Thinkific Review [2019 Update]: An All-in-One Learning Management System
- Darla Fields
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.”Tweet Me
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
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 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
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.
Setting Up My First Course
Now for the fun part: creating my first course. Woo hoo!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Summary of Features
|FEATURES||YES, NO, AND/OR DETAILS|
|Number of Courses and Students||Unlimited Students (Unlimited Courses for all paid plans)|
||Not in Free plan. Only in paid plans.|
||Yes, in Pro plan and higher.|
||WYSIWYG + source code|
||mp2, mp3, mpga, ogg, wav|
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
||FAQ, About Page, etc.|
||Stripe and PayPal|
||Through Stripe, directly|
||Yes, in Pro plan and higher.|
||Yes, in Pro plan and higher.|
||Yes, in all paid plans.|
||Aweber, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp for all paid plans. (Direct ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft integrations in Growth and Premier plans.)|
Yes. Automated Welcome/Course completion emails are in all plans. In Growth plan and higher, you also get access to Bulk Email Students.
||Yes, via the Quiz|
||Yes, via the Survey|
|Assignments||Yes, in Pro plan and higher.|
||Student forum, which appears publicly.|
||Students can share files within discussions for group assessment and feedback.|
No badges. Certificates can be issued with Pro plan and higher.
||Progression graphics (like completing a lesson, percentage of course complete)|
||Course progress of the whole student body, as well as segmentation based on filters like join date, progression, coupons used, etc.|
||Minor, can see what they’re enrolled in, and their activity feed.|
||Yes, through segmentation.|
|Affiliate management||Yes, on paid plans. Allows you to assign users as affiliates, provide them links, and allow for payouts.|
||Sent quick question. Got auto-response with instructions that answer will come within 1 business day. I got my answer within an hour. 🙂|
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. ”Tweet Me
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
Find a Sellable Topic for Your Online Course!
Get this primer and learn our process for identifying a viable topic for your very first online course.