Best Online Course Platforms: 2020 Deep Comparison


If the Coronavirus pandemic taught us one thing, it’s that online course platforms and e-learning definitely has a bigger place in our future.

Panicked with what to do without school or work, a staggering amount of people have taken to the internet to educate themselves, their kids, as well as simply pass the time.

With that comes the need for online course platforms that perform reliably.

Since Self-Publishing School is an online education company featuring several programs all hosted with an online course platform, we’ve got some tips for you!

And if you’re new to online course creation and are looking to get your foot in the door of this online learning growth, you’ll need a reliable course platform.

While we cover this process of choosing a course platform and even creating a course in its entirety in our Course Building for Authors program, we also wanted to provide you with a list of the best online course platforms for you to decide for yourself.

FREE TRAINING: Build and Launch an Online Course to $10,000  Learn the exact step-by-step methods our students are using to build and  launch theircourses to $10,000......WITHOUT Massive Lists, Sales Experience, or  Affiliate Connections!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

Here are the best online course platforms:

Best Course Platform Criteria

• Price

• Special Features

• Tech level needed

• User rating

• Customer support

• Ease of starting

• Integrations

What are online course platforms?

Online course platforms are softwares and other technical programs used to host an online course you’ve created, including videos, photos, quizzes, and more.

Instead of learning how to code or hiring someone to code on your website in order to encompass everything you want for your online course, you can use one of these course platforms.

They usually have features of hosting, brand customization, email integrations, and more convenient features you can easily hit a button and use.

Online course platforms take a lot of the technical work out of creating and launching your course.

Questions to Ask to Choose the Best Online Course Platform for You

Knowing your goals, your own technical capabilities, as well as what you need in terms of features will go a long way in helping you decide which online course platforms will work for you.

Here are some questions to help you understand what you need in a course platform:

  1. What’s your budget for a course platform?
  2. What’s your current tech use level?
  3. What special features do you want your course platform to have (email integration, quizzes, etc.)?
  4. How much do you want to be automated?
  5. Do you need video, images, text, and other formatting features?
  6. What email provider will you be using (needed for special integrations)?
  7. Do you need an all-in-one payment and course platform?
  8. What type of customer support do you need (quantity, do you employ someone already, etc.)?
  9. Do you need your course platform to save user data and results?

For this blog post, you’ll see some boxes at the bottom of each course platform indicating the price, overall rating by users, as well as a “tech level” needed to use, on a scale of 1 – 5: five being “a lot of tech knowledge needed,” meaning coding, and extensive web development knowledge and one being so easy a chimp could do it.

So if you struggle with tech a little bit, look for a software with a lower score in that department.

How to Create an Online Course Platform

We have all of these steps covered, along with how to actually sell your course in our Course Building for Authors program, but we’ll give you the main steps here.

This is how to create an online course platform:

  • Decide on your course topic
  • Outline the content in full
  • Decide on what “success” looks like for your course
  • Choose a course platform that best fits your needs
  • Create the course content (quality is key!)
  • Upload materials to the course platform of your choosing
  • Make sure all integrations are set up and working flawlessly
  • Price your course to sell (& generate revenue)
  • Sell your course!

There are obviously many steps involved with creating a course, it’s why we have an entire program about it. However, the above steps can get you there if you know what you’re doing and what you want.

The Best Online Course Platforms

Let’s get to the good stuff!

Below you’ll find 11 of the best course platforms in 2020. These will have several categories covered along with a summary box at the end in order to help you choose with course software is best for you.

#1 – Teachable

This is the course platform we use here at Self-Publishing School, and have for years. We rate Teachable higher than others because it’s been really easy to use, is highly customizable, and you can even host it on your own website with certain plans.

We also have a 50% off of a yearly subscription deal for our Course Building for Authors students.

— Price

Teachable, like other course platforms, has a few different plan options you can choose from based on your own needs, business size, and more.

Below you’ll find a screenshot of their pricing tiers.

Teachable Pricing Tiers

Their tiers are based on different needs and sizes. If your business is just you, the Basic plan will likely fulfill the needs you have. But if you’re looking to grow your business or expect a large launch, the Professional plan is usually the way to go.

The Business plan is going to be best for larger buisnesses looking to switch to Teachable or those who have a very large platform launching a course.

Also note: there is a FREE plan with Teachable, but it’s very, very limited. For example, you can only. have 10 students with a free plan and an unlimited amount with all other plans.

So if you do want to try Teachable before paying, you can start with the free plan!

