11 Best Online Course Platforms of 2021

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Selling on online course isn’t an easy task – but it is valuable if you can pull it off right and be able to help people while making money. One of the first things course creators get stuck on is which is the best online course platform to use.

Because everyone is generally stuck at home now, it’s is an incredible time to be selling a course. Some of my course clients have seen quadruple digit growth in sales simply because people have more time to learn new things while we’re all stuck at home.

But which online course platform do you pick? That is where this list comes in handy.

I’m breaking this list up into a few different sections because comparing them isn’t really fair.

There are Online Course Platforms, All-In-One Funnel Builders, and WordPress Plugins.

Here are the best online course platforms and what makes them great, or…not so great.

The Best Online Course Platforms

These softwares are built with singular focus – to make selling online courses and digital products easy for the business owner. They aren’t meant to build funnels, or be complete customer relationship managers (CRMs) – they’re there with the focus of helping you sell online courses.

Podia

Best Online Course Platform for Beginners

Podia is a newer platform, but don’t let that fool you – it’s a pretty powerful one.

Founded in 2014, Podia was built around the notion that they wanted to “make working independently easier.” When I read that it made me smile because it’s evident from using the platform that this is Podia’s goal.

Everything is simple to use, not too “extra” in terms of features, but everything you need to create and manage an online course business is there.

It’s also on the cheaper side so Podia is always a recommendation when people come to me who are just getting started with selling online courses. It’s feature-rich and has a ton of things you can grow into as you scale your online course business.

Podia’s pricing is easy to understand (and it’s affordable!) You either pay $39/mo or $79/mo, and they don’t charge any transaction fees.

  • Who It’s For: Solo course creators who want to sell all of their digital products in one place
  • Price: $39/mo or $79/mo
  • Pros:
    • Simple, clean design on both the front and backend
    • Sell digital downloads
    • You can sell webinars and video content
    • Easy to get started without needing tech help
  • Cons:
    • It’s not the most feature-rich option on the list, but it has everything you want to sell

Podia allows you to run your own affiliate program to let students of yours promote your courses and digital products.

If you’re looking to sell online courses, digital downloads, and/or a membership site, Podia is probably the answer for you.

You can get a 14-day Free Trial of Podia

Podia

Everything you need to sell online courses, webinars, downloads, and memberships without worrying about the tech side of things.


Here is my full Podia Review if you want to learn more.

Learndash

Best Feature-Rich Platform for WordPress Users

LearnDash is a WordPress plugin that brands itself as letting you “turn a WordPress site into a learning management system.”

Yoast SEO is one of their larger clients so if you’ve ever seen how Yoast uses WordPress to offer courses and training, then you’ve experienced LearnDash.

LearnDash offers their “Gradebook technology” that assigns students grades based on their homework and test scores, while creating a weight average for teachers to see. It’s definitely more robust than some other course platforms.

This fully interactive system allows you to assign points, badges and certificates for completing activities within the course. With each course module, you can have the lesson, other course materials, and even a collapsible summary of each lesson.

Learndash is one of my favorite course platforms as a student.

As a customer of a creator that hosts their course on Learndash, I’m a big fan. It’s very user-friendly, easy to use, and makes me want to log back in and continue learning.

  • Who It’s For: WordPress users looking to build a robust course with quizzes, videos, and want a professional way of grading students
  • Price: $159-$329/mo
  • Pros:
    • Lots of features that you can grow into
    • drag-and-drop course builder
    • Separate topics and lessons
    • Prerequisite lessons and courses
    • Quizzes
    • Assignments
    • Lesson timers
    • Drip content
    • Course certificates and badges
  • Cons:
    • Can seem a little overwhelming in terms of course management because of all the features
    • No free trial – but you can apply for a refund within 30 days of purchase if it’s not right for you
Learndash

The Wordpress LMS and online course platform created by e-learning experts.


Thinkific

Great Option for Beginners

Thinkific is another great option that has been around for years. Thinkific has a similar pricing structure to Podia, but does offer a few more features for course creators.

