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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!

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How to Choose the Best Online Course Creation Platform for Your Business

A laptop to use for the online course creation process on a wood desk.

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher 

The number one question I get in my business every single day is, “Which online course creation platform should I use for my course?” In this episode, we’re talking all about online course creation software!

In this episode I talked about: 

  • How to choose the right online course platform for you and your business (spoiler alert: the answer isn’t the same for everyone)
  • Why you actually might want to delay making a decision about which online course software to use
  • How to get in the right mindset and recognize there is no one “perfect” software
  • 5 big things to consider when choosing an online course creation platform
  • How to stick to a budget and not go overboard on paying expensive subscription fees
  • My top recommendations for online course platforms and why I like each one

Choosing the right online course creation platform for your business

When you set out to create an online course, you’ll inevitably need to choose an online course creation platform where you can upload videos and lesson materials and organize everything for students so they can sign up, log in, and take your course. Some of the big names you’ll hear are software like Kajabi, Kartra, Teachable, Podia, ThriveCart, and Thinkific, but there are SO many different options out there. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll find everything from software made exclusively for building courses to platforms with tons of features like built-in email marketing, sales and landing pages, and affiliate program management. It can be tricky to know which one is the “best” one – and there’s not really one correct answer to that question. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for every business, so instead of telling you which online course creation platform to use, I’ll let you know some ways to figure out which one is the best one for you, the things to consider along the way, and some of my favorite platforms. But first…

Do this before choosing an online course creation platform

If choosing an online course creation platform is at the top of your to-do list, you should put it on hold. I totally get why people want to pick their course software as the first step in creating an online course. It’s a tangible first step, so it seems entirely logical. However, once you sign up for a course creation platform, you start paying for it, usually as a monthly subscription fee. All those fees add up while you’re thinking about everything else that you need to do to set up your course. Before you realize it, months have passed, you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for the software, and you still haven’t uploaded anything for your course. Focus on the content that goes into your course first – things like the outlines, syllabi, student materials, and a plan for filming videos – then choose an online course creation platform when you’re ready to start uploading materials and setting the course up.

Getting into the right mindset

If there’s one big takeaway you’ll find all over my blog and in my podcasts, it’s that there is no such thing as the “perfect” online course creation platform. Do your research and make the best choice you can now, but remember that whatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be the one online course software you’ll have forever and ever. 

I’ve worked on over 150 online courses in the last five years, and most of my clients – especially the ones who have had a course for three or more years – end up changing platforms at some point. And you know what? It’s not a big deal to make the switch! Your needs will change over time, and that’s OK. Just choose the software that makes the most sense for your current needs. 

5 things to consider when choosing an online course creation platform

I recommend researching independently to determine what’s right for you and your business. Don’t just go with what someone else is using because what works for them might not be the best fit for you! Everyone has different budgets, goals, students, and needs, so the perfect software for someone else isn’t necessarily the one you’ll need. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an online course creation platform.

1. What’s your budget?

Online course creation software can range from free to super expensive. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best – you can spend a TON of money paying for more software than you need. If your course isn’t currently creating income, choosing a less expensive software can give you more room in the budget for marketing, ads, or just keeping more of your profit.

On the other hand, if your course already has a large student base and generates a lot of income, it might be worth spending more money on leveled-up user experience and student management tools.

2. What are your long-term goals and plans?

You don’t need to have all the answers right now, but it’s nice to be able to accommodate the next couple of steps. Consider how many courses you want to launch in the next few years. Many course creation platforms limit how many courses you can have (usually, it’s a limit of three) and charge more per month based on the total number of courses you upload. The other thing to remember is that mini-courses or different access levels on the same course usually count as separate products in your online course creation software, so you might have more products than you initially thought.

 3. How user-friendly do you need the software to be?

Some online course creation platforms are wayyyy easier to use than others. If you’re going to DIY everything from uploading materials to making landing pages, be honest with yourself about how tech-savvy you are, how much time and patience you have for figuring things out, and how important it is to you to have good customer service when you’re in a pinch. There’s no wrong answer! You’ll just be able to make better choices if you take an honest assessment before choosing software for your course. 

4. What kind of student experience do you want to offer?

Most people spend the bulk of their time thinking about what they want and need to get their course uploaded and prepped for launch, but you’ll also need to think about all the people who will buy your course and be using it from the membership side. Is your software of choice user-friendly for students? Is it simple to log into their account, view videos, and navigate the lessons?

5. Which marketing tools do you want to be included?

Making your actual course is only part of the online course creation process – things like marketing emails, sales and landing pages, and affiliate management are important too! Some platforms give you all the tools you need to do those things, but if you already have email software you like, like Flodesk or ConvertKit, you’ll be fine if that’s not included in your online course software.

Still feeling stuck?