— Special Features

There are almost too many features to count with Teachable. You can check out a full list of features here, but we’ll touch on some of what we believe are the best ones.a

Here are some of Teachables best features:

  • Quizzes
  • Certificates
  • Course Compliance
  • Highly customizable, from landing pages to in-course branding
  • Student feedback
  • Coupons / promotions
  • Payment enabled
  • Great integrations (we’ll cover below)
  • Analytics
  • Data reports
  • Web hosting capabilities for your own domain
  • Mobile app

— Tech level needed

You don’t have to know a whole lot about tech or we development to create and launch a course with Teachable. They make it super easy to upload and edit content.

We’ll say you’d need about a 2/5 tech level in order to use this course platform.

— User Rating / Reviews

We love Teachable here at Self-Publishing School, which we’ve already mentioned.

So instead of rehashing that, I wanted to give you a few reviews and ratings from actual users from this site right here.

Overall, Teachable has a high rating with 4.6 out of 5 stars with 89 ratings from one site.

However, another review site has a lower rating of 3/5 stars.

Overall, teachable has a relatively high rating with a couple issues regarding cancellation, but they do seem receptive to this feedback and even replied in once case above.

— Customer Support

We’ve personally found it really easy to work with Teachable’s customer support team. Tickets are usually handled with a couple of days, which is saying something for a company of their size.

However, others in some reviews state having difficulty with support, so this may be an area that’s not as consistent as some would like.

In addition to tickets and support from an actual person, they do have a large knowledge base with really easy-to-follow articles.

Our suggestion would be to first search Teachable’s knowledge base before sending a customized help ticket. This can cut down on your own time, as well as theirs, which only increases ticket response for more urgent matters.

— Ease of Starting

We love Teachable for how easy they make it to start. It’s why we recommend this platform to our students.

Here are the steps from sign-up to creation:

  • Visit their site and click “create a course”
  • Make your account with name, email, and password
  • Confirm. your course’s name
  • Answer a few questions about you and your business
  • Access your dashboard and start!

It’s really that simple, and that few steps. So long as you can create your course content, you’re good to upload in minutes.

course-platform-teachable-dashboard
Teachable Dashboard – Course Creation

— Integrations

Teachable has really great integrations! We’ve found the better the course platform, the more integrations they likely have due to their size, which makes it easier for them to create partnerships between companies.

Here are some of their featured integrations:

  • Zapier
  • MailChimp
  • AWeber
  • Infusionsoft
  • Mixpanel

Teachable Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: Free – $249 per month

USER RATING: ★★★★☆

TECH LEVEL: ⬤⬤◯◯◯

FREE TRAINING: Build and Launch an Online Course to $10,000  Learn the exact step-by-step methods our students are using to build and  launch theircourses to $10,000......WITHOUT Massive Lists, Sales Experience, or  Affiliate Connections!  YES! GET THE TRAINING!

#2 – Kajabi

If you’re familiar with Jenna Kutcher or other big name business owners, you’ve probably heard of Kajabi promoted by them. It’s one of the most popular course platforms, rivaling Teachable and even ThinkiFic.

— Price

In terms of overall pricing comparison, Kajabi does run more expensive than Teachable for their Basic, Growth, and Pro plans.

However, Kajabi also markets themselves as an “all in one business platform” and not just a platform for courses.

Below you can see the pricing breakdown with what’s included, with the Growth plan being the most popular at $159 per month (billed annually), which breaks down to $199 per month if you choose to submit monthly payments.

They do offer a free trial period so you can test it out!

best online course platforms kajabi pricing
Kajabi Pricing Tiers

— Special Features

While there isn’t a specific page dedicated to all Kajabi’s features, their home page does a good job of breaking some of them down. Remember, this has far more capabilities than just course building.

Here are the best features:

  • Course creation and hosting
  • Many integrations, including your website hosting (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.), Infusionsoft, WooCommerce, and more we’ll cover below
  • Email creation and customization
  • Fully integrated sales pages (Leadpages, Clickfunnels, etc.)
  • Lead tracking
  • Mobile app
  • 24/7 support
  • Hours of detailed training

— Tech level needed

Because Kajabi is far more than just a course platform, the learning curve can be a bit steeper.

And that means you may benefit from being proficient in using tech and automations if you want to go with Kajabi. Remember, it does have its “Kajabi University,” which includes a ton of training for those of you who can learn quickly.

However, if you are rather tech challenged, this might not be the best option for you just yet.

Overall, we’d give this a 3.75 / 5 (rounded up to 4 in the overall score below) for tech knowledge needed to use and create.

