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The Ultimate Guide to

21 Best Online Course Platforms in 2021

Thinkific, Kajabi, & More

Ready to find your perfect online course platform? Then let’s dive in!

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You’re in the process of developing your first online course, when you come face to face with a major roadblock - which online course software to choose. You were sure that selecting your online course builder would be a breeze after you’d gone through the process of validating your course idea, planning your content, and recording your lessons.

Yet here you are, completely overwhelmed by all the online course platforms out there. Maybe you’re even dealing with a full-blown case of decision paralysis and are unable to narrow down your list of choices.

To help you zero in on the right online course platform for you, we’ve uncovered the 21 best online course platforms for 2021. And we’ve also divided them into different categories to help you uncover which online course platform is the best fit for you.

Ready to find your perfect online course platform? Then let’s dive in!

What is An Online Course Platform?

An online course platform, sometimes known as an e-learning platform, is a type of software that provides all the tools a course creator or instructor needs to build, deliver, and manage an online course.

With an online course platform, you can create your course, upload additional resources, and sell and deliver your course to students. The number of specific features varies considerably depending on which platform you choose, which means it’s important to understand the different types of platforms and what they offer course creators before signing up for one.

The Different Types of Online Course Platforms

There are many different kinds of online course software, and it can be challenging to know which one is best for you. To simplify this process, we’ve divided the different kinds of online course software into several broad categories and provided some examples for each category.

Standalone Online Course Platforms

A standalone online course platform is one that allows you to create and host your very own online course or school. They typically provide all the tools you need to build an online course as well as sell your course on your own site.

Although they generally offer similar features, there can be significant differences between various standalone online course platforms. For example, some of these platforms are much easier to navigate than others, and these platforms also differ widely in the amount of support they provide course creators.

Some of the best standalone online course platforms include Thinkific, LearnWorlds, and Teachable.

All-in-One Online Course Platforms

The next category of online course platforms are all-in-one platforms, which provide you with all the tools you need to develop online courses and manage your online business.

This means that in addition to features dedicated to building an online course, all-in-one platforms also frequently include web content management tools, as well as marketing, sales, and customer service tools.

Kajabi is probably the most popular of the all-in-one platforms, but other options include Kartra, Podia, and New Zenler.

WordPress Online Course Plugins

The third category of online course software consists of WordPress plugins, which you install on your existing WordPress site. These plugins are a good option if you want to host your course on your own WordPress site and have complete control over your online course.

A second big advantage of WordPress plugins is that they are one of the easiest ways to manage your self-hosted course. They work by adding the features you want to your site without interfering with the functioning of the site.

There are a wide variety of WordPress plugins available, and some of the most popular ones include LearnDash, Access Ally, and Course Cats.

Online Course Marketplaces

Finally, we have online course marketplaces such as Udemy and Skillshare, which are web-based online course platforms where you can easily build your course and promote it to an established audience. These types of course platforms tend to be pretty user-friendly, and many have drag and drop features for easy course creation.

Another big advantage is that an online course marketplace already has an established audience that you instantly get access to. They also give you everything you need to build your course, as well as many useful tools to promote it.

There are also tons of online course marketplaces you can choose from if you decide to go this route. In addition to Udemy and Skillshare, some other options include LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, Udacity, and Treehouse.

The 21 Best Online Course Platforms

Now that we’re clear on the four main kinds of online course platforms, let’s go ahead and take a look at the 21 best online course platforms for 2021.

Standalone Online Course Platforms

Thinkific

Thinkific

Thinkific is one of the top-rated standalone course platforms out there, and for good reason. This platform provides one of the most robust online course hosting options in the marketplace, and also offers many additional features, including email marketing, membership integration, and course bundle options.

Another fantastic benefit of Thinkific is that it’s designed to make online course creation easy for the average person - no tech experience required! This means that your course and its content are hosted by Thinkific, your marketing, sales, payment plans and processing are handled by Thinkific, your affiliate program is managed in Thinkific, and much more! Thinkific also prides itself on having an excellent customer support team that’s committed to helping users have a first-rate experience with the platform.

There are several Thinkific plans available, which include a Free plan, $49 per month Basic plan, $99 per month Pro plan, and $499 per month Premier plan. To learn more about Thinkific, we recommend you check out our Thinkific Review and our comparison of Thinkific vs Teachable.

