A Course Creators Guide to Online Course Platforms in 2022

For online course creators. 7 minutes read

Thinking about creating an online course? Have you completed your course and you’re looking for a platform to host it on? Whatever stage in your course creation journey, taking the time to choose the right platform for your online course can spell the difference between blockbuster online course sales, and the chirping of crickets.

Choosing the right online course platform for your course may well be the most important decision you make, and so spending some time finding out what’s best for your course before taking the leap can save you a lot of time, effort and money.

In this extended guide, we’ll be looking into the top online course creation platforms and explaining who they’re for, what the pros and cons of each are, and giving our take on whether or not the platform is worth your time.

We’ll be covering the two major types of online course platforms, and then looking into which the major platforms for these types.

Keep in mind that there is a lot to consider here, and so the best way to decide is to speak to one of our friendly team members to find out which platform is for you.

Want to get a sense of what’s out there first, though?

Read on!

 

Table of Contents:

  1. Course Marketplaces
  2. Skillshare
  3. Udemy
  4. Course Creation Platforms
  5. Podia
  6. Thinkific
  7. Kajabi
  8. Summary
  9. Which one is right for you?

 

Online Course Marketplaces

An online course marketplace is, as its name suggests, a place where users can find and purchase an online course. If you don’t want to do as much heavy lifting in terms of marketing your online course, and you’re aiming for a more passive, or set-and-forget approach, then a course marketplace might be for you.

But if you really want to make uncapped earnings, be in complete control over your course content, pricing and marketing, then online course marketplaces may come up short for you. Technically, most course marketplaces own your course, you don’t have access to your student’s email or information, in some cases you’re limited from promoting your brand within the course. If that’s not enough they often take a large percentage of your profit margins in exchange for using their platform.

While course marketplaces differ in their pricing and payment models, and some course creators have made millions using them, these cases are very, very rare and the overwhelming majority make little if any money.

That said, if you don’t want to pay to use a platform, you’re confident that you have a high-value course that will sell, and you don’t want to do too much in the way of marketing for, then a course marketplace may be for you.

Here are our top picks:

 

Skillshare

 

 

You can think of Skillshare as the Netflix for online courses.

Its 4 million + students pay a monthly fee to have access to a broad range of online courses in a variety of disciplines, from business-related courses, to design and hobbies.

Skillshare is a video online platform, and courses are typically made up of short videos (2-5 minutes long) that usually run from 30-60 minutes in length.

 

Fees & Payments

Skillshare costs students $168 per year, but is free for course creators.

Skillshare pays its creators 30% of the total monthly platform revenue. This 30% is split between creators based on the percentage their courses contributed for their watch time. Confused?

Try this for an example:

If Skillshare earns $1m per month, it allocates $300m to its creators. If your course content made up 0.001% of the total minutes watched on the platform, you earn $300.

You can also make $10 per referral for new students, and many course creators report that this referral system makes up a substantial proportion of their revenue on Skillshare.

 

Who is it for?

When looking at the top 250 Skillshare courses, the most popular courses vary, but mostly are related to illustration, photography and graphic design. Skillshare is targeted primarily at hobbyists, and while there are some B2B courses, it is primarily a B2C platform.

Also, consider the mindset of the student. They have access to thousands of other courses, and because they aren’t paying for any course in particular, they can change courses at any point. The platform makes it very easy to skip over to other content, and so short courses containing less potential watch time for creators are often more popular.

So if you’re teaching a short B2C course, Skillshare might be for you.

Pros

  • Drives students to your course for you
  • Free for course creators
  • Great for building brand awareness (think of it as a way to get exposure for a paid course)
  • Make referral commissions
  • Easy to set and forget

Cons

  • Limited profitability
  • No access to your student’s email
  • Limitations on branding in videos
  • Video only – no articles, quizzes or assignments

Our Take

Skillshare is good for brand exposure for short courses primarily in the B2C space.

The problem is, you just won’t make much income. Even the highest-earning creators only make around $100,000 per annum.  While that may seem like a lot, consider that the overwhelming majority of creators earn next to nothing.

Skillshare reports that the average user earns $200 per month, but considering that this average is likely raised by its highest earners, it’s safe to assume that this figure is even less for most creators.

We recommend SkillShare only as a way to increase brand exposure, and to get leads for a bigger, paid online course elsewhere.

 

Udemy

 

 

If Skillshare is the Netflix of online courses, then Udemy is the Amazon.

With over 24 million students, 35,000 instructors, and a whopping 157,000 courses making it the largest online course marketplace of its kind.

Unlike Skillshare, Udemy requires students to pay for each course that they take, and does not require students to sign up to the platform. This means that anybody can take your online course and unlike Skillshare you aren’t limited to students who are already on the platform.

 

Who is it for?

While Udemy has a broad range of topics, its best-selling courses are in IT, particularly on computer programming and web development. This doesn’t mean that other courses can’t sell well on Udemy. IT courses on Udemy are highly competitive and the top courses in each field are already well established. Some success can be found in smaller niches, but most of the time, Udemy users are looking IT related courses.