— User Rating / Reviews

You can find a ton of great things said about Kajabi’s interface. However, we don’t just want the success stories posted on their homepage, so we did some digging for real user ratings and reviews, ranging from very happy to less than ecstatic.

Overall, ratings for Kajabi’s course platform do steer in the 4/5 star rating area, with a smaller number of users rating it less than 3-stars.

It seems that you really need to make sure you can handle the large interface and capabilities before going with Kajabi, like we said in the tech rating above.

— Customer Support

Some distaste for Kajabi comes from a lack of support, while others rave about how great their 24/7 support is.

One great thing to remember is the help center and articles and videos they already have that could answer your questions for you.

— Ease of Starting

The ease of starting for this course platform isn’t as seamless as it is for say, Teachable. But they do have more capabilities that you might want to set up before actually creating your course.

Getting signed up for an account is actually easy–all you need to enter is your name and email and you’ll have access to your account.

From there, you’ll have to choose integrations, get familiar with your portal, and watch some training videos to learn how it all works. It’s less straightforward than other course platforms.

— Integrations

This is really where Kajabi shines in terms of its integrations. It seems they can connect with most softwares your business may already be using.

Here are some of their integrations (you can also find listed here):

  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook
  • Aweber
  • Mailchimp
  • Drip
  • ConvertKit

Kajabi Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $119 – $319 per month

USER RATING: ★★★★☆

TECH LEVEL: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◯

#3 – LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is a software specific to building online courses and monetizing them, specifically on your own website.

— Price

LearnWorlds offers very competitive pricing for what you get, plus an additional customized plan if your needs exceed their highest offering.

This is very convenient for those of you hoping to grow extensively and don’t want to have to switch to a larger platform (which can be a huge pain). You can see their overall pricing plans below.

They also have a free trial that’s 30-days long, which is double the time Kajabi gives you free, so you can really get a feel for the software before committing.

LearnWorlds Pricing

— Special Features

What I appreciated a ton about LearnWorld’s website is that they have a really thorough breakdown of each plan on their “Features” page, so you really understand what you get and which will work best for you.

Here’s a screenshot of what this looks like as well as another that’s what you get when you click “+ Expand All” button.

LearnWorlds Features
LearnWorlds Features Expanded

Overall, the pricing is very comprable with Teachable’s when it comes to what you get for the price. Having unlimited courses and students with their Starter tier is very convenient, with the loss of unlimited landing pages and you can’t use their hosting for a blog.

The Starter tier also only allows for 3 customizable pages (home, course cataglogue, and after login), which means if you want highly customizable options, you’ll want to go for their Pro Trainer or higher.

Another note: if you go with the Starter plan, you will have to pay a $5 fee per course sale. So doing some math to see if going with the Pro Trainer tier would end up saving you money is a good thing to consider.

— Tech level needed

Once you sign up, you’ll go to your dashboard, the typical view with the menu on the left of pages you can navigate to, as seen in the image below.

LearnWorlds Dashboard

In full honestly, this looks more intimidating than it is. However, because it does look complicated and has a lot of moving parts, the tech level needed to create and navigate would be a bit higher.

If you can log in to something and figure out where stuff is, you’ll be just fine with LearnWorlds. Just know that is can be a little overwhelming at first.

— User Rating / Reviews

On this review site, LearnWorlds has an overall 4.9/5 star rating, which is really good for software like one for course building.

You can find more detailed user reviews as well, covering the most helpful features along with some pros and cons as well.

One thing of importance to note: I’m trying to find some lower rated reviews to share some of the other end of experiences, but am having a hard time finding them. This is good!

Most people rate LearnWorlds 4-5 stars.

— Customer Support

All but the Starter plan come with 24/7 support, the starter plan with 24 hour support 5 days a week.

However, the only tier that has phone support is the Corporate High Volumne, which is their customized plan for larger entities.

All the tiers do have a Help Center you can access, but the Starter plan does not have any onboardng help, whereas the other plans do, along with increased time as you move up the tiers.

— Ease of Starting

It’s pretty simple to create your course and get started on your free trial. All you really have to do is hit a button and you’ll enter your email, school name, as well as answer a few questions to help set a few things up.

LearnWorlds Setup

From there, you can hit “finish” or “OK, take me to my school now” and be greeted with your dashboard, which you can hit “Courses” and “Create Course” to begin.

When you do the above, it’ll lead you to a pop-up questionairre to set your course up, which is really easy to navigate and it “plugs in” your answers where needed.