Their quiz and survey functionality win hands down between the two, and they do allow you to grade students based on their work – something you can’t do with Podia.

Thinkific is not my personal favorite in terms of user experience, the design just looks clunky, but it does work and a lot of teachers love the Thinkific platform.

Thinkific is going to give you more of the experience of teaching in a classroom – you can setup assignments, have more functionality in terms of quizzes and grading, etc. Podia is more geared towards solo creators who want to be able to sell all of their things in one place.

Thinkific is a great mix of functionality and features at a reasonable monthly price.

  • Who It’s For:
  • Price: $39/mo – $399/mo
  • Pros:
    • Pretty easy to use and setup an online course website
    • Unlimited courses and students
    • Lots of integrations
    • Upsells
    • Quizzes and surveys
    • They support recurring revenue options like subscriptions and memberships
    • You can get started with a very limited free option (but they charge 10% transaction fees)
  • Cons:
    • There is no chat support, but they do offer phone support (which is kind of rare for online course platforms)
Thinkific Online Course Platform

Create your first course, or grow your online course business with Thinkific.

Teachable

Best for Most Online Course Creators

Teachable is probably the online course platform people hear about most often, and that’s because of the community building they have done.

Teachable has a great community for online course creators and they run events and conferences for their customers as well.

Teachable also has a course marketplace where potential students can search for topics and find your courses that way. They call this Discover by Teachable and I think you have to apply to be listed because they don’t just show every single course on there.

The one thing I CAN’T STAND about Teachable is the login process. If your students have taken a course from another creator that uses Teachable, it can get quite confusing for them to login. There are school logins and TeachableU logins, I just don’t understand it.

Aside from that, everything else about the Teachable platform generally just works. You can run your own affiliate program and integrate your course website on Teachable with all kinds of 3rd party platforms.

The landing pages aren’t my favorite and are a little more challenging to customize.

  • Who It’s For:
  • Price: $39/mo-$299/mo
  • Pros:
    • Great community for course creators
    • Ability to create simple funnels
    • Teachable Course Marketplace for more visibility
    • You can run your own affiliate program
  • Cons:
    • While they offer an introductory price point, they charge 5% transaction fees on sales at that level
    • Login can be confusing for your students
Top Pick
Teachable: Create and Sell Online Courses

Build and sell your knowledge with an online course. Join the biggest community of online course creators out there.

I also put together a full Teachable review to help you decide between course platforms.

Learnworlds

Best Interactive Platform

Learnworlds going to be the right platform for your course business if you want to make sure your students are keeping up with their work. With Learnworlds you can run live e-learning classes, create an interactive experience for people watching your course videos, and get students progress updates regularly.

Learnworlds is one of the few on this list that supports SCORM -which is like a professional set of standards and specs for online educational technology.

While Learnworlds subscription pricing starts at just $29/mo, they do charge transaction fees on the lower tiers of their platform. The next tier is $99/mo, but with the functionality they offer they are really catered towards professional teachers so it that price point might not be an issue.

Learnworlds is the next level up from Podia, so if you plan on running a professional online courses business and are going to need more features in the future, go with Learnworlds.

  • Who It’s For: Teachers who want all kinds of bells and whistles that create the best experience for their students
  • Price: $29/mo-$299/mo+
  • Pros:
    • Tons of features
    • Excellent customer service
    • Video trainings for course creators
    • Multi-lingual
    • Interactive content
    • Lots of page templates to help you get started quickly
  • Cons:
    • Learnworlds has a lot of features and it can be overwhelming for the average course creator. Plus, you do pay more of a premium for access to these features.
    • If you’re on a lower plan, it can take quite a while to hear back from customer support
LearnWorlds: Create & Sell Online Courses from Your Own Site

Re-imagined interactive video teaching to help your students learn and grow.

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

All-In-One Course and Funnel Platforms

The next group of platforms is the all-in-one platforms that combine course creation, funnel building, sales software, and website builders.

It’s not a fair comparison to judge these platforms against a standalone online course platform because they are just vastly different in terms of what they offer.