 

Fees & Payment

Udemy is free for course creators, so hosting and creating your online course will cost you nothing. However, your revenue share can become complicated depending on a number of factors and Udemy can take up to 63% of your earnings under some conditions.

As well as this, Udemy charges students according to location and is in complete control over whether or not your course is on sale at a given time.

In sum, it’s free upfront, but Udemy takes a huge share of your revenue, and they completely control the price of your course.

 

Pros

  • Native marketing tools to promote your online course within Udemy
  • Mixed media courses ie. Quizzes, assignments, surveys on the platform
  • Marketplace insights allow you to see which topics are trending, and what is popular to help you identify gaps in the market
  • Potential to rank organically due to Udemy’s high domain authority
  • Free for creators
  • No platform signup for Students

Cons

  • Udemy takes a large cut of revenue
  • Highly competitive
  • Limited control over your course pricing
  • No access to students

Our Take

While Udemy is good for exposure, and you can take advantage of some of the in-built marketing tools to drive more students to your course, the lack of control over how much you charge for your course, as well as the stiff competition makes it difficult for most course creators to earn significant amounts of money on Udemy.

Compared with Skillshare, though, Udemy course creators have the potential to earn a lot more.

While the top courses on Udemy have earned within the range of $1-5 million dollars (which is a lot compared to Skillshare’s 100,000) keep in mind that this is far from typical.

The vast majority of Udemy courses see a lifetime revenue of $500 and roughly 1 in 1000 courses earn $500K+. In other words, success on Udemy is the exception, and definitely not the rule.

For these reasons, ClassGrowth does not recommend Udemy to course creators who are serious about making a high-revenue course.

 

Course Creation Platforms

Unlike online course marketplaces, course creation platforms offer creators total control over their course delivery, pricing, and marketing. While all of the courses marketing will fall squarely on the course creator, and there is more work to do overall – for course creators who want to create an online course that can earn serious money, it is best to use a course creation platform.

But which one is best?

In short, it all depends on what you need, but some are definitely better than others.

Let’s take a look at some of the top course creation platforms to see which one works best for you.

Podia

 

 

Podia is an all-in-one platform that allows you to sell not just online courses, but any kind of digital product. Got an accompanying eBook for your online course? Want to promote your online course with a webinar? A membership site for your students? Any other digital goods or services to offer? Podia has you covered.

Unlike the online course marketplaces, course creation platforms like podia include a website builder, native marketing tools to reach more students, in-built affiliate marketing, and a chatbot for your students to talk to!

Who is it for?

Podia isn’t only for online course creators, it’s for any entrepreneur who wants to sell their knowledge, in any form. So, if your online course is just one part of what you’re looking to sell, or you want to sell your course in a bundle along with an eBook, template, or any other digital product, then Podia is for you. On top of these features, Podia also allows you to build a thriving community around your online course, as well as a membership site that allows you to earn recurring fees from your subscribers.

However, if you want to focus on just your online course, all of these additional options won’t be needed for you.

Fees & Payment

 

Podia is one one the cheapest course creation platforms available on the market. It has a free version (which takes 8% of your transaction fees) but once you move up to the next tier there is no cost per transaction.

For more information on what you get with each tier, check out this guide here.

 

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Flexible
  • Multimedia courses
  • Simple interface
  • Sell any product

Cons

  • Very basic page designs
  • No native analytics

Our take

Podia’s power is in its flexibility. It allows online creators to sell digital goods and services through a simple e-commerce platform, with an easy-to-use interface at a low monthly cost.

However, the biggest drawback is that the web builder is very basic. If your branding is important to you, you won’t be able to build a website or landing page that will WOW any of your potential students and there’s a chance that this course harm your sales.

In short, Podia is great, but it isn’t our first choice when recommending online course creation platforms.

That honor goes to….

Drum Roll…

 

 

Thinkific

 

One of the most popular online course creation platforms on the market, and in our book, for good reason. An all-in-one solution for all of your course creation needs, from your website to your marketing. Whatever it doesn’t have natively, you can easily integrate it with third-party plugins.

In short, there is nothing you can’t do with Thinkific, but let’s look at where it really shines.

Its templates for both your website, as well as course creation make the process of creating both much easier, and helps you make an amazing course, and an amazing course website. If you’re facing any trouble at all, the customer support team is fantastic.

It also allows a huge amount of flexibility when it comes to media types for your online course. If you want your students to be able to submit papers, do quizzes, survey, exams and more, you can do all of these things with Thinkific.

In short, the platform allows you to have total control over your course, makes it easy to build an attractive website and landing pages, and makes all of these things as easy as pie!

Who is it for?

Thinkific is for anybody who wants to make the best possible online course experience. It doesn’t come with options for lots of different types of products and services. The platform is specifically for online courses and for that reason it’s the best at what it does. It has a great free option, so if you want to dip your toes in, tinker, and scale up as required.

