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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!
We live in a time where anyone can launch an online course to share their expertise and create a source of passive income, and that’s pretty amazing! But if you’ve ever hopped onto Google to check on the best platform for online courses, you’ve probably seen that there are a TON of platforms out there. If you’ve never built a course, then how are you even supposed to know which one to choose? It can be really overwhelming!
I’m a big believer that one of the most important parts of the course-building process is not getting hung up on trying to pick the “perfect” option! So, if you’ve found yourself staring down that mile-long list of online course platforms and your head is spinning, I’ve got you. Let’s talk about how to make the best decision for your business, plus my picks for the 8 best platforms for online courses in 2023.
Spoiler alert: there is no ONE best online course platform. Things would be so much easier if I could just send everyone to the same service! As an online course designer and strategist, I’ve had hands-on experience in basically every platform on the market. Many of them will result in a beautiful, well-organized, and user-friendly course, but each one has unique qualities.
Finding the ideal one for you is all about balancing the features you need with your budget. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you think about choosing a platform for online courses:
I wanted to give my preferred services a special place on the list because I really do think one of these three online course platforms will be the best fit for most people. Whether you’re a total beginner or you’re launching a course to thousands of email subscribers, these three platforms each hit the sweet spot of pricing, features, and user-friendliness.
ThriveCart was originally a shopping cart and checkout platform, but last year, they launched a Learning Management System for building online courses and membership-based services. You can create your course and sales pages with a drag-and-drop builder, so it’s extremely user-friendly, even for beginners.
It’s only $495 for a basic lifetime account (in other words, there are never any monthly or annual subscription fees.) If you want to create course bundles and custom course domains, you can upgrade to Learn+ for $690. Either way, this is a cost-effective option since you only pay for it once! Other platforms charge you monthly and usually the cost goes up the more students you have! Thrivecart learn has all the features most people need and it’s one of the most cost effective options!
If you’ve read my Kartra vs. Kajabi showdown post, then you’ll know this platform came out on top as my overall best platform for online courses. They have a TON of templates to start from, and you can customize everything to look exactly the way you want. The biggest benefit to Kartra is that it’s a one-stop shop for building your course and marketing it with email campaigns and landing pages.
If you’re going the DIY route, Kartra is straightforward to learn, even if this is the first time you’ve made a course. The beginner plan is $99 per month (and you get a discount if you sign up for an annual plan).
For experienced course creators who want all the bells and whistles, Kajabi is THE service to check out. They have templates to help you build anything from courses to memberships to training portals, plus all the email marketing campaigns and sales funnel processes and pages to go along with them.
Even though Kajabi is robust and powerful, you’ll almost always need help from an expert. Tech-savvy DIY course creators might be able to make it work, but there are more user-friendly options out there. Kajabi plans start at $149 per month, but you get a slight discount on the annual plan.
As amazing as ThriveCart Learn, Kartra, and Kajabi are, maybe you’ve decided they’re not “the one” for you. So, I’ve included six more platforms for online course building that are great choices. I’ve found them all to be user-friendly for course creators and students. Many of them are really similar! To help you understand them a little better, I’ve focused on some of the things that set them apart.
Podia allows for more flexibility to sell all kinds of digital products alongside your course (think digital downloads, memberships, and webinars). Since it’s another all-in-one platform, you can build courses and market them from the same place. Something I like about Podia is that you can collect potential student emails pre-launch or even pre-sell a course. You can start building for free, and paid plans start at $396 per year.
Thinkific is a dedicated course platform, so it’s a great option for creators who are already good to go with their own marketing platforms and tools. Their templates pre-populate with suggested quizzes, downloads, and check-ins that take a lot of the guesswork out of course building. While it doesn’t come with built-in marketing tools, Thinkific conveniently integrates with most of the programs you’re already using. You can start building for free, and paid tiers start at $36 per month.
Teachable is an all-in-one platform that helps you build, launch, and sell a course. You can start with templates to customize your modules, send email marketing campaigns, and set up private student communities. With Teachable, you can start building your course for free (paid tiers start at $348 per year). Even though the free option has limited video storage and doesn’t come with email marketing, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s a great place to start!
LearnPress is slightly different from the other services on the list because it’s a WordPress plugin for Learning Management Systems. If you’re already familiar with WordPress, then there’s almost no learning curve to using LearnPress’ drag-and-drop course builder. While it doesn’t have the marketing tools that all-in-one platforms offer, it’s super intuitive to use, and you can use the free version to build your course. Paid plans start at $49 and add features like course assignments, quizzes, and completion certificates.
Instead of helping you build a standalone course, Udemy is a service to create and upload your course to an existing online marketplace with a huge user base. It’s totally free to build and upload a course, but Udemy takes a percentage of your profit whenever students purchase from you. Still, this is a great option for people who don’t want to take on hosting, building, and marketing a course on their own.
There are so many parts of the process that can hold you back, from knowing what you’ll need to build a course to how the heck you actually build it. I hope I’ve helped you overcome some of that tech overload and made it more approachable to create the course you’ve been dreaming of.
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