You won’t find a funnel builder in Podia or Teachable, because that’s not what they’re built for. So if you’re looking for a software that combines it all, these are your best options.

Kajabi

Best All-In-One Course Creation Software

Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that has been around since 2010.

Kajabi is going to be your first choice if you’re already making money from your online courses and want to scale that up.

While it does have some limitations in terms of email segmentation and can be complicated to setup at first, Kajabi is a great platform for you if you’re going to be doing this for a long time.

  • Who It’s For: Professional creators looking for a course builder and funnel creation platform
  • Price: $149/mo-$399/mo
  • Pros:
    • You can use Kajabi to build landing pages, host your website, host your videos, and host your course – which means you can get rid of other subscriptions and simplify your business.
    • Sales pipelines and CRM
    • Customizable checkout
    • Lots of integrations
  • Cons:
    • Kajabi is an expensive platform and the feature list is often too robust for a business owner looking to simply sell a few courses.

Kartra

Best All-In-One for Marketers

Kartra is an all-in-one online course platform that was started in 2011, but has been getting a lot of exposure over the last 2-3 years.

With Kartra, you can build full funnels, keep a robust customer database, and sell your online course to students with one tool.

Similar to Kajabi, Kartra is an all-in-one that helps you build out your full sales funnel, create landing pages and run your entire business from. While it’s not as design friendly as Kajabi, this is a great option if you are going to be at the course creation business for a long time.

And if you’re a marketer or like to setup “ninja” tracking links and just get really into the details with your funnels, this is the platform for you.

  • Who It’s For:
  • Price: $99/mo-$499/mo
  • Pros:
    • Create your own helpdesk portal for students
    • Customer database and leads management
  • Cons:
    • Slowness when loading forms
    • Not as intuitive as Kajabi
Kartra - Your Online Business Made Easy

Kartra is an all-in-one platform that helps with course creation, email marketing, list building, web-hosting, business management platform designed for marketers!

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Clickfunnels

Funnel Software with a Side of Course Creation

I debated adding Clickfunnels to the list at all because it’s not really built for hosting courses. It almost seems like one day they realized they could host courses on it, so they just started adding it as a feature on the sales page.

Sure, you can host a course there, but there is no functionality for viewing student progress or your students being able to log back in and see where they left off.

Clickfunnels is more of a landing page software with the ability to host a course on their platform. It’s a great place to get started if you’re already using it for building landing pages and funnels, which is why I decided to include it.

  • Who It’s For: Course creators who don’t need a lot of course functionality, but want a powerful landing page and funnel building tool
  • Price: $99-$2,479/mo
  • Pros:
    • Makes it easy to sell your course and build funnels
  • Cons:
    • Not a ton of functionality in terms of online course management
    • Less features and functionality in terms of courses than Kartra and Kajabi
ClickFunnels

One of the top funnel builders that lets you host and manage your online course.

Ruzuku

One of the lesser known course platforms on the market, Ruzuku allows you to build a course in minutes. While they offer a lot of features, the design seems a little rudimentary.

Ruzuku integrates with Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, and more to easily integrate with your course business.

  • Who It’s For: Course creators who want more functionality than a typical standalone platform, without the hefty price tag
  • Price: $99/mo-$199/mo
  • Pros:
    • No transaction fees
    • Run unlimited webinars right from their platform ($149/mo plan and up)
    • Allows for multiple instructors
  • Cons:
    • Seems a little clunky in terms of user experience

WizIQ

Best Virtual Classroom

WizIQ brands themselves as an “affordable virtual classroom and LMS software.”

WizIQ is a great option for corporate workplace education, higher education, test prep and tutoring. It seems like a really advanced version of Zoom for educators.

  • Who It’s For: Corporate trainers, colleges and universities, and test prep institutes.
  • Price: Starts at $25 per month – You must contact them for full pricing
  • Pros:
    • Advanced interactive whiteboard
  • Cons:
    • Some people called out poor video and audio quality

Academy of Mine

Best Custom Built Course Platform

Academy of Mine wants to help you market and sell your course, not just host it – and their price point definitely reflects that. They’re clearly going for less quantity of customers, but with a higher quality of customer.