Fees & Payments

The beauty of Thinkific is that you can start for free, and still have an excellent, even profitable course at this pricing tier. But as you want to scale and grow your course, you can gradually move into higher tiers to get extra functionality.

It allows you to try out the platform and see if it’s going to work for you before investing anything which means that starting out with Thinkific is a no-brainer.

For more information about Thinkific’s pricing, click here.

 

Pros

  • Great website builder and template library
  • Deliver mixed media courses
  • Can use custom HTML & CSS to make a professional website
  • Affiliate marketing options
  • Free to start
  • Course creation templates to make course creation easier

Cons

  • No live chat support for the free version
  • The highest tier is costly
  • White labelling only available at top tier

Our take

If it’s not clear from reading the above, Thinkific is our favorite platform, and what we recommend to our clients the most.

What really makes it special is the outstanding course creation functionality, marketing tools as well as the ability to make websites that you would never guess were designed in Thinkific. If you want total control over every aspect of your online course, to be able to gradually scale as you grow bigger then Thinkific is the right platform for you.

 

Kajabi

 

 

Kajabi is very similar to Thinkific, though it has a few notable differences.

The most notable of which is that there is no free version, meaning that if you want to get started on the platform, then you’ll need to start paying after a 14-day trial. Kajabi is touted as a high-value platform for professionals, and it offers much more than course creation alone, so if you need to do a lot more than just make online courses, the extra cost might be justified.

Boasting a total, all-in-one platform, Kajabi aims to be a true one-stop shop for all of your business needs. In fact, many online course creators end up migrating their websites and Email marketing over to Kajabi to make life easier. Like Podia, Kajabi is not exclusive to online courses. While courses are their main focus, you can also start a membership site, host a podcast, and sell other digital products and services through Kajabi.

 

Who is it for?

Kajabi is a high-end platform, for high-end businesses who want a total solution for all of their business’ digital needs. It is not for tinkerers, people who are curious about starting a course, or those who are on a tight budget. If you’re serious about your online course, you have the capital to invest upfront, and are happy to pay extra for an all-in-one platform, then Kajabi might be for you.

Fees & Payments

 

As mentioned above – Kajabi is not cheap. There is no free version and it starts at $149/month. However, if you are planning on using Kajabi to replace your website and email marketing service, this may actually be saving you money. However, the advantage (price-wise) is that at the highest tier, Kajabi is actually cheaper than Thinkific.

For more information on what you get with each tier, check out Kajabi’s pricing here.

Pros

  • End-to-end solution
  • Email automation
  • Analytics (check and do for Thinkific as well)
  • Dedicated customer support
  • Great website builder

Cons

  • Analytics could be better
  • Very costly
  • No free version
  • Limited media types for online courses

Our take

Kajabis’s price point and lack of a free version may not be suitable for online course creators who want to start small and grow big. If you’re a higher-end business and want a complete end-to-end solution for all your business needs, then Kajabi might be for you. However, if you are starting small and want to gradually build up, and you only need an online course builder and a place to store your course, then Kajabi’s additional features and cost may be difficult to justify.

 

Summary

Let’s break all of the above down.

There are two types of platforms you can choose to host your online course:

 

Online Course Marketplaces

These allow you to be found by more people and require less marketing on your part, but they take a significant cut of your course sales or only offer a small percentage of the streaming revenue.

These are:

Udemy

  • Free for course creators
  • On-platform marketing tools
  • Easier for students to find your course (in theory)
  • Highly competitive
  • Limited control over course pricing

Skillshare

  • Less competition than Udemy
  • Ideal for B2C creative courses
  • Good for brand exposure
  • Video only
  • Make money from affiliate referals
  • Not very profitable

Online Course Creation Platforms

These give you complete control of your online course and include everything from a website builder to course creation tools and in-built marketing tools. They have uncapped growth potential and can be potentially much more profitable, but they require more work to be found and usually have fees for course creators.

These are:

Podia

  • Total control of your course
  • Free version to get started (though it takes 8% per transaction)
  • Membership sites
  • Allows for the sale of all types of digital products
  • Web builder is very basic

Thinkific

  • Built specifically for online course creation
  • Great free version
  • Easy to scale as you need
  • Great course creation and website templates
  • Easy to use
  • Very costly at the highest tier

Kajabi

  • All-in-one solution
  • Sell multiple types of digital products and services
  • Dedicated customer service
  • No free version
  • Very expensive, suitable for bigger budgets

 

Which online course platform is right for you?

Depending on how far you want to take your online course, this could literally be the million-dollar question. But unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. Any of these platforms can be right for different course creators for different reasons. But the platform we recommend the most is Thinkific due to its ease of use, cost-friendliness, and dedication to online course creation alone.

But if you’re still scratching your head, why not reach out to the friendly team at ClassGrowth? We’re professionals in the marketing of online courses, and once you’ve decided on which platform you want to use, we’ll help your course smash your sales goals!

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