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Thinkific Review [2019 Update]: An All-in-One Learning Management System

thinkific review 1

Post updated by Jessica Glendinning

Learning management systems (LMS) have a big job.

Not only do they need to house your course work, they should help you market and sell your course as well.

Thinkific strives to do just that.

After trialing a number of online course platforms, I found Thinkific to be a stout platform that can be just the right fit for many course builders’ needs.

Thinkific is a stout platform that may be the right fit for many course builders’ needs.Click To Tweet

Overview of Thinkific

Thinkific is an all-in-one learning management system that promises to give you “everything you need to easily create, market, and sell your own online courses.”

Their main page touts the following features to get you up and running your course:

  • Build your brand and grow your audience
  • Start selling immediately
  • Create compelling content
  • A platform that grows with you
  • Design customization
  • Scale your business

Thinkific Pricing

They have a tiered pricing structure, including a Starter plan that takes a 10% cut of your course profits. There are no transaction fees for any of their plans (including the free plan).

For demonstration purposes, I’m testing out the free account.

Thinkific Pricing

Thinkific boasts of over 36,000 course creators, including some pretty big names, like:

  • Kristen Bailey, Director of Online Education Products at Hootsuite
  • Chris Brogan of the Owner Media Group
  • Dayna House of Design Course 101
  • Vanessa Van Edwards of the Science of People
  • Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue

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Thinkific Tutorial: Setting Up My School

Like other LMS platforms, Thinkific promises to make setting up my school and course easy. Well, I accepted that challenge because who doesn’t like a challenge? 😉

First, sign up for your free account. Once your account is created, follow these steps.

Step 1: Enter the name of your business.

Step 2: Name your first course.

Step 3: Choose the right starting point for your course. 

Step 4: Confirm your course name and make some design tweaks.

I chose the blue style, and a banner image to match.

Step 5: Successful school creation

Huzzah! Time to get this party started.

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Setting Up My First Course

Now for the fun part: creating my first course. Woo hoo!

Even my dashboard was glad to see me:

I didn’t want to spend an hour taking a course on Thinkific. So I decided to dive headlong in the expanse of course building space and get to it.

When you click on “Manage Learning Content” and then “Courses” from your dashboard, you then can click on the new course that was created for you. Opening up your course brings you to a templated landing page, like this:

When you click on “Build Landing Page” at the top right of the dashboard, you can make changes to titles, subtitles, copy, and all that exciting stuff. So, I tried my hand at it:

As you scroll down the template, Thinkific gives you suggestions and examples to create a beautiful (and converting) course landing page.

Let’s head back to the Curriculum tab and get this course started.

Much like the landing page template, the curriculum page gives you example content and suggestions about how to use the mini-course template, and what to put in your lessons:

First lesson entered and saved:

My Module 1 had a few lessons in it. It was easy to add or delete lessons with a click of a button to open up your choices of copy/pasting text, uploading files, uploading media, etc.

For example…

To add a lesson to a module, click “Add Lesson.”

It opens up a number of choices for you to add new content:

It was pretty simple to delete or add what I needed and wanted for my lessons, leaving a nice, clean look:

After adding all the lessons to Module 1, it was time to add the quiz. It wasn’t hard, and Thinkific lets you choose whether to add or import questions.

All questions entered and ready for my students.

After getting my course content in, I’m ready to price this bad boy and hit the publish button. Since I’m testing out the Free Plan, that apparently means all my courses have to be free, unless I set up a payment method. Probably a good idea if you’re in this to make some money.

With the free account, I can set a one-time payment price for my course, or offer it for free. However, if I wanted to charge a monthly subscription, provide payment plans, or set additional pricing, I would have to upgrade to a paid plan:

And when it’s all ready, simply click the blue button to publish:

Wanna take a peek at my magnum opus?

Now, don’t get too overwhelmed. 

Here you go:

Okay, I admit, it needs work. But, I can envision what it can be as I keep adding courses: tiles of courses flooding the page, students from around the world making a difference in their lives and their families’ lives. And it all started here.