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds

LearnWorlds is another platform that provides an all-in-one solution that focuses heavily on the user experience. From its intuitive course builder to its landing page software, Learnworlds offers A LOT for the price you pay.

This unique course creation platform lets you create interactive videos (on the Learning Center plan) and ebooks. That means learners can skip to specific parts of a video and even answer questions within the video. With interactive ebooks, they can highlight and add notes to their ebooks from within the LearnWorlds platform.

LearnWorlds offers many student-focused features, including a “built-in community” for each of your courses. Here, students can discuss lessons, like and comment on each other’s posts, and answer polls. You can also use this online community to interact with your students, answer their questions, and offer support. In addition, LearnWorlds has advanced assessment features, such as informal and formal quizzes, assignments, and an integrated workflow for open-ended assignments.

There’s no doubt that LearnWorlds allows you to create an amazing experience for your students, and to build a course that has a lasting impact on those you serve.

LearnWorlds offers 4 plans, which include a $24 per month Starter plan, a $79 per month Pro Trainer Plan, and a $249 per month Learning Center plan.

Teachable

Teachable

Similar to Thinkific, Teachable offers you an array of features to build your online course. Again, this is a type of course creation software, meaning there’s no marketplace to promote your course to.

One big advantage to Teachable is that it’s a very user-friendly option, perfect for those who are brand new to creating online courses. They offer a template-based website builder that requires no prior coding experience and lets you easily connect your course to your website or build a new landing page through Teachable.

On top of this, Teachable does a lot of important things for you – they’ll host your course content, publish your sales pages, process payments [for a small fee] and even pay your joint venture partners or course authors if you set that up through their payment gateway. With quizzes and forums, conversion attribution, email segmentation and built-in affiliate marketing, everything’s kept in one place for you.

Teachable offers the following plans: Free, Basic ($39 per month), Professional ($99 per month), and High Volume ($299 per month). To learn more about the platform, click here to read our Teachable review and our Teachable vs Udemy comparison.

Ruzuku

ruzuku

Ruzuku promises to make your life as easy as possible when creating your course. They provide beautiful templates to help save you time and a step-by-step building system that allows you to create your whole course in a fraction of the time (compared to other online course platforms). It also offers a live webinar feature, as well as built-in e-commerce tools that help you sell your courses and collect tuition payments. On top of this, Ruzuku integrates nicely with Mailchimp for email marketing and student engagement emails.

Ruzuku also takes customer support to the next level and promises to support your students in buying and using your courses, as well as support you in creating them. When you join Ruzuku, you get access to a team of people dedicated to helping you serve your students at a high level.

Ruzuku offers three plans: the $99 per month Bootstrapper plan, the $149 per month Up-and-Comer plan, and the $199 per month University plan. Choosing annual billing instead of monthly gets you a discount, depending which plan you’re on. The platform also offers a 14-day free trial.

To learn more, you can check out our Ruzuku review.

Teachery

Teachery

Teachery is a standalone course platform that makes online course creation as simple as possible. The platform lets you create and sell beautiful online courses in just minutes (instead of hours or days), without incurring any transaction fees. The platform is also very easy to navigate, with a live course editor that allows you to easily customize your course lessons, sales pages, and payment pages.

Teachery is a great option for those who don’t need a ton of fancy features and who place more importance on having an easily-made course quickly.

The platform offers two very affordable plans, a Monthly plan (which costs $49 per month), and an Annual plan (which costs $470 per year), both of which come with a 14-day free trial.

To figure out if Teachery might be a good platform for you, you can take a look at our Teachery Review.

Pathwright

Pathwright

The course platform Pathwright focuses on creating a seamless learning experience that immerses both the teacher and the student. Instead of simply focusing on course creation, Pathwright takes the entire e-learning experience into consideration. This makes it one of the better online course hosting options on this list for those who wish to go ‘deep’ with their students.

Another notable feature of this platform is that instead of just creating an online course, Pathwright empowers you to build an entire school. It’s a platform that can grow with you and continue to give you exactly what you need as you expand your online course business.

Pathwright also offers great community features and has an excellent support team that is committed to serving both teachers and students.

In terms of pricing, Pathwright has three main options: a Starter plan ($99 per month), an Essentials plan ($199 per month) and a Complete plan ($499 per month).