Custom build outs is the name of the game with Academy of Mine. This platform is great for people who would end up paying a designer to help them create their course once they’ve chosen a platform.

While the price point might look jarring up front compared to the rest of the platforms on this list, once you factor in how much designers cost, it’s actually quite reasonable.

  • Who It’s For: Enterprise level companies and businesses who need a custom built experience
  • Price: $833 per year
  • Pros:
    • Custom website creation
    • They help with selling and marketing your course
    • There isn’t much you can’t do with their platform, but it comes at a high price
  • Cons:
    • High starting price point

What to Consider When Choosing a Platform

There are a few considerations to think about when deciding which course platform to go with. The first challenge in deciding which course platform to pick is choosing which type of platform to pick.

There are 3 main types of course creator platforms:

1. Standalone Course Platforms

A standalone course platform is a type of software that does what the name suggests. They help with online course creation and help you put together a course website, but they aren’t going to include full funnel builders or have an integrated, robust tool for email marketing. Your students will be able to learn from you, but you will need other marketing automation tools to get more students.

While they are generally more easy to use, they also include less features than an all-in-one course creation platform would.

These are great for people who already have a sales page builder and email marketing platform they love, and just need a tool to create and sell courses.

Examples:

2. All-In-One Course Platforms

All-In-One Online Course Platforms are going to be much more feature-rich than a standalone course platform. These kinds of course platforms not only help with hosting a course, but they often have:

  • Full sales funnels builders
  • Website builders
  • Sales pages
  • Email marketing platforms
  • Customer relationship management
  • More robust marketing tools
  • More customization options

Examples:

3. WordPress Course/LMS Plugin

While standalone and all-in-one options host your course on a separate server, there are options to integrate your course directly into WordPress.

These options allow you to use your current business website as the course builder and don’t require an additional course platform. These generally let you turn pages you build in your WordPress site into beautiful landing pages and course lessons for your students.

The big thing to keep in mind here is they require you to make sure your website is live at all times.

If you use a plugin like this and your website goes down, your students won’t be able to login and start learning. Whereas if you use a standalone course builder, if your website goes down the course is hosted on a 3rd party platform so it would still be functioning as it should.

Of course, there are times when the 3rd party platforms websites go down, but generally they invest more heavily into servers and management than you could on your own. If you have more tech skills than the average person, you should be fine.

So that is one thing to keep in mind. Other than that, these plugins can be a great option for WordPress users as they integrate directly into a system you’re already using so you won’t need to learn a whole new site builder.

Examples:

Which Type of Course Platform To Pick

A few questions to help you decide between these are:

  • Are you looking for a platform that includes a full sales funnel builder?
  • Are you going to integrate your course platform with a tool like Clickfunnels or Leadpages?
  • Do you need an email marketing automation tool or do you already use one?
  • Are you able to spend hundreds of dollars a month on this, or are you looking to get started cheaper?

All-In-One vs Standalone Online Course Platform

While all-in-one builders make your tool stack more streamlined, they also come with a hefty price tag.

We’re talking $200+ per month vs $30-$100 per month.

Most of the online course platforms on this list are standalone options, meaning everything is hosted and housed on another service’s website (even though it looks like your own).

You can also use WordPress plugins to let people login directly to your server. The downsides of this are you are responsible for the site always being up

At the End of the Day

No matter which online course platform you go with, there are going to positives and negatives. Online course platforms are always evolving and trying to incorporate customer feedback. But, the reality is that you can’t please everyone, so you might end up trying out a recommendation above and wanting something more robust or user-friendly.

If you’re looking to get started and have nothing built yet, I’d go with Podia. The price point is great for beginners, they have great customer service, and a lot of features you will want eventually.

If you have run courses before and are ready to go to the next level, I’d recommend Learndash for its deep feature list. As a customer of courses on this platform, I really enjoy it as well.

And if you want an all-in-one platform that has all of the funnel building and customer database tools you’d need, you can’t go wrong with Kartra or Kajabi.

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