More than ever, students all over the world, of all ages, are learning through online courses, and teachers are figuring out how to teach classes online using course platforms otherwise known as LMS (learning management systems).
Based on my research (Google + asking my audience who are solopreneurs), here are the best online course platforms:
Teachable got the most votes from my audience. Vast majority said it was easy to use, both from the student and teacher viewpoint, and is affordable for the teacher. And, if you take courses from other people using Teachable, you’d use the same username/login for all of those courses.
The second most recommended was Kajabi. Easy to use from both student and teacher point of view, and has mobile apps for students on iOS and Android. Kajabi is more expensive than other course platforms, but can replace your website and mailing list software. For lower-cost alternatives to Kajabi, Simplero was mentioned by Shirani Prasad and New Zenler was recommended by Trina Serrecchia.
The third most recommended was Thinkfic. People liked the pricing better than the top two options, and that it’s a smaller company. However, it didn’t sound as easy to use. Of those who mentioned it, very few said they loved it, but everyone says it’s a solid option and a fine one to go with.
Google Classroom had mixed reviews. The biggest advantage is that it’s free. Yet, one person (thank you Ann Dretzka) wrote in detail about its problems. Experienced course creator Zo Tobi loves its minimalistic approach and says it has the essentials needed for online education.
Podia is an up-and-comer that a few people said they liked, but most hadn’t heard of yet.
Others that were mentioned, but had mixed reviews:
For Wordpress plug-ins, LearnDash is the most popular. However, several experienced course creators said that you have to be careful about security issues, as well as compatibility with other WP plug-ins. See the comments by Tom Buford, Nathan Lively, and Jeremy Gildman.
When considering platforms, also test out their customer service. (Thanks for the tip by Gordon Montgomery.)
After all this research, I am inclined to still recommend the way that I do it:
Someone who has taken many different online courses, including mine, wrote this:
“For me, using any of these platforms at this time is probably too costly on a month-to-month basis. Thinking strategically, I am not interested in having to pay this monthly fee eternally when I sell a course for which I am giving people lifetime access. While Thinkific offers the possibility of us having three courses without the monthly fee, and beyond that we pay at least $50 a month, Teachable starts at $30/month and up, and Kajabi starts at $120/month, so it’s not something I will want to get into. It seems to me the model you are teaching, George, provided it is geared towards us offering live interactive courses offered on Zoom, is more affordable and sustainable for Solopreneurs like me and your usual clients. Because we don’t get tied up with a monthly fee we can’t get off in the future. George, over time, I have come to appreciate, more and more, your solutions of lower tech and lower fixed expenses. This is a strong argument you should definitely emphasize!”
— Ruth Toledo Altschuler (thank you Ruth!)
Another student of mine, and fellow course creator, Liesel Teversham, agrees:
“I fully agree on the burden of paying into eternity for Teachable or Thinkific. That’s exactly why I haven’t gone that route. I am so thankful for learning George’s way. It’s currently sustainable for me and I’m not resentful about expenses if a course doesn’t sell.”
Anonymously someone wrote:
“Your content and class serve a huge purpose for those who are not looking to invest big $$’s in a class platform. I know someone who created a class, hosted it on Kajabi — spent a lot of money getting it going — and never sold one course! Their bias against facebook as an unprofessional platform prevented them from considering it. Now, they’ve shut down their Kajabi site and opened a facebook group!”
I also heard from another client that she has known several people who went for Kajabi and later regretted it because of the ongoing cost, and how they didn’t really learn how to market their courses, so they barely sold any.
Key Lesson: it’s more important to learn how to market your courses, than choosing the course platform technology.
I would recommend going the low cost route first, e.g. Google Classroom, or do it the way I’m doing it, as outlined in the bullet points above. To get a full experience of how I deliver a course, be a student of this one: Create and Launch Online Courses.
Once you’ve proven that you can sell courses, and are getting a regular income, then you might upgrade to Teachable, Kajabi, or other more “professional” platform.
Finally, an experienced course taker and creator, Val Nelson Taylor, wrote:
“I’ve taken courses in different ways and it was never the platform that mattered. It’s how the teacher uses it. So maybe best for teachers to find what is easiest for them so that they can make the class clear and useful for students.”
I hope this post has helped you see what’s out there and to narrow down your options. Again, it’s more important to learn how to market your online courses than to pick the “perfect” platform, of which there is none.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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