Xperiencify Courses

Xperiencify Courses

Xperiencify is a relatively new online course platform, but it’s one that seems to be going places. Like many platforms, it primarily features video content, and also allows course creators to add many different supporting resources to each lesson, which includes handouts, slide presentations, audio files, and much more.

A particularly noteworthy feature about Xperiencify is that it provides course creators with many gamification features, which allows you to make your courses more engaging and motivating for learners and increases the chance they will actually complete your course.

Some of these features include the ability for students to earn experience points for each module they complete, and to achieve course milestones. Instructors can set the number of points and design unique milestones for each module.

As far as pricing options, Xperiencify offers the following plans: the Launch plan ($49 per month), the Growth plan ($149 per month), and the Scale plan ($499 per month). Users also have the option to earn a discount by paying annually.

All-in-One Online Course Platforms

Kajabi

Kajabi

Kajabi is a feature-rich online course platform that’s been around for years of iterative improvement, so you can expect a good experience with it. As Kajabi says it’s “the one system you need to market, sell, and deliver your knowledge online.” And sure enough, Kajabi provides one of the more in-depth course builders.

The system includes tools for marketing and selling your course, from a landing page builder to email marketing and even affiliate management for joint venture promotions. It’s customizable and integrates with most of the popular third-party apps you might use, including Zapier for even more integrations and automations.

The analytics and reporting available from your Kajabi dashboard are detailed and useful, and you can hook up Google Analytics for more insight. You won’t need to worry about the learning curve too much, because you’ll get a lot of help from Kajabi University, which offers plenty of free training.

To see Kajabi in action and judge the learning curve for yourself, check out their demo. We also recommend you read our Kajabi review to learn more, as well as our Kajabi vs Teachable and Kajabi vs Thinkific comparisons.

Kartra

Kartra

Kartra calls themselves “the greatest all-in-one platform… ever,” and claims to be a one-stop shop for everything you need to create, market, and launch your online courses. The platform includes checkouts (with both credit card and PayPal payments), a drag-and-drop page builder with hundreds of professionally designed templates, funnels and campaigns, email marketing, memberships, calendars, forms, and affiliates.

Because they are an all-in-one system, you won’t need much of the other software you might need with another course platform. And since everything is in one place, their tracking analytics allows you to see the entire customer journey.

The difference between their pricing packages stems from the size of your contact list and the amount of traffic bandwidth you use. There are four Kartra plans available: the Starter plan ($99 per month), the Silver plan ($199 per month), the Gold plan ($299 per month, and the Platinum plan ($499 per month). You can save up to 25% if you purchase an annual plan.

New Zenler

New Zenler

New Zenler is an all-in-one platform that also offers many sales, marketing, and delivery features. This means that in addition to creating courses, New Zenler helps you set up and run your entire online business.

Aside from an easy-to-use online course builder, some of the other features it offers include marketing and sales funnels, email automation, a user-friendly page designer, and the ability to create online communities and membership sites. Since it has a lot of similarities with Kajabi, New Zenler appears to be setting itself up as a more cost-effective alternative to Kajabi.

At this point, New Zenler is still in the beta testing phase, but if you sign up with this link you can try out the platform for free to see if it’s right for you.

Podia

Podia

Podia is an affordable all-in-one platform that gives you everything you need to create, promote, and sell your course online. It has a fully customizable storefront, landing pages, and courses, perfect for those who wish to brand their course and have complete control over what it looks like.

Podia also gives you the ability to sell other products, such as memberships and digital downloads, as well as online courses. On top of that, it includes an email service for collecting email addresses and sending drip emails and newsletters.

Podia’s standout feature is the ability to create your own Affiliate Program. You can view your affiliates, make payments, and check analytics…all inside Podia with no other 3rd party tool. It’s a great option for course creators who wish to make joint ventures a key part of their marketing.

With Podia, you pay one flat fee per month. There are no transaction fees and no limits on the number of students, buyers, and email subscribers you can have.

Currently Podia offers three plans: the Mover ($39 per month), the Shaker ($79 per month), and the Earthquaker ($179 per month). It also offers new users a 14-day free trial.

WordPress Online Course Plugins

LearnDash

LearnDash

LearnDash is a WordPress plugin, connecting directly to your site. It’s used by some large companies, including Infusionsoft, Yoast, and WP Elevation. A plugin like this isn’t ideal for all course creators, but it is an attractive online course hosting option for many. If you want to keep everything on your own site, this is likely the online course platform you need.

