of the above course platforms offer either free trial or a free plan, feel free to try them out.

Which online course platform you like the most? Please offer your comment below. 

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