If you’ve thought through all of those questions and you’re still stuck on which online course creation platform is right for you, try these decision-making hacks:

  • Think of a course you’ve already taken and loved. If there’s a software you love as a student, then it might be a good choice for you as a creator.
  • Ask a business mentor and use what they recommend. Of course, not everyone’s business is the same. Someone might have more students than you or have different goals.
  • Take my online course creation quiz. After answering a few questions about your business, you’ll get a personalized software recommendation. 

Whatever you do, please don’t go to a Facebook group and openly ask everyone for their opinion. You’ll literally get hundreds of responses! Everyone has a different opinion, and you’ll probably end up more confused than when you started.

My three favorite online course creation platforms

Now that I’ve given you all my best advice about choosing the right online course creation platform let’s dig into my favorites. For reference, I’ve been in the online course creation and business world for over five years, so I’ve personally used basically every single software out there. My recommendations have changed over the years (and I’m sure they’ll change again!), but here are my picks for the best online course creation platforms. 

ThriveCart Learn

ThriveCart started as a checkout platform where you can also sell digital products, but a few years ago, they launched ThriveCart Learn for online course creation. They’ve made quite a few improvements since the original launch and keep improving it and adding new features as time passes.

The Good:

  • Price: Right now, it’s $495 for lifetime access to ThriveCart and ThriveCart Learn. You can pay a little more for pro-level upgrades, but I don’t think you need them if you’re just starting out. For reference, people on monthly plans with other platforms pay an average of $2000 per year, so that’s a huge savings.
  • Ease-of-use: ThriveCart is very user-friendly for DIY-ers to figure out and easy for students to navigate.
  • Integrations: There are several native integrations in ThriveCart, so depending on which email marketing and CRM software you use, you won’t even need to use Zapier to get everything up and running.
  • You can sell other products: ThriveCart works for selling multiple courses, PDFs, templates, and more. Many other softwares charge additional fees for that option or don’t offer it at all.

The Not-So-Good:

  • No community forums: Students can’t comment on videos or participate in community forums within ThriveCart Learn courses.
  • Limited sales page designs: Getting a great-looking sales page in ThriveCart is possible, but you won’t be able to make something completely customized.
  • No additional marketing features: The biggest one is email marketing – you’ll have to use ConvertKit, Flodesk, Active Campaign, or similar software for that.

Who it’s best for: I love ThriveCart for people who are just starting out – it’s an outstanding balance of features for the price.


Kajabi has excellent marketing, and many of the more prominent online course creators use it, so you’ve probably heard of it.

The Good:

  • Fantastic customer service: I’ve talked to Kajabi’s customer service team quite a bit while setting up courses for clients, and they’re probably the most helpful online course software team I’ve ever worked with.
  • It’s full-featured: You can do SO many things for your online course in one place, from hosting a website to building sales and landing pages to setting up email marketing campaigns. 
  • Fewer technical errors: Every service has glitches and times when the software doesn’t work correctly. With Kajabi, that happens very rarely; when it does, customer service is very efficient at fixing things.

The Not-So-Good

  • It’s pricey: Kajabi starts at $150 per month, and the price goes up from there, depending on the number of courses you have and how many email contacts you have in the system. If you’re not using all of the features Kajabi has to offer, then it’s probably not worth the cost.

The learning curve: If you’ve never used Kajabi before, learning your way around can be difficult. Many online course creators hire someone else to help them set up their course in Kajabi, so they’re not pulling out their hair whenever they need to do something new.

Who it’s best for: Large-scale course creators managing large numbers of students and willing to pay more for the features; people who can hire extra help to get set up and manage the platform.


Kartra is another really popular choice for online course creators. While it has high points, I have mixed feelings about it overall.

The Good:

  • The price: While it’s more expensive than ThriveCart, it’s an excellent price for the features you get, and they keep adding more and more features over time.
  • The page builder: There’s a drag-and-drop builder for making sales and landing pages, so it’s exceptionally DIY-friendly.
  • Easy to DIY: Kartra is intuitive to use and all-around approachable for DIY course creators.

The Not-So-Good:

  • Customer Service: It’s not terrible, but it’s not the best either. If you have a problem or run into something you don’t know how to do, you might have to figure things out on your own. There’s chat and email support, but response times are long, and even whenever they answer, it’s not always thorough or helpful.
  • It can be glitchy: Every software has glitches from time to time; it just feels like it happens slightly more often with Kartra. For example, sometimes a page builder doesn’t work quite how you expect, or an email won’t auto-send when it should.

Who it’s good for: New online course creators who want more features than ThriveCart, without paying Kajabi’s prices. It’s the perfect compromise between those two services!

Ready to choose an online course creation platform?

Just remember: there’s no such thing as one truly perfect online course software. It can feel like such an important decision – and it is – but don’t overthink it and get caught up in decision paralysis. Just think about your budget, goals, and overall needs, then go with the software that feels right for wherever you are right now. You can always change it later. The most important thing is to actually get your course out there into the world! 

Still feeling stuck and need help choosing?

Listen to the full podcast episode for even more advice, plus three money-saving hacks for online course creation.

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