One of LearnDash’s standout features is its Focus Mode, which students turn on to eliminate distractions while viewing your course material. This can help students to retain more of what they’ve learned and is an incredibly valuable feature in a world full of distractions.

In addition, LearnDash is an extremely affordable option, gives you the complete freedom to create a course on your own terms, and utilizes Gradebook Technology to improve student engagement.

LearnDash has several pricing options, which include: a Basic plan ($189 per year), a Plus plan ($189), and a Pro plan ($329 per year).

AccessAlly

AccessAlly

The AccessAlly plugin provides a complete platform for WordPress users to create online courses, as well as membership sites and digital products.

It offers a drag-and-drop course builder, a course creation workflow wizard, content drip delivery, sales and payment processing, affiliate marketing, quizzes, certificates and more. AccessAlly even has some gamification features, such as a user progress indicator to help keep students more engaged.

It also integrates with many different programs and apps, such as PayPal, Stripe, Infusionsoft, Ontraport, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Drip, Keap, Kartra.

There are three pricing plans to choose from: AccessAlly Essentials at $99 per month, AccessAlly Pro at $129 per month, and AccessAlly In-House Training at $250 per month. They also offer a discount if you opt to pay yearly instead of monthly.

Course Cats

Course Cats

If you’re struggling with all the technical aspects of online course creation, Course Cats may just be the platform you’re looking for. The platform is extremely easy to use, and allows you to sell online courses, build a beautiful website, grow your email lists, and sell online courses - all from your own WordPress site.

Course Cats gives its users access to a unique Concierge Service to handle all the tech elements, including pointing your domain to your web hosting service, installing WordPress, and installing the Course Cats theme. They also offer countless tutorials that show you exactly how to upload your course content, create your website and landing pages, and to design your course and website.

Purchasing a subscription to Course Cats costs either $59 per month or $497 for a year, which includes the Concierge Service. If you’re interested in giving Course Cats a try, be sure to take advantage of their 30-day free trial.

LifterLMS

LifterLMS

Offering similar features to LearnDash, LifterLMS is a great alternative that provides superior service, integrations, and many add-ons so you can tailor your course around your needs.

One of LifterLMS’s most notable features is the ability to choose from a huge selection of integrations with other tools and platforms. For example, you can buy add-on integrations with PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, WooCommerce, Infusionsoft, Ontraport, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, iDevAffiliate and AffiliateWP.

LifterLMS also integrates with drag-and-drop WordPress editors like Divi, allowing you to make beautiful pages and designs without any coding knowledge or experience. In addition, it offers built-in payment processing, drip and scheduled content, certificates and badges, quizzes, and gamification.

Pricing starts at $120 per year and can go all the way up to $1200 per year, depending on which plan you choose.

Tutor LMS

Tutor LMS

Another extremely popular WordPress online course plugin is Tutor LMS, which has all the essential elements you need to get your online course up and running.

One of the plugin’s standout features is its drag and drop course builder, which allows you to create professional-looking courses quickly and easily. The plugin also lets you add many additional resources to your course, including quizzes, assignments, and student forums.

It’s also easy to sell your courses with Tutor LMS, through its integration with shopping carts like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and Paid Membership Pro.

You can set up your courses for free, but to sell your courses you‘ll need to purchase an annual license, which will cost you $149 a year for a single WordPress site.

Online Course Marketplaces

OpenSesame

OpenSesame

OpenSesame calls itself “The trusted provider of on-demand elearning courses for the enterprise.” Not surprisingly, its course catalog seems to be primarily geared towards corporate employees in the following industries: academia, banking, construction, criminal justice, electrical, engineering, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, mechanical, oil and gas, retail, sustainability, and transportation.

To teach, all you have to do is register, then upload your video courses. You can also add courses you’ve already built on other learning management systems, such as Docebo. This means if you already have courses on an LMS or another non-exclusive marketplace, you can keep it there and still sell it on OpenSesame.

Unlike other marketplaces, OpenSesame lets you set the pricing for your course. The company then takes a 40% cut from the sales you make through the OpenSesame platform.