LearnWorlds Course Creation

— Integrations

LearnWorlds is another larger course platform, meaning it has more integrations than the average, which you can see a full list of details for here.

Here are some of the listed integrations for LearnWorlds:

  • Zapier
  • Mailchimp
  • ActiveCampaign
  • AWeber
  • Convertkit
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Mixpanel
  • Facebook-pixel
  • Sumome
  • Hubspot
  • ReferralCandy
  • FreshChat
  • Zendesk
  • Olark
  • Tawk To
  • Fomo
  • Intercom

They also have an area for businesses to connect with them to set up integrations, which may be why they have so many.

There’s also an option for getting an API for further integrations, which would require a bit more tech knowlege to get going.

LearnWorlds Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $24 – $249+ per month

USER RATING: ★★★★☆

TECH LEVEL: ⬤⬤⬤◯◯

#4 – ThinkiFic

ThinkiFic is another top runner when it comes to the original course building platforms out there. You’ll find this one on most lists you end up researching due to its longer reputation.

— Price

Not only does ThinkiFic have a money-back guarantee, they also have a free version that allows up to 3 courses with quizzes and surveys, content hosting, as well as ulimited students.

Of the course platforms we’ve covered so far, this is the best unpaid offer for small creators.

They also have a 30 day money back guarantee if you do decide a paid version isn’t quite right for you.

ThinkiFic Pricing

The paid versions of ThinkiFic are a tad bit higher than other course platforms, but overall very good for what they offer, particularly getting Drip content and emails included in their Basic tier for $49 per month.

— Special Features

A feature many tech-challenged will love about ThinkiFic is their drag-and-drop building feature. It’s easier to design and edit than other types of course platforms.

What’s less great is that you can’t really view all of their features in a list format or comparatively very easily. Their “Features” page leads you to a landing-page style that goes through all the features without indicating which pricing tier it would be in.

However, if you navigate beneath the pricing table, you’ll see an option to view more comparisons, which is where they give you a thorough breakdown of what’s in each plan.

Overall, here are some of ThinkiFics key features:

  • Immediate payouts
  • Security
  • Website builder (Basic plan and up only)
  • Unlimited students
  • Quizzes
  • Drag-and-drop course creation
  • Video, PDF, and other content storage
  • Student progress tracking
  • Daily backups
  • Course packaging and payment options
  • Ability to host course on your own domain

— Tech level needed

ThinkiFic is a relateively user friendly course platforms, offering the ease of a drag-and-drop builder.

That said, we’d rate the tech level needed as a 2 out of 5. It’s easy to navigate, it’s clean and uncluttered, and most people with a working knowledge of the internet can likely maneauver it.

— User Rating / Reviews

This review site here has an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars with 80 total submissions.

Below you can find a couple reviews from this site, one good and one with a couple issues highlighted you might want to think about.

— Customer Support

It’s a bit difficult to find how to gain support through ThinkiFic. If you go to the footer, you’ll find a “Support” column with a Help Center and other links, but nothing to contact them directly.

I had to search through their Help Center for “support ticket” in order to find this page that teaches you how to get help and how to contact the support team.

Overall, this could be improved with a button on your account dashboard to bring you directly to this page or others, as I can see this being difficult for some people who aren’t as tech knowledgable when it comes to searching for help and information.

— Ease of Starting

Getting started is just as easy as other course platforms, including a great questionairre to help tailor it a bit more.

ThinkiFic Starting Questionairre

Thankfully, the dashboard for ThinkiFic is far less overwhelming than that of LearnWorlds. It’s clean, clearly labeled, and also gives you a checklist for “onboarding” to learn the material better.

ThinkiFic Dashboard

— Integrations

Thinkific Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $0 – $499 per month

USER RATING: ★★★★☆

TECH LEVEL: ⬤⬤◯◯◯

#5 – LearnDash

LearnDash is probably the most unique of the 5 best course platforms we’ll cover. Instead of logging into an account on thier site, it’s a paid plugin you can use to add to your WordPress website and manage in the backend.

This gives you high customization and complete ownership of the hosting, meaning if another course platform’s servers go down, it will be down for your students whereas with LearnDash, the plugin is more likely to avoid server problems, so long as your own domain and hosting provider are in good shape.

However, this also comes with a steeper learning curve, meaning the more tech and web development knowledge you have, the better for this program.

— Price

Since LeardDash isn’t a subscription model, you pay full price for the plugin to use this software. This also means you pay for this yearly, it’s a recurring annual purchase, not just a one-time purchase.

LearnDash Pricing

If you want to break down these packages to monthly rates, they’d be:

  • Basic – $13.25 / month
  • Plus – $15.75 / month
  • Pro – $27.41 / month

Comparing these prices with the monthly rates of other course platforms, LearnDash is actually very affordable for what it offers.

Plus, they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ll be able to purchase, download, upload to your site, and try it out within 30 days before choosing to keep it for good.

NOTE: Because this is a plugin, all course content will need to be hosted on your own domain, meaning you will likely pay more for storage through your hosting provider than you would with a course software that allows for free content hosting, like Thinkific. So while these price breakdowns are really affordable, there may be other expenses elsewhere to think about.

— Special Features

Because LearnDash is a WordPress plugin, it does have certain features that are unique to it.

This includes the fact that you can host it directly on your website or multisite (yes, it has multisite capabilities!).

There are so many great features with LearnDash, especially the forums, where students can congregate, discuss, and learn even more.

Here’s a breakdown of the features listed on their Features page:

LearnDash Course Features
LearnDash Monetization Features

What’s really convenient about LearnDash’s monetization features is that you can set up subscriptions easily, you have a shopping cart, and you can also bundle and sell your courses.

LearnDash Admin Features

Another great feature is the “Expire Access” admin capability, which can help increase on-time payments in order to keep revenue coming in, without having to manually manage this.

— Tech level needed

Because LearnDash is a plugin and not an actual online platform, having a bit more tech knowledge, specifically that of using WordPress, is really handy.

I would not recommend this course platform for people who aren’t proficient in WordPress.

That being said, we rate this a 4 / 5 for technical capabilities.

However, if you know WordPress like the back of your hand (like me!), this platform offers so many customizable features you’d be crazy not to love it!

— User Rating / Reviews

Out of 85 submitted reviews on this site, LearnDash has an overall score of 4.6 / 5.

Most of the reviews listed boast about it’s customization and customer service. Others with lower ratings usually feel that way due to their tech challenges, which is just confirming that you should have more tech knowledge if you want to use this course platform seamlessly.

— Customer Support

LearnDash’s support isn’t quite up to the level of other online course platforms. However, it does have standard support, with their support conditions stating:

“Support is available from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays of the United States.”

Many reviews, however, praise the support and thoroughness of replies and feedback, which is good news! So while they don’t have 24/7 support, it sounds like their support thoroughly solves your problem quickly.

— Ease of Starting

This is where LearnDash does have some drawbacks, simply because it’s a WordPress plugin and requires a few steps to install and begin.

For a seasoned WordPress-er, they’re really simple steps:

course-platforms-learndash-
  1. Purchase the plugin
  2. Download the plugin
  3. Log in to your WordPress site (or create one if you don’t have one)
  4. Go to your dashboard
  5. Go to “Plugins” on the left sidebar
  6. Click the “Add New” button at the top left
  7. Click the “Upload Button” at the top left
  8. Click “Choose File” and select the zip file of LearnDash OR just draft the zip file over the “Choose File” button
  9. Click “Install Now”
  10. Wait until it’s done and then click “Activate”
  11. Your LearnDash section will be at the top left of your dashboard in those menu items
  12. Navigate to “Overview”
  13. Open the email you got when signing up, it should have your LearnDash license number
  14. Copy and paste that where indicated on the “Overview” section of LearnDash
  15. Your course platform should be goo to use now!

If you’re using a multisite through WordPress, make sure to first navigate to the site you want to use’s dashboard before uploading the plugin.

From there, it’s as easy as navigating to your specific area and adding course content. They also have helpful videos on how to use each section and how to proceed.

— Integrations

Because this is a WordPress plugin, that integration is the most important. However, there are other integrations for payments, emails, and more.

Here are some of LearnDash’s integrations:

  • Zapier
  • WooCommerce
  • SamCart
  • Slack
  • Stripe
  • MemberPress
  • Gravity Forms
  • GamiPress
  • MailChimp
  • Visual Composer (WordPress plugin for display/theme layout)
  • ConvertKit

You can see more integrations and extensions for LearnDash here.

LearnDash Course Platform Overalls

PRICE: $13.25 – $27.41 per month (annual payment options only)

USER RATING: ★★★★☆

TECH LEVEL: ⬤⬤⬤⬤◯

Which online course platform do you think you’re going with? If you want to save up to 50% off of a Teachable annual subscription, you can do so by becoming a student of our Course Building for Authors program.

Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a comission if you click through to make a purchase.

Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Marketing Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own life (and teaching others how to) over at Ordinary Outpost, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese! Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

https://facebook.com/bellarosepope

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