As for the course itself, when you click “View Course,” you see the landing page:

The student can click on the left-hand bar to switch between modules or click the “Complete & Continue” button on the bottom of the page.

The pages are clean and easy to navigate — a huge bonus for your students.

You might also have noticed the upper left-hand corner offers opportunities for students to check their progress.

Ready for the main features to help you determine if Thinkific is right for you?

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Summary of Features

FEATURESYES, NO, AND/OR DETAILS
Number of Courses and StudentsUnlimited Students (Unlimited Courses for all paid plans)
Course Content
  • Drip according to schedule
Not in Free plan. Only in paid plans.
  • Self-directed (unlock next module as student completes previous)
Yes, in Pro plan and higher.
  • All modules available as soon as student enrolls
Yes.
  • Formats
  • Text
WYSIWYG + source code
  • Audio
mp2, mp3, mpga, ogg, wav
  • Video

Hosted on Thinkific [2 GB]

You can upload files with the extensions: 3g2, 3gp, 3gpp, 3gpp2, asf, asx, avi, dv, f4p, f4v, flv, mjpeg, mjpg, mkv, mov, movie, mp2, mp3g, mp4, mpe, mpeg, mpg, mpg4, ogg, ogv, ogx, qt, rm, viv, vivo, webm, wm, wmv, wmx, wvx, m4v

  • Live video conferencing
No
Sales Page
  • Templates available
Yes
  • Customization
Yes
  • Other landing pages available
FAQ, About Page, etc.
Payments
  • Integration with payment processors
Stripe and PayPal
  • Can you set up different payment arrangements:
Through Stripe, directly
  • Payment plans
Yes, in Pro plan and higher.
  • Subscriptions
Yes, in Pro plan and higher.
  • Discount coupons
Yes, in all paid plans.
Email Marketing
  • Integration with email service providers
Aweber, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp for all paid plans. (Direct ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft integrations in Growth and Premier plans.)
  • Own email service

Yes. Automated Welcome/Course completion emails are in all plans. In Growth plan and higher, you also get access to Bulk Email Students.
Quizzes
  • Multiple choice
Yes, via the Quiz
  • Fill in the blanks
Yes, via the Survey
  • Others
No
AssignmentsYes, in Pro plan and higher.
  • Word doc
  • PDF
  • Image files
  • Video files
  • Other
Community/Discussion forumYes
  • What type?
Student forum, which appears publicly.
  • Features?
Students can share files within discussions for group assessment and feedback.
Badges/Certificates
  • Types?

No badges. Certificates can be issued with Pro plan and higher.
  • Performance-based
Progression graphics (like completing a lesson, percentage of course complete)
Analytics
  • Which metrics are available?
Course progress of the whole student body, as well as segmentation based on filters like join date, progression, coupons used, etc.
  • Individual student tracking
Minor, can see what they’re enrolled in, and their activity feed.
  • Group tracking
Yes, through segmentation.
Affiliate managementYes, on paid plans. Allows you to assign users as affiliates, provide them links, and allow for payouts.
Customer Support

  • Promptness
  • Quality of support
Sent quick question. Got auto-response with instructions that answer will come within 1 business day. I got my answer within an hour. 🙂

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Takeaways

As I mentioned earlier, Thinkific promises you “everything you need to easily create, market, and sell your own online courses.” I believe it delivered on that promise.

Quickly create a course without having to spend a lot of time on design or technology. Click To Tweet

You can quickly create a course without having to spend a lot of time on design or technology. It has the ease of an all-in-one, plug-n’-play platform within the feel of the backend of a WordPress site. They also have a blog where experts weigh in on course creation.

What I Liked Most

I loved the ease and speed of being able to jump right in (and ignore the tutorial video) to make your course. Also, the placeholder lessons teach you best practices so you can quickly get started—super helpful if you’re unsure. And everything loaded quickly.