Skillshare

Skillshare

Skillshare has more than 2 million students and hosts over 15,000 courses in creative fields like design, photography, business, entrepreneurship, film, fashion, music, technology, and writing. The platform places a huge emphasis on video production and video-based courses, and is ideal if you want to teach quick, streamlined lessons.

As you would expect, Skillshare largely caters to creatives, including artists, photographers, designers, writers, and musicians. If this fits in with your customer profile, then Skillshare may be the one of the best online course platforms for you.

One of the major benefits of Skillshare is that it gives you access to a very large marketplace of people seeking creative education.This can potentially make it much easier to market and sell your course - especially if you don’t have an existing audience.

Another perk is that it’s totally free to sign up and create a course on Skillshare, which makes it a good option for course creators who are working with a limited budget. You can find out more about the platform by reading our Skillshare review.

Udemy

Udemy

Without question, Udemy is one of the biggest online course platforms: with 30+ million students, 40,000+ instructors, and an unbelievable 80,000+ courses! Like Skillshare, it’s free to become an instructor and create as many courses as you like.

In contrast to Skillshare, there are many more categories in Udemy, which makes it accessible to more course creators in a wide variety of niches and industries.

Udemy’s standout feature is the mass reach it creates. With access to potentially millions of students, you can quickly earn a lot of passive income each month (with minimal time invested). It’s also a very simple platform to use, and you can create your course in as little as an hour. And the Udemy community is renowned for leaving reviews, which provides great social proof.

In addition, it’s totally free to join and create an online course on Udemy. It’s important to note that Udemy courses are heavily video-based, and they require that 60% of your course consists of video content.

The amount you earn also depends on whether you promote your course or if Udemy promotes it. From course sales that arise from your own promotion of your course, you get to keep an incredible 97% of the revenue. But when Udemy promotes it, you get only 50%. On the other hand, you can only price your course between $20 and $200.

To learn more about Udemy and whether it’s right for you, check out our Udemy review, as well as our Udemy vs Skillshare comparison and Udemy vs Udacity comparison.

Coursera

Coursera

One of the things that makes the online course marketplace Coursera unique is that it is an exclusive marketplace dedicated to offering its students the best education possible. Similar to a university course, the courses you take through Coursera are in-depth and comprehensive, and have the potential to have a major impact on students.

Coursera, unlike the other platforms on our list, is not an open marketplace that anyone can use. Instructors at Coursera teach at some of the world’s top universities, which means it isn’t a simple program to get accepted into.

However, if you’re an experienced teacher, have a proven track record with previous online courses (and are considered an authority in your field), the opportunity to teach through Coursera may be an option worth considering.

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning

Previously known as Lynda.com LinkedIn Learning is an online course marketplace that’s now part of the professional social networking site LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Learning currently offers more than 17,000 courses under three main categories: Business, Technology, and Creative and is constantly adding more classes.

Although the LinkedIn Learning platform is known to pay instructors well, it’s not easy to become an instructor for LinkedIn Learning. Much like Coursera, they have extremely high standards for instructors and require that you submit an application in order to be considered.

So if you’re established and experienced in your field, with professional credentials and previous teaching experience, you might want to consider pplying to be a LinkedIn Learning instructor.

Now Go and Choose Your Best Online Course Platform!

We’ve covered a lot of ground, and by now you should have a clear understanding of the different kinds of online course software and which type is best for you.

Hopefully you’re feeling excited about choosing your online course software, and are ready to go and choose one.

Before you begin to weigh your options, we’d like to recommend some next steps for you to take.

  • Review Your Options: We suggest that you begin by reviewing the different types of online course software. For a comprehensive review on many of the online course builders mentioned, you may like to read our guide: The 16 Best Online Course Hosting Options for 2021.
  • Filter Based On Your Goals: Next, consider what your goals and priorities are for your online course. This should help you to clarify whether you would be best served by an online course marketplace, all-in-one platform, standalone platform or a WordPress plugin.
  • Select 3 to 5 Finalists: Once you’re clear on what type of online course platform is right for you, narrow down your options until you have a list of 3 to 5 finalists. This will make it much easier and far less overwhelming to choose your best online course software.

There are countless online course software options available today, but choosing the best one for you doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By following the steps we outlined in this post, you’ll be able to streamline your search and find the online course software that will set you and your students up for success.

Now go forth and choose your best online course platform!