Finally, the prominent “Help” button on the right side of the page was comforting when I had questions.

What I Liked Least

My short answer is: the potential for overwhelm. Even though I’m not a techy person, I’m not afraid of technology; yet, I found myself thinking, contemplating, and feeling my anxiety level rise at times.

The platform is not as clean as other ones I’ve tried. A more detailed step-by-step checklist would benefit users. With that being said, if I had taken the time to watch the one-hour intro video, maybe I wouldn’t have felt as overwhelmed.

A possible deal breaker is the lack of gamification within Thinkific. When I researched how to add badges, the last mention was from 2016. It’s on the horizon—just in the faint distance.

If you want to gamify your course, you may not want to choose Thinkific. Or be patient for future developments. (As of our 2019 update, gamification is still “on the radar” so if it’s important to you, go with another LMS.)

Who Thinkific Is Best For

If you’re comfortable with technology, have your course content ready, and don’t fret over a little bit of a learning curve, you can get up and running relatively quickly with Thinkific.

I can recommend this to Mirasee’s Course Builder’s Laboratory (CBL) students. Having your content prepared can help ease some of the learning curve. Also, since CBL students are taught to get feedback and provide methods for student interaction, Thinkific provides ways to do that, such as through open comments and surveys.

Tips for New Thinkific Users

These tips may help you when you start building your course in Thinkific:

  • If you are hesitant around technology, don’t be like Darla. Take the time to sit through the tutorial before beginning. You’ll get the 30,000-foot view of what you’ll be creating.
  • Take advantage of the placeholder prompts and enhance your course presentation. Thinkific offers a variety of options to add media, audio, text, PDFs, and suggestions of best practices. When you’re building your pilot course and only have an outline of what you’ll be teaching, the drag-and-drop feature will be a huge help in serving your students.
  • Like some other platforms, the free plan may be handy for your pilot, but remember that it doesn’t allow for drip content. So, your students may try clicking into lessons they’re not quite ready for. Consider what your course needs are and choose your Thinkific plan appropriately.
  • Remember, if you want to use games and badges, it’s not going to happen with Thinkific.

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Thinkific Alternatives

Thinkific vs Teachable

On the surface, Thinkific and Teachable are quite similar. They both offer options like a landing page builder, email marketing, shopping cart, payment gateway, and funnel builder. And they both have great customer support.

Teachable homepage

Both offer a free plan, with no credit card required. None of Thinkific’s plans (including free) charges transaction fees, while Teachable’s free plan takes 10% plus $1 of each course sale. 

When a student purchases your course, the funds are deposited right away if you’re using Thinkific — but you’ll need to wait with Teachable, since they only pay out once per month.

So what’s different? Teachable has a slightly higher learning curve, or so we hear, and focuses more on their course marketing tools. Thinkific is more focused on the experience for both student and teacher, and includes an intuitive page builder.

The takeaway:

Teachable’s premise is “Everything is Teachable.” They promise effortless setup and simple (yet powerful) website customization. This platform might be the right choice for you if you don’t have the time or desire to mess with a fussy site, and just want a simple plug-and-play LMS system.

Click here for a more in-depth review of Teachable.

Thinkific vs Kajabi

Kajabi aims to be a one-stop shop for everything you need to build and sell your online course. They empower “thousands of users everyday to build life-changing businesses and create an online presence that reflects them.”

Kajabi homepage

One of the most obvious differences in the platforms is the monthly price — but remember that Kajabi includes a lot of the services you might have to pay for separately with Thinkific. And Kajabi allows for a large number of 3rd party integrations, if there’s a tool you just can’t live without. 

With Thinkific, you’ll need to be on a paid plan to access integrations. Neither platform charges a transaction fee for your course sales. And Thinkific and Kajabi both integrate with PayPal and Stripe (which do charge fees).

Kajabi includes a small marketplace, allows you to offer a free trial of your course, and has 24/7 Live Chat support. But only their premium plan offers unlimited courses and unlimited students.

One additional “pro” for Thinkific is that they offer an always-free plan, as opposed to Kajabi’s 14-day free trial.

The takeaway:

Kajabi is an all-in-one platform that makes it easy to create online courses, launch marketing campaigns, build landing pages, and design the perfect website. If you want a single tool that handles all aspects of your course creation and sales, Kajabi could be worth the (seemingly) higher price tag.

Click here for a more in-depth review of Kajabi.

Click here for a more in-depth comparison of Kajabi vs Thinkific.

Thinkific vs Udemy

Udemy is the world’s largest online teaching and learning marketplace. The marketing boost you gain if you decide to use their platform needs to balance out the lack of customization options. 

Udemy homepage

Udemy takes a 50% split on any course sales that come from their marketing, and limits the price you can charge for your course to between $20–200 (in tiers of $5). 

While you own the rights to your content, your course will be branded and marketed as a Udemy course, taught by you. Because of this, a Udemy staff member has to approve your course before it goes live.

Where Thinkific allows you to change the look and feel of your course through customization, Udemy has a single sales page template for everyone, and doesn’t let you install custom code. And the only available Udemy integration is with Google Analytics.

The takeaway:

Udemy is good for course creators who just want to get their content out into the world. If you don’t care about having control of your course, and you want a built-in marketplace, Udemy might be your best choice. With their 30+ million students globally, the marketplace could help you reach students you wouldn’t otherwise.

The Verdict

Thinkific is a great platform for creating, marketing, and selling your courses. Think of it as a user-friendly platform with a backend WordPress feel. It’s easy to plug in your curriculum and rearrange items by dragging and dropping them. The suggestions in the placeholders are fantastic for making your site look as professional as possible to prospective students.

However, if you want gamification, you probably ought to pass on Thinkific. Same thing if you shudder at the thought of a platform looking (and working) anything remotely like the backend of WordPress. It does have a more “technical” feel than other platforms.

Bottom line: Thinkific is a great choice for you if you’re a little more tech-savvy and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve while you create your course.

What are your thoughts on Thinkific? Does it provide all the features you’re looking for in an online course platform?

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About Darla Fields

Darla is a freelance content creator with a passion for helping entrepreneurs and small business owners get their message out and impact the world. When she’s not writing, reading, or learning, she’s hiking, gardening, or delving into the world of children’s books and self-publishing. Connect with Darla via LinkedIn.

12 thoughts on “Thinkific Review [2019 Update]: An All-in-One Learning Management System

  1. Thank you so much Darla, for doing this review! I’ve heard good things about Thinkific, but I didn’t know exactly what was under the hood. I appreciate the detailed investigation (and your sense of humor)!

  2. I appreciate this review as I am seriously looking into using this. The lack of gamification could be a deal breaker. What alternative would You suggest if I wanted to incorporate badges etc?

  3. Wow, Darla! Fantastic review. It’s so detailed, it’s practically a tutorial–although it sounds like no tutorials are really necessary with Thinkific. Thanks for all your hard work!

    • Thanks, Kristine! I agree you don’t necessarily need tutorials with Thinkific – though I might not have felt so anxious at a few points if I had taken the time to overview. 😉

  4. Thanks for the awesome, in depth and very helpful article. I started using Thinkific as a result of CBL’s offer of it during the CBL Bootcamp. It is a fantastic platform for course creators. I use it with my coaching clients and the ability to quickly set up a FREE account makes it a wonderful, low-barrier-to entry LMS for course creators.

    A feature of Thinkific that is very different from WordPress, and that takes some time to get used to, but is also one of its strongest features, is its granularity. Once I understood that it works best to build highly granular content (whether individual videos, or whole courses) that can be re-used in different contexts within Thinkific, everything came together for me really fast. (The technical term for these highly granular pieces of content are “re-usable learning objects”).

    Thinkific has a wonderful video library feature… once you upload a video to your library, you can easily use the same video in multiple courses. This is useful if you teach a basic process that is foundational to various more complex processes that you teach, for example.

    With a paid plan, you can also bundle courses together in various configurations, and sell the whole bundle. This is a fantastic and very versatile feature.

    While I agree with the article that it is helpful to already have your course designed before putting it into Thinkific’s LMS, I have also found that Thinkific works beautifully to help you design your course as you go. I am an instructional designer and I help experts structure their course content in the ways that make learning it most effective. Thinkific allows me to quickly get my clients and students set up with their own (free) course platform and easily structure their course. My coaching students often go from not even being clear on the exact course they’re going to teach, to having a complete course outlined and set up on Thinkific.. in ONE two-hour coaching session.

    Having your course actually set up and visible as a product (even an in-process one) is a great confidence builder! Thinkific also works beautifully in conjunction with Mirasee’s piloting process. It is easy to make changes to your course on the fly … I’ve even done that WITH my pilot students WHILE piloting the course (by screensharing live on Zoom).

    You can use Thinkific to create templates, copy a template to use as the foundation for another course, and so much more. I really can’t rave about Thinkific enough.

    Their customer service team is AMAZING. They also have an excellent and very dynamic Facebook group where passionate Thinkificers (is that a word?) will jump in to help each other at any hour of the day or night.

    It IS possible to include badges and gamification in your Thinkific course, as well. You can use a service like Accredible or Credly to create your badges, and Thinkific allows you to create a custom completion page for any course, which is one way you could share the badges. On paid plans, Thinkific also offer integrations with various email services, which allows you to set up badges to be emailed to your students automatically.
    Thinkific also allows you to create dynamic multimedia lessons which they host for you. You can use interactive elearning files such as Articulate 360 (Rise and Storyline files) directly within the Thinkific LMS. This is another way to include gamification and dynamic interactive learning activities.

    In short, I love Thinkific and I am very grateful to CBL for introducing me to it during Bootcamp. I will be happy to answer any Thinkific-related instructional design or course design questions you may have.

    I agree with your review with the addition of the points above, and also think your comparison of Thinkific with other platforms is helpful and fair. I’ve heard people say that while Thinkific and Teachable may look similar on the surface, Thinkific allows for much more robust course design once you start looking under the hood.

    If you care deeply about creating a transformative learning experience, I think that Thinkific is the most user-friendly platform to help you do that fast. It has some of the structural features of Moodle (which is so amazing, but requires some major tech chops to set up and use outside of a corporate or university setting) and some of the cleanness of Learn Dash (which is really incredible and fantastic, but again requires major tech skills and also, $$$$).

    So Thinkific is a great solution for creating courses the way Mirasee teaches (and also the way I teach, which is complementary to Mirasee’s way). And also.. most importantly, Thinkific is a great platform for creating courses the way YOU teach. I think everyone should get a free account today and start experimenting with the platform. Use the wonderful guidance in Mirasee’s blog post to learn how to set things up. I am excited for you if you decide to go this route!

    And thanks again, Mirasee, for the great article (and for allowing me rave about Thinkific!).

    • THANK YOU, Rebecca! This is an amazing addition to the information in this post — we really appreciate you taking the time to add valuable customer perspective, so that other people can learn from you!

      • Thanks so much for your kind words, Jessica! It’s an honor and a pleasure to work with and learn from the wonderful educators and entrepreneurs at both Mirasee and Thinkific. This is a win/win combination which I strongly encourage anyone planning an online course, to explore! It’s working beautifully for me and for my course creation clients and students, as well.

  5. Hey Darla,

    Thinkific is one part resource for education and one part resource for business owners.

    It is really very easy to use and it features one of the easiest to learn online course software builders on the web.

    It provides a number of marketing and promotion techniques to help build your online empire whether it is attracting more students even from different countries or a business in it mostly for the money.

    From my opinion, Thinkific is a really great all in one solution. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    With best wishes,

    Amar